updated 15 Apr 2013, 15:52
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Wed, Apr 10, 2013
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Helpers share tips on how to handle misbehaving children
by Azlinda Said

What strategies do maids have for handling misbehaving children? AZLINDA SAID poses questions from parents to three of them.

• Flora Perez, 30, a domestic helper for seven years. She’s looking after three children aged seven, nine, and 12.
• Jenny Cruz, 29, a domestic helper for five years. She’s looking after two children aged two and four.
• Laura Ramos, 35, a domestic helper for 10 years. She’s looking after two children aged three and five.

1. My five-year-old son is so stubborn - he never does anything I ask without throwing a tantrum first. He will either refuse and hide in his room, or ignore me. How do I get him to listen?

Flora: "Use a reward system - each time your child does a task you set him, give him a snack or some other reward. For example, my employer expects her three kids to have taken their baths before she gets home from work. But the kids would rather continue playing their games or watching television. So I offer to extend their play or TV time by at least 15 minutes if they do as I say. I tell them that the quicker they finish bathing, the quicker they can get back to their toys, iPad or TV. Sometimes, I promise them extra outings to the playground or more of their favourite snacks. My employer uses the same tactics, too."

2. My four-year-old daughter is very active. She doesn't like taking naps, preferring to run around the house or "help" me with chores. When I try to get her to sleep, she throws a hissy fit. What do I do?

Jenny: "I make sure the environment at home is quiet during nap time. I stop doing all housework, take the home phone off the hook, switch off the radio, television and computer, and speak to the kids (and have them answer me and each other) in hushed tones. I put them in bed and tell them it's time to sleep. I then close my eyes and get them to do the same - they will comply when they think everyone else is doing the same; it's like a game to them. When they've fallen asleep, I continue with my housework, but only the ones that can be done quietly, like the laundry, mopping or cooking."

3. My six-year-old girl likes to bully her four-year-old brother. She hits and pushes him, which always results in a fight. What can I do to stop this?

Laura: "The two children I'm looking after get into fights all the time, over toys, food, or out of boredom. I've learnt to keep them occupied - separately. The fights usually happen when they are sharing something, so I make sure they never do the same thing at the same time. If the older kid is reading a book, I give the younger one a toy to play with. When one's eating, the other is watching television. The only thing that they do at the same time is sleep! I think they each want individual attention, so I make sure they get it by focusing on doing different things with them."

4. My three children are very loud. They scream and shout all the time, at home and in public. When I ask them to lower their voices, they just get louder. I'm embarrassed by this.

Laura: "Screaming and shouting back at them won't help. It'll just encourage them to get louder, as they see it as a competition.

If they're screaming requests or complaints at me, I ignore them. I tell them I will only listen to them if they ask me nicely in lowered tones. It may take a while for them to do so; you have to be patient and resolve to ignore them until then.

If they're screaming at one another, I separate them and send them each to a different "timeout" corner. They stay there for as long as it takes for them to stop shouting. They usually get bored fast - there's nothing to do except stand or sit. Before I "reunite" them, I remind them to speak in normal tones or I will send them back to the timeout corners. I use the same tactic when the children act up in public, with my employer's support."

5. My son is only five but he likes to argue with me. He has never done anything I've asked without challenging me first. I've scolded, pleaded and reasoned with him, to no avail.

Jenny: "Give him choices. Basically, tell him the consequences of his actions and let him decide for himself what is best for him.

When the child I'm looking after refuses to eat his lunch, I ask him: 'Would you rather eat now when there's food or stay hungry?' As I cook small portions for lunch, I remind him that if he chooses to skip his meal now, there may not be any food left by the time he decides to eat and he will be starving by dinner time.

If he refuses to take his bath, I tell him he can do so, but he will be dirty and smelly all day, and nobody will want to play with him. If he refuses to sleep at night, I tell him that he will be tired the next day and won't be able to play with his friends or go out with his family."

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