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Child loves a good babysitter

How to Be a Good Babysitter

(17 Tips From A Parent!)

Whether you're brand new to babysitting or an experienced babysitter just looking to improve, you can use these tips to be a better sitter.

  • Take some classes.
  • Be fun and stay active.
  • Stay organized.
  • Be open to communication.
  • Always arrive on time.
  • Open yourself up to feedback.
  • Be caring and gentle.
  • Be prepared for anything.
  • Know what you’re comfortable with.
  • Be willing to enforce rules.
  • Respect the parents’ wishes.

In this article, you'll learn what makes a good babysitter and different things you can do to make a good impression on both parents and kids alike.

Is There Such a Thing as a Perfect Babysitter?

Not really. When it comes to babysitting, there isn't a one-size-fits-all babysitter that everyone would love. The characteristics that one family considers important in a babysitter might be totally different from what another family wants. Parents can vary a lot in terms of what they expect in terms of engagement, discipline, and other factors from babysitters that they hire.

However, I think there are some key qualities that most parents would say contribute to someone being a great babysitter. I'm going to share these qualities with you in this article.

As a parent with three kids myself, I've had plenty of experience working with a number of babysitters. Some were awesome. Some were just okay. And some left a lot to be desired. Combining my own experiences with information I've heard from other parents, I have compiled some ways to really set yourself apart as a good (or great!) babysitter.

1. Make a Good Impression During the Interview

You need to show parents that you're a good babysitter before you even begin working for them. The interview is a good place to start scoring major points with your future employer.

During the interview, you might meet only the parents, or you may get introduced to their kids or the entire family. Either way, you should come to the interview ready with questions for the parents as well as a couple for the kids. Asking a few well-thought-out questions like whether their kids have any allergies, what activities they love, and details about their daily routine will go a long way to show that you're a good babysitter.

Make sure to have a few rehearsed things to say about yourself. Like if you have any interests or hobbies the kids will love, what you are studying in school, or if you speak a second language. You should also have a few things prepared to speak about your babysitting philosophy, in case you are asked.

A good babysitter also knows that the way they dress says a lot about them too, so I'd recommend wearing something a little more formal than just ripped jeans and a t-shirt. Just because you aren't interviewing to work in a big company doesn't mean that you don't want to appear professional. But you don't need to go overboard and wear a suit or formal dress to the interview either. A nice button-up shirt or polo and a clean pair of jeans without any rips or staining is usually the right balance for the job interview.

Remember that you're interviewing to work in someone's house with their children, who are the most valuable part of their lives. So it's important to make parents confident that you're a trustworthy and responsible babysitter who will take the best care of their children.

Never had a babysitting interview before? Check out my article, What to Expect at a Babysitting Interview (By Phone, Video Chat, or In-Person), to know what you're getting into!

2. Take Some Classes

If you're a more inexperienced babysitter, taking some courses related to childcare can give you the extra knowledge that you need to be a great babysitter. Plus, it will give the parents a sense of confidence in your skills and also looks great on your resume when you're applying for jobs.

When I'm hiring babysitters, I try to get sitters with a bare minimum of having completed a babysitting class, as well as CPR and first aid training, if at all possible. I will always choose a babysitter who is trained in first aid and CPR over one who isn't, and I'd even pay a higher rate for it.

It’s also a good idea to bring your portable first aid kit while you’re babysitting (here's the first aid kit we recommend).

Every babysitter should know what to do if a medical emergency arises—like if a child starts choking, breaks their leg, or passes out. It will not only give you peace of mind knowing that you can handle whatever comes at you, but it can also help set a parent's mind at ease.

Babysitting courses will teach you stuff that isn't as vital as CPR but still really good to know—like how to deal with an unruly kid and meal management.

Taking on extra training really shows parents that you're a babysitter with initiative who’s passionate about their job.

Are classes mandatory for babysitting? Read my article, Can You Babysit Without Qualifications?, to find out.

3. Be Open to Communication

A good babysitter is able to communicate with parents confidently. Good communication is essential for both parties. You should feel comfortable asking questions if you have any issues or anything you're unsure of or can't figure out on your own. And parents should clearly communicate what they expect of you.

Good communication shows parents that you are mature and want their child to be healthy and safe, and it is the main way of building trust with parents.

Keep the contact information for parents in your phone so that you can easily contact them if you need to.

Ask parents what kind of communication they're comfortable with and expect. For example, more anxious parents might appreciate getting a picture or two from you while you're babysitting so they can see what their kids are up to and that they're having fun. You can also text them updates throughout the day/evening or call to check in if that's what they ask for.

