Hiring A Babysitter
What should I pay a
- Ask other parents in your neighborhood, coworkers, and friends
what they typically pay.
- Young adolescents who have just started babysitting will
probably charge at the lower end of the average for your community.
You should pay more to an older teen with babysitting experience.
Teens who have taken a babysitting preparation course, such as Safe
Sitter®, usually charge more as well.
How do I find a
- Be selective! (Allow yourself adequate lead time to be
selective when finding a sitter. Start the search early enough to
allow time for a personal interview.)
- Look for a babysitter within your circle of friends or
community - an adult with whom you are connected in some manner,
such as a co-worker, your pastor or rabbi, or a neighbor with young
children. (This can actually prove to be a problem if sitters are
scarce and the neighbor sees you as potential competition.)
- Always screen possible sitters by a phone interview and follow
up on likely sitters by checking references.
What should I look
for in a sitter?
- Your sitter must:
- Like children
- Be trustworthy
- Be able to keep themselves and your child safe
- Have the attention span to actively watch and entertain your
- Have the patience to handle difficult behavior such as whining
- Be able to stay calm in an emergency
- Be competent in rescue skills such as care of the choking
- Know when to ask for help
- Be willing to accept responsibility for your child's life
- When interviewing a prospective sitter on the telephone,
present the basic facts, such as number and ages of your children,
your address, any special issues, transportation, pets, etc.
- Ask the sitter's age and babysitting experience with children
the same age as your child. We teach our students not to babysit
for infants less than six months of age until they've had at least
two years experience.
- Ask the sitter about training in rescue of the choking infant
- Go over your expectations stressing that your first priority is
to keep your child safe and happily entertained. Go over "pet
peeves" or restrictions.
- Present a few "what if" scenarios to determine how the sitter
would handle them. For example, for a toddler, you might ask about
handling a child who cries when parents leave, a child who refuses
to go to bed, or a child with a nosebleed.
- Ask the sitter about his/her usual fee. Negotiate a fair fee
prior to the job.
- If possible, schedule a pre-job personal interview to check out
your "gut response" to the sitter.
What training should
my babysitter have?
- Ask if the prospective sitter has taken a babysitting
preparation course, such as Safe Sitter®. Check to see
that the sitter learned how to rescue a choking infant or child,
basic first aid, and how to call for help in an emergency. It is as
important to know rescue skills as it is to know how to care for a
- If your prospective sitter has not taken a babysitting
preparation course, find out if a course is offered at your local
hospital, YMCA, health department, nearby church, etc. Offer to pay
a portion of the class fee to encourage the sitter's
- If a course is not available in your area, you will need to
spend time teaching the sitter how to care for your children
(including behavior management), how to keep the sitter and your
children safe in your home, your expectations for the sitter, how
the sitter can contact you (and a nearby adult who will be
available) while you are out, your house rules, etc. You may want
to suggest your sitter take a first aid course and a CPR course to
learn what to do if your child chokes. (Ten Tips for Safe
How should I check
references of a sitter?
- When you hire a babysitter, you are hiring a person you are
willing to trust with the responsibility for your child's life. Do
not hire a sitter if you cannot check references! (Do not hire a
stranger, even if they took a babysitting preparation class.)
- Call the person who gave you the sitter's name and ask
- Put the person at ease about your motives. Ask for general
information. If the person has actually used the sitter, ask for
the ages of the children, the frequency of sitting, and the usual
length of the job.
- Explain your situation, such as the ages of your children,
frequency of sitting needed, and special considerations.
- Ask specific questions, such as
- Do your children like the sitter?
- Did the sitter follow the house rules?
- Has there ever been an unpleasant incident?
- Is there anything else you need to know?
- Pay attention to your instincts about trustworthiness and fit
with your children.
should my babysitter know before I leave?
- It takes time to orient a new babysitter to your home,
children, and your children's routines. Allow 30-45 minutes for
orientation before you go out or at some convenient time prior to
the babysitting job.
