adventures in babysitting

Crazy Boys



How do you do it, parents of boys? I’ve been babysitting a very active boy for the last few weeks and I’m pulling my hair out. Don’t get me wrong,  he’s a super sweet boy and I love his big smiles and warm hugs but I just can’t give him enough activity. We make sure we hit the park every day and he runs like there is no tomorrow but still, when we get home he’s bouncing off the walls. I need help.

I’m so used to my own daughter who is content to draw quietly for hours, paint elaborate master pieces or even space out with Netflix from time to time. How do you parents do it who have families of six and they are all hyper? Is it Lord of the Flies at your house?

I would love some tips and tricks. I’ve learned that rewarding him goes very far. He’s only six but he’s extremely proud of the fact that I let him pour water in our water glasses at dinner and he never spills. What other challenges should I give him?

He seriously needs three things to do at once. It is not uncommon for him to throw karate kicks, fall onto our couch dramatically, juggle a soccer ball AND play a video game on our ipad at the same time. He’s everywhere and anywhere. He’s constantly in the kitchen asking for snacks and he wears me down by endless repetition.

I know a lot of this behavior is my fault because I rewarded it too soon, not knowing what hit me. So I’m working on saying no and being consistent but I feel like the meanest mom ever. Bug even said to me as she was going to bed, “Where is my nice mommy.”


Help! I’ve got two more weeks of this, every day of the week. Gasp!




  • Carrie

    I hate to laugh, but . . . yup. Sounds like a boy. It’s tough. You do have to be firm and make sure you are consistent. Playing music and letting him dance would be great. Giving him a rag and having him wipe down all your baseboards, LEGOS, or even toothpicks and mini-marshmallows. . . I don’t even know. I used to spend hours and hours and hours at the park with Erik and he never wore himself out. It is so very, very different with a girl.

  • Erin Frost

    I have one of those!
    1) Set a schedule, tell him what it is going to be for the afternoon.
    For Instance: 1 hr playground, HW or quiet time with books 1/2 hr, snack (let him prepare it), craft activity 1/2 hr, netflix/video game while you prepare dinner, bath/shower time with toys, reading aloud time (3 books), bed.
    2) If he asks more than once, assign loss of privilege or time out (see below). This is annoying but typical behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud, his parents will thank you.
    3) His attention span is different than a girls, 15 minutes and its over that includes clean-up and set-up. Yes, Really.
    4) Give him choices, and limit him to one or the other. If he asks for something different tell him, “that is not a choice right now, your choices are…”
    5) Drink coffee & tea in afternoon
    6) Sign him up for after school activities ( 1 or 2 x per week), it gives you a break. They can be free.
    7) Exercise, Exercise, Exercise! Little boys need at least 10 minutes of movement for every hour they are still at school. Plan on 60 minutes of activity each day. Create relay course for energy burning, teach him to do push ups and jumping jacks during time outs. Always take the long route home.
    8) Set-up play dates with other school mates or boys.
    9) They do not play alone, period.

  • Karen

    Only have two of them, 3 & 5, and every single day is Lord. Of. The. Flies. Can’t even offer ideas because by 5:55pm I’m so fried I’m just trying not to cry. They also delight me, don’t get me wrong, but today involved pee, poop, and cat vomit accidents. A total of 5 of them.

  • Jennifer

    I don’t have a boy, but a girl who sounds remarkably similar…no sitting still or working on her own. I definitely agree with Erin’s rule no. 2–in our house we did that with whining, no whining if you want something, and when we enforce it regularly the whining is amazingly nonexistent.

    For me the other thing that helps is being out of the house a lot. In the house things get old/boring quick, and it doesn’t help because then I will try and multi-task with making dinner/cleaning/reading blogs etc, and only so much of that can be tolerated before the hyperness sets in again. If we spend a lot of time out and about then when we are home it is much easier for her to focus on all the home stuff she has missed all day while I get dinner ready.

    That isn’t helpful advice if you need to be home for other reasons, however.

  • ioi

    Give him chores to do. Leave the beds unmade and it’s his job to make them perfectly, have him load or unload the dishwasher (if you have one) or dry and put dishes away – and inspect his work. It takes you 2 seconds to find the 3 drops of water left on the back of the plate, but he’ll be busy drying it again for 5 more minutes. Have him collect the dirty laundry or fold clean laundry (sure you might have to do some of it over if you have a perfect way to fold laundry, but it keeps them busy), Set up a ‘chore dollar’ or ‘star chart’ for jobs finished. Offer a reward after a set number of ‘points/stars/whatever he’s earning’ has been reached (I like to hit the dollar store and wrap a hot wheels knock-off up before they’ve seen what it is). The power of a mystery prize is amazing. Use your clock! Snack time after school is OVER at ‘such-O-clock’. If he can’t read a clock, you can draw pictures of the food time window. He can set or clear the table. See if you can interest him in simple jigsaw puzzles (again I see what I can find at the dollar store). Puzzles are incredible at keeping boys occupied. And if you can think of nothing else… give him a rag and have him wipe baseboards…. they go on forever and even if he doesn’t do a perfect job, it’ll make it a layer lighter for when you have to get down and crawl around the floor scrubbing them! Oh, and bean bags and cardboard boxes with diminishing size holes are a challenge that begs to be beaten (you can make them out of socks and rice if you don’t want to sew up anything fancy). Or have him help you make them.

