You'll want to make sure that you respect the wishes of the parents that you work for, whilst ensuring that the children in your care respect your authority and decision making. Here are a few tips about how to effectively lay and encourage your charges to follow the ground rules.
Work with the parents
The most important thing when deciding on rules and disciplinary action is that you work with the parents. Sharing the views of the parents that you work for is vital and ensures that you will reduce the likelihood of any conflict in how you go about treating any difficult behaviour. Always be open with the parents and if you're unsure, ask!
It is most likely the case that your charges already have house and behaviour rules in place, so if this is something that you haven't discussed with your employers then set a time to do this. It's probably best that you don't create your own rules, but if there is a rule that you feel may be particularly important for your charges to respect during their time spent with you then ask the parents how they feel about this, and make sure that you inform the children about the new rules together.
Talk about the rules
Take the time to sit down with your charges and discuss the ground rules that are already in place, and any that the parents have agreed for you to add. This way the children will be aware that you are familiar with the behaviour and actions that are expected at home, and are less likely to push the boundaries and 'test' you.
You could ask the children to write the rules out and maybe add a couple of their own reasonable rules to help them feel more involved with the process. Once they are written out, you will all have a reference point for the behaviour that is expected as well as any jobs that the children should be doing around the house – this can make it much easier to implement rules!
The surest way to ensure that the ground rules are adhered to is by earning respect from your charges, and giving them respect in return. To gain their respect you will need trust: take the time to show them that they can trust you to be honest and fair as their caregiver.
Responding to rule breaking
The actions that you take when responding to naughty behaviour and rule breaking is something that you will need to discuss with the parents – you'll want to find out whether 'time out' or a punishment (such as withdrawing TV time or internet access) is something that the parents are happy with. If parents have already got disciplinary procedures in place, it's best that you stick to these so that there is some consistency.
Try to be non-emotional in your responses to rule breaking, and reward good behaviour over being negative and critical of bad behaviour. If one child refuses to help load the dishwasher, praise the child that is helping – children crave attention and positive reinforcement, so this is a more effective way to ensure that your charges abide by the house rules. If your charges are young, it's important to remember that they have very little control over their emotions, so simply remain calm in response to a temper tantrum – disciplinary action will only make the problem worse, and it's best to wait until the episode is over.
If you're working as a governess and caring for more than one child, it's likely that at some point you will come across disputes regarding an object and a reluctance to share. Give the children time and support in coming to their own solution, and if unable to do so then simply remove the object until they can. This helps to involve the child in the outcome of the situation and can be a good way to avoid the same conflict next time.
Make it fun
If there is a time of day that you find particularly tricky to get through, try making it fun for the kids. If it's the lead up to bedtime, create a before bed 'to do' list and ask the children to tick each task off as they complete it. Maybe it's the after dinner mess that your charges are reluctant to help with...try setting a timer and see whether they can clear the table and load the dishwasher within a certain time.
As a childcare provider hoping to implement good behaviour, the best thing that you can do is to remain kind, loving and consistent in your role. Your charges will look to you as more of an equal than they do their parents, so be their friend, show them that you respect them, and in return it is much more likely that they will follow the ground rules.
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