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Be a supersitter! Baysitting. It's an awesome way to pull in dough for sweet summer spending. But it isn't all child's play--we're talking serious business here. We've got the tips to help you build your biz to the max ... because babysitting is about a lot more than just passing out Goldfish crackers and tying shoelaces.

Are you a natural-born babysitter, or do you find it more of a nightmare encounter with sticky faces and spit-up? Either way, we can show you how to turn a tot-filled night playing with Silly Putty and Crayola into--cha-ching!--real, hard cashola....

GET YOUR (RUBBER) DUCKS IN A ROW

The first step in babysitting is trading some--duh--babies. But be realistic about what you can handle. If newborns are out of your league, let people know you sit for potty-trained tots only. Start by letting all your neighbors and parents' friends know you're available for hire. Once news gets out, you should soon hear the words, "You're hired!"

Being alone--and in charge--for the first time in someone else's house can be slightly nerve-wracking, so you'll want to start the evening off with as few worries as possible. First, make sure you can call your morn or a neighbor in the event of an emergency (or just for a pep talk). Ask the parents to leave info for where they will be and how they can be reached. Jot down the home's address, and keep it in plain sight--you'll want to have it at your fingertips if you have to call 911 because little Jimmy just swallowed a yellow Lego. Be sure to ask the parents if the kids have any allergies, and find out their preferences for bedtime, meals and other routines.

"I'M BOORED!"

If you don't take charge of play time, that 4-year-old might decide drawing on the wall with permanent marker is a fun activity. Kids always get tired of their own toys, so bring a private stash. Fill a plastic tote box with construction paper, glitter, glue, markers, fruit snacks and DVDs, and the kids will think you rate right up there with the Easter Bunny. And if you've got a special project you know a kid will like--say, building a house out of popsicle sticks--bring the necessary supplies with you.

Finger-painting, freeze tag, riding bikes, stroller walks and dress-up are all great options that beat TV trances. Dance around the house. Read books in a growly voice. Build tents out of sheets and blankets. The more active the kids are, the more pooped they'll be when bedtime rolls around. Once you think they're well worn-out, pop in a fun flick to wind them down. (Shrek II and The Spongebob Squarepants Movie are great.)

BRAT PATROL

A good babysitter is fun and responsible. Kids can get into trouble in the blink of an eye, so don't get preoccupied with Friends reruns while the kids are outside on the swingset. You must be supervising them at all times! Always know where they are and what they're into.

It's also up to you to take charge so a kid doesn't walk all over you. Don't tolerate tantrums, disrespect or bossiness. Know the types of discipline procedures they're used to (timeout, early bedtime, no snacks). For a quickie lesson on keeping kids in line, check out Supernanny (ABC, Mondays, 10 p.m.).

But it's also OK to loosen the reins a tad. If the kids have behaved and want an extra half hour of play time, being the babysitter sometimes means letting kids do stuff parents wouldn't allow (within reason). And if you're the kids' favorite sitter, you're likely to get called back.

MESS SUCCESS

Parents appreciate coming home to neat-and-tidy, so pick up the toys and put away the "tent" supplies. As for red-juice disasters? Do your best to erase them. Stain solutions and cleaning supplies are usually stashed under the kitchen sink. Sop up what you can with a dry towel, then hit it with water (or club soda, if there's any around).

It's not a bad idea to bone up on "magic" stain-removal techniques. For example, gum peels off clothes if you stick them in the freezer for an hour. But if you can't get off a chocolate/peanut butter/permanent marker mess, leave it for the parents to deal with, letting them know you tried unsuccessfully to tackle the stain. They're used to their kids' messes and shouldn't be upset.

HOUSE RULES

Parents probably have a few rules that apply to you, so respect that. First comes food. Unless the parents have specified that the fridge is free game, assume it's off limits. Eating before a babysitting gig is a good idea, since you might be running around for hours unable to catch a bite. If you're worried you'll starve, pack your own snacks (bring enough to share with the kids).

