Advice about Teen Sitters & Mother's Helpers

How to Find a Teen Sitter

  1. BPN subscribers can view the Childcare Message Board. Teenagers offering babysitting can subscribe for free.
  2. Bananas maintains a list of teen sitters, and other childcare referral agencies do too.
  3. Ask your neighbors! They may have a sitter to recommend, or they know families in the neighborhood who have teens. Even if a recommended teen isn't available, he or she may have a friend to recommend.
Related Pages
Questions & Responses:
Seniors who babysit?(1 response)
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Questions & Advice

What you should expect from a teen sitter

Most teenagers who are interested in babysitting and who are available ...

  • do not have a lot of experience
  • do not have a drivers license (and if they do, cannot by law have under-21 passengers for the first year)
  • will need a ride to your house and back (unless they live nearby)
  • may not be able to babysit on weekdays
  • may need to be home by 10pm on weekends

Many local teens have taken CPR and babysitting classes, but many more haven't. If your requirements are too demanding, you may find it difficult to find a teen sitter, and you may be better off hiring an experienced adult childcare provider.

Young teens vs. older teen
Teens often start to be interested in babysitting when they are 11 or 12, and many parents hire neighborhood teens at this age. Most parents who have long-standing arrangements with teen sitters started off with a young teen from the neighborhood whose parents would be home in an emergency. Or they initially hired the teen to come at times when a parent would be at home at the same time working on other tasks. Peak teen babysitting years seem to be between 12 and 15. Teens 15 and older tend to have social activities they want to do with their friends on the weekends. By the time they are 16, they are often driving, going to parties, involved in sports, and it becomes hard to schedule them for babysitting. In addition, 16-year-olds can work at other jobs besides babysitting that usually pay more and are less demanding. Many families have older teen sitters who have been sitting for them for a long time, since they were 12 or so. It's a good idea to develop a relationship early with a younger teen. They may be still willing to babysit for you even after they are driving!

What age child can a teen babysit for?
Most parents who hire teens have children who are past the toddler/diaper stage. There are teens who are very experienced with babies and toddlers - use your intuition about whether the teen is mature enough to care for a baby or toddler. But many teens are reluctant to change diapers, feed and clean up after a messy baby, and they often don't have the life experience to make decisions that adults think of as just common sense. Teens may not have the experience to deal with accidents that crawlers and toddlers can so quickly get in to, and they may not know what to do in unfamiliar situations that require a judgement call.
For most teen sitters, it is best if your child can talk well enough to communicate the basics to the teen babysitter, asking for a snack, telling the teen where the towels are kept, and so on.
Teens are perfect for school-aged children. They have the energy and enthusiasm to play games with them for hours, get down on the floor with them and roll around, and engage with them in a way that adults just can't.

How much do they charge?
In Berkeley and vicinity, older and experienced teens generally charge at least minimum wage to babysit, and more if they are experienced, or if they drive, etc. They may charge more for additional children and they may charge more for late hours. Younger teens just starting out will usually take less, especially if you will be home or if their own parents are on call.

Middle school babysitter for 3rd grader?

Oct 2008

We have a 3rd grade girl and were wondering in this day and age whether a 7th grader is old enough to babysit on a night out (until 10pm say). We are tired of driving our college-age babysitter that doesn't drive back home 4 miles away and we have a great middle school gal that lives about a mile away. I'm sure I did babysitting in middle school, but I can't remember how late. Any opinions? Anon

I started babysitting when I was 10 years old, and at least once, at 10 or 11, I babysat for half a dozen neighbor kids on New Years Eve! I wouldn't hesitate to hire a 7th grade babysitter (assuming, of course, I was comfortable with her maturity level) for a 3rd grade child as long as the 7th grader has some adult backup available in case of emergency. (Can she call her own parents for help if there's an injury or something else she's not sure how to handle? She's more likely to want to do that than to call you. Or, does she know YOUR neighbors, and will said neighbors be home?) As far as how late at night, I would probably check with the sitter's own parents too, to confirm her normal bedtime. Holly

Hi, It's not at all unreasonable to have that age of babysitter/babysittee, IMO. But there's a huge range in maturity and trustworthiness of 7th graders and also 3rd graders, so I think it totally depends on the kids involved.

