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How to be a good babysitter: 15 traits the best sitters have in common

Having solid babysitting skills is important, but there are several other key traits and characteristics that parents are looking for when hiring a sitter.

How to be a good babysitter: 15 traits the best sitters have in common

If you’re looking for a babysitting gig, it’s good to know exactly what separates the great sitters from the not-so-good ones. First, let’s state the obvious: Babysitters must love kids. That said, there’s so much more to being a good babysitter than that, and parents will consider several key skills, characteristics and qualifications when they’re looking to hire the right person to care for their child.

Here are 15 of the important traits a good babysitter will have:

1. You’re responsive

Parents are busy, so respond to their babysitting requests promptly (in other words, make it easy for them to hire you). If the job sounds good, tell them “yes” right away (or ask for a quick call if you have any questions). Or, if you’re double booked, and it’s a “no” this time, let the family know right away so they can continue their search. Parents will remember this kind of professionalism, and keep you in mind the next time.

2. You’re playful

Parents want a babysitter with a good imagination who can create games, activities and crafts. They don’t want babysitters plopping their children in front of the TV. A playful personality shows parents that you genuinely care about fostering a healthy, fun and active environment for their kids.

3. You’re active

Kids are high energy and are constantly on the go. A babysitter needs to match that energy and must come prepared for however the day or night unfolds.

4. You’re responsible

A reliable babysitter is every parent’s dream. Parents want a sitter whom they can depend on, someone they can trust and someone who is capable of responsibly caring for their children.

5. You have experience

Babysitting is not as easy as people think. It takes preparation, confidence and skill. Having babysitting experience allows you to gain the skills you need. Parents want sitters who know how to think on their feet when unplanned circumstances arise, stay coolheaded when a child is upset or injured and negotiate arguments over toys and games. Having real-life situations where your skills are challenged allows you to learn to make the best decisions while you’re on the job.  If you’re just starting out, you might want to consider first getting experience you as a mother’s helper.

6. You’re flexible

Parents appreciate a sitter who can roll with the punches. This may mean being open about scheduling, fair about pay rates or easygoing about nights that run later than expected. You don’t want parents to take advantage of your time, but you should understand that plans change. Being flexible will earn you big points with the bosses. Of course, you should still make sure you’re not being underpaid by using this babysitter rates calculator as a reference.

7. You’re a teacher

Babysitters, like teachers, are part tutor and part mentor and they also engage children, address concerns in a constructive manner and act as role models. By helping with homework, you show parents you care about their kid’s performance in school; by helping them work through their issues with friends, teammates or classmates, you show parents you are compassionate about their kid’s feelings.

8. You’re sensitive

People who work with children are sensitive and put the kids’ needs, and yes, usually their wants and wishes, before their own. As a babysitter, you may not always want to play this game or read that book, but you should want to do whatever makes the children happy. Same goes for their feelings and emotions — even when the child is expressing a feeling you may not understand, you must always respond to the child in a loving and helpful manner.

9. You’re trustworthy

Being trustworthy is perhaps one of the most important traits that a babysitter can have. Parents expect a babysitter to follow the rules of the household, keep the children safe and pay attention to their kids. Parents don’t want a babysitter texting friends or inviting their boyfriend over to the house. Babysitting is not a time to socialize.

10. Your punctual

A babysitter should be on time. Period. But be sure to let the family know if you are running late or give the family a week’s notice if you are unable to work on a regularly scheduled night. Being proactive with your schedule gives a family confidence that you will be equally responsible with their kids.

11. You’re patient

Patience is a very important trait for babysitters to have. Just as children need to be reminded to “be patient” and “wait their turn to use the slide,” babysitters need to exercise patience with children. Remind them to do their chores; then give them time and space to get it done. Be patient and continue to offer gentle reminders as necessary.

12. You’re authoritative

Babysitting isn’t all fun and games. If the parents have left specific instructions (no TV, brush teeth before bed, eat five bites of vegetables before being excused from the table), it is a babysitter’s job to enforce these rules. You should be gentle and kind, but you also need to show them who is in charge. It’s important that you talk discipline with the family and learn how to handle bad behavior the way the parents would want.

13. You have unique or fun interests

Kids and parents alike will gravitate to a sitter who can bring a cool new skill set or passion into their home. A babysitter who bakes or plays guitar, speaks Spanish or was the captain of the basketball team can be a real selling point for families. Always list your interests and skills on your babysitting resume and online profile.

14. You’re skilled

A babysitter should have certain training and safety qualifications, such as a first aid and CPR certification. In fact, nowadays, most families expect babysitters to have these certifications. If an emergency situation arises while you’re on the job, parents want to feel confident you will be ready to help.

15. You’re tenacious

No matter the situation, a babysitter needs to keep at it and never give up. Being tenacious is a lifelong skill. Does the child have a daunting history assignment or need to practice piano for an upcoming recital? How can you get him to do it without nagging him? How can you make it fun?

The next time you interview for a babysitting job, stress the traits you possess that would make you the perfect candidate for the job. Parents will appreciate learning more about your personality and experience to assess whether you’d be a good fit for their family.