Sitter is undermining mom's authority

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  June 28, 2011 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara,

I have an amazing friend/babysitter who cares for my children while I work part-time. To be clear, I am no health nut; however, I recognize the importance of learning to eat healthy at an early age. I do my best to prepare balanced meals & provide healthy snacks for my family - though we all enjoy occasional treats, too.

My problem is that the babysitter serves high-sugar, processed, and fast foods throughout the day. Now that my children will be out of school for the summer, she will have them full day and will provide breakfast, lunch & snacks. I would like to address my concern with her; however I am terrified of offending her. We all love her like family! But if I don’t say something, am I putting her feelings ahead of my children's nutrition? Or am I making too big of a deal over a few days of too much sugar & fat?

Last summer, I tried sending healthy snacks to her home, but the kids chose her snacks over mine. My children range in age from 5 to 10, so expecting them to make the “right” choice is not always realistic. I would really appreciate some feedback. I expect some harsh comments to get a backbone & just tell her what I expect, but understand that this person is not just a paid babysitter! She is irreplaceable in our lives!!

From: Summer, Bridgewater

Dear Summer,

No, I don't think you need to get a "backbone" (but I suspect some readers might), but I do wonder why you are so "terrified" of offending her. If she is as important and wonderful to your family as you describe, well, you ought to be able to have an honest conversation with her about the good and the bad and the ugly. Take her out for coffee some time, talk about how important she is to your family, how much you all love her and then tell her, "There's one thing, though, that really bugs me." I have a feeling she will not be as offended as you think.

You have the right as the mom of these kids to set their nutritional agenda. And yes, a little bit of sugar and such is not the end of the world. But if you are are going to the effort of sending snacks, I don't get why she is undermining you by offering alternatives that you don't think are as healthy. She may well let you know that she thinks you need to lighten up and that can certainly be part of your discussion. What I'd look for here is to reach some kind of compromise. Because it's not just the snacks that are at issue; she is undermining your authority in a way that is noticeable to your kids and that is absolutely worth talking about.

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1 comments so far...
  1. I have the opposite problem... I am the babysitter, and I don't buy sugary sweets, and would not give them to my own kids. My sister in law is the mom, but gives them what ever they want to eat whenever they want to eat it. She has brought over everything I try to keep out of my house. I don't let the kids have the fruit snacks or candy until they eat their fruits and vegetables first. At times I feel like I am going against their mom, but seeing how unhealthy they are they need some structure, and healthy food. I would tell her, and make up some medical reason if you have to in order (____ is allergic to ____) to get her to feed your kids right. Remember they are YOUR kids.

    Posted by Margo July 11, 11 10:35 AM
 
1 comments so far...
  1. I have the opposite problem... I am the babysitter, and I don't buy sugary sweets, and would not give them to my own kids. My sister in law is the mom, but gives them what ever they want to eat whenever they want to eat it. She has brought over everything I try to keep out of my house. I don't let the kids have the fruit snacks or candy until they eat their fruits and vegetables first. At times I feel like I am going against their mom, but seeing how unhealthy they are they need some structure, and healthy food. I would tell her, and make up some medical reason if you have to in order (____ is allergic to ____) to get her to feed your kids right. Remember they are YOUR kids.

    Posted by Margo July 11, 11 10:35 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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