5 Things I've Learned While Babysitting A PreSchooler

This has been quite a week! While there are things I have loved about this week, I have definitely learned a lot about being with a 4 year old every morning and night. (He has school during the day. Yay!)

1. Big, comfy beds are a must for parents/adults with little children. And if possible, your own personal bathroom too.

I know, I know I live in America, land of the big where we buy the largest houses, SUVs, and the biggest dogs? (Not too sure about the last one!) Nevertheless, I have definitely found positives to not sharing with your child (or a child).

- The big, comfy bed is awesome to lay down on after a long day. Plus, if you have to share with a child, it is big enough. Otherwise, it's just nice to end the day snuggled up and comfy with room to spread out if you want.

- Four year olds are messy. (Not that husbands aren't.) They get water, soap, and bubbles all over the place when bathing. While I'm certain a parent could control that, I only see myself as a babysitter and tend to follow the rules as set out by Jane and Michael Banks in the movie Mary Poppins.

I feel that discipline (to a certain degree) is up to the parents. My main goal is for the kid to take a bath (preferably enjoying it) and get clean. I have no other expectations with that regard. This may be why I think having one's own bathroom is definitely nice as a parent. Especially since most parents want to shower and sleep (or vice versa) after a long day spent with kids … not worry about cleaning up after their kids.

2. Habits are easily learned at age 4.

When we got here last Saturday the parents warned us that their son liked to fall asleep in their bed first and be moved midway through the night. Since Justin and I were going to be sleeping in the parents bed and we weren't too fond of sharing it with a 4 year old (think drooling, bed-wetting, etc…) we worked out a method of sitting in his room with him until he fell asleep which is sometimes an hour or more. At first it was difficult, but now it isn't as much. Unfortunately, the new habit of having someone sit in his room until he falls asleep is. At 2AM this morning Justin and I (mostly Justin) woke up to 4-year-old crying because he couldn't find us. We weren't sitting on the bedroom floor waiting for him to fall asleep. *sigh* It's easy for me to see how the parents would let him do whatever he needs to do to fall asleep just so that he is happy and content and actually falls asleep without them having to wait on him. Or maybe I'm just not that patient.

The good news is that good habits are as easily learned as bad habits. :) Brushing teeth and reading before bed are two very good habits that children are totally into at this young age if you have the patience and ability to direct that.

3. Always place a variety of foods on the plate.

This is the one skill I feel we have figured out. All 3 of the kids I watch are picky about what they will and won't eat. The older sister likes cheese toast and fruit. She will eat chicken so long as it doesn't have any seasoning, and she loves sweets. The older brother is even more picky and will only really eat peanut butter (on bread or crackers) and sweets. So we just knew last year that the 3 year old would be a challenge. Turns out, he basically ate whatever we put on his plate so long as his brother and sister weren't around. His mom mentioned that now at 4 years old, he is more picky than he was at 3, which we have definitely found to be true. Justin just places a wide variety of foods in front of him, all separated, and Charlie (the 4 year old) eats whatever he wants. We, of course, encourage him to try everything on his plate.

The funny thing is, I feel like this method of learning and growing accustomed to new tastes doesn't change as a child (or adult) gets older. I still have Justin put new foods on my plate to try. (Justin eats anything; I'm the picky one.) There are days when I am absolutely stubborn and completely unwilling to try anything new, and then there are days when I am more open to trying and learning to like new flavors. Sometimes all it takes is a different method of cooking, new seasonings, or overcooking/under cooking something for me to like it.

4. Occasional treats and surprises make life fun.

While I'm certain Charlie has missed his family a lot, Justin and I have tried to make this week as fun as possible (for him and us), so we have done a lot more in the way of treats and surprises than most parents can do in a week's time. Nevertheless, occasionally treating your child for good behavior or a job well done is far better than criticizing your child every other day of the week for what they are doing wrong. (Not that I am against punishment in all cases.)

I once read an article about a study done on elementary and high school students wherein the children were given an incentive (such as money) for good grades. With the high schoolers it didn't make much difference, improve their performance that much, or get them into college; the elementary students, on the other hand, learned to work hard, make good grades, and more often than not were able to get into college because of their work ethic. Obviously family income level and parental  guidance played a part, but it was interesting to see how a goal influenced children even at a very young age and how that affected them as they moved toward adulthood.

Before I leave this subject … I must also mention how occasionally your 4 year old will surprise you. This week I found playdough in the fridge. If that's not exciting, I don't know what is. ;)

5. Your mood affects the mood of the entire household.

I have noticed that on days that I am most tired, when I go to wake Charlie up… he's tired too. If I go to wake him up with a big smile on my face ready to greet the day, he may be groggy, but he eventually comes around and becomes peppy and happy … even excited. I definitely noticed this with Justin before coming here, but it was even more clear with a child in the picture. Keep that in mind as you work with children or even spend time with whoever else you live with. The more happy and positive you are, the more happy and positive they most likely will be as well! :)

Have you learned anything this week?

When this weekend comes to an end, I will be back to my normal life. I'm both looking forward to it and not. Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! :)

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