- Review how to care for your children, such as feeding, naptime,
and bedtime routines (with times).
- Discuss how you want your baby picked up, held, fed, and
- Write out instructions for warming foods and bottles.
- Discuss your baby's pacifier, blanket, or comfort toy.
- Be clear about parenting policies: Should sitter pick up baby
anytime the baby cries? What if baby won't fall asleep? How to
handle problem behavior for older children?
- Show the babysitter where you keep the diapers, clothing,
bottles, formula, food, and snacks.
- Discuss any special conditions or medication that the sitter
needs to know. Be sure to write down instructions for medications -
how much, how often, and how to give. Make sure medications are out
of the reach of your children.
- Discuss the rules the use of the telephone, television,
computer, snacks, and visitors.
- Be clear that smoking or alcohol is never allowed.
- Leave list of emergency numbers next to your phone. Include the
telephone number for emergency services (fire, ambulance, police),
a phone number for an immediately available adult, and the Poison
Center 1-800-222-1222). Include your home telephone number and
address with clear directions on how to locate your house.
- Be sure to tell your sitter where you can be reached and when
you will return home. If a pager is being used, leave instructions
for how the pager works.
- Take the babysitter on a tour of your house to locate all
entrances and exits, fire/burglar alarms, first aid supplies,
flashlights, and off-limits areas.
- Discuss what to do in case of fire - escape route, where to go
call for help, and any escape routines you may have practiced with
- Be sure your sitter knows what to do if there is an emergency.
Always have first aid supplies and a first aid chart available for
easy reference. (A first aid chart may be obtained from the
American Academy of Pediatrics by calling 1-800-433-9016.)
- Once you have oriented a new sitter, subsequent pre-departure
briefings will take less time. You should allow 15-20 minutes each
visit. Not only does that allow you to give last minute specific
instructions, but it also gives your child a chance to adjust to
your departure and warm up to the babysitter.
What should I do to
keep my children and the sitter safe while I'm gone?
- Be sure you leave the telephone number of where you can be
reached, and the emergency telephone numbers (fire, ambulance, and
- Identify a nearby, available neighbor or adult for the sitter
to call if necessary.
- Keep a first aid chart on hand.
- Lock all the doors and all the windows on the way out.
- Close your curtains and blinds.
- Do not make arrangements for deliveries while you are
What can I do to
ensure the babysitting job runs smoothly?
- Minimize unpleasant tasks - have your children fed and dressed
in their pajamas.
- Eliminate any unsafe tasks - don't ask your sitter to cook a
meal or give your child a bath. We teach our students to not cook,
give baths, or make popcorn while babysitting.
- Leave teenage food for the sitter - this keeps the sitter from
going through the refrigerator and makes the sitter feel
- Provide a special treat or snack for your own children while
you are away.
- Model good behavior - be home on time. This shows respect for
the sitter's time as well as preventing the sitter's parents from
worrying about them. Usually 15 minutes is an appropriate leeway.
Call your sitter if you are running more than 15 minutes late.
- Be sure to give clear instructions before you leave. Allow time
for preparation - do not run out the door. This also allows time
for your own children to settle down before you leave.
How can I find out
how things went?
- At the end of the babysitting job, ask the sitter how things
went, especially bedtime and any problem behavior.
- If any problems occurred, tactfully correct mistakes. Be firm
while reinforcing the rules and rationale for the rules.
- If you discover any unacceptable behavior in the sitter such as
alcohol, friends visit, etc., call the parents of the sitter. This
helps the teen become more responsible and calls attention to their
behavior. (Don't just not hire the sitter again - help them to see
it was unacceptable behavior.)
What should I do if I
have to cancel a sitter?
- To set a good example as an employer for an impressionable
adolescent, try only to cancel if absolutely necessary.
- If you must cancel, cancel as early as possible to allow the
teen to make other arrangements for that time period.
- Please give a minimum token of one hour's pay to show that you
value the sitter's time.