Allowance not cutting it anymore? Are your parents after you to learn about responsibility and get a job? Babysitting could be the answer.
Babysitting is a great job -- especially for teenagers. You can make quick cash while looking after and playing with kids. You've probably had to watch your little brother or cousin before anyway. Why not do the same thing and get paid for it?
While being a babysitter is fun, you do have to be a little serious sometimes. It's a real job and the parents are trusting you with their kids.
Harriet Brown, author of "The Babysitter's Handbook," Dr. Danette Glassy, a pediatrician and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Early Education and Child Care, and Halley Bondy, author of "Don't Sit on the Baby!: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and Safe Babysitting," offer a step-by-step guide to how to become a great babysitter.
And if you're between the ages of 14 and 17, you can create a parent-monitored account on Care.com -- a parent will have to approve your account and will be notified about any activity. Once you turn 18, your account will change over to a regular provider one. Unfortunately if you're younger than 14, you can't sign up on Care.com just yet.
Check Your Schedule
Before you even think about babysitting, look at your schedule. Is babysitting realistic? "If you're up to your neck in extracurricular activities from morning until night seven days a week, you probably won't be of much use to families," Bondy says. "Figure out when and if you're free to babysit, so you can give a clear, accurate schedule to the families you want to work with."
Learn about Child Care and Safety
Now take some classes that will help you learn the babysitting ropes. All three experts advise potential sitters to take a babysitter training course and learn CPR and first aid. They're usually cheap and short, so definitely worth it!
Lots of organizations in your area offer them -- like community centers, hospitals and your local Red Cross. Check out this article for more on How to Get First Aid and CPR Training.
Another bonus of taking classes? You can earn even more money as a babysitter! 80 percent of parents feel that teenage babysitters should be paid more if they are trained in first aid, CPR and child care, according to a survey from the Red Cross.
Do a Safety Check
Because safety is so important when you're watching kids, it gets two steps!
Before you even think about babysitting a child, make sure you know what to do in an emergency situation like:
- the child is choking
- the child gets a minor scrape or cut
- the child falls on his bike and hits his head
- you get locked out of the house
- there's a fire
- a burglar breaks in
- the child runs off
Learn more about What to Do in a Child Care Emergency.
You don't have to jump right into watching strangers' kids. "For resume-building and practice on real kids, offer to babysit your family members' and neighbors' kids," suggests Bondy. "If you're brand new to sitting, you'll want to have adult supervision at first, and eventually you can segue to real sitting for pay."
Determine Your Rate
The most important part: money. How much should you charge for babysitting?
Some families may want to give you a crazy low amount -- after all that's what they used get paid when they babysat 20 years ago. Don't fall for it. If you're responsible, experienced and trained in safety, you can ask for more.
Your price also changes depending on how many kids you're watching, how old they are (younger kids need more hands-on attention), if you'll be playing with them the entire time or if it's nighttime and they're sleeping.
"Use your judgment, and talk to a parent or trusted adult to figure out a solid rate," Bondy suggests. You can negotiate with families, but it helps to have a starting figure in mind.
Check out Care.com's Babysitter Pay Calculator to figure out how much you should be making.
Spread the Word
Now that you're ready to start, you actually need kids to babysit for. Let friends, family, and neighbors know you want to babysit. Put a notice on community boards where parents often are, like the grocery store, library and pediatrician's office.
"Tell all the adults you know and trust that you're looking for babysitting work -- your parents' friends, your aunt, your neighbors, your tutors, your soccer coach...everyone is a potential dollar sign," suggests Bondy.
You can also find babysitting jobs on Care.com. Create a profile and apply to jobs -- all for free.
When you find a job, the parents will probably want to interview you -- either over the phone or in person. Before talking to someone you don't know, make sure your own parents know all the details about the job and who you're interviewing with. If something seems odd, tell your folks immediately. You need to stay safe too!
When you interview with a family, tell your parents when the interview is scheduled for, where you're going and the names/address of the parents. Ask them to drive you to the interview and wait outside. Or call them as soon as it's over.
Prepare for questions the family may ask by reading this article on How to Interview for Child Care Jobs.
Once you land that babysitting job, you're not done yet. Think about what you'll do with the kids to keep them entertained.
"Ask the parents what kinds of activities their child likes to do ahead of time, so you can prepare for that," Dr. Glassy recommends. "Think about whether the activities you're planning are age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate."
Look for ideas on sites like Zero to Three, HealthyChildren, Let's Move and Care.com.
Then run the activities by the parents. "Always do what the parents instructed," Dr. Glassy says. "Come to the job with some suggestions for activities, or bring books to share with the children. Be sure to ask the parents if they think these might be fun for their child."
Show off how professional you are by arriving on time. This shows you respect the parent's schedule and you're reliable. If soccer practice is running a few minutes late, make sure you call the family and let them know.
But "don't cancel at the last minute," warns Brown. Word will spread with local parents (they all talk!) that you're flakey and you can say goodbye to your babysitting career.
Put Your Phone Away
"Young children can get into dangerous or deadly situations very quickly, so a babysitter must not be distracted by socializing while on-duty: no texting, no Facebooking or Internet/email/Twitter-checking, no personal phone calls [and] no personal visits from friends," says Dr. Glassy.
Besides, your friends will be impressed later when you tell them you couldn't talk or text back because "you're working."
Once the rug rats go to sleep and the house is quiet, you have a little more freedom. But make sure you ask the parents before they leave what's okay: TV, phone, computer, etc. Keep an ear out for noises, don't get distracted and stay quiet -- you don't want to wake the kids!
One thing all three experts agree on: if you want to impress the parents, tidy up before they return. It will really show off how responsible you are. If the house got messy during your Lego building or that action figure battle, make sure all toys are put away before bedtime.
Go the Extra Mile
How do you make sure the parents will call you again? "Be organized," Brown suggests. "Tell the parents how your time with the kids went and anything they might need or want to know about it."
"Most parents are content when you show up on time, have a positive attitude and follow their rules -- so if you arrive at the first gig with a thousand bells and whistles, you might overwhelm the parents and the kids," Bondy says. "Over time, however, you can show the parents that you're really invested in the job by repeating things the kids told you, by showing up with activities you know they will love or by offering ideas for future outings -- these are sincere efforts, not forced ones."
Don't Try to Be Perfect
Know that no matter how prepared you are, babysitting isn't easy. "You have a little life in your hands, and you have to please the parents," Bondy says, reflecting on her own past babysitting experiences.
"But I learned quickly that I would never be 100-percent perfect as a babysitter. I wouldn't cook the broccoli just right every time, I wouldn't be able to quell every tantrum immediately and not all my ideas for games would fly. However, I learned how to be confident despite these tiny setbacks and how to be a great sitter -- if not a totally perfect one. Confidence goes a long way when it comes to handling kids."
Learn more about Care.com's Teen Care program by reading these Frequently Asked Questions about being a teen caregiver.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance journalist. Her work can be found here