Welcome to another edition of BANANA Bites where we answer your parenting and early learning questions every week! Here at BANANAS, we are excited when teenagers express interest in learning more about caring for little ones. Today we’re sharing some key tips for teens who are looking to achieve “babysitting greatness.”

Dear BANANA Bites,

I am a child care provider and also a parent. My 14-year-old son is considering becoming a babysitter for some friends of ours who have a toddler. Can you give him some ideas on how to prepare for this all-important job?

-Caregiver and Supportive Parent

Dear CaSP,

We love this question! It’s great that your son wants to get into babysitting and we have a whole “bunch” of information to pass along. Here are our Top Ten Teen Babysitting Tips:

1. Write down all important phone numbers, including cell phones for parents, guardians, and nearby family members. Also be sure that you have all emergency numbers (poison control, 911, etc.) as well as numbers for trusted neighbors who will be home while the parents are away. It is also important that you have the address and phone number (if they have a landline) of the house where you will be babysitting; make sure your family has this information as well.

2. Follow the parents’ directions about discipline. You may have certain ideas about how children should be handled but you should follow (to the best of your ability) the rules laid down by the parents. Never discipline children by hitting, spanking, threatening, and humiliating. Set clear limits, and stick to them.

3. Refrain from agreeing to do extra chores in addition to child care such as laundry, vacuuming, etc., unless you think you will have time and you really want to. Remember that these chores come second to taking care of the children. However, you still want to be sure to clean up after yourself and the children in your care.

4. Be prepared to tell parents how eating, playing, and bedtime went. Parents want information on how their children behaved in their absence; they’ll appreciate your input.

5. Keep personal calls, texts, and general cell phone use to a minimum; children can get into trouble when you are occupied on the phone.

6. Be on time! If you are unable to show up because of sickness or another circumstance, notify the parents as soon as possible. If you know another responsible sitter who will be willing to take your place, the parents may welcome this information.

7. Be clear about your rates and your transportation. Set the rate with the parent before you begin caring for a child. If you charge more or less after a certain time or for more than one child, be sure parents know ahead of time. Also make sure that you have figured out how you will get to and from the house where you’ll be babysitting.

8. Do not invite any visitors over unless you’ve been given permission to do so. If you have permission, never delegate your responsibility to that person. And, as always, don’t let any strangers into the house! 

9. Don’t take children out of the house unless you have discussed it with the parents beforehand. If you do have permission, be sure to return at the time you said you would and be sure the parents can contact you via your cell phone or the number where you’ll be while you’re away from the house.

10. Set a good example for the children by the use of appropriate language and behavior. You are an important role model for the children you care for and children learn many things, good and bad, by example.

-BANANAS Bites

For more in-depth discussion of topics such as diapering, playing, feeding, naps and bedtime, whether you should answer the parents’ landline (if they have one), rules about using the TV or computer, safety and first aid (super important!), saying good-bye, tantrums, and more, see our handout: Guide for Teen Babysitters.

And, this summer we’ll be holding a special Teen CPR & First Aid Training on June 18 from 10am-4pm. Click on the link for details. If you have a question for the Bunch, send an email to elyce@bananasbunch.org.

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