Let’s do a quick exercise. Take a second and picture your favorite teacher as a child. Think about what made that teacher so special. Was it a big thing or a bunch of small things? How did that teacher make you feel?
Now, close your eyes and picture the perfect sitter for your child. If there are similarities between your ideal sitter and your favorite teacher, there’s a reason for that. A good babysitter is like a teacher. They won’t have much control of the academic elements (although many sitters offer tutoring services), however, social development is just as crucial to raising a well-rounded human.
There’s no classroom or set curriculum but often, a child’s babysitter is the first person outside of a family that a child interacts with on a semi-regular basis. That is an incredibly impactful person—whether you intend it to be or not. Your child will want to test the boundaries that have been set by you and other family members on the new adult that has been introduced.
The skills that make a good early childhood teacher are the same skills that directly align with that of a good babysitter. It’s not surprising that over 10% of our sitters are teachers. Additionally, sitters who are still in college are often pursuing degrees in education and childhood development.
Here are critical babysitting skills that match teaching skills:
- Patience: Anyone who’s ever spent a day with a child knows that they can be very trying beings. It makes sense. They’re trying to figure out how to move around in our strange world. The ability to remain cool and level-headed while little ones test every fiber of patience is probably what makes teachers and care providers seem superhuman in the first place.
- Imagination: Kids pretty much exclusively speak the language of imagination. Working with kids means you need to be able to create new and interesting ways to engage them. Just like you don’t want a teacher who rolls in the TV frequently because they’ve run out of ideas, you don’t want a sitter that defaults to screens or other devices. Having a strong imagination is crucial to having a fun time in a healthy way.
- Adaptability: Every person is different. Milestones and revelations happen at different points. Needs and desires change and fluctuate. Teachers and sitters both need to have a keen ability to adapt to whatever is thrown their way. Managing the messiness of human development should be an Olympic sport.
- Communication: Being able to switch from speaking directly and effectively to a child to addressing parents confidently is not a skill that is acquired overnight. It’s a balancing act that the best teachers and caregivers are able to tackle in a way that many are not.
Life is hectic. There are lots of things to manage. Unfortunately, intentional thought about who to introduce as a sitter gets bumped down the to-do list until it becomes a last-minute need. That should change.
Think about the time and energy put into researching schools, talking to teachers, going to PTA meetings and events. Now think about a fraction of that time being spent on researching and finding the ideal sitter for your child. Even if you only need a sitter for “last-minute” situations, you’re still introducing your child to a new authority figure. Invest the time in finding a person that works your family and your needs in advance so you won’t find your self scrambling.
Teachers are superheroes. So are sitters. Put them both on a pedestal.