Teen Talk: When my baby wants to babysit Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ivor Horn, MD, MPH, is a general pediatrician at Children's National Health System. She discusses teen issues through her own life experience with her daughter and as a general pediatrician.

For Christmas this year our 13-year-old daughter asked us to help her find babysitting jobs. I ask you, “What teenager ASKS for work?”

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us. She started inquiring when she was 12 years old. We dodged the conversation by saying she had to take a formal babysitting class where she could learn the basics of caring for a baby or young child and CPR. Surely that would derail this process. NO! She searched online and found the local American Red Cross Babysitting Course last summer and paid for it with her own money.

Okay, our next rule. You must be 13 before you can babysit. Surely she would forget this crazy notion in 6 months. Her life is busy. She plays sports. She is super social and has a boatload of friends with activities all the time. I thought this would be forgotten when school started. She will be more focused on becoming an official teenager, right?

Little did we know how strong the entrepreneurial spirit could be.

Her birthday is very close to Christmas, so shortly after she joined the teen ranks, we got the Christmas request. And here we are again, in new parenting territory. Going around to our friends asking if our kid can take care of their kid. As with most things, our daughter has to jump through a few more hoops than most. I suppose it is the price of having a mother as a pediatrician. It’s like having a teacher for a mom (that was me) plus 100. I’ve already mentioned the requirement for CPR training and taking a formal babysitting class.

Here are a few other things on our babysitting readiness checklist:

  • Experience in a group supervised environment such as a Counselor in Training (CIT) program: Most programs start at age 13, but our industrious daughter found one in our community that starts at 12. Go figure. The program allowed her to care for young children over an extended period of time with adult supervision. She got to learn how she responds when a child won’t cooperate, won’t stop crying, and doesn’t know how to soothe himself. She learned what it means to stick it out when things aren’t “fun” anymore. She learned the important lesson that caring for children is hard work and you can’t just quit. As part of the program she also got feedback on her performance, so she learned where she needed to improve and grow. And it didn’t come from mommy or daddy. 
  • Babysitting jobs will be restricted to friends and family members only: Because her safety is our first priority. And there are crazy people out there. Let’s be real. She still sees the good in everyone and is not mature enough to screen potential clients, so we are sticking with folks who we know well. Not just casual acquaintances. 
  • Babysitting jobs will be in our home until I am confident she can handle it on her own: I want to see her in action. She will do all the work, but we can be there in case she needs some help. This should be a great perk for her business. Parents get an on-site pediatrician as back up. It would definitely be worth them transporting their kids to our home for the evening. Don’t you think so?

For parents who have been through this, what were your rules? How did you handle the first time your child babysat in someone else’s home? I would love to know. We aren’t there yet and I need tips.

Here are some additional websites with great advice on knowing when your teen is ready to babysit:

Categories: Teens
Authors: Cydney Cappello

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