What does it take to be a good sitter? Someone asked me that the other day and it made me think about my approach when it comes to meeting a new family and building a relationship with their children.
I believe successful babysitters have to have to demonstrate two things: building a personal connection with the parents and being clear about their childcare and family needs and becoming a trusting friend and mentor to the children.
I think it’s extremely important to get to know the family you’re sitting for. The first time I meet a family, I make sure to understand their parenting style and routines. What time does the child go to bed? Do they like water or milk? Do they get to watch TV before bed? Do they want a bedtime story or song? Every family is different and if you can mirror your babysitting style after what the child is comfortable with – you have a better chance of connecting to the family. Children want to feel safe and secure with you after their parents leave.
It’s also important to bond with the children. You can’t just show up and throw in a movie. I always engage with the kids and ask them questions about themselves and their lives. One unique thing I like to ask is “what questions did you ask today?” vs. “What did you learn today?” I love knowing what a child finds curious about the events in their life. I also think it’s important to play with the kids… they are kids after all! The last time I babysat, one of the children wrote a song and we put on a performance – I sang and they played the instruments. We recorded the whole thing to watch back. It was so much fun and a memory we’ll have forever.
To me – caring for children comes naturally. I think it’s because I am able to relate to them and see the world on their level. I want them to feel completely comfortable around me and be able to communicate to me about their wants and needs and also their dreams and fears. I think the role of a babysitter is unique – I’m clearly the adult that is in charge – however I develop a friendly bond with the children and act as a mentor for them. I think it’s important for children to have a role model outside of their parents – and this is the type of relationship I try to form with the children I babysit. Forming a special friendship with a child not only impacts their life – but also profoundly inspires mine.