Are you looking to become the best possible babysitter that you can be? The first step is to identify the most important qualities that make a good babysitter.
10 traits of a good babysitter:
- Responsible and dependable
- Creative and playful
- Active and healthy
- Have good manners
Babysitting is a more complicated job than a lot of people think! There are a lot of qualities that you need as a person to make a good babysitter. The truth is that not everyone is perfectly suited for it right away. Luckily many of these qualities are things that you can learn or improve upon over time.
Here is my list of the top 13 qualities that good babysitters share:
1. Responsible and Dependable
Every parent wants a dependable babysitter. Their worst nightmare is getting all dressed up for a night away from the kids, only to have the babysitter call 30 minutes in advance to say they won't be able to make it.
Responsibility is quite an over-arching quality of a good babysitter that is displayed in everything you do. You want parents to be able to trust you, depend on you, and feel confident that you're able to responsibly take care of their children. After all, you're the only one in charge of making sure they stay safe while their parents are away.
A responsible babysitter makes both children and parents feel safe. Whether you're out at the playground, or just at the house.
For me, being dependable and responsible is a characteristic of a babysitter that's more important than almost anything else. The kids might love you, but it doesn't matter if you're the best babysitter in the world if you're always canceling or showing up late.
Parents should feel like they can trust your judgment. You should have a clear idea of what kinds of activities are safe for children, and be able to identify any potential risks where an injury could happen. A responsible babysitter won't let kids fight with tree branches, try to do a backflip or anything else that seems clearly unsafe.
Punctuality is closely tied with being dependable and responsible, but it specifically deals with showing up on time for your babysitting jobs.
As a good babysitter, you should respect the time of the families that you're babysitting for, and show up when you said you would arrive. It's best to even show up a bit early to discuss any specific requirements or plans for that particular day.
A punctual babysitter sticks to their word and shows up when they say they will. The life of a parent is stressful and hectic enough. Worrying about whether the babysitter is going to show up or not is one thing that parents shouldn't have to deal with.
If you ever find that you're running late, be sure to contact the family you're babysitting for to let them know as soon as possible, as well as when you expect to show up.
If you're not going to be able to work for a babysitting job that you've previously agreed to, try to give at least a week's notice if possible so that the family has time to find an alternate babysitter. Of course, emergencies happen from time to time where you may need to cancel at the last minute, but those sort of incidents should be few and far between.
Being responsible in terms of punctuality gives parents a bit of extra confidence that you'll also be responsible in other ways when watching their children.
Kindness is the quality of being considerate, generous, empathetic and friendly.
Being kind is a bit infectious. So if you want the children you're babysitting to be kind to you, you need to be kind to them first. As a babysitter, you are a role model to the children that you watch, and they'll look to you for how they should be behaving.
Kindness is crucial when it comes to establishing new relationships with children. Not only will they be kind to you in return, but also to other children and adults that they meet.
A kind babysitter makes children feel accepted and at ease. They don't need to worry that their sitter will criticize or judge them, and it gives them a safe space to express themselves.
Being kind doesn't just mean being nice or doing whatever it takes to make a child happy. You can be a kind person but still, set limits or boundaries and discipline children you're babysitting. In fact, disciplining kids may be easier if you're kind since they will see you as a fair person. Gentle and kind corrections to any inappropriate behavior are often more successful than harsh ones since children can be quite sensitive.
Patience and the previous quality of kindness often go together hand in hand.
The importance of patience goes all the way back to the Latin expression "maxima enim, patientia virtus," meaning "patience is the greatest virtue." Today we still consider patience to be a virtue.
This is especially true if you're a babysitter dealing with a three-year-old who constantly has to ask "why"!
The ability to be patient goes a long way when it comes to being a good babysitter. You're going to need patience if you hope to build a relationship with the children that you're put in charge of.
Being patient helps you to get children to trust you and they'll be more likely to respect you and listen in return.
Just like kids need to be reminded to be patient when they're playing a game that requires taking turns, you should remind yourself as a babysitter to be patient every once and a while. That might be something as simple as taking a deep breath whenever you find yourself starting to become frustrated.