I've got an eighth grade daughter, a second grade son, and a four-year-old son. I have had my daughter babysit my middle child for a couple of hours at a time when she was in seventh grade (he was in first grade then) and I was totally comfortable with that. But I knew that watching two kids would have been too much for her.

This year she is 13 and is going to start watching both boys for a couple of hours at a time, and (we hope) babysitting for people outside the family. She's really responsible and I totally trust her. (In fact, she insists on taking CPR/first aid training so she knows what to do in an emergency). She has some friends I would also trust, but she has a couple of friends that, frankly, I wouldn't feel comfortable with.

Of course it also depends on how agreeable and obedient your 3rd grader is and whether he/she is likely to challenge a teen sitter. I am a big believer in using young teens for babysitting, as long as you can find the right young teens :-)

Spend some time talking to your babysitter and their parents and observe them with your kid. You can probably tell if it's going to work out or not. Jennifer

i think 7th grade is too young to be left in charge of any child. 7th grade is only about 11-12-13 years old. anon


13 Year Old Daughter wants to Babysit

May 2008


My 13 year old daughter is very keen to start babysitting. Any advice on how to begin this ''profession'' would be appreciated: what experience she should have with children (maybe mother's helper at first?); ages of children appropriate for a (very mature) 13 year old sitter?; how to get the word out (advertisements, going around the neighborhood, etc.); required training (CPR, etc.); and fees charged. Thanks so much! Linda

Both of my daughters did the Red Cross babysitting course at about this age. We all thought it was wonderful. They learned all sorts of helpful things (including how to turn off the water to the toilet if it starts to overflow!!). Recommend it highly - just google them or call the number in the phone book and ask about babysitting training. sitters' mom


Mother's helper to help in the evenings

June 2006


We have two kids under 2.5 years old attending preschool/daycare, and both parents working outside of the home. We are considering hiring a mother's helper during the dinner hour to ease the transition from work/daycare to dinner to bath to bedtime. Have you had such help before? Any advice what type of personality/backgrounds to look for? How many hours is ideal? Needing an extra pair of hands

We hired a mother's helper about 9 months ago and it's been a HUGE help. She comes in twice a week for around 5 hours total. Does cooking and food prep, light cleaning, dishes, laundry, changes bedsheets, even a little sewing. We posted an ad on Craigslist and she responded. We got lucky because she lives in the neighborhood and was looking for just a few hours each week. We are going to be seriously bummed when she someday decides to move on.

In addition to posting an ad on Craigslist, you can look on Craigslist for what people post who are looking for such a positions. It's under Gigs/Domestic. Also, one of the BPN newsletters might help.

We spoke to almost 10 people before we hired anyone. We found that most people wanted more hours than we could offer. Typically people wanted half time work (20 hours/week), but would accept something a little less, but not the 4-6 hours/week that we would guarantee (which is why we got lucky with who we got). Make sure you check references, too

Hiring a mother's helper is a matter of what your own needs are and what you feel comfortable with. My mother's helper comes 4 to 6 hours a week after school. She is 16 and very warm and fun. She plays with the kids and folds their laundry, picks up their toys after play, and feeds them dinner too. (they eat early because they are babies). I found her through asking teachers at a local high school to recommend someone. Since she is never there alone I didn't do a more thorough background check or anything like that love our Mothers Helper

How to find a teen sitter?

Sept 2005

My husband and I are in great need of finding a babysitter so we can get out for a date night every now and then. I have posted on the childcare newsletter several times and have gotten very little response. We would like a highschool or college age female who has their own transportation and babysitting experience. Do any of the local highschools and/or colleges have job boards that you can put posts up on for babysitting? When a friend finds someone good they are less then eager to give their babysitter's name over which is understanable, but we really need to get out! Any advice on finding a babysitter other then BPN childcare digest would be so much appreciated. Oh, we live just off of Trestle Glen in Oakland. Thanks in advance! Parents who need a break!

