Hiring a babysitter is potentially one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make. How do you choose a great babysitter? Who can you trust? Should the grandparents always be the first call, or do you reserve them for last resort? At what age do you even leave the baby with a sitter? Here are 10 babysitting tips to help you make wise choices.
1. Learn who you can trust.
Would you take your child to a so-called “doctor” who doesn’t have medical school training? Would you drive your child to the store without being in the proper restraints? Then why would you hire a babysitter who has no experience or proven track record? You obviously want to keep your child safe. Before agreeing to hire the teenager down the street to come into your home and watch your kids, spend time interviewing her. Ask some questions, such as:
Have you babysat or had experience caring for children?
Would you mind if I contacted other parents for a reference?
How do you play/interact with children (games, crafts, etc.)?
How do you respond when a child doesn’t obey you?
What would you do if a child was hurt while in your care?
How would you handle a disagreement between the kids?
2. Look for a sitter that is CPR and first-aid certified.
Even though you are likely only leaving your child with this person for a few hours, anything can happen. The American Red Cross and SafeSitter offer training courses for young people who want to become babysitters. If you have identified a potential babysitter that you would love to hire on a regular basis but she doesn’t have certification, consider bartering with her where you pay for the course and she watches your children in exchange for the cost of the course. It’s that important. By the way, mom and dad, you should have infant/child CPR training, too.
3. Very young babies should not be left alone with young children.
Personally, I would not leave a baby younger than three months with anyone younger than 16, and not even at that age if she hasn’t been thoroughly vetted. Of course, parents will have varying opinions on this one particularly, so make sure you have thoroughly considered your options before making a decision.
4. Do not hire a boy to babysit your daughter (I’m not referring to siblings).
No matter how much we respected and trusted a boy or loved his family, we did not ever hire a boy to stay with our daughters. We would change our plans before we did that.
5. Consider asking family.
If your parents or other family members live close by, chances are they would love to babysit your children from time to time. But, be cautious in using only them! Talk with your parents and family about how often and when they would prefer to take the kids. Come to a mutual agreement so that no one gets frustrated or feels taken advantage of. In our family, we have agreed that our daughter may call us to babysit, but we reserve the right to say no, for any reason, without offending her.
6. In the vast majority of cases, it’s best for the babysitter to come to your home.
Everything the kids need is already there. Your house is already baby-proof. On the rare occasions when you do take the children to the sitter’s house, don’t be shy about making sure their house is ready for young children. All chemicals, firearms, etc. are safely stored and valuable items are out of reach. Ask about pets, especially if your child is allergic or fearful. Take food and beverages for your kids to the sitter’s house and state they are to consume only those items unless the sitter asks permission about other items first.
7. Emergency contact list.
Make a list of phone numbers for the sitter to call in the event of an emergency and have it posted where she can see it. Assure her it’s ok to call you even if she just has some questions about the children.
8. Make a list of instructions.
Include food preferences and foods to avoid, bed/nap times and routines, and disciplinary measures she is permitted to take. Include other items that may be needed for special needs or that you think would be helpful for her time with the kids (favorite blanket, location of extra pacifiers, etc.).
If your babysitter isn’t driving herself, the best practices are for either the babysitter’s parent to bring her to your house and then pick her up to go back home, or for the mom of the children to transport the female sitter.
10. Pay them well.
You are entrusting them with the lives of your children. If you can’t afford to pay a sitter appropriately, consider bartering. My oldest daughter babysat her vocal coach’s child in exchange for voice lessons. Get creative! Come up with mutually beneficial means of compensation.
Perhaps your daughter is approaching her teenage years and is considering babysitting as a part time job. Talk through these steps with her. Help her to understand what parents expect from a sitter. She could also gain some experience by volunteering in a church nursery or watching kids at an event at your home. Give her the opportunity to help with babies and small children in the family or close friends with you or their parents present as well. Be honest, too. If you don’t believe that your daughter is responsible enough to babysit, then encourage her to consider growth in that area. Explain to her that babysitting means being responsible for the child’s health and wellbeing for those few hours, and that is too huge to treat lightly.
It’s funny to me to see how my grandsons respond when they find out their parents have hired a particular babysitter. She is a college graduate that our family has known since she was about 10 years old. She has been babysitting for years and loves children. The boys are always happy when they know Miss April is going to take care of them! You and your children can develop a great relationship with your babysitter, too, but finding the right one takes diligence. Finding a great babysitter will help your children learn trust and create fun memories for them, as well as give you peace of mind when leaving your little ones in her care.
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