Here’s how to be a good babysitter, from the viewpoint of a mom.
1. Show up on time.
I’m a hypocrite for saying it, but it is super important, so it’s got to be number 1. The people you’re babysitting for probably have an agenda, and they will be more likely to ask you again if they feel like they can rely on you to be punctual.
2. Be flexible.
Kids don’t usually follow the perfect schedules that we (as parents) create for them. If the parent asks you to come 15 minutes earlier or later, roll with it. If one of their children wakes up unexpectedly from a nap, don’t complain about it. That’s what you’re there for.
3. You have to like other people’s kids.
I know this seems like a given, but the same rule applies to teaching, and you know we all had that one teacher who hated children.
You have to have a high level of tolerance for whining, misbehavior, and crying. As a babysitter, the children often act out more with you than they do when they’re with their parents. You’re new. They want to impress you. Or get rid of you, according to the movies.
4. Have fun!
Remember, your best advertising is a child that won’t stop asking for you to come back.
Don’t play on your phone, even if the kids are taking care of themselves. I’m personally fine with babysitters being on Netflix or Pinterest when all the kids are asleep, but when they’re awake, earn your pay and play with them! Parents will appreciate when you entertain their children. When I babysat in college, I would bring a giant hot pink bag with me full of random surprises (frisbees, balls, play dough, puzzles, etc.) and I called it the Magical Bagical (Classy, I know). Last I heard, one of the little boys I babysat still says “Magical Magical!” when he sees my picture. Kids remember.
5. Clean up.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to white glove their house, or that you need to feel like their disaster zone is your responsibility. Not at all. I’m just saying that you’re more likely to be valued (and therefore invested in) when you pick up after the messes that the kids make while you are in charge, such as dishes and toys.
6. Be honest about their kids, but tactful.
Make sure to let the parents know if anything potentially dangerous happened, or if anything got broken. However, try not to talk too much about how tired the kids made you, or how much they cried. First off, crying and being tired is the life of a parent, and a babysitter is a temporary fill-in parent, so don’t expect better treatment than the actual (unpaid) parent gets. Chances are, the parents know that their baby is teething and fussy, or that their toddler son throws temper tantrums and their little girl hates broccoli. Parents are usually aware of their children’s problems, and “informing” them will probably come off as complaining. If they didn’t injure anyone, do anything morally questionable, or destroy anything, then don’t mention it.
Now, obviously, this is usually an age thing, but I’ve had to pick up a couple of licensed babysitters who were perfectly capable of driving a car, but who were too cheap to spend the gas money. That’s super frustrating. Also, if you’re old enough to drive but don’t have your license, get it. I cannot stress enough how much parents love a driving babysitter. Not only do they not have to pick you up (which, if you do the math, makes them drive twice as much as you would, just to have you babysit), but you’re able to transport the kids in an unforeseen emergency.
8. Be available, no matter the time or the day of the week.
If you are always turning down parents when they ask you to babysit, they’re going to stop asking. Am I saying that you should accept that babysitting job at 6:45 AM? If you’re serious about babysitting, yes. Don’t miss school or your own wedding reception or anything, and definitely don’t let people take advantage of you, but if you’re willing to go out of your way, people will start referring you.
Do you have any other mom tips for babysitting??