Older children have been babysitting their siblings for generations. However, it’s a decision that each family needs to make for itself.
Of course, there are advantages to having a babysitter who knows your house rules and doesn’t need a ride home at the end of the night. On the other hand, keeping your family safe and happy is much more important than any minor convenience.
Are you thinking about putting one child in charge of their brothers and sisters? Consider these factors before you make your final decision.
Asking Your Child to Babysit Their Siblings
Maryland is currently the only state with a legal minimum age for babysitting. Given that individual children mature at very different rates, parents may be the most reliable judges as to when a child is ready.
Keep these tips in mind for a successful start:
1. Assess the situation. What’s your child’s track record when it comes to making decisions and following through on commitments? Do your children play well together or bicker much of the time? Plus, if children are close in age, it may be more difficult for one to exert authority.
2. Make it optional. Find out whether your child is interested in babysitting. The arrangement is unlikely to work without their cooperation.
3. Set limits. Any caregiving arrangement has to allow sufficient time for your child’s other activities, including school and socializing. Watch for any signs that they’re becoming overburdened.
4. Aim for consensus. Discuss your plans with each family member. Ideally, the whole family will be on board. Be open to feedback and try to address any concerns.
5. Offer rewards. Some parents pay children to babysit, and others consider it part of the daily routine. If you’re not exchanging money, you can show your gratitude in other ways like special privileges or a gift.
Preparing Your Child to Babysit Their Siblings
The basic principles of babysitting apply whether you’re working with a family member or a professional service. Help your child to succeed in their new role.
Use these techniques to help prepare your child for babysitting others:
1. Start small. Leave your child in charge for an hour at first. That way, they can practice before they attempt an entire evening.
2. Seek training. Babysitting classes can help any caregiver feel more competent and confident. Check with your local universities, hospitals, or Red Cross.
3. Role play. You can also teach your children at home. Present them with scenarios like a stranger coming to the door or a fire starting in the kitchen. Let them show you how they’d respond.
4. Review expectations. The process may be more informal when you’re hiring your own child, but they need to take their responsibility seriously. Go over tasks like preparing meals and enforcing bedtimes.
5. Discuss discipline. Think about the consequences for serious misbehavior. You may want to deal with it when you get home or give your child the authority to enforce timeouts or withhold privileges.
6. Ban guests. Visitors can distract any babysitter from their duties. Let your child know your policy about guests. You may also want to put limits on phone calls and social media if you think your child will have trouble concentrating.
7. Provide emergency contacts. Ensure that your children know what to do in an emergency in case you’re not home. In addition to family fire drills, leave a list of resources they can contact, including a neighbor or relative who lives close by.
Taking care of siblings can be a useful way for older children to contribute to family life and learn valuable lessons about handling responsibility. If your child seems mature and interacts well with their brothers and sisters, you may want to ask them to provide care on a trial basis.