Hi, Ask neighbors. Try Cal Jobs on the UC Berkeley website JM

My sister has found some great teen sitters by advertising at the local Mormon Temple (we're not Mormon). Makes sense to me. Suppose you could extend that approach to any place of worship that has a ''Sunday School'' component to it where teens are involved in childcare. anon


Sitter's Unauthorized Computer Use

March 2004


We noticed our babysitter had helped herself to my husband's computer in his study to check her email and surf the web a bit. Nothing porno but she was definitely not watching our 5 year old while she was doing this. Even more, I feel like it is a big invasion of privacy. She admitted it when I confronted her and said it was an ''emergency'' that she needed to check something. I told her not to do it and if such an ''emergency'' arises again to call me first. Is this a firing offense? I should add, she is relatively young (early 20s). I think the younger people are less territorial about their stuff - am I wrong to be bugged? Bugged But Wondering

I think that if you haven't made the rules clear, now would be a good time. The second offense might or might not be worth a ''firing'' depending upon how you feel, but why not just include a password upon start-up so that nobody but you and your partner can access the computer, and avoid the issue altogether in the future? big on passwords

I'm an internet addict -- I email all day long, I web surf. I also have a nanny whom I adore who is utterly devoted to my children. It would not bother me at all if my nanny checked her email while she was working. I often check my email when I'm with my kids, and while I know I'm not necessarily providing optimum care when I'm on line, I also know that it's very difficult to provide optimum care all day long. I think you might try to figure out what you both feel comfortable with -- maybe checking email during naptime, or something like that. It's hard to imagine a job where we wouldn't get to do a little bit of this kind of thing every once in a while, and if the nanny is good in other ways you might try to work things out with her. Ayelet

If you had not previously discussed computer use with her, and you are otherwise happy with her, I don't think this was a firing offense.

FWIW, I've never had this issue with our nanny simply because she is a limited English speaker who doesn't USE computers. But with teenage babysitters, I have always specifically invited them to use my home computer at need, and left it set up so that they can easily browse the web without needing access to any of my passwords. (These girls generally do homework and work on college applications after the kids are in bed.) I also know parents whose kids work or play on a home computer *with* their babysitters (much as they would do art projects or anything else). So not everyone considers computer use to be an automatic no-no, and your sitter probably came up with the ''emergency'' thing when it became obvious to her that you were unhappy about it. I would let it go. Unless and until it happens again, of course. Now that there is a rule in place and she is aware of it, you should let her go if she violates it. Holly

Hi - Well, one thing I can tell you is that it is easy to fix this - you can make your computer or any part of it accessible by password only. Then, the sitter may be abe to turn the machine on, but she won't be able to do anything on it. michael

I wouldn't mind my sitter taking a short break to read her email. But I WOULD mind her using my computer without asking. It would be the equivalent of someone going through my desk and papers looking for a notepad to write on. It's ''my'' computer, not the family computer, so it's not like the family stereo or the family refrigerator. I have all sorts of personal stuff on my computer - my calendar and address book, credit card numbers, letters from friends, etc. Other family members have to ask before they use my computer, so I would definitely want a non-family member to do the same.

I have teens, and I have students working for me, so I know that email and IM are a ''necessary'' part of their lives, and they may not get the concept of the computer as personal space. When a teen relative or student visits, I tell them which computer they can use and what I'm OK with (OK to run IM and check email, not OK to download programs). So in your case I would just chalk it up to a learning experience for the babysitter, tell her what your rules are about the computer, and assume the best from here on out. computer mom

As a former babysitter, I guess I think you're ever-so-slightly overreacting to your babysitter's use of your computer, EXCEPT that she wasn't watching your son. I wouldn't say that she should be fired for this first-time incident, but now that you've made your wishes clear, it shouldn't happen again. You could of course set up password protection on the computer, which would ensure that this won't happen again. Christine

so is your issue that she wasn't watching your child (which I assume you were paying her to do), or that she was on your computer? seems like you should be able to block use with a password setup or, if you're technically challenged like me, just hide the power cord or some such essential item.

Maybe you should let it ride to see if its a pattern or if it really was a emergency like she said If it is a pattern, preventing computer use may not motivate her to spend time with your child - she may simply switch to some other activity that is less easy to track and then I would think its time to find another baby sitter. ilona

I suggest you put a password on your computer. I have one on mine. Yes, the on in my own home and it's just my husband, daughter and myself. I think that it's always a good idea to have password protection on your computer even in your own home as you can protect against someone in the house using the computer without permission as well as if it gets stolen, making it harder to break into (though it's not hard to do). just call me paranoid...


