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Babysitter Traits: What the Best Babysitters Have In Common

Stephanie St. Martin
Jan. 2, 2018

When it comes to caring for kids, having these traits help you on the job.

What separates the great sitters from the not-so-good ones? First, let's state the obvious: Babysitters and nannies must love kids. But there's so much more parents have to consider when deciding which qualifications are most important.

A babysitter is a Parent's Top Assistant, so use "PARENTS TOP ASST" to make sure you have all the qualifications you need. (Each letter spells out an important trait!)

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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 will 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.  You might want to consider getting the experience you need by starting as a Mother's Helper.

  • Negotiable
    Parents appreciate someone who can roll with the punches. Being negotiable means a number of things-being flexible about schedules, fair about pay rates, easy-going 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. Yet, you should still make sure you're not being underpaid by using the Babysitter Salary Calculator as a reference.

  • Teacher
    Part tutor, part mentor, babysitters (like teachers) 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.

  • Sensitive
    People who work with children are sensitive to their needs and put the kids' 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.

  • 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, to keep the children safe, and to 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.   

  • On Time
    A babysitter should be punctual. 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.

  • Patient
    Patience is a virtue, and an important one 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.

  • 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.

  • Similar Interests
    Although not a "requirement," a babysitter who shares similar interests with the kids can make the job more enjoyable for everyone. Always list your interests (baking, music) and skills (captain of the basketball team, for example) in your babysitting ads.

  • Skilled
    A babysitter should have certain qualifications, such as a First Aid and CPR certification. (Nowadays, most families expect babysitters to have these certifications.) If an emergency situation arises, you will be ready to help. The American Red Cross has a babysitter class that you can take to earn these certifications and learn other important babysitting skills.

  • 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.

>>Have more babysitting questions? Return to the main Babysitting FAQs.

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