4. Stay Organized

A big part of a babysitter's job is to stick to the schedule that parents set for you. Kids do best with expectations of a regular routine and lots of structure. If you start doing things that throw off feeding and nap times, that's a recipe for one cranky child! It will make your job harder than it needs to be, and parents won't appreciate coming home to a cranky, miserable kid either.

It's good to get a regular schedule of how the day usually goes for each child you watch and keep a separate page in your babysitting binder for each one.

Important things to keep track of include play, meal, and nap times or bedtimes for any day that you'll be watching them. You should have a list of foods or meals you'll be feeding them each day and know when and how long they should nap or what time they go down for the night.

Need help getting organized? My article, The Ultimate Babysitting Binder (20 Documents & Fun Items to Include), is the resource you need!

5. Show Up Prepared to Babysit

Of course, the kids you're babysitting probably have all of their own crafts, toys, and activities for you to use. But a good babysitter doesn't rely on that and brings enough stuff to keep kids occupied for their entire shift. You should be able to show up with your babysitter bag and be able to entertain kids in an empty room for a few hours.

Even though they have their own toys, bringing along your items will help keep things fresh for them. Stock up on games, books, arts and crafts, and other stuff that kids love. Once you have one bag of toys and activities set up, you can bring it along to every babysitting job. Then you'll always have something to bring out if kids complain they're getting bored.

6. Always Arrive on Time

If I’m going somewhere important like an anniversary date with my wife, the most stressful part of hiring a babysitter can be wondering if they will show up!

Once you have one babysitter forget they're working and not show up, it's something you tend to always worry about. I find myself looking toward the clock as the time starts to get closer to when I need to leave. Having to cancel your night out at the last minute and stay home to take care of your kids because the babysitter forgot or had other plans come up is a frustrating experience, to say the least.

A good babysitter should consistently show up 10 or 15 minutes early. That way, parents won't be stressing that they need to get going right when you show up. Plus, it will give you and the kids some time to settle in before their parents leave.

There are some emergencies that you can't avoid, and being sick is also a legitimate reason not to babysit. But most excuses babysitters give are exactly that... excuses! Things like forgetting, oversleeping, not having a ride, or running out of gas, aren't excuses at other jobs, and shouldn't be something parents hear from a responsible babysitter either!

If, for some reason, you aren't going to be able to make it, make sure to call parents as far ahead as possible and let them know, so they can start making other plans. Ideally, they will have enough advance warning that they'll be able to find another babysitter (and it’s nice if you can help them do that, too).

7. Know the Ages of Kids You're Babysitting

Parents usually will tell you the age of their kids, but be sure to ask in advance if they haven’t let you know themselves. It's particularly important to know the age of younger kids you're watching, so you can prepare with appropriate toys and books, etc. Toddlers and babies require a lot more attention and different activities than school-aged children. So you really need to know the age of the kids you'll be working with to plan your time with them appropriately.

Are you going to be babysitting a toddler for the first time? My article, How to Babysit a Toddler (28 Tips: Care, Activities & Discipline), can help you out. I also recommend this article for complete beginners First Time Babysitting (16 Things You Should Know).

8. Open Yourself Up to Feedback

Parents usually have certain things that they like to be done in a very specific way. If these items are not taken care of in the way parents want, they can get upset or worried. So always listen to any feedback or criticism that parents give you, be open to considering their concerns, and take them seriously.

Even if parents don't go out of their way to offer feedback, it's good to ask them once and a while if there's anything you could do to improve, particularly at the beginning of a relationship with a new family.

9. Be Vigilant

Good babysitters are always watchful. It's a lot harder for kids to get hurt or into trouble if you've always got an eye on them, and you're ready to step in at a moment's notice.

The most important thing you have to do as a babysitter is to provide supervision and ensure that kids stay safe and aren't doing anything they shouldn't. This is the prevention ace-in-the-hole that keeps them from getting into trouble by stopping things before they happen.

Proper supervision is important both inside and outside the home. If you're out at the playground and not paying attention, a child could start jumping around or playing too rough and get hurt. Or they could even be approached by a strange adult. In the home, it only takes a few seconds for kids to try to stick something into an electrical outlet or pull heavy items down off a shelf.

When you're babysitting, try never to take your eyes off the kids you're watching for more than a few seconds—especially with younger children. That means you should put your cell phone away so you won't be distracted by texts, and never leave kids alone while you go into a different room unless they are asleep. If you need to go to the bathroom, make sure they are absorbed in an activity and in a safe place first, then be as quick as you can.

10. Be Caring and Gentle

The kids you're babysitting should see you as a friend as well as an authority figure. Good babysitters are kind and empathetic, even when they need to use discipline.

Remember that kids are still learning, so they might need to be gently corrected sometimes. They'll also need someone to listen to them when they're upset. So be caring and let kids know that they can confide in you.

