There is a common misconception that the “law” says you must be 11 to babysit siblings and 12 to babysit non-relatives. There actually isn’t a “babysitting law” because children develop maturity and responsibility at different ages. Most children begin babysitting around 11, at which age most pre-teens are capable of watching one or two elementary-aged children for a few hours at a time. Bigger babysitting jobs, such as infants, overnight jobs or multiple charges, should be tackled by older teens.
Legally, you’re covered at any age you want to babysit. But remember, you are still considered a child until 18, so your parents and the parents of the children who hire you are responsible for your welfare. That means it may be harder for you to get babysitting jobs until you get older, simply because parents want to hire older teens.
Parents are looking for four main things in a potential babysitter: skill, trust, reliability and passion. Babysitting takes skill. You can’t just show up and hope nothing scary happens. Take basic First Aid training, a beginner’s babysitting course (usually offered at local hospitals and health centers), and prepare a resume of your babysitting experience. A simple list of your skills (i.e. cooking, sports training, CPR training) will show potential clients what you can do with their kids, or if you can handle emergencies. Include experiences like babysitting your own siblings, volunteering at Vacation Bible School or after-school day cares.
Potential clients do not want an irresponsible teen to be in charge of their precious babies. Be focused whenever you speak to your clients. Dress conservatively (i.e. T-shirt and jeans) and keep your cell phone usage to a minimum. Show the clients that your focus is 100% on their children for the next few hours.
Reliability is the make-or-break quality to keeping high-paying babysitting jobs coming your way. Although you don’t have to take a job every time parent calls you, be careful not to cancel too many times on the same parent. Remember, if a parent calls for your services, it’s because they have an appointment or other plans. Canceling or refusing babysitting jobs puts them in a bad position. If you must cancel, do so as soon as possible and recommend another babysitter who is free that night. Always call clients back as soon as possible to make sure you remain their first call when they need a babysitter.
Show parents how passionate you are about working with kids by telling them what kinds of activities you want to share with the children and how you’ll deal with different situations. In a babysitting interview, a parent might quiz you on how you’ll take care of a temper tantrum, tears from missing mommy, strangers showing up at the front door, or severe weather. Have a game plan for anything and everything that can go wrong.
Once you’re on the job, always remember who your boss is. Don’t let the children talk you into staying up later, eating something not allowed, watching something inappropriate or anything else the parents have vetoed. Remember, the parents and you are in charge. You are the babysitter and they are the children. You don’t have to prove yourself to be “cool” to the kids.
Never leave the children alone, especially in public places. Never bathe children or allow them to go swimming unless you have CPR training. Even then, accidents happen too easily. If you must bathe a child, stay in the bathroom with them at all times. Don’t leave for even five seconds. If you must answer the door or phone, take the child with you and put her back in the bath later.
Unless the kids are asleep, your time and attention should be 100% on them. You are hired to entertain and play with them as well as watch them. Don’t watch TV, play on the computer or spend your time texting. Allow watch movies and show the children want to watch, and only if the parents allow it. Most parents will say it’s OK for you to watch TV, do homework or other things after the kids have gone to sleep, but always ask first.