Kids will often do what you say, but go about it in a roundabout way and take their own time. If you ask a child to put their toys away, be sure to stay patient and give them the time and space that they need to complete the task. Of course, you can give gentle reminders if they start to stray from the task, but try to avoid becoming impatient with them.
Even the most patient babysitter can struggle sometimes. Read my article on how to deal with a difficult child so you know what to do if ever you find yourself in a tricky situation.
Just telling you to be more experienced is perhaps unfair. Experience is something a bit more out of your control than most of the other qualities on this list.
Parents understand that every babysitter has to start somewhere. Some babysitting jobs just require someone with more experience to provide parents with peace of mind, especially when it comes to babysitting infants, children with disabilities, or other special circumstances.
The good news is that experience isn't just about on-the-job babysitting. If you've looked after a sibling for your own parents or taken a babysitting or First Aid course offered by the Red Cross, those are valuable experiences that can help to set you apart from other babysitters as well.
An experienced babysitter is simply better equipped to deal with any difficult or unusual situations that they come across.
Experience is most commonly linked to a babysitter's age and the number of years they've been babysitting. But other factors such as maturity level also play a part.
Are you brand new to babysitting? Check out my article on how to get started with no experience in 7 easy steps.
6. Creative and Playful
Children love a babysitter who has a strong imagination and can help come up with all kinds of creative activities, games, and crafts. Likewise, parents want a babysitter who will create an active and fun experience for their kids, instead of just putting them down in front of the television for the entire night.
Children love to use their imagination and play pretend. It's great for stimulating their creativity and creating an active mind, especially in younger ones who tend to have a shorter attention span. So as a babysitter, you can't be afraid to get a bit silly and play along with whatever crazy idea that kids you're watching come up with. It's an important part of bonding with the children.
When children run out of their own ideas for games, you should be ready with some creative and fun suggestions of your own. Kids are constantly hopping from one activity to the next, so it's good to have a bunch of different activities ready to go, and to be able to think on your feet if you suddenly find you've run out of stuff to do!
Need some fun things to do while babysitting? Bookmark my list of over 200 babysitting activities on your phone then whip it out whenever you hear the words “I’m bored!”.
7. Active and Healthy
Children are full of energy, so it's important that as a babysitter you're able to keep up!
Being babysat by their grandparents is fun once and a while, but kids generally prefer a babysitter who can run and crawl around with them.
You don't need to be an athlete, but a reasonable amount of physical fitness will help you from feeling exhausted while running after a toddler! You should be ready for a day of hide and go seek or tag at a moment's notice.
Aside from being active, being healthy is also important. Children have a weaker immune system than adults, so if you've got the flu or any other infectious disease, it's best not to accept any babysitting jobs. Parents are generally pretty understanding if you're sick. They'd rather find a replacement babysitter than treat a house full of sick children for the week afterward!
For more advice on that topic, check out my article: Should You Babysit When You're Sick?
Also learn the tricks now for babysitting sick children because eventually you'll find yourself looking after kids that aren't feeling well.
Allowing you into their home and temporarily putting you in charge of their children is a very private experience for a parent to share with you as a babysitter. To make it work, a very high level of trust is required.
Trust is one of the most important bonds between a parent and babysitter. Parents need to know they can trust you to keep their children safe and make sure that you enforce the rules of their house.
Read our tips to being a safe babysitter.
A lot of the trust between parents and a babysitter is implied. But if you ever do something to break that trust, it can be difficult to rebuild a parent's faith in you.
The more you can get to know parents before you babysit for them the first time, the better. Share as much as you can about your previous experience and what kind of person you are with them in advance. It can be helpful to go out for coffee with a parent just to get to know them and share a bit about yourself.
9. A Leader
Of course, part of being a babysitter is being playful and able to relate to the kids you're watching. You also need to be able to take charge and act as an authority figure or make sure that rules are followed when necessary.
