When Is My Child Old Enough To Babysit?

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MS,

The neighbor just asked my 13 year old to babysit her daughter this weekend for a few hours.  I’m not so sure how I feel about this, but my daughter is very excited to have the chance to earn some extra money.  Is she too young to be babysitting at 13?

JO

JO,

Is 13 a little young to be babysitting?  I guess the answer is a firm “it depends”.

Amongst 13 year olds, maturity levels vary widely.  You daughter might be very mature for her age and might be very well able to handle the responsibility of watching a younger child.  If she has younger siblings, she’s probably gotten a lot of practice.

Another factor to consider is the age of the child she’ll be watching.  It certainly is “easier” for a teen to watch a toddler or young school aged child than say an infant. 

You say that it’s for “a few hours”, but you don’t mention the time of day.  I think it’s important for her to clarify that with your neighbor, and that should also factor into your answer.  For example, will she need a sitter during the afternoon when the toddler is napping?  Does she expect for your daughter to keep an eye on the child during the afternoon?  Will she be gone in the evening and will it be your child’s responsibility to put the youngster to bed?

 I’ve learned from experience that “a few hours in the evening” can turn into an all night babysitting gig.  Is your neighbor pretty punctual and reliable? Do you think “a few hours” could turn into a longer amount of time?  This is something else to consider when allowing your child to take on babysitting jobs.

Since it’s the first time she is going to babysit, you may ask your neighbor if she could bring her daughter to your house.  That way, you can covertly supervise and make sure that everything is going well.  

If your daughter decides that babysitting is something that she really enjoys, you may want to check out babysitting classes for her.  In our area, the hospital and the YMCA offer babysitting certification classes.  During the classes, teens learn about child behavior, safety, first aid, and the business aspects of babysitting.  At the end of the classes, teens take a test and if they pass, they are certified.  I’ve talked to several mothers who have had their children take the classes in our local area and they felt it was a wise investment of time and money.

It’s important to realize that not all courses are created equal however.  Some courses discuss the “business” aspects of babysitting-how to advertise, what to charge, etc-in greater detail than safety and first aid.  Personally, I’d want for my teen to take a class geared towards safety rather than business practices, but that’s just me.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you and your daughter the best!

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