Babysitter training

American red Cross offers strategy-filled program

American red Cross offers strategy-filled program

March 21, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

Pattie Wilmoth, 52, clearly recalls a baby-sitting experience she had as a ninth-grader in Texas.

Five children younger than 7 were in her care.

"It was way beyond my capabilities," she says. "I wasn't smart enough to say no."

In baby-sitting, saying no - to employers and situations as well as to the little kids you're watching - is an important part of the job.

And there are so many other parts.

The American Red Cross seems to have thought of all of them and organized them in its "Babysitter's Training" program and handbook.


The training includes everything a sitter would ever need to know, including instructions on diapering and feeding, safety inspections, information on how children play and decisions in emergencies.

Wilmoth, family and consumer sciences teacher at Shepherdstown Middle School in Shepherdstown, W.Va., is certified to instruct the American Red Cross Babysitter's Training course.

This school term marks the third time the program has been part of the middle school curriculum in Jefferson County, W.Va. An elective for two years, the class now is required for seventh-graders - boys and girls - about 160 students at Shepherdstown.

"No one has ever objected," Wilmoth says.

The class also is offered by other Tri-State area Red Cross Chapters, though not in the schools.

One of the things Wilmoth likes best about the class is that its lessons apply not just to baby-sitting, but to many other life situations. New parents could benefit from the course materials, Wilmoth says.

"It's an excellent resource to have on your rsum," she says.

The training is divided into several sections.

  • Leadership provides advice on communicating well with children and parents or guardians and making decisions carefully.

  • The safety part of the course includes safety inspections, making sure the sitter knows where to find a working flashlight, for example.

  • The fundamentals of infant and child care - diapering, feeding, burping - are discussed. Discipline also is covered. The focus is on keeping discipline positive, Wilmoth says. The sitter should get on the child's level physically and look him in the eye. The child should be told what to do rather than what not to do, she explains.

  • The first aid section is so valuable, Wilmoth says. Her classes practice bandaging, learn about choking, bee stings, allergic reactions and a wide variety of potential emergencies.

    One of Wilmoth's former students returned to tell her that she was able to instruct people how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man in a restaurant.

    Instruction builds up to "rescue breathing," Wilmoth says. "We stop just short of teaching kids CPR," she adds.

  • Red Cross training also provides recommendations on professionalism, including how to work in someone else's home, the importance of confidentiality and being respectful, Wilmoth explains.

    Wilmoth and her students also talk about a more intangible aspect of baby-sitting. You have to like children.

    You should baby-sit only "if this is where your heart is," Wilmoth says.

Laura Tantillo, 13, meets that job requirement. "I really love little kids," she says. She also took the six-hour Red Cross "Babysitter's Training" course and learned a lot, including strategies for what to do if a baby won't stop crying.

She reads to her charges and has played everything from house to newscaster.

Laura, a Northern Middle School eighth-grader, has several regular clients including the three Abeles children - Zachary, 10, Connor, 7, and Sophie, 4 - who live in her neighborhood.

Stacey Abeles, the children's mother, says Laura is wonderful. Laura's younger sister is in school with Zachary. "I just snagged her right away," Stacey Abeles says.

When hiring a baby sitter to take care of her children, Abeles looks for responsibility and maturity. She wants a sitter who's somewhat of a calming force for the kids, someone who can maintain control, someone who does things with the children - not someone who's just talking on the phone. Although she acknowledges her children are responsible for cleaning up, she doesn't want to come home to a house that looks like it was hit by a tornado.

Stacey Abeles has a son who's only three years younger than Laura, a situation that can be delicate. But Laura handles it well, she says.

The children really like Laura, Abeles says. Sophie stops by Laura's house to give her sitter a hug every day on the way home from preschool.

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