10 reasons your teenager should babysit
Babysitting is one of the most common jobs for teenagers for many reasons: it's fun, pays well and gives teens a sense of accomplishment. But while your teen may be excited about starting a first job, you know that caring for young children isn't easy. But the pros might outweigh the cons in this situation.
We asked Halley Bondy, author of "Don't Sit on the Baby!: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and Safe Babysitting," Laura Gauld, author of "The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have," Amanda Raposo, executive director of Project Playdate in New York, and Dr. Danette Glassy, an expert on early education and child care, for the top ten lessons your teen will learn if she becomes a babysitter.
"The truth is, not all teenagers should be babysitters. This is an opportunity that requires maturity, trust and responsibility," says Raposo. Some teens have what it takes to become a sitter, while others don't.
But if your teen is ready, "babysitting can be an invaluable experience for both the sitter and the family that he or she cares for," she says.
"Babysitting does so many things for a teenager," Gauld notes. "One learns about caring for a young child and, for most teens, this brings out a sense of responsibility and maturity."
They are entrusted with young children and have to care for them, plan activities, watch out for safety issues and deal with other important tasks. That responsibility is a great way to help teens become more mature.
As the mother of a teenager, Glassy is thrilled that, "she often comes home with a charming story about something funny or cute 'her kids' did. I see how it has helped her grow into a responsible, loving caregiver. As a parent, I am thrilled she has had this opportunity."
Since babysitting is likely your teen's first job, it's also a way to introduce invaluable life skills, like how to save and spend hard-earned money. Remember that "value of a dollar" lesson you've unsuccessfully being trying to teach your teen for years? Now that she's earning her own money, it may sink in.
Talk about what she plans to do with the money she makes babysitting. What percent will she spend versus save? Discuss opening up a bank account in her name if your teen doesn't already have one -- it will make it easier to save. Look around for local classes on finances and money management that you and your teen could take together.
Flexibility and Scheduling
Teens have to learn that you can't always predict when something is going to happen. When a last-minute babysitting job opens up, teenagers have to manage their schedules and priorities so they can take the job, but still get homework and extracurricular tasks done.
In order to be a better babysitter, your teenager should take classes on CPR and first aid. These classes will help her land babysitting gigs, but the skills she learns will cross over into any emergency situation at school, with friends or at home.
Learn about How to Get First Aid and CPR Training
If your teen enjoys babysitting and proves to be reliable and responsible, current employers will tell other parents about your teen. Those connections could lead to other job opportunities, internships and more!
Bondy notes, "In terms of career-building, babysitting can be a great networking opportunity. If a sitter forms a good relationship with a family, I almost guarantee the parents will write professional letters of recommendation for years to come. Babysitting can also show gumption and maturity to future employers, especially if they plan on starting out in the service or care industry."
Babysitting could lead your child into a future career. For example, Glassy discovered how much she cares for children as a babysitter, and it influenced her decision to become a pediatrician.
How to Ask for Help
While a big part of babysitting is learning responsibility, part of it is also knowing when to ask for help. If your teen winds up in a bind, let her know you're a phone call away and it's okay to call the parents of their charges, too. Lots of people have problems asking for help, so this is a great lesson to absorb early on in life.
"Caring for a child means that your teen must tap into and develop their greatest qualities: trust, honesty, creativity, patience and effective communication," Raposo says. Learning how to communicate -- whether it's with a child having a tantrum, an employer, a friend, a teacher, etc. -- will be a useful skill your teen will utilize for the rest of her life.
How to Negotiate
When your teen takes a new babysitting job, she will have to negotiate her hourly salary with the family. (Encourage her to check out Care.com's Babysitter Pay Calculator to figure out how much she should be making.) As your teen gets more experience, she can also ask for more. Having to discuss a salary and ask for a raise -- and prove she's worth it -- is a lesson that will come in handy during a lifetime of work.
Babysitting can give teens an appreciation for how hard it is to be a parent and raise kids. "This experience might even help the teenage-parent relationship by providing that teen with the perspective of the parent in a caregiver role," says Raposo. You might get a little more sympathy from your teen, as she realizes all you went through when she was growing up. (But we don't make any promises!)
Being worried about your children is natural, especially as they start to grow up and take on new responsibilities like babysitting. But the lessons they learn from this job will last a lifetime -- so encourage the opportunity.
And Bondy says to remember that as the parent, "you can always be a phone call away if they need any advice."
Jennifer Eberhart is a freelance writer in New York City. Her work can be found here