I have been babysitting off and on since high school. Below are a few of my learnings on what it takes to be a successful babysitter.
1. Be engaging. Have fun and be in the moment. Children can quickly gauge when you are not in a mood to hang out with them. Find a way to make it so that the kids enjoy your presence. Always listen and play in an effort to be engaging. Never sit and ‘be boring’.
2. Don’t Afraid to Bargain. Kids try and get away with everything knowing you are not their parent. For example:
Child: I always drink soda for dinner.
Me: Really? I’ll have to ask your mom about that. How about some juice or water? If you eat your broccoli and drink your water, we can play Candy Land. Deal?
When all else fails, explain that you may have to tell their parent if they don’t start following the rules.
3. Mix up the routine. Teach a new game. Make a new craft. Fix a new snack. Tell a new story. You get the idea… incorporate something new into the child’s life. This serves as a distraction for those children who might be missing their parents, engages those who think they are not particularly excited about having a sitter, and makes sitter time fun.
4. Be consistent and clean up. Children need to build trust with you, but parents also need to know that they can count on you. So be consistent — don’t flake at the last minute, give a general sense of your availability and promptly respond to any sitting requests. Tidy up after yourself and the children, and if the mood elicits, leave the kitchen cleaner than when you found it.
5. ‘Read’ the parents. Be able to give a quick synopsis on how the time was spent. Different factors are important to each parent; parents of babies need to know about food and sleep schedule, while parents of older children are more concerned about behavior and level of fun.