Every parent has been there. You’re ready for a Friday date night with your spouse, but your go-to babysitter is already booked. Or you’ve just moved into a new ward and need to find someone new. Now, you’ve got to find a babysitter.
Finding a babysitter with whom you feel comfortable leaving your kids can be a tall task. Sometimes a potential sitter may act one way around you and then act another once you’re gone.
My husband and I once left our kids with a sitter who we thought would do an excellent job with our kids. She had been respectful and kind during the interview process.
We happened to come home earlier than planned that night to discover that she was allowing our kids to watch a movie that simply wasn’t age-appropriate for them.
For me, it was a huge eye opener, and it made me really consider what qualities to look for to assess a potential sitter’s true character. Here are a few of the qualities I put on the list:
Are They Trustworthy and Responsible?
In my opinion being trustworthy and responsible go hand in hand, and they’re two of the first qualities I look for in a potential sitter.
As Care.com notes, parents want sitters who can make good decisions when their children are in the sitter’s care. And part of that knowledge comes from knowing whether the sitter can be trusted in other areas.
For example, does she show up on time? Does she stay off her cell phone while she’s watching the kids? These are two ways you can gauge whether the sitter is responsible and can be trusted with your kids.
There are a few questions you can ask a potential sitter to find out how trustworthy and responsible she is.
For example, “What do you do if a child doesn’t want to go to bed at their regular bedtime?” or “How would you handle it if a stranger showed up at our door while our children are in your care?”
Do They Put Safety First?
One way you’ll know if the sitter puts safety first is if she’s CPR and first aid certified. You could also quiz her on when it’s okay to use her cell phone or how much supervision the kids should have when they’re in the pool.
Make sure the sitter knows how to handle emergency situations. Ask her what steps she would take if one of your children is injured.
Use this great piece about pool safety advice for babysitters as a source of possible questions to use as you gauge your sitter’s safety knowledge.
And remember, there is absolutely no shame in asking a sitter to show you her CPR or first aid certification. Check the date. Make sure her certification hasn’t expired. If she keeps it up to date, that’s also another sign that she’s responsible.
Will They Respect Your Rules & Wishes?
It’s important that your babysitter enforces the rules you have for your children and also respects your wishes for how to handle certain situations while they’re under her care.
As this article from FindaBabysitter.com notes, one way you can assess whether a sitter will be respectful of your rules and wishes is whether she asks about them during the interview process.
For example, she might ask you about dietary restrictions, off-limits TV shows, and computer games, etc., without you having to open the subject.
As I mentioned, one of our past sitters allowed our kids to watch a movie that should have been an obvious no-go. So, this became an area of focus for us when we began looking for another sitter.
Of course, not everyone will think the same things are inappropriate. So, now in the interview process, I list different movies and TV shows to gauge whether the candidate thinks they’re appropriate for children.
Are They Genuinely Interested in Your Kids?
Some sitters may be more interested in their paycheck than in your children. For your kids to feel cared for and nurtured when you’re away, it’s important to have a sitter who truly enjoys being around children.
As About.com explains, one way you can see this exhibited is if the babysitter is receptive to what the kids want to do and to their likes and dislikes when it comes to food.
During the interview, ask the potential sitter what kinds of activities she likes to do with children when they’re in her care. Are her suggestions active and engaging? Or does she usually just sit them in front of the TV?
Were They Recommended by Another Parent?
Narrow down your list of potential sitters by asking other parents. As TheBump.com notes, when you ask others for recommendations, it can help you find a great fit more quickly.
The article also notes that speaking with parents who’ve already used the sitter gives you the opportunity to find out more about her from a third party.
As the article recommends, ask as many questions as possible before you reach out to the potential sitter. Find out about her background, her parents, how long she sat for the family, etc.
Do Your Children Respond Well to Them?
If you’re considering hiring a sitter, have her do a couple test runs with your kids while you’re at home. Have her watch them while you take care of tasks around the house.
Then, prior to her coming over for a second time, gauge your child’s response. As TheStir.CafeMom.com notes, “children have a built-in radar when it comes to caregivers.”
If your child is excited about spending more time with the sitter, that’s certainly a good sign. If your child is reluctant to be around her or withdrawn in her presence, it might be best to continue your search.
Do They Mind if You Use a Nanny Cam?
This article from the Denver Post provides great advice on how to find a babysitter you can trust.
Near the end of the article, one mother says that in the interview process she tells potential babysitters that she uses a nanny cam.
She goes on to make the point that if they’re trustworthy and good at their job this won’t be a problem for them. If a potential sitter balks at the use of a nanny cam, it could be a red flag.
Of course, this list of qualities could go on and on. But I’ve found that these provide a good foundation.
Usually where these qualities are present, other great qualities are there as well. I used these assessments when vetting our new babysitter and so far, things are going great.