PARENTS

When Your Child Becomes The Babysitter

17/02/2012 12:00 | Updated 22 May 2015
When your child becomes the babysitterGetty

That will teach me to be so smug and self-satisfied. There I was, bobbing along in a bubble of my own, and congratulating myself on the fact that at long last we felt our eldest child was old enough to be left in charge of his two younger siblings on the odd Saturday night.

"Fancy a drink at The Albert?" I'd started saying to my husband. "The girls are in bed and Will's doing homework – we could be there and back in a jiffy."

Hey, not only had we started being spontaneous – remember that word, pre children? – but on occasions we'd even ventured up to town to see a show, or meet friends for a leisurely meal without worrying that we'd tip into the next hour and end up paying through the nose for our babysitter.

But I should have known better, for my babysat son has, in a very short space of time, turned into a babysitter elect.

A friend in the playground heard me pontificating about the pleasures of having a child old enough to babysit, and promptly asked if he could babysit her two sons.

This is not good.

If Will babysits for her boys, a whole Pandora's Box will be opened, and there will be no going back.

For one thing, we don't pay our son to babysit – we do enough for him and he gets enough from us so we told him at the start that he could do it for the love of it. But I can hardly deny him the opportunity to go out and earn some much-wanted pocket money, can I? Can I??

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And of course from an even more selfish point of view, if my son has become a commodity on the babysitting market I'm back to square one and need a babysitter of my own. Maybe I should just pay him, but that surely defeats the whole point of him doing it for free?

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But more worryingly is the whole tricky social etiquette thing. My son is a good boy – in fact anyone would be lucky to have him look after their children. But his housekeeping skills are, shall we say, still in a heightened sense of the learning stage.

No matter how many times I have asked him to treat our home as he will hopefully treat his own one day, there are certain things we almost always come home to if he has been left in charge. These include a dirty dish in the sink - left there after he has helped himself to a contraband bowl of Ben and Jerry's; the television will be on in one, if not two rooms (no one will be watching it); every single light in the house will appear to be on; there will be at least one discarded empty crisp packet cunningly stuffed in the bin – but not very well hidden.

My girls have also snitched on their brother, telling us the following morning that his putting to bed skills are rather rudimentary. "Have you done your teeth? Done a wee? OK, See you in the morning," will be about as much as they will get. Of course if you're paying for a babysitting service you'd be entitled to expect a little more.

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I can see I'm going to have to sit him down and explain the dos and don'ts of working for money in someone else's home.

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There's only one thing for it – does anyone know a good babysitter ?

Is your youngster ready to be a paid babysitter for someone else's children? Check out the points below to decide...

1. If there was a fire in the house, would they know what to do? Getting themselves out and then calling you for help is possibly not the answer you want to hear.

2. Although there is no set rule or law, most people will go for a babysitter who is aged around 16 or older.

3. Meet the people your teen will be baysitting for. Go with your instinct - if in doubt, say they can't do it. As a rule of thumb, don't let your child reply to an ad for a babysitting position – word of mouth through friends is much better. However tempting to be smug, keep your mouth shut if you want to keep your child babysitting for you

4. Make sure the babysitting fee has been agreed before they take on the job.

5. Ensure the person using your child's services will drop them home. It's no good you having to stay in on a Saturday night and remain sober so you can collect your child from their job at midnight.

6. And if all this seems too complicated – bite the bullet and just pay your own teen to babysit their younger siblings. Then sit back and watch the bullets fly when your younger children realise their older sibling is actually being paid - to be horrid to them.

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