Pre-Teen Mother's Helpers

March 2006


My daughter is almost 10 and a neighbor has offered to hire her as a ''mother's helper'' for the neighbor's almost-2-year-old. This would involve my daughter playing with the neighbor's child while the mother is home. For those of you with experience (on either side, hiring or having your child work as a mother's helper), how old were the helpers typically? Also, what is the going rate for this? My daughter would be happy to do it for free, but perhaps she should charge something so I'd like to find out what other folks are charging. Thanks!

My daughter who is now 20 starting babysitting at 11 yrs. old, having been through 2 Babysitter Classes. If you know the family well and they know your daughter well, an hr. here or there can't will be a great learning experience. As for pay, maybe a couple of bucks a pop...The average sitter gets $6/hr. but that's someone experienced, trained, etc. Good luck kmaz

My daughter is 10 and works as a mother's helper once a week for 2 hours. she gets paid $2.50/hr (she asked for $2/hr, but the neighbor has been paying her $2.50) She only plays with the child, doesn't do any household chores. Of course the parent is ALWAYS there! Deborah

Sept 2005

I'm considering hiring a teenage ''mother's helper'' to play with my generally happy, exploring 8month old while I do work on the computer at home or do other activities that require baby-free time (e.g., stain/varnish furniture). I have a referral for a 14 year old but have not yet met with her. My question - Is it appropriate to ask other duties of a 12-15 year old girl or boy? Mainly s/he should be playing with my baby, but what if at the scheduled ''help'' times my baby ends up taking a nap? Do I send the helper home (with or without pay)? Do I ask the helper to load/unload the dishwasher? Do baby-related chores (change sheets, start laundry)? I realize some of these things would be skill-dependent on the mother's helper, but I wanted a sense from other moms what your expectatoins have been - and, of course, what you have paid the helper. Thanks! wanting a few hours

You can structure things any way that works for both you and your helper, but if you want her to do light housework while your child naps, you should be very clear about that up front. You should also err on the side of caution when it comes to those duties.

Also, if you are hiring the helper for 6 hours a week, you should pay her for 6 hours a week whether you end up using her for the full time or not. If she's setting that time aside for you, she deserves to be paid for it. Sara

I have a mother's helper who comes 3xs a week. She's not a teen, but that's what I was originally looking for. I pay her minimun wage and her main duty is to play with the baby. When the baby naps & when I feed the baby, she helps me by straightening out the kids' room (but I do all the cleaning) and by folding the baby's clothing. She probably has at leat 1/2-1 hour a day of down time after that, but I don't really think it's fair for her to do non-baby related stuff. After all a housecleaner would charge me at least $12 an hour. anon

Hi, we live in the same area (Longridge Road) and we have a wonderful babysitter which I would gladly share since we only go out about once month.

Nov 2003

My 11 year old has been recruited to babysit. She is eager, loving and responsible. She is not doing it alone at this time, even during the day. That means I'm her backup resource. I have no idea what is reasonable for her to charge. It will be a good lesson in learning about money and the value of labor. I hope! Any reference point or thoughts on paying young babysitters would be appreciated. Thanks!

Hi -- I live in Pleasant Hill and use a few 7th graders (11 and 12 year olds) for babysitting in the afternoons occasionally. The going rate here for that age seems to be about $5/hr. For the high school kids, we pay $10/hr (ouch!). Hope this helps! Trish

We had a 13 year old babysitter for our son (12-15 months at the time). The only difference from your situation is that we were home at the time, although there were times later on that she did at times take him to the park around the corner. She set her own price at $2.50 and when she got used to our son's needs we raised it to $3.00. She still works for us now and then but not as frequently since she's back in school.

Others may disagree with me but I think 11 (or 13) is too young to leave with a baby or toddler without the parents home, or another adult caregiver who the child knows and who is familiar with that child. A preschool age kid might be a bit different for short periods of time. Eagerness and even responsibility don't take the place of maturity and knowledge. I know you said you were the 'back-up' but what does that mean? She can call you from the babysitting job with questions? You live across the street from the job and can run right over? You go to the job with her but stay out of the way? Or do you go and guide her step by step? Of course this is between you, your daughter, and the other child's parents. The reason I metion this is that I think the payment to a babysitter would be less if the parents are home than if they're not. Just one perspective. Protective mama bear

April 2002

I'm an expert on nanny salaries (and pretty good on babysitter rates), but I have no idea what to pay an 11 year old who wants to be a ''mother's helper'' - i.e., he will play with my 3 year old while I (hopefully) do other things in the house. Would love to hear thoughts on the appropriate wage. Fran

When my son was nine he worked as a mother's helper and charged $1/hr, but most people paid him $2/hr. Deborah

We have a 12-year-old mother's helper, and we pay her $2 an hour. We sometimes include a little more than this, give her gifts for birthdays and Christmas, take her to dinner it works out to more than that. She has taken care of our cat before and watered our garden when we've been away, and on those occasions we pay her $5 a visit. She's probably due for a raise, come to think of it. Anyway, she's thrilled with both amounts and our son adores her. Carolyn

A neighbor girl (eighth grader) has been a mother's helper to me two hours per week for over one year and I pay her $5/hour. My girls are four and two and they are happy to go off and play with Molly while I work around the house. It has worked out very well for us and she has graduated to babysitting in the evenings (when her parents are home and we are going out locally) after the girls go to bed. We pay a bit more for babysitting in the evenings. It is nice to see the girls forming this strong relationship with a neighbor family and it has created a nice bond between the adults of the families as well. Laura

We paid our 12-year old mother's helper $5 an hour (although we usually rounded up a bit with a ''tip'' as a bonus), and she spent about 10-20 hours a week during the summer with us when our son was 4 to 8 weeks old. It was wonderful to be able to take a shower, answer e-mail, eat lunch, etc. while she held or ''played'' with him. Kristie


Teen sitter for a 3 1/2 month old?

July 2004


Re the following posting: Am I the only parent out here who questions the wisdom of having a teenager, and a virtual stranger at that, caring for a 3 1/2 month old child??? What do others think? ?????

Hi, I have a 3 1/2 month old baby boy & am looking for a reliable teen sitter. I'm hoping to find someone who another mom can recommend to me... we're hoping to hire someone to watch our baby once a week for a date night... Contact: Jennifer

Families have been enlisting the help of older children to help with infant care probably since the origins of family/community life. That's not so strange. In fact, teens have babies of their own quite often and have been doing so, again, since the origins of human time. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or bad or dangerous about a teenager caring for an infant.

My teen would not be the ideal candidate for babysitting an infant. However, someone else's teen might. She/he might even have more experience than many adults, if she has been charged with caring for infant siblings.

Personally, if I were the parent of a 3 1/2 month old infant, again, I would appreciate support and understanding from my community and not a questioning of my judgment based on other's opinions of what is safe or not safe for my child. Just because we *think* something is true, doesn't necessarily make it so. evalynne

It totally depends on the teen. I have seen many teens, myself included - although a long time ago, who can and do babysit a baby of this age with nearly as much expertise, tenderness and responsibility as many moms. It it up to each individual parent to decide what is best for their infant. But IMHO teen babysitters should not be disparaged in this format. Many a mother logging onto this network has used a teen babysitter for a much needed break with no problems.. there are ALWAYS concerns when leaving young children in anyone else's care, even family. anonymous


Teenage Babysitter may be stealing

August 2004


I'm worried that my next door neighbors teenage daughter is stealing when she comes over. Today I came home from work and found a couple of small ceramic bear figurines missing. The only reason I noticed it was because I had recently re-organized the shelf they were on and had moved them to a higher shelf so my almost 4 yr old couldn't reach them. I had 5 and now there are only 3. Honestly, this isn't about the items itself but more the pricipal of the matter. I'm bothered by the breech of trust and worried about the daughter. I already exhausted all avenues in our home as to where they may be and the only logical explanation seems to point to her (we had give them a spare key to get in while we were at work so they could feed our cats while we were gone). Any advice on how to bring this up as gently as possible would be helpful.

it really depends. how long and how well do you know the family. is this the only incident of stealing you suspect. have there been other times. what hard evidence can you confront them with? if you don't know the family well, and there have been other incidences, then I would get a new baby sitter. You need to have trust in your babysitter for peace of mind. on the other hand, if you know the family well, and feel that your allegations would be handled with respect and understanding, then I would approach the parents. Having said all that, with regards to the safety and care of my children, I might just get another sitter anyway. I need peace of mind as well as a mature individual watching my children. anon

I would be 100 % sure of your accusation before talking with your neighbor. My 1.5 and 3 year old know how to pick up our step stool or scoot chairs over to get what they want. If something is missing, I usually give it a couple weeks and it turns up in the most creative places. You might casually ask your teen neighbor if they remember seeing your child play with the bears because they are missing. If your not comfortable with them having your key then maybe someone else should cat sit and ask for the key back. The biggest issues here are: do you really think your neighbor is stealing? Are you paranoid and over reacting? Do you not feel comfortable with your neighbors having the house keys? Handle with caution especially if you plan on living by them for a while. Decent neighbors are hard to find and are not perfect. If they are wrongly accused of something you may lose a friend/neighbor that is irreplaceable. If you are not sure, there are ways to get your thoughts across without damaging the relationship. If they have taken something, are you willing to forgive them and put boundaries on the relationship or terminate things? Lots to think about. Good luck and I hope you find your bears. Anon


Teen Babysitter No Show

Oct 2002


Any advice on how to educate teen babysitters on being responsible for: 1) showing up when scheduled; 2) if they can't show up, calling to cancel beforehand; and 3) if they didn't show up, and didn't call to cancel beforehand, returning my call the day after to talk about why they didn't show up and didn't call to cancel?

I'm frustrated, since this has happened more than once. Maybe the parents of teens can help me figure the best way to teach professionalism to a teen. These are teen babysitters who offer their services on the UCB Parents listserv. Your advice is welcome. Rebecca

Wow--I babysat a ton when I was a teen and my mom would have *killed* me if I was that irresponsible. First of all, I would start by deciding to not hire the teen again. Furthermore, if you are able to, I suggest you speak to her/him (or maybe send an email if you have an address) explaining why the behavior was unacceptable and you are unwilling to hire her/him again. If this is done in a non-patronizing and non-angry manner, I think the teenager will hear an important lesson about basic responsibility, even simple courtesy. In the long run, you may help her/him become a more aware and professional young person. Good luck. Elizabeth

Your complaint is familiar to me. We had a wonderful teen sitter who forgot a few times. My husband was very sympathetic to her and told me that it was our responsibility to remind her. So I always called her the day before to confirm/remind her of the time and date. This actually helped immensely. Jennifer


I have just arrived in Berkeley, and I agree it is very difficult to find a babysitter.

The only thing that helped me was asking people in the neighboorhood if there were teenagers who did some babysitting, and we foudn 2 nice girls that way. If you don't know people in your neighbourhood very well, why don't you mention where you live on this web site and see if anyone who lives nearby can help?

Otherwise, the university should be a good source, and putting an ad in the Daily Cal is a good way to find students interested in sitting. Hope this helps.

Using Young Babysitters

Does anyone have any advice or input on the advantages/disadvantages of using adolescent aged babysitters? I have had offers for sitting from 14 & 15 year olds who claim (and parents claim) to be mature and capable of handling my two children. I, myself, babysat young infants when I was approximately 14, but now that it's MY child I feel slightly apprehensive. thanks for your input.

It depends on the babysitter. Every child is different. We have a sitter whose services we started using when she was 14. She is WONDERFUL--conscientious, focuses on the kids, brings things for them to do (she has a kid-kit armed with stamps, sticker, etc. etc). She is down to earth and sensible, and does a really good job. I never worry about leaving my daughter (now 3) with her, since I'm sure that she'll make good decisions, even in the face of trouble.

On the other hand, my stepdaughter, only a month younger than this other girl, was not nearly as good. Some of this was probably the resentment factor. But some of it is just temperament. She didn't want to be bothered to really engage her little sister, and viewed the whole exercise as punishment, even when she was being paid (in currency or by clothes-shopping allowance, etc).

