What to Look for in a Babysitter

When it comes to caring for your kids and finding the time to get out every once in a while, a good babysitter can be a lifesaver. As moms, we know trusting someone with our children isn’t easy. In order to truly unwind and relax at dinner or that movie you’ve been dying to see, finding just the right person for the job is a must. Here are a few traits to look for while on the hunt for a babysitter who will give you peace of mind that the kids are alright.

Dependability

There are a lot of qualities a babysitter should possess, but perhaps being reliable is the most important one. After all, what good is a sitter if she takes the job and then cancels on you at the last minute? Your go-to sitter should show up on time and only turn you down on occasion. If you’re personable enough with her, she may even be willing to move around her plans for you the next time you need her.

Responsibility

Kids do the darndest things like telling the sitter it’s okay if they go across the street to hang out with their friends or jumping on the couch while munching potato chips. A good babysitter is able to make judgement calls and glean when the little ones are stretching the truth about what they are normally allowed to do. Whoever you hire should also be responsible enough to keep everyone’s safety and household delicate objects in mind while caring for your children.

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Politeness

It should go without saying that the person who watches over your kids should model ideal behavior and good hygiene. Save the whole family and let the sitter with the persistent cough off the hook for the night. Make sure your sitter is also dressed appropriately and looks presentable for young people. Manners like saying thank you, you’re welcome, and regular hand washing will go a long way in providing a positive role model for your children to look up to.

Work Ethic

Going out is only fun if you don’t have a messy house to come home to. Therefore, it’s ideal if the babysitter takes the initiative to clean up while the kids are asleep, pitches in by cooking dinner, tends to any pets you have, or helps with homework.

Passion for the Job

A good indication you have a fabulous babysitter? Your kids are excited to have her come over. Your caregiver should genuinely enjoy spending time with your children and want to interact with them rather than plopping them in front of a TV or tablet to keep them occupied. If she brings treats or activities to do such as board games and craft projects, you know you’ve got the real deal.

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Experience

A basic understanding of child development is paramount in determining what activities and television programs are age-appropriate choices. Depending on the age of your children, your babysitter should also know how to change a diaper, feed little ones, bathe and dress them, put them to bed, carry them around, etc. If she doesn’t have previous caregiving experience, she should have at least taken care of siblings or family members at one point or another.

Starting the Search

When searching for a sitter, it helps to ask around at church for recommendations. You can also hire a babysitter who coworkers, friends, or family members have used. You’ll feel more comfortable if it’s someone you at least know within a few degrees. However, the benefit of going through an agency when finding someone to watch over your little ones is the ability to run a search resulting in only people who are certified in child safety and health. Most agencies will also run a basic background check and let you read previous parent reviews to help you determine who is the best fit for your family.

When interviewing potential sitters, don’t be afraid to obtain more than a few references that you can personally follow up with. Go the extra step and ensure the information the applicant has given you is correct by asking references specific questions about how the sitter performed on the job in the past, what the job entailed, and if they would hire her again. A CPR or First Aid certification is a major bonus, so be sure to inquire about getting a copy of the applicant’s most updated training certificate if they have one. Additionally, perusing the potential sitter’s social media accounts for any red flags can save you the time of sitting down with someone who is not a suitable candidate.

Setting the Rules

Once you have made the rules clear, whether it’s a limit on sweets or screen time, you’ll want a sitter who will uphold your expectations and parenting methods without exception. This includes the ability to discipline appropriately and in a manner in which you are comfortable with. Offering alternatives, removing particular troublesome objects, utilizing time-outs and even writing an apology letter are all appropriate ways to discipline without touch.

A great way to determine if your babysitter is capable of handling certain situations is to ask her a series of “what-if” problem-solving questions. Present hypothetical challenges such as using cloth diapers, being aware of media consumption, or sticking to dietary restrictions and see how she responds. If the sitter bulks at the thought of doing a few loads of laundry when changing a diaper and is unwilling to serve soy or almond milk, chances are she’s not for you. Ideally, her answers should reflect an open mind and willingness to comply with your child’s normal routine.

 

 

Communication

Should any problems arise in which your babysitter feels unsure about handling, you’ll want someone who isn’t afraid to contact you or ask questions. That being said, you also don’t want your phone pinging at you all night. A sitter should know when to say something and when to tackle it herself. In general, honesty about what occurs while you’re out is always helpful for those of us raising tiny humans.

Spare No Cheddar

Remember that you get what you pay for. While it’s tempting to run for the hills in terms of a pricy babysitter, it’s likely she is worth the price. We also know it doesn’t hurt to have a good backup on hand and to ask around for the going rate in the area.

Additionally, if using a nanny cam will help you get out the door without too much hesitation, don’t beat yourself up about installing one. Just make sure you’re up to date on the laws for using them, as several states will only allow you to record in certain rooms of the house and allow video recordings, but no audio.

Last but not least, remember to have FUN. After all, that’s what doing all this legwork is about: being able to go out and get some “me time” while knowing your kids are in good hands.

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