As for the phone, stay off of it. (Oh, and steer clear of the computer, too). Not only will blabbing to your BFF distract you, it might prevent the parents from getting through. Ask if you should pick up and take messages, or leave it alone unless you see that it's the parents on the caller ID. Never invite friends or BFs over. You're conducting business, not throwing a bash.

PAY DAY

Babysitters everywhere get paid varying rates, but the pay usually ranges from $5 to $8 an hour. If they don't ask how much you charge, find out what they are used to paying and negotiate an amount everyone is comfortable with. Most states have a minimum wage of $5.15, so you shouldn't expect much less than that. You can also increase your rate depending on how many kids are in your care--say, $6 dollars an hour for one kid, plus $2 for each extra kid. Whatever you do, discuss it beforehand. You don't want to leave the house with $9 after three grueling hours of trying to appease a screaming 6-month-old.

GET SCHOOLED!

Babysitting courses help you build mad tot-tending skills. The American Red Cross is one of many organizations that offer training. You can learn anything from interviewing for the gig to administering First Aid. Search the Internet or ask a librarian for courses in your area. Added bonus? Once you're certified, you can ask for higher pay than non-certified sitters. Even better? Parents will totally trust you, and you'll have major confidence in yourself No kidding!

Sticky Sitting Sitches

You're now down with the basics. But how do you handle these out-there babysitting bummers?

Dilemma: They keep asking you to sit.... then don't pay you,

Solution: Write down the dates and hours you didn't get paid and, when you sit for them again, remind them of the balance. They say they don't have enough cash on them? Offer up, "No problem. You can give me a check." Next time they call say, "I'd be happy to sit for you, but I need to get paid at the end of the night."

Dilemma: Their kids are monsters, and you never want to sit for them again.

Solution: No need to tell the parents their children make sitting through an evening of speaker feedback and chalk-screeching seem like a walk in the park. If a few shots of, "Sorry, I'm busy that night!" don't do the trick, use the old, "My schedule's really tough this year, so I won't be babysitting anymore."

Dilemma: The parents are drunk, and they're supposed to drive you home.

Solution: No way you're getting in the car with someone whose breath could knock you over. Simply say, "My dad wants to pick me up tonight...he needs to talk to me about something." March over to the phone before they can object. A quick, "Dad? It's time for you to come get me," should give your 'rents the hint.

Dilemma: They keep asking you to do stuff that's not part of the deal.

Solution: Picking up the kids' toys is one thing...folding all the laundry or cooking a four-course dinner is another. If not-my-job stuff happens every time, firmly say, "I know you need help, but I feel like this is a little outside of the babysitting box. If you would like me to do housework, we'll need to adjust how much I get paid."

Dilemma: You've looked everywhere, and the kid is nowhere to be found.

Solution: You peeked at your mag for a sec, and he's ... gone! There's no time to waste when a kid is AWOL. After you've (quickly!) scoured the house and neighbors' yards, call the parents and let them know you can't find him. Yes, they may never ask you to sit again. But if he's not hiding in a closet, he could be in a serious situation--down a well, in a strangers' car--that you can't handle.

Dilemma: The dad--gross--hits on you during the car ride home.

Solution: If this happens even once, immediately tell your parents or other adult you trust. Just letting it slide won't solve the problem, and you're just putting the next sitter in the same icky position--and possibly in danger. Then, don't ever sit for them again--and tell all your friends not to, either!

Craving more babysitter how-to's? Check out The What to Expect Baby-Sitter's Handbook ($12.95, Workman), which covers breakfast to bedtime for newborns to pre-schools. It gives tips on figuring out why the baby won't stop crying, making awesome crafts with toddler's and keeping your cool during the wettest part--bath time! Because we know you're a take-charge kinda gal, we're giving away 25, Drop us a line at Diaper Genie, GL 4517 Harford Road Baltimore, MD 21214 no later that May 31. Or snag a copy at workman.com.
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Author:Newman, Jackie
Publication:Girls' Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
Words:1565
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