For some teen-agers, baby-sitting is the perfect job.
They get paid to go to someone else's house, eat someone else's food and play someone else's games.
However, teens today are taking baby-sitting seriously. A Safe Sitter class at Lawrence Memorial Hospital last week helped teach pre-teens baby-sitting skills that some of them will use throughout their lifetimes.
"I think quite a few of them will go on to use these skills," said Alva Skiles, a Safe Sitter instructor and LMH registered nurse.
Safe Sitter classes, which are nationally recognized and held about six times a year at LMH, teach aspiring baby sitters how to safely take care of children. Skiles said the classes teach a variety of skills, such as how to conduct rescue breathing; what to do when a child is choking; first aid; and how to handle disciplinary problems.
Learning the basics
Seventeen beginning baby sitters, mostly between the ages of 11 and 13, attended the two-day class. Students said they appreciated what they were learning.
"Now I feel like I know what to do if someone is choking," said Stefanie Stuever, an 11-year-old who attends Sunflower School.
She said she thought she would be able to save a child's life if it were necessary.
Travis Jacobsen, an 11-year-old Broken Arrow student, said he would not feel ready to baby-sit children younger than pre-school age until he has at least two years experience.
"(The instructors) taught us that, and I think it's a good opinion of theirs," Travis said.
He said most of what he has learned in the class concerns safety and disciplinary issues. He did not attend the class to learn how to play with children.
"I'm just going to play it (by ear)," he said. "I'll do whatever comes naturally. It's kind of fun usually."
Stefanie said she wanted to learn to be a good baby sitter so she could make a little bit of extra money.
"I'm trying to make money to go to Louisiana," she said.
Stefanie's friend, Logan Keasling, a 12-year-old Southwest Junior High student, said she looks forward to making her own money, too. She said her wage should depend on how many children she baby-sat and how long she was there.
Skiles said the average fee for young, inexperienced baby sitters was $2 per hour.
"At this age we tell them, 'Your responsibility is the children,'" Skiles said. "'You're not cleaning, you're not chauffeuring. You're watching the children.'"
Travis said baby-sitting will serve as his only income for a few years.
"Just until I get a job," he said.
Skiles said baby sitters' pay should reflect their age and how much work they do. An older baby sitter, Skiles said, should be paid more.
Tiffany Bode, a Kansas University junior, said she makes half of her income baby-sitting. She gets paid between $6.50 and $10 per hour.
"It probably has something to do with me being in college," she said. "(Parents) don't have to worry about me staying out too late. I have a more flexible schedule."
Bode said another reason she receives more pay than some junior high and high school students is she takes care of several children with special needs.
"Parents have said (younger baby sitters) get a little apprehensive or intimidated," she said.
Bode has been trained in CPR and first aid, and this skill is important to some parents. Skiles said some parents worry less about the safety of their children when their baby sitter has taken classes that teach these skills.
"They are much more marketable than somebody who just shows up," Skiles said.
Bode said she took a baby-sitting class in high school, but she baby-sits much more in college than she did then.
"This has been the most hard-core baby-sitting I've ever done," she said.
Bode said the only negative aspect of baby-sitting is jobs don't always come on a regular basis.
"It's not something you can rely on to pay bills," she said.
Still, Bode gets paid well when she baby-sits, and she thinks she should because baby-sitting is an important job.
"I don't think it's fair that I could go flip burgers at McDonald's and get the same amount of money to watch somebody's kids," she said.