Recently, my husband and I had a work event to attend. The problem was the date and time ~ weekend and early morning through the afternoon. We are older parents without a base of babysitters to turn to… what is a parent to do? I asked my cousin ,Deanna, a nanny to two children, for questions to ask strangers who might be potential babysitters, red flags to look for, etc.

Questions To Ask The Babysitter:

  • What is the person’s availability and how flexible can the person be in his/her schedule? Reason for this question: The parent needs to know the babysitter won’t just up and leave if the parent gets caught in traffic or if there’s an emergency.
  • What is his/her rate? Logical question of course. I suggest shopping around and asking different people. There are calculators online that can tell the average for a particular area for babysitting as well.
  • Ask for two to three references. My husband said, “I heard on the radio that you not only ask for references, but you add, “When I call your references, am I going to find out something you don’t want me to know?”
  • What is the longest time period he/she has watched a child for? Some babysitters only have experience watching a child for an hour or so. If you need a sitter for a longer period of time, how will a babysitter handle a melt down, a bored child, a tired child..
  • What age ranges does the person have experience with? Finding a match to your child’s age is a big plus.
  • What age range does the baby sitter prefer and why? Deanna said, “I personally prefer children who are kindergarten aged (5) or below. I love those years because that’s when the child is taking in the most about the world around them. They’re little sponges soaking it up, and I love being able to experience all these new things with them. This is also when they still like to learn, and I have so much fun coming up with projects that are educational and fun!” Knowing that your babysitter is interested in educational skills and enjoys the age is important. As a parent, I want someone watching my son to enjoy the time with him, not finding him a burden.
  • What activities does the babysitter like to do with kids? As a parent, I don’t want my son stuck in front of the television. Some television time is okay, but my son is a highly active little boy and a good match for him will be someone who likes to take him outside for a walk, play on the swing, blow bubbles, etc.
  • How does the babysitter handle temper tantrums or bad behavior? When my husband and I interviewed a babysitter, she asked us how we disciplined our son. We raise our voice, but we don’t slap or spank. We wanted to make sure that the person watching our child was on the same page as us. Deanna had an excellent response to this question, “My first priority in the case of a temper tantrum is finding out what’s really causing it. Most of the time kids are screaming about something other than what’s actually bothering them, because that’s what they can express, not the deeper emotions. I pull the child aside, to a quiet area, and just talk to them about what’s going on; I ask open ended questions to guide them towards understanding what’s bothering them.”
  • How is the babysitter at following and sticking to a routine laid out for the child? I agree with Deanna that children respond well to routines. If playtime or lunch or naptime is at a particular time, can the babysitter adhere to this? For Deanna’s charge, she made a felt board that both she and the child updated daily. This way, the little girl knew what was going to happen that day and when to expect it. This made the day go smoothly.
  • Has the babysitter ever had to deal with an emergency situation and how did they handle it? Ever had to take a child to the doctor’s office? The question then needs to be asked, how will the parent handle this – meet the babysitter at the hospital (based on emergency) or only parent the brings the child to the doctor. It’s the issue of immediate emergency versus planned appointment. Also, ask if the babysitter has reliable transportation in case of emergencies.
  • Is the babysitter certified in first aid/CPR? If they say yes, ask for the certification. Deanna believes the only way to truly be prepared for an emergency is to get the training. Deanna is First aid/CPR/AED certified for all ages, through the American Heart Association.
  • Does the babysitter have any hobbies that can enrich the child’s life? Deanna loves to knit, arts and crafts, cooking, being around nature and listening to music. All of those things are a plus in a babysitter. What if your child is taking singing lessons, will the babysitter enjoy listening and participating? The baby sitter we interviewed mentioned how she was a Tom Boy growing up and I thought, “Excellent! My boy is a rough and tumble dude; I could tell she was comfortable with this.”
  • Why has the person chosen babysitting? Is it just for extra money; need a job; truly enjoy working with children.
  • What does the person dislike about past babysitting experiences? Deanna had an interesting answer: “I dislike being treated like “the help” when I’m entrusted with a child’s life. I dislike inflexibility when it comes to activities I do with children. I dislike when the child and I are expecting one thing and the family suddenly changes things on us with no warning. I’m flexible, but I need to be prepared as well.”
  • Is the babysitter up to date on immunizations?  If my child has to be up on his immunizations, I expect the babysitter to take the same responsibility.
  • Is the babysitter allergic to pets? We have a cat. Our family needs someone who won’t break out or eyes swell and tear up whenever the cat is around. But as Deanna wrote, “I am ok with all kinds of pets. However, unless you are paying me extra to care for your pet, my sole responsibility is the child, so please don’t ask me to take the dog out unless it’s an emergency.”
  • What is the childcare philosophy? This should match with the family. The babysitter is there to ensure a child’s safety and well-being, as well as educator. While the parents are away, the babysitter is the provider and must be of similar philosophies for the paring of parent and babysitter to work well.
  • What is the baby sitter willing to do? Such as change diapers, give the child a bath, play outside, etc.

Deanna also suggested that the parents have a clear understanding of their wishes and expectations. To make the babysitting experience successful, “Help your child get comfortable with me being around. Don’t make you leaving the house into a big deal. Don’t undermine my authority when you’re not home, but also don’t put all of the disciplinary responsibility on me. Keep me informed. Let me know upfront if there’s something you want me to change and let me know if you like the way I do certain things; if I don’t know what you want, I’ll just do what seems right to me.”

Red Flags To Look For When Hiring A Babysitter 

  • Faking experience when you call to check out the references.
  • Being uncomfortable around the child.
  • Not showing up on time.
  • If the babysitter already has a full schedule, the person may not be flexible.
  • Lack of respect and creativity.

Do you have a list of questions that you ask your sitters?

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