Hiring a babysitter can be a whole difference experience than choosing a daycare for your children. Perhaps you are way overdue for a date night, or you have to work in the evenings, or you just want someone to watch your kids while you run some errands. A daycare provider will have a lot of structure and routine. But for an occasional babysitter in your home you may lean more towards a teenage babysitter. I personally try to always use family when we need to leave our kids, but not everyone has that luxury, especially if family doesn’t live close. We do, however, have the occasional time where we need to hire a babysitter. It’s funny how I remember being a 12 year old babysitter taking care of 3 kids, giving them all dinner and then baths, and it barely feeling like a challenge. Now, as a mom, the thought of leaving my kids alone with a 12 year old is terrifying, although finding the right person can help to ease that worry. Many teenagers can be very responsible, you just need to know the right questions to ask! Here are 14 questions that you should ask before hiring a babysitter:
14. What do you like about taking care of kids?
Sometimes babysitting can seem like a quick and easy way for someone to make money. Finding out what they like about kids and why they would want to babysit will give you an idea as to whether they are just in it for the money, or because they do actually enjoy kids. I always loved kids and being around them so that was my reason for always choosing babysitting.
It is okay to consider babysitting as a way to make money! However, if that’s the only reason they want to watch your kids, I would be concerned about how much they would actually interact with them and know how to handle certain situations.
13. Do you do any housework?
I’ve hired babysitters before who, after putting the kids to bed, will wash all the dishes and make sure the house is clean. It was amazing and I definitely hired them back! It wasn’t a requirement though (which is what also made her amazing).
If you want them to be cleaning up or doing any sort of housework, you may have to make it clear. It’s not always obvious to the babysitter that it is expected of them.
12. Do you require transportation?
We try to always hire a babysitter that is either a neighbor that can walk over, or that has access to a vehicle, whether it’s their own or their parents. A lot of times that we need a babysitter my husband and I are actually going to different places. So if one of us had to drive the babysitter home and we weren’t getting home at the same time, that becomes very inconvenient.
Make sure that you have a clear idea of whether they need a ride or not. Sometimes parents will drive their kids to babysitting jobs if needed, but you cannot expect that. You also want to make sure that your babysitter is not going to be hanging out with you for an hour after