How to Be a Good Babysitter

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Teenagers, adults, and even responsible preteens can make money and have fun taking care of younger children. Like any job, babysitting requires preparation, dedication and dependability. A good babysitter will be in demand, and satisfied parents will call her back.

Be Dependable

  • Be reliable about showing up on time, and demonstrate that you are mature, trustworthy, professional and responsible. Unless you have the parents' permission, do not invite friends to the house, and keep personal phone calls brief. Parents also value loyalty from a sitter, so you should never cancel except for an emergency. If you must cancel, try to recommend another sitter.

Put Safety First

  • When children are in your care, their safety is your primary concern. Your local Red Cross, YM or YWCA or adult education school may offer babysitting, CPR and first aid courses to help you be a better babysitter. On the job, never tell anyone you are alone in the house and don’t open the door unless it is for the parents. You must be able to hear a child cry or call you, so turn the radio or TV low, and don’t use headsets or earpieces. Watch out for small objects that a young child can put in his mouth; cut food for toddlers into small pieces; and don’t give a young child choking hazards like popcorn and hard candy. Even if a house has been child-proofed, be alert for indoor hazards like stairs and open windows, and be vigilant outdoors around swimming pools and play equipment.

Be Prepared

  • Before the parents leave, they should give you a list of phone numbers, including 911 and Poison Control and their cell phones or the number of the location where they will be, as well as the numbers of their doctors and family members. In case you have to call emergency services, be sure the list includes the phone number and address where you are babysitting. Ask when the parents will be home and if they are expecting any phone calls, and if so, what message you should give. The list should include mealtime information for young children and whether an older child needs help with bath time routines.

Knowing About Children

  • Study the stages of child development to understand how to perform such basic tasks as changing diapers and feeding, bathing and dressing infants and toddlers as well as the development of preschoolers and school-age children. If you don’t feel comfortable caring for an infant, don’t take the job.

Deal With Misbehavior

  • Children often try to get around household rules in the presence of a sitter, so find out beforehand how much, if any, discipline you are expected to exert. Part of the job is enforcing the same rules as if the parents were home, so let the children know you are in charge. Find out how parents deal with temper tantrums, demands or other acting-out behavior, so if it happens, teach by example and remain calm and in control.

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