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MomTalk.com November 17, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Is This Baby Sitter Too Young?: Good Enough Moms

After a hiatus, the Good Enough Moms are back with us answering your questions about parenting from the point of view of three generations. If you have a question for them, send it to editor@momtalk.com.



Q: My kids are 2 and 4 and have hardly ever been left with a babysitter other than my parents. But my parents are going to be away a lot this summer and I know there are some times we're going to need to go out. There's a 12-year-old girl in my neighborhood who is advertising her babysitting services for this summer. She comes from a wonderful family and seems like a smart, mature girl for her age.

After a hiatus, the Good Enough Moms are back with us answering your questions about parenting from the point of view of three generations. If you have a question for them, send it to editor@momtalk.com.

Q: My kids are 2 and 4 and have hardly ever been left with a babysitter other than my parents. But my parents are going to be away a lot this summer and I know there are some times we're going to need to go out. There's a 12-year-old girl in my neighborhood who is advertising her babysitting services for this summer. She comes from a wonderful family and seems like a smart, mature girl for her age. But I'm wondering if 12 is too young to babysit – or, if not always, then how do I determine if this particular girl is ready?

Grandma Betty: I might be old-fashioned, but I think 12 sounds too young. I wouldn't think most 12 year-olds could handle kids those ages. Maybe a 14 year-old would be better. You should see what kind of a family the babysitter comes from, ask about what experience she's had caring for little ones, and find out how mature she is. Those would be the most important factors in determining if she is capable of caring for your kids.

Erin: Grandma, I agree it's important to make sure a babysitter is mature enough to handle young kids, but I have used several 12 year-olds and I think that often is a great age for a babysitter. The 12 year-olds I have used aren't as interested in boys or instant messaging as some of the older sitters, and they are much more comfortable getting down on the floor to play with the kids. They have been very attentive to the needs of my children. All of my babysitters have taken the Red Cross Babysitter course, which I think is very important. I also make sure to leave detailed instructions. And I only use babysitters whose families I know. I would use caution if you are planning on using a babysitter just based on an advertisement. Make sure you really know what kind of person she is and how much experience she has caring for children. I bet my mom, Marti, will have some good tips on how to determine if a 12 year-old is developmentally ready to babysit!

Marti: Regardless of a potential sitter's age, I think it's very important to check the person out very carefully. Erin already mentioned some ways to do that: checking to see if he or she has passed a Red Cross babysitting course and getting to know the person's family. Unless you're the first family for whom the sitter has worked, asking for references is important too – and then calling past customers and asking specific questions about what went well and what didn't go so well with that sitter. I also recommend interviewing the sitter, describing several hypothetical situations and asking how he or she would respond. These should include scenarios such as an accident, a stranger coming to the door, and a disciplinary situation with a child. Then I think what's most important is to have the sitter work a couple of times as a mom's helper while you are still at home or in the yard – giving you a firsthand look at how that sitter interacts with your children. (This also gives you a wonderful chance to get some things done while your kids are getting to know the new sitter.) Overall, many 12-year-olds are mature enough to babysit, and a good interview and trial period are likely to weed out one who is not ready. (For the record, the best babysitter I ever used was 12 when she started sitting for us.)

Marti Erickson, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and director of the Harris Training Programs at the University of Minnesota. A well-known public speaker, writer, and media commentator, Marti also is the mother of two adult kids and three young grandchildren.

Erin Erickson Garner, Marti's daughter, is a writer and a specialist in maternal and child health. She currently is home with her two young children except for Sundayss, when she and her mom co-host the Good Enough MomsTM radio show on WFMP-Radio, FM107.1 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Betty Farrell, Marti's mom, lives in Houston, TX, and is known fondly as "Grandma Betty" to Erin and her kids.



Categories: Advice, Ideas & Stories, MomShare,


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