What Your Teen Babysitter Wants to Know

This is a bit outside our "regular" posts, but also very much in line with our mission. Recently we held a preteen and teen babysitting training, "the cooperative way." 

Within two weeks of posting this free training opportunity, we were almost to capacity. On the day, we welcomed 24 teens and preteens to our school and I must tell you that it was perhaps one of the most rewarding training events I have ever participated in. The people gathered in this room were all ready and willing to learn.

Before beginning to shape our "toolbox training," which covers the basics for successful and supportive interactions between carer and child, I asked the participants to fill out two cards. The first would be a question or "burning issue" that each person may have. This was optional but encouraged and still, every person filled one out. The second card was to be held to the end and I let them know that this was mandatory -- I wanted them to fill out something that they learned and would be put to use during their next babysitting question. These encouraged versus mandatory instructions are a hold-out from adult training when we ask for things we want versus what we need to become better trainers. There was no need to add this to the instruction set, because we had full and total participation.

It is the first set of cards (the questions, burning issues) that this post is about. These were so, so valuable and I feel are so important to share with the parents who choose to hire young adults to connect with and support young children. It is the parents who need to know how responsible and thoughtful these teens and preteens are...

This was one of my favorite questions and it must be discussed, "We talked about how much to charge and I have been charging much less. How do I go back to the parents and ask for more?"

Look. This is such an important question not only because the content, but because of who was asking. Collected in this room of 24 were mostly young women. It is a simple fact that women often have a difficult time in negotiating their worth. We all hold the responsibility to model and welcome the conversation for advocating for self in a professional way. The easy answer is that she has now invested in her craft. She has attended a training. She will change the way she approaches babysitting. She will purchase some of the materials that we recommended that will help her and her young charges in supporting play and managing time. With this investment and greater experience comes an increase in value and worth. That might be easy to express and yet on the ground it is this young woman, alone, who must negotiate her worth. Never mind the other fact-elephant in the room that people who care for children are always undervalued regardless of gender.

Parents, in terms of pay, be open and supportive. Remember, this is this young woman's (or young man's) first foray into pay scale/worth negotiation. Ask about experience and calculate fair pay for services. 

There were another set of questions related to emergencies. Parents will leave their own phone numbers, but would not leave additional numbers. These young people wanted to know who they should call if they can't get the parents on the phone! They wanted to know how the doors in the house work -- what happens if a child gets locked on the other side of a locked door? Should they call 911 before they call the parents? These are all thoughtful questions. Parents should take a moment and think about their written instruction sheets to add additional contact numbers and emergency procedures -- what happens if the child gets sick, has an allergic reaction, etc.?

The last set of questions were related to play opportunities and styles. Think about adding a line or two to your instruction sheet about favorite books and toys. The training itself, as do most of our trainings, center on comfort zones and identifying play styles. These babysitters now know that there are different ways to play and how to identify them -- knowing when to draw a child out for play and when to leave another alone. Parents can help by understanding that children need to be supported and cared for, but will occasionally be unhappy. This unhappiness and boredom will tumble out into something great given the room to find a path away from it. It is without question, that parents should let their babysitters know what activities or items bring the child comfort. This makes everyone's day go better.

Rest assured that we talked about washing dishes and straightening up, but parents can help here as well. Leave the items out that will help the babysitter clean up. So much time is wasted by having to search out dishwashing liquid or pots and pans. Where is the broom? Where are the cleaning cloths? Remember that these young people don't live at your house! They need help knowing where things are!

I hope this post helps you become a better employer of mother's helpers and babysitters and trust me, if these young adults are available, snap them up right away!