Babysitting might seem like just fun and games until you come up against a specific rule like not watching any television that kids may want to rebel against. It's all about having the tact necessary to make unpopular decisions when needed, but also be seen as someone who is fair and kind. Children need to know that you're in charge, but also shouldn't be afraid of you.
Be sure to talk to parents in advance to make sure exactly how their family specifically handles discipline or bad behavior.
Part of being a good babysitter (or leader in general) is being able to set boundaries. Children thrive best when they're given a specific and predictable routine to follow. So the closer you as a babysitter can keep kids following their usual household routine, the less likely you are to start running into problems. As long as things stay consistent, children are less likely to have a problem. Although you still need to be prepared for them to test the limits a bit, particularly at the beginning!
Read more about babysitting leadership skills and how important they are in general.
Parents appreciate a babysitter that is flexible. That mostly means being able to adapt to different needs and situations seamlessly.
Parents might arrive home an hour or so later than expected some nights because of traffic or any other number of reasons. As a babysitter, you should expect that you won't always finish exactly on time, and should be okay with that. As long as you're compensated for any extra time that you need to work, of course.
Flexibility includes negotiating when it comes to pay-rates, schedules, and generally being easy-going about all things involved with babysitting.
(Are you trying to figure out how to negotiate a babysitting rate? Check out my 9 tips!)
Things can often come up for parents at a moment's notice, so being flexible enough to drop everything and go babysitting if you get a phone call can provide you with some extra work, and very grateful parents!
Of course, you want any relationship with your clients to go both ways. If you offer some flexibility to them, it's fair to expect a bit in return as well.
You want to be open to a variety of different situations without ever feeling like the families that you babysit for are taking advantage of you. There are some things, like the minimum pay you're willing to accept, that you shouldn't compromise on. In general, a bit of flexibility really goes a long way in establishing a long-term babysitting job.
You can have all the babysitting training and experience in the world, but some people just really lack common sense when they're faced with a new or uncertain situation!
As a great babysitter, you should be a great problem-solver and be able to think analytically to solve any problems that you might find yourself facing. You should be able to use your experience to figure out how to use a new microwave or washing machine at a client's home that you've never used before.
Aside from overcoming obstacles on the job, you want to be able to answer any questions that kids may have for you.
Children are full of questions and they're naturally curious, so you should be educated enough to answer some basic questions for them like why the sky is blue or grass is green. Or at least have the ability to find out for them if they ask something that you can't answer!
A smart babysitter can make sure that kids are having fun and learning at the same time!
Children and parents alike will judge you by how you act and look. When dealing with either of them, you need to be confident and sure enough in your own knowledge and abilities to stand your ground.
Babysitters need to be talkative and outgoing to really build a bond with new children that they're watching. If you come across as awkward or shy, communication might be difficult and it can take longer for kids to warm up to their new babysitter.
You don't need to be the most bubbly and extroverted person in the world, but you at least need to come across as someone who is friendly and confident in themselves.
Adults don't want to hang out with a low-energy person who is just boring, and young kids aren't any different. So try your best to be confident and appear outgoing, especially when babysitting a new child for the first time.
13. Have Good Manners
As a babysitter, you're setting an example for the children that you're watching. You should show a basic level of etiquette and manners that you would expect them to follow as well.
This means simple things like saying please and thank you, and generally being courteous. You should be using table manners when eating with the kids and showing general respect for the family home. This includes respecting their privacy and not going through drawers and closets without permission, or handling their personal possessions.
We can identify certain qualities that all good babysitters seem to have.
This includes characteristics like being responsible, dependable, punctual, kind, patient, creative, confident, and more.
Many of these are things that parents expect a new babysitter to have right away. Luckily, most of these are things that you can work on to improve if you have weaknesses in a specific area.
Do you struggle with any particular quality I've listed? Try to come up with a plan to gradually improve on it over time!
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Babysitting Secrets Revealed!
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If you're serious about becoming the best babysitter you can be, or if you want to make as much money as possible, then this book is perfect for you. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder