Parenting Conference

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Congratulations, you've been offered a brand-new babysitting job! Before you breathlessly respond with a quick “yes, I'll be there,” be sure you ask these five very important questions. Doing so will help you make sure all your babysitting jobs will run as smoothly and as professionally as possible.

“Where, exactly, do you live?” This is rule number one-find out where you're going, and exactly how to get there. Where will you be able to park? Do you need any gate codes or cellphone numbers to call in order to enter the premises? Is there any construction or well-known traffic jam times in the area that might prevent you from arriving on time? Is the house or apartment building well lit, and will you be able to see the address number easily at night? Where are you supposed to park, so as not to block anyone, keep your car safe, and avoid getting a ticket-or even worse, towed? If your family lives in a rural area, what are landmarks to look out for before you get to their house, so you'll know you're getting close? Also, what are landmarks, such as cross streets or businesses, that let you know that you've gone too far and need to turn back?”What time do you expect to be back?”

Ask your employer seriously whether their return time is flexible or fixed. For example, if the parents are attending a party, their return time may vary depending on how the party goes. If it is a parent who intends to come straight home after work, then their return time is probably more predictable. Be sure to let them know what time is the latest they can return in order for you to get home safely, or get to another appointment on time. Babysitting jobs go best when you are not stressed, wondering when the parents are going to return.”Tell me about your children and what you want their routine to be when you are away.” This question is vital for everyone's happiness. Knowing this in advance will help you tell the children what you and their parents have discussed in advance, and therefore what your expectations for their behavior will be.

Ask if the children's bedtime is fixed, or if there is some leeway allowed. Ask about permitted and forbidden snacks, television, and use of the internet or video games. Ask about any medications any of the children require, or if you are allowed to administer mild OTC medications such as aspirin.”What are the children like in terms of their personalities?” This will help you prepare for your session as well as bond with the children. If you know a child is fond of dinosaurs, for example, you can bring along some DVD's about dinosaurs or maybe a dinosaur toy to play with. If one child is very physically active, then you might come prepared with ideas that involve safe jumping or other physical movements such as “Simon Says” or “Statues.” If a child really enjoys reading or doing crafts, you might come prepared to read with the child, play card games, or do craft projects such as using Play-Doh or weaving.”Does your child have any behavior problems that I should be aware of?” It is vital that you know whether a child has been diagnosed with any behavior disorder such as Attention Deficit Order/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or learning disability. This will prepare you for using techniques specific to children with these problems, such as alternative forms of discipline, calming techniques, or anything else you should be specifically alerted to. For babysitting jobs that demand specialist skills, such as dealing with an aggressive or highly impulsive child, you may deem it appropriate to raise your hourly rates somewhat.

Once you've asked these questions, and have carefully listened to and noted the answers, your babysitting jobs are likely to go smoothly and happily. Happy babysitting!

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