When your oldest child tells you that they are ready to baby-sit, you will want to explain to them that looking after their younger siblings is a responsible and demanding job. But with the right attitude and very good planning it can be successful. Some teenagers feel that once they have been given the authority to baby-sit it is an appointment to be a dictator. You will be amazed at how fast the power can go to their head. As soon as you leave they begin acting more like a drill sergeant instead of a baby sitter. They need to understand that only you as the parent are authorized to discipline the children. There only role is to protect and care for them while you are away.
Caring for a child takes a lot of skill. It does not mean that the younger children should be allowed to run free or just sit in front of the TV. When I asked several teenagers that I know how they would handle different situations that may arise during baby-sitting, they responded by saying that they would probably threaten or reprimand them. Of course as a parent I knew that these tactics would most likely not work. When dealing with their younger siblings many teenagers tend to be insensitive.
Before you leave your teenager to care for the younger children there are a few things that you will want to discuss with him/her first. Inform them that they should try to understand the needs and feelings of their younger siblings.
They need to understand that small children simply do not have an adult’s attention span, and patience. As parents we know that younger children thrive on love and attention, but they do become bored rather quickly. You will want to make sure that you leave plenty of activities for them to do. This will help to take the load off of the young babysitter. Of course there will be times when children tend to get carried away in their play, and may get on their young babysitters nerves. Or they may even try to test the new babysitter to see just how much they can get away with.
Let them know that they should take a positive approach to help prevent additional problems from occurring. Rewarding good behavior may work better for them, than would a barrage of threats of punishment. You should discuss with them ahead of time what they should do if discipline is needed. The majority of the problems can wait until the parents return home. The primary concern of the babysitter should be keeping the child safe from harm. In a book called the Babysitter’s Handbook by Barbara Benton she warns, that the combination of unsteadiness, curiosity and total lack of judgment may make a toddler a prime victim for a terrible accident.
Most accidents can be prevented if the babysitter keeps their eyes on the young child at all times. Parents should make sure that all hazards or dangerous objects are eliminated before even leaving the house. You will also want to make sure that the young babysitter knows the location of the fuse box, the fire extinguisher, and of course the first -aid supplies. I would recommend making up a safety checklist and going over it with them before you leave the house. Of course as far as they are concerned they already know all of these things, but you will still want to go over it with them anyway.
Baby-sitting is a huge responsibility, so make sure that they are ready to handle such a serious task. They should have already demonstrated that they are ready for this responsibility. The first time you leave your teenager to baby-sit, you may want to only leave for a short period of time, and each time make the stay away from home a little longer. Kind of like a trial run to see how things go. The first time should be for maybe about 10min and then gradually increase it from there, until they have proven that they can handle the job.