I am not a professional babysitter and the only occasions when am doing it is for free, for helping friends and relatives to go through their busy days with the little ones. From time to time I was faced with some difficult situations that made me think a little bit more about what can I do the next time in order to be more successful.
After a couple of experiences of this kind, with many ups and downs, I set up a short list of 5 tips that I wish I knew it before.
1. Have a plan
Regardless how spontaneous the invitation to babysit was addressed, take your time to prepare a couple of activities that you would like to do with the little one(s). It could be a walk in the park, followed by checking the homeworks, maybe a little walk by bike and some games. If your task is limited - such as taking the kid to and from a hobby class, it is easier but still, there can be a couple of challenges especially if you are dealing with children that are not used with your presence or not necessarily keen to see you.
2. Be patient
It doesn't matter what it happens, please be patient. Never forget that you are the adult and you should offer a sample of authority. Children are difficult for various reasons: separate parents, parents too busy to share their attention, lack of adaptation in the classroom, various health challenges. When they react in a violent way they don't necessarily have something against you as a person, but they are trying to get rid of all the tensions accumulated. As they often might feel deterred by the familiar presence of a relative, you, the outsider can be the perfect victim of their frustration. Wait till the storm is gone and never lose your temper.
3. Don't take sides
When you have to babysit kids closed in age, expect some little fights as well. If yourself grew up alone or without siblings with 2 or three ages younger or older, you might be surprised even shocked. But this is life and those fights are part of the usual competition and establishment of status. When they are fighting, your role is to be careful that they don't harm, but never try to lecture them when they are in the middle of the boxing. Wait till they calm down and try to bring them together with a game or a play. You will be surprised how easily they are playing together as nothing happened.
4. Play! Play! Play!
Children are playing, isn't it? Get into their games and keep them as much as possible busy in the world of creativity. Find out from the parents what are their favourite games and what they love to do. Try to keep talking with them while letting them speak their mind. If the weather is fine, bring them in the park or do some activities outside. If they are very active, they will use their energies for some activities that soon will bring them a very good sleep.
5. Watch a movie together
I am not a fan of TV at home, but we know how to properly use the Internet for the choice of our programs and movies to watch. Check if the movie you are about to watch is appropriate from the point of view of the language and ask the parents if they agree with your initiative, and get ready. With or without popcorn, the movie - or cartoon - can keep the children busy. Be sure that the movie is not too long, as they might get bored.
All being said, good luck! And remember, difficult children are not because they want to, but this is how they react to hostile and complicated environment. Try to avoid being critical and rather focus on how you can help them to get better.