One upside of having teens is the payback for all those years of nights in when, finally, they can babysit younger siblings. But while there’s a degree of comfort and familiarity about babysitting someone you live with, what age is appropriate to start babysitting for families beyond their own?
Mum-of-three Ciara says she would never allow any of her children babysit for another family, if they were under 16. Some of this, she explains, stems from her own experience of babysitting as a teenager and being inappropriately approached by member of the family for whom she was babysitting.
“I would only let a 16-year-old go to a family I really trust. Generations living in one house due to the housing crisis can mean it is complex also.”
She wouldn’t allow a teenager under the age of 16 babysit one of her children either. “When doing our prenatal classes, the midwife made us all promise, we would not leave an infant with a teenager. She said their concentration is not developed for the seriousness of the situation”.
[ Phone use: What exactly should our teenagers be allowed to do? ]
I believe it’s important to nurture caregiving and responsibility in boys, so that the next generation of women are not pigeonholed into traditional roles.
Yvonne has four children. Her 14-year-old son regularly babysits for others.
“I think kids develop at such different rates and it’s quite individual,” she says. “As the eldest, my son has also had to shoulder the burden of helping out with his siblings. I believe it’s important to nurture caregiving and responsibility in boys, so that the next generation of women are not pigeonholed into traditional roles.
“It’s also important for his sense of self to know that he’s capable and trustworthy, in some regards, and that I believe him to be so. He also has the potential to earn some cash which is a great source of independence and to counter the pervasive sense of entitlement that exists nowadays.
“As someone who had a male minder in the past for my kids I found it to be a breath of fresh air and he was a wonderful role model for my boys. I think boys need to see more of that.”
I probably wouldn’t be keen to have anyone younger mind my kids, as a parent
Yvonne says she thinks it’s essential to “stretch kids more than we tend to do nowadays. Our tendency for over-involved parenting diminishes kids’ opportunities for growth and as a result we underestimate their ability.”
Teaching teenagers hasn’t convinced Jenny Flanagan that under 16-year-olds are mature enough to babysit. “I probably wouldn’t be keen to have anyone younger mind my kids, as a parent”, she says. “I think 16 is a good age”.
As for whether we infantilise teens and presume them to be less capable than they are, Jenny says teens these days “have an awful lot done for them, that we would have been told just to get on with ourselves when we were younger”.
Richard Hogan says babysitting is “a huge responsibility and very good for a child’s development and appreciation of money”. However, he says that he wouldn’t allow his own child to babysit before the age of 16. “Even then I would make sure that your child had the skills and temperament to manage such a serious role at such a young age”.
“Summer jobs are very important for children and their development. Encourage them.”