Your daughter is growing up so fast and now she wants to take on part-time babysitting jobs to earn spending money. While admiring her work ethic, you may wonder if she’s ready. What if one of the children gets hurt? What if there is a fire while she is babysitting? What if a child wanders off? Supervising children is an important responsibility and there are many considerations.
Babysitters supervise children while the parents are temporarily away or nearby and focused on other activities. Babysitters are usually hired by the hour and work in the family home. Typical duties include playing with children, preparing simple meals and/or snacks, cleaning up play areas, and putting children to bed. The underlying assumption is that the babysitter is responsible for keeping the child safe.
- Is your child old enough? Some states have specific age requirements for babysitting while others simply offer guidance on what age children can be left home alone. The most common state minimum age for children to be left alone with siblings or other children is 12 years old. The American Red Cross has a minimum age of 11 years old to take their babysitting course. Be sure to check if your state has a minimum age requirement.
- Is your child mature enough? The right age to allow a young person to start babysitting is a judgment call that should be based on training, maturity and experience. Before letting your child babysit, encourage her to take CPR and First Aid. These courses are basic childcare requirements and will better prepare your daughter for emergency situations. In addition to training, honestly assess your child’s personality, work ethic and maturity level. Does she like playing with younger children? Is she responsible enough to put her phone away and focus solely on the children in her care? Would she be able to keep track of several children at one time?
- Does your child aware and comfortable with the responsibility? The type of babysitting job is also critical as some focus on entertaining and playing with children while other sitter jobs include bath time and overseeing children as they complete their homework and chores. Will the parents be close and available to come home quickly if need be? Are the parents at work and less able to return? Will you be nearby and able to assist? Is the job for a few hours on a Friday night or a summer job while the children are out of school? If the job requires more than a few hours of supervisory childcare or working with an infant, does your daughter have the childcare skills?
- Does your child have experience? Many sitters start as mother’s helpers to learn more about childcare, especially caring for toddlers and preschoolers. Being a mother’s helper allows your daughter the opportunity to shadow and work with a mother under the supervision of the mother. This reduces stress and anxiety for both the family and the new sitter until both are comfortable.
Each sitter position is unique to the needs of the family so it’s important to have a written document to clarify the expectations and job requirements. A simple letter that documents the expectations by defining what the sitter should and should not do and rules for the children can help avoid misunderstandings. This agreement should be reviewed by both the sitter and the parents and should contain the hourly rate for the sitter and emergency contact numbers for the parents.
- Are you comfortable with the risk? It’s rare, but things can go wrong. Babysitters are expected to keep the children in their care safe and conduct themselves in a ‘reasonable’ manner. Unfortunately, the definition of reasonable is not always cut and dried and is determined on a case by case basis.
If a child is injured, liability decisions are affected by many factors including how the injury occurred, if the injury was the result of a known medical condition and the actions of the sitter. Children are active and skinned knees and bruises from falling while playing a game are expected. These can occur no matter who is watching the child and it is considered ‘unreasonable’ to try to protect children from every possible injury. However, if a parent says the child is not to ride their bike, and the sitter lets them ride – the sitter may be liable for any injuries incurred – especially if the instructions were written in a babysitter agreement.
Babysitting is a wonderful first job for your daughter as it teaches responsibility, communication skills, and work ethic. Childcare is also a potential career as many sitters advance to nanny positions that provide flexible income while they are in college or entering the workforce. While sitters earn about $10 per hour, nannies can earn $15-20 with advanced training. Sitters who are at least 16 years old and are seeking to be summer nannies can enroll in the Basic Childcare Certification program.
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