Sitter-hating 3-year-old

By Heidi Stevens / Chicago Tribune

Published Mar 7, 2014 at 12:01AM

Their 3-year-old sobs when the sitter arrives to give the parents a night out. Should they give up on date nights?

Parent advice (from Tribune staff contributors):

Only if sitting around every night in silent resentment is an appealing alternative. Crying when mommy and daddy are leaving is normal, and so is getting over it. Giving in to the sobbing ploy guarantees repeat performances.

— Phil Vettel

The right sitter is key. Put at least as much thought into your kid’s night as your own, and it will pay off. The right baby sitter, one who has had positive experiences with kids your child’s age, can be a godsend. He or she will make your kid the center of attention at a stressful time and, through games or activities, will take your child’s mind off her temporary fear and loneliness. If the sitter doesn’t have ideas of his or her own, offer something to do, like making cupcakes, modeling clay, having the kid find little treats around the house, whatever makes the time go faster (for them, not you).

— Michael Zajakowski

Expert advice:

“Parents need to believe they are entitled to a night out and that their child will be fine,” says Melinda Blau, co-author of “Family Whispering: The Baby Whisperer’s Commonsense Strategies for Communicating and Connecting With the People You Love and Making Your Whole Family Stronger” (Atria Books).

“Diversity is good in every situation, and it’s very good in terms of children,” Blau says. “Children do well when they’re exposed to grandparents and aunts and uncles and teachers and baby sitters, who all teach them something new and have slightly different standards of behavior.”

And parents do well when they get an occasional break from child-rearing.

Now, it’s time to get your kid on board.

Of course, you want to choose a baby sitter who is energetic and enjoyable and kind. But equally important, Blau says, is your attitude.

“Kids respond to the vibe you put out,” Blau says. “You can say to the child, ‘Guess what? Mary’s coming over to spend some time playing with you!’ And if you tell yourself that’s a good thing, the child is going to hear that it’s a good thing.”

If the tears still break out when you’re heading out the door, simply reassure your child and exit quickly.

“No, ‘Oh, you poor baby! We’ll be back soon!’” Blau says. “Take a more positive tone. ‘OK, Mary’s going to play Legos with you now! Have fun!’”

And then go have some fun of your own.