Q: My 12-year-old daughter loves kids, and she wants some money too, so I let her take Babysitting Basics Red Cross training class. She learned a lot and now she really wants to babysit. Is 12 old enough though? What rules should I set for her?
A: Good for you for helping your daughter to learn to be a safe babysitter! There are no specific rules about how old children have to be to babysit, because it depends on the child's maturity, judgment, responsibility, and motivation as well as the demands of the babysitting job. I've known 10-year-olds who would do an excellent job watching a younger child, and I've known 16-year-olds who weren't ready for that responsibility. If you feel your daughter's not ready to babysit, she could start by being a mother's helper. When she does start babysitting, you may want to have your her start small, maybe by watching a cousin or familiar neighbor's child for a couple of hours, during the day, so she can build up her confidence and gain experience. The next step could be evening babysitting during a time when you're nearby in case of an emergency, or if she gets scared or overwhelmed. Make it clear that allowing your daughter to babysit doesn't mean giving blanket permission for all jobs. You'll want to consider the demands of each particular situation. Obviously, it would be easier for her to watch one child than several, and to watch an older, verbal child than an infant. Knowing what the child or children are like is also important. Even adults can feel overwhelmed by many rambunctious kids! Your rules for her could include insisting that: - You know (and like) the family requesting her services. - You and/or the parents will be nearby in case of emergency. - The job finishes no later than one hour past her normal bedtime. - The job does not interfere with your family plans. - The job does not interfere with her school/family responsibilities.