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Reality Check: Lazy Sitter

Q. A friend is our babysitter, but she still treats my 2-year-old like the quiet baby he was  -- she feeds him, sings to him, snuggles with him while watching TV, but isn't very active. How do I get her to see that she has to do more now?


A. The thing to focus on here is your child's evolving needs, rather than your friend's inadequacies. You want to get her on your side without any finger-pointing. Talk to her about how you're suddenly realizing that at 2 he needs so much more stimulation than when he was a baby  -- mentally, socially, and physically. Ask her to help you brainstorm ways to satisfy his growing curiosity and physical ability, acknowledging that as his caregiver she is as much an expert on this as you are. Should you (and she) read to him every day, maybe before his nap? Does he need a daily dose of wildness  -- playing "you can't catch me" in the yard or at the playground  -- to help him get his ya-ya's out? Is he ready for playmates his age?

When our eldest was a toddler, her babysitter used to stroll her over to a neighborhood sitters' playgroup every day. Madeline got to play with kids her age, and Anne and the other caregivers got to have coffee and chat. Maybe you can help your friend line up the same kind of get-together in your neighborhood.

As for all of that TV viewing, pass the buck to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Tell her that your son may watch only an hour a day (preferably less) of children's programming on whatever station you approve of, per your pediatrician's recommendation.

Conducting a performance review is trickier when the employee is your friend. Because she's your friend, you know and trust her more than you would someone else, and because she's your friend she'll want to care for your child the best way she can. It's up to you to help her figure out how.

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