11. Be Prepared for Anything

Keeping kids safe while you're babysitting means preparing for anything and everything that might happen. A lot of that comes down to good planning in advance.

Make sure you've got a list of important contacts that you may need to phone if anything happens. That includes other family members of kids you're babysitting, neighbors, and poison control or doctors that you might suddenly need to call.

Have a list of allergies for each kid, how severe the allergy is, what it looks like when it happens, and what to do if they have an allergic reaction. Consider allergies like bugs, pets, different foods, seasonal allergies, medicines, creams, and other possible allergens. If the child you're babysitting has an Epi-pen, know where it's located along with when and how to use it.

Ask parents what kinds of foods and toys their kids are allowed to eat, to prevent choking hazards.

The more you can plan for emergencies, the better response you'll have if something does happen. Then you'll be able to stay calm and work through it rationally instead of panicking.

12. Be Flexible

The life of a parent can be hectic, and things don't always work out the way they planned, so in some cases, parents might need you to come over a bit earlier or stay a little later than you had planned.

Of course, you don't want to let parents take advantage of you either. If you work more hours than expected, be sure that you are paid for that extra time. And if parents are constantly pushing the limits, you might need to talk to them about your concerns.

But things happen. Service at dinner might end up being slower than expected, or they might get stuck in traffic on the way home. So if you're a bit flexible and can be okay with working a little later every once and a while, it will show parents you're a dependable babysitter.

13. Let Parents Know Your Hourly Rate Ahead of Time

You should be discussing your rate and how much you expect to be paid at the interview stage of being hired for a babysitting job. It's just another part of having good communication between you and the parents you're babysitting for.

You don't want to end up being upset if they pay you less than you expected. And parents will not be pleased if you insist on a higher rate after the fact. So make sure that everybody agrees on the amount of your compensation before you start working.

Be sure to mention any specifics as well, like if you charge a higher rate if required to stay after midnight, work on a holiday, or have to babysit longer than expected.

Even if it's uncomfortable to talk about money with parents up front, it will make things a lot easier later on. If you just say you're happy with whatever they want to pay you, you'll almost always get offered the minimum amount they're willing to pay (and you won’t be appreciated for it).

14. Have Arrangements to Get Home

When parents finally get out for a nice relaxing evening, the last thing they want to worry about afterward is getting the babysitter home. If they plan to have a few glasses of wine and take a taxi themselves, it might not even be an option for them to drive. Most parents won't be too happy if they need to pay an extra $20 for a taxi or Uber for your ride home on top of paying for your babysitting services.

Good babysitters will make arrangements to get home ahead of time. Whether you have your own car, use a shared ride service, or get a family member to pick you up, it’s your responsibility to think of it in advance.

15. Be Willing to Enforce Rules

Kids love to push buttons and find out exactly what your limits are. It's just a part of growing up. They might try to guilt you into breaking the rules, like letting them stay up later or eating snacks they aren't allowed to have before bed. They will often say, “Mom lets me do (or eat) that,” and you’ll have to check it out.

A good babysitter has to be able to put their foot down and enforce the rules that parents give you. You might be tempted to bend the rules a bit so that kids will see you as the cool babysitter. But this usually backfires, and they'll lose respect for you or just keep trying to push the rules further and further.

Kids need structure and boundaries. It will help them to learn self-control. So whatever the house rules are, stick to them, even if you don't necessarily agree with them.

Kids know when you're feeling anxious or unsure, so stay calm and remember that you're the adult; you enforce the rules.

16. Know What You're Comfortable With

A good babysitter knows where their limits are, and what's too much for them to handle. Be sure to ask lots of questions when talking to parents to find out the ages of their children, if they have any disabilities, or if there are any other complications that might make your job more challenging.

It's okay to pass on a babysitting job if you don't think you're the right fit, or you aren't sure if you'll be able to meet the family's needs. Having the ability to say no if you aren't ready to change diapers or watch three kids under the age of 4 at once shows a definite level of maturity and responsibility.

17. Be Fun and Stay Active

If you ask kids what makes a good babysitter, their top answer will probably be that they want someone who is fun and stays engaged with them.

Don't take the easy way out and just let kids sit in front of the TV or on a tablet all night. Engage them with non-electronic activities to help build their social skills and explore the world around them.

Kids probably won't remember that specific evening when the babysitter just let them sit and play Candy Crush all night. But they'll definitely remember the fun and unique activities that you do with them, like making a pillow fort or going outside and collecting bugs.

Conclusion

Different parents will want things like discipline handled in unique ways, but there are some things that I think parents would universally agree will make a good babysitter.

As a parent, I want someone that's dependable and shows up on time. The babysitter should be a good communicator who is open to feedback and knows how to react if there's an emergency.

For kids, a good babysitter is someone who is fun and does their best to keep them engaged.

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