Babysitting: Jack's Tips

What's it like to be a guy babysitter? It's great! Often parents and kids expect a babysitter to be a girl, so there are a lot of stereotypes to overcome when you're a guy babysitter. But just like dads, we guys do a great job, and have lots of fun!

My favorite thing to do with the kids I care for is to reward them for getting their homework done by playing outside or making smoothies. How many jobs can a 13- or 14-year-old guy have that are this much fun?

Getting Started

The basic rules of babysitting are to be responsible, straightforward, and to communicate well, which includes asking questions. After that, just be yourself.

Here are 5 tips to help you get started:

  1. It's a good idea to meet the parents and kids before you actually babysit for them. Offer to come to their house and go over their rules, schedule, and emergency contacts. This makes you and the parents feel more comfortable.
  2. It's awkward to talk about money and payment, so talk about this ahead of time. During your first meeting, the family will usually ask if a certain amount of money per hour will be OK. If they don't talk about this, then you really need to do yourself a favor and bring it up at this meeting. A good thing to say might be, "Oh, I forgot to mention that I usually get paid $X/hour. Is that all right with you?" (You also can do this over the phone or by email.)
  3. Always know how you will get to and from the house where you're sitting. Once my mom got really mad at me because I told the family that my mom would pick me up when they got home and she had other plans! Since then, I've learned that it's really important to work that stuff out ahead of time.
  4. Ask the family what time they plan on returning. This is important because you might have a lot of homework or a sports game the next morning and you don't want to assume that they'll be home early.
  5. It's never good to put the kids in front of TV or screens until the parents return. It is important to have kids exercise and play. If you're babysitting for one child, it can sometimes help if he or she invites a friend over. Having other kids to play with serves as a good motive to get homework done. It's even better if you can get siblings to play together.

The Volunteering Connection

In addition to babysitting, I've also volunteered at schools and other community programs where I've played with, fed, and assisted a range of kids. Many of these children have special needs and the staff have taught me a lot about how to care for them.

These experiences led me to getting babysitting jobs from the parents of the kids in the programs. They know that I am familiar with the children and their needs. Volunteering is a great way to build up babysitting clients! You might have to apply for your state's child abuse clearance waiver before volunteering at a school or agency. This is not a big deal; it's just a form you have to fill out and send in.

If you do a good job with one family, they will often recommend you to other families who need sitters. The best way to get your first job is to start with family, friends, and neighbors. Since you already know the kids, you will have an easier time connecting with them.

It can help not to go straight into babysitting on your own. What I did for my first job was called mother's helper. Basically, while the mother (or father) is in the house, you watch and play with the kids. This gives the parent time to do stuff around the house without the distraction of kids. When you feel as though you have enough experience, this will progress to a babysitting job and pretty soon you will have your own mini babysitting business.

When Kids Misbehave

If you decide to take a babysitting job, you will encounter all types of kids. There are the perfect kids who compromise on their own and don't fight with each other. There are the kids who are too young to stay up past 6:30 and you end up watching TV or doing your homework after they're in bed. And then there are the kids who misbehave badly.

What do I do when kids misbehave? There is always one thing that you can threaten to take away that I've found will fix even the most severe cases of misbehavior. Sometimes this is dessert, other times it's a game of tag outside. You will get to know the kids and what's important to them and this will help you help them with their behavior.

One of the hardest things to deal with is sibling rivalry. Here's what I've seen: one kid wants something that the other has (because it's supposedly better than the other). Then the kids get into physically grabbing and hitting. You try and break up the fight and each kid blames the other.

I've found the best way to deal with this is to give them equal punishment, even if one did "start it." Then they both know that they have done something wrong, and hopefully this will change their attitude toward cooperation and sharing.

You can always call the parents to ask for guidance. If the kids are misbehaving with you, chances are they also misbehave with their parents. So don't take it personally!

All in all, babysitting is fun. Try it! If you don't like it, that's fine. To do a good job at something, it's important to do whatever makes you happy!

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2011

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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