  • Caroline

    Well, I want to make it clear that I don’t have an active child (though I was involved w/ 7 nieces and nephews, some closely).

    I’ve noticed that, like the border collie dog I had a while back, tired for one kid doesn’t equal tired for another. Some of the kids needed all out run and play and others needed the activity plus something that engaged their mind, like playing while hauling around big sticks to make a spaceship/fort/???

    Also, with some of them, the more tired they got, the more active they got – this weird behavior where their exhaustion (sometimes mental like from school, sometimes physical, sometimes both) made them incredibly active, and they needed firm limits around quiet time, sleep and rest.

    So basically it’s not easy. hugs!

    • mamalang

      This! My son gets more obnoxious as he gets more tired, and listens less as well. At almost 12 there are still some days I make him just go lie down when I’m at the end of my rope, and usually he’s asleep in minutes.

  • carrien - she laughs at the days

    I have so many so they can play together and wear each other out. ;) Seriously, it works a lot of the time.

    My little boys need wrestle time with mommy, and play. I can get a whole lot done while BamBam pretends to be a boy fish who is making dinner for the mommy fish and also rescuing us from dragons. I suppose the element of pretend in the play depends on the age of the child in question. I find that the boys demand my attention a little more than the girls. “LOOK AT ME! LISTEN TO ME!” I try to give 10 minutes of good direct attention and then tell them to go do something else because I have to work, it’s someone else’s turn, etc.

  • Sonja

    My advice is to enforce quiet time. Activity is super important, but in my experience, it makes them more squirrelly unless they’re completely exhausted. You need to put calming down periods in between the activity. So, go to the park and play, but then have a set quiet time at home – no balls, no bouncing, no snacks, just books or legos or coloring (or whatever you decide).
    Snacking gets out of control with my kids if I always say yes, so I give them a snack and tell them very clearly that it’s the last stop before dinner (no refills!) and that they’re not to ask for more. I’m the mean mom who tells her kids “I’m glad you’re hungry! That means you’ll be ready for dinner when it’s ready for you!”

  • K

    I was terrified when I had a boy, after the energy manifested by my daughter… but, no – he’s slow-moving (‘I fink I’ll sit down now, Mummy’, likes to play quietly for hours, and prefers sitting in the buggy to using his scooter or – horror – walking… A challenge in itself! My daughter – ah, I just find as much time out of the house as possible works, plus having friends round to exhaust herself with. But nothing – NOTHING – seems to wear her out, and bedtime has always been an immense struggle (my son often takes himself off to bed if he’s feeling weary! Ah the contrast!). If you hit on something, let me know post haste!!!

  • Evilisa

    When my now 13 year old was 6 and trapped inside I made costumes and action figures VERY available. He could stay occupied for up to a solid hour dressing up to lead a battle on the floor.

    Also, Erin is absolutely right and No 2 is necessary!

  • DeeJay

    The act of learning to control one’s self expends energy just like running will. I have to do this with my dogs a lot. Make them sit patiently with their treat in sight. After a minute or two they are allowed to get the treat themselves. Then we work on adding little bits of time to each treat.

    I know we are talking about children and not dogs, but the chance for him to pick his prize and to knowingly work towards it may help.

    I found myself counting before talking or reacting to help with my stress levels during these times, too.

    You can do it!!!


  • BeachMama

    I haven’t read your comments above, but I just have to say… not all boys are like this!

    My own sweet boy is very quiet and gentle most of the time, he is a cuddler and is very happy to just be. My daughter on the other hand is the one who goes from thing to thing and then some, so I would have to say, it is just him. Maybe talk to him about what he would like to do, get feedback from him. Also, let him know that you have some ‘quiet time’, set a timer and let him know he has to be quiet for that set amount of time. It works here, just sayin’ ;)

  • Shelly

    I feel your pain and exhaustion although your post describes my daughter! My two boys were and continue to be easier than her very busy and demanding personality! I actually write out a schedule for her and show her when she can have a snack and when it’s time for lunch, when we will play outside and when she has down time and will need to find SOMETHING, ANYTHING to do. If she knows what the day is going to bring she does much better and can actually entertain herself between activities! Good luck!

  • Katherine

    Saving this post, I have a two year old son and it’s been a bit of a culture shock having mainly grown up around girls. I find getting him outside as much as possible really helps, if he’s in a bad mood it will really lift him.

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