So I don't think there is a standard answer. As with everything involving humans, you'll have to gather the information and make a decision based on the individual characteristics of the person. Good luck! Dawn

My son is five and half and we have been using young sitters for the past year. Both sitters are boys. One is 13 and the other 14. The advantages, as I see it, are that they are close enough in age to my son to be playmates, but tall enough and confidant enough to be authority figures. We know the families of both boys and both live in our neighborhood. We have always told them that if they encounter a situation they don't know how to handle, they should call their parents. Their parents feel fine about this. This lends a feeling of security for everyone. (Remember, even the teenager's parents are wondering if he is ready, can handle himself, knows what to do in an emergency, etc. - to their parents, the child is just past the age of needing babysitters!) Also, my son is not the rebellious type. You might want to run a trial with the teenager and your child when you are home. You can see how they interact and monitor the situation. This way everyone has a chance to check it out. Good Luck!

I would use extreme caution with young sitters, but my strict safety criteria would really apply to any sitter, irrespective of age. Some young folks are more responsible and competent than some adults, as you would expect. Imagine a worst case scenario, then ask yourself if you think the prospective sitter could deal with it. Included events might be a huge, fast fire, a big earthquake, the child choking on a small object which is stuck in the airway, or the child falling & hitting his/her head & losing consciousness, an insistent stranger at the door. I would review those scenarios with a prospective sitter and ask how they would handle each case. Then listen very carefully to their responses, letting them talk rather than asking them leading questions. Would the sitter be able to calmly call 911 and explain the situation or transport the child to emergency? Also, there may be issues with infant care that are different than with an older child. Is there reasonable age-appropriate childproofing in the house? Has the child had limits set on wild behavior? Is the child respectful of sitters? Can the sitter lift and carry the child easily? You want someone calm, mature & thoughtful no matter what their age. Whether I took the word of the sitter's parent about their capabilities would depend a lot on what I knew about the parent. Good luck! Christine

One thing to consider with young babysitters, or even older ones - if you are friends with your neighbors, set up a babysitting date when the neighbor is home and can be called for help an emergency. A backup is a great idea. When I started babysitting at 11, my mother would come help me if necessary. And carry a pager or cell phone so you can be reached immediately.

I'd suggest you try babysitters out! That's what we did with our 14 year-old babysitter before we were happy with leaving her with our young twin daughters for any considerable length of time. We just scheduled a time for her to come one saturday afternoon when we could spend some time telling and showing her all the things we wanted, and then we went out to an early dinner, with my cell phone on for any problems. We called once just to see if things were doing OK. She did great and we now use her as our main babysitter. This tryout let us get to know her some, and of course gave us the option to go out an leave her or not if it seemed like she wasn't right. I know I started babysitting at around 13 when I was growing up, but of course it depends on the person as to if they are mature enough, etc, to make you confident leaving your kids with them.

How Old does a Teen need to be?


What age is considered to be an appropriate one for a teenage babysitter? If the teen is CPR certified, taken a babysitting course, seems keen and responsible, is, say, 14 ok? Also, how long can one expect to have an interested babysitter if we pay and treat him/her well? What is a good 'contract' for hours per week/month? Our family has had a couple of 15/16 year olds who we just get to know and then they are off to 'real' jobs/ social life. All I am looking for is someone to care for and play with the kids (2.5 and 6.5 yrs) while my husband and I go out for the odd dinner -- not every day or late nights. Caroline

In answer to the question about how old a teenager should be to babysit- it depends on the teenager. I actually started babysitting myself when I was eleven, only in the afternoon, babysitting the 3 year old next door while my mother was at home. I was the oldest of 4 children however and had lots of in-home experience. (I know times have changed however).

As troop leader of a group of Junior and Cadette girl scouts (grades 4-8), I got to know quite a few girls some of whom later became babysitters for my 2 year old adopted son. The girls became most interested in babysitting around 12-13, wanting to get CPR certified, earn money, etc. 13-15 is the peak years for wanting to babysit before they get too involved with boys, school, sports, etc. I was lucky knowing these girls intimately, I knew which ones were mature, had younger siblings, babies in the family, etc. Now that they are older, I can only get them on an occasional basis, but during those late middle school years they were more available. For girls who were just starting out, their moms were available at their house to answer questions or to come over and help if there was an immediate question. We also had a cell phone the sitter could call, etc. 14 is plenty old enough to babysit children ages 2-6 if the sitter is responsible. Christine