There’s an old adage that warns Hollywood performers against working with animals and children. Luckily, you (presumably) are not a world-famous actor or actress, and so this warning does not apply to you.

A willingness to work with kids opens up a wide range of job opportunities: childcare, babysitting, swimming teaching, sports coaching, education, retail, and transport can all involve contact – either fleeting or ongoing – with young’uns. It takes a special type of person to put up with children that are not your own for any length of time. Are you up to the task?

Enthusiasm

working-with-kids-babysitterIn order to work with children, you need to be unflappable. All emotions exhibited by the kids – excitement, worry, trepidation, anger – must be met with calm confidence.

That’s not to say that you can’t be fun, too. Exhibiting enthusiasm will help you to connect with children, and help them to remain invested in the task at hand – perhaps running a relay, or painting a picture. But when the time comes, you also need to be able to convince them to knuckle down and concentrate.

Clued-in kids will attempt to push your buttons, being deliberately boisterous and trying to gee up their peers. In times like this, try to radiate a sense of subdued, but ever-present preparedness. You need to expect the unexpected. Warning: occasionally, this can extend to unpleasant bodily fluids.

The application process

When you secure an interview for a job involving children, you need to demonstrate your previous experience with them. You could cite looking after cousins (or your own kids), conducting local baby-sitting, a week of work experience at the local day-care centre, or even helping out some kids in the playground at school as examples of your understanding of just how kids tick.

Understandably, working with children will require you to jump through a few hoops initially. You can expect national police background checks and other children-specific research to be conducted by your prospective employer, to ensure that everything is ship-shape. Generally this will require the filling out of a few basic forms, and a bit of waiting. But if you’re particularly keen to jump the queue for some steps of the process, Australian police clearance checks can be done in advance. Sources such as www.nationalcrimecheck.com.au will verify your clean slate, and hopefully get you to work sooner!

To yell, or not to yell?Coach with team of children playing soccer

Almost inherently, children are disobedient. They’ll test your limits, especially initially, to see what they can get away with.  Decide on what sort of teacher/mentor/coach you want to be early in the piece – laid-back, strict, or funny?

When challenges arise, and the children you’re working with refuse to obey instructions, there are a number of options available to you. Ideally, the soft sell is the best solution; slowly convince your kids that it’s in their best interests to follow your instructions. An alternative involves threats; claiming that parents will be called, games will be skipped, and extra laps will be run should disobedience continue.

Yelling should be a last resort. In fact, if possible, it should be avoided altogether wherever possible. If your group charges refuse to cooperate, even after warnings, isolate the perpetrator of bad behaviour – there is usually a ring-leader. Ask them to think about their actions, and give them time to reflect. If the naughtiness continues, get in contact with the parent, and remind them that the child’s behaviour is  their responsibility – not yours.

Odd hours

Working with kids rarely involves a standard 9-5 day. If you’re a swimming teacher, you’ll be busy from 9-12, and then 3-6. If you undertake baby-sitting, block out night-times. Be aware of these abnormal, sometimes frustrating and disruptive working times before you commit to working with kids. If you’re happy to sacrifice early mornings and evenings out for the good of the next generation, you should be congratulated. You’re doing very important work.

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