If you’re wondering how to a get a good babysitter, I’ve got a suggestion for you. Tap the teenage market and find yourself a terrific babysitter. So what do you look for in a good one? How do you know what’s going on when you go out? What are the secrets to knowing whether you have a mini Mother Theresa in your home versus a psychopathic version of Anne of Green Gables?
Teenagers are good really, you just have to know how to find the right one
The article I read was older but It got me wondering how much attitudes have changed about hiring teenage kids to give mom and dad a well earned night out. Are you terrified of leaving your little one with a gawky teenager in case your house burns down or are you comfortable with giving the younger set some work experience?
When my kids were small, we had some adventures on the babysitting front. One night I came home to find my two year old son wearing my gym pants (you can imagine what those looked like). Another time we came home to a bath full of water with yes, you guessed it, something rather nasty floating inside. We had good babysitters and not such great ones. Some who lasted for years and a few who lasted just one night.
I’m a firm believer in teenage babysitters. I was one and my daughter is a totally terrific one. The biggest complaint of parents is that teenagers are irresponsible and stuck on their phones with attitudes like, ‘who cares if he needs a bath….I want to be on Facebook,’ Well, there are no doubt a few of those but what it really comes down to is good judgment and I don’t think we should paint all teenagers like that when many of them are really excellent.
First what are the practical considerations?
First though the practical stuff. While there’s no minimum legal age to babysit in Canada there’s still an age that it doesn’t make sense to go below and that for me, was fourteen. When my children were growing up people seemed to think twelve was fine but while twelve year olds made good mother’s helpers, asking them to take full responsibility for a bunch of kids running in different directions seemed too much.
Secondly and even now, people ask for the babysitting course as though it’s a sort of litmus test of interest and dedication. Well, many years ago I used to teach the course there’s no doubt that a lot of kids go in to the day’s workshop in a good mood willing to put some effort in. That’s before they see the material though where so much is crammed in, I’d be surprised if they remembered a fraction of it. It’s a piece of paper and really, it means, well, not a lot. It certainly isn’t the standard many people think it is and although it has some good and useful information in it that’s worth learning, I’d hate any parent out there to think that a teenager who passes the test is somehow infallible. Thinking some kid is infallible leads to complacency and complacency is well, just plain dangerous. A teenager after all, is a teenager.
What makes a great babysitter?
So if the paper really doesn’t mean that much, how should you choose a good babysitter and how do you know you might be a good candidate? What are the real markers of a good babysitter?
Well, first make sure you have an interview when the kids are home. Watch how they interact with your child. Do they seem interested or do they sneak frequent looks at their pocket or wherever their phone is? Do they make eye contact with both you and your child? Do they ask about things like what to do at bedtime and what the kids like to play with or eat and ask for resolution if something seems unclear? Have they got references?
Conversely, if they immediately ask what you’re planning to pay them or what time they can put your kid in bed or whether they can have friends over, then you know your formerly hot prospect has now gone cold.
Include sometime time to familiarize the teenager with your home
Having said all of that, the biggest test is after you’ve taken the leap of faith and chosen your new babysitter. First make sure you have some training time when you’re at home and you can show them what to do, Make sure you pay them during training and observe carefully. Try leaving the room here and there so as to give them a moment with the kids alone and then watch the children’s reaction to them when they reappear. Then, when you leave them at home, come back aware of what signs to look for to tell you how things have gone.
If your babysitter says immediately that everything went fine, be a bit suspicious. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad babysitter but if you find one that opens up about the difficulties they encountered, it’s a great sign of maturity and it will likely mean that they’ll be one you’ll want to hang on to.
Take note of the unusual
Did they leave your home clean? Of course, I don’t mean scrubbed but did they make an effort to clean up the toys and leave it as you left it for them or are there dirty diapers on the counter along with the remnant of a chip bag? As you poke your head in to your child’s room, do the the kids seem clean and content? If they’ve still got dinner stuck to their face then you know that your babysitter couldn’t be bothered to properly handle bath time and decided against the extra work.
The next tell tale signs come in the next few days. Firstly, did your child seem well rested and look like they had a good night’s sleep or do they just seem cranky and miserable? When your babysitter comes back does your child seem anxious or withdrawn or does he or she seem genuinely pleased to see them?
None of these are full-proof but they will point you in the right direction and teach you how to get a good babysitter. And if you do get a babysitter you love, treasure them and pay them well and don’t make the mistake I did, which was to tell all my neighbours which ensured that my newly acquired babysitter was never free! Some secrets are after all, worth keeping. For more information on Annie’s services, please click on this parenting services link.