Baby-sitting isn't like shoveling snow or selling Girl Scout cookies or other common kid jobs. The responsibilities involved make it more like driving a car.

And just as with driving privileges, you want to make sure your child is ready to take on those responsibilities.How can you tell whether your child is ready? Remember that a sitter basically is a substitute parent, temporarily responsible for one or more children and the home in which those children live. How well your child handles things in her own home is the key.

"Are they responsible around the house?" asks Angie Flora, an instructor for Red Cross baby-sitting classes. "Can they follow a simple set of instructions: `When you come home from school, do your homework, then do the dishes.' If they can do those kinds of things without constant supervision," it's a good clue that they're mature enough to baby-sit.

Another important point, Flora said, is whether the child enjoys being with, and can get along with, other children. A potential sitter also shouldn't panic in a crisis but should "stay calm and think through what they need to do."

Being mature and cool-headed isn't enough. Specific skills from a good training course, such as those offered by the Red Cross, also are necessary.

Celeste Stuhring is the author of "Kid Sitter Basics: A Handbook for Babysitters." The book has everything from activity and snack ideas to safety guidelines to sample forms for budding sitters to list important information such as phone numbers, feeding times and bedtime rules.

Here are other signs that a child is ready to start baby-sitting:

- The child is comfortable talking to and dealing with adults outside the family.

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- She follows sound safety practices and generally makes good decisions at home.

- He can handle a younger child's temper tantrum without losing his own temper.

- She takes good phone messages and generally practices good telephone skills.

- A good way to find out whether a child will like baby-sitting is to accompany an older friend or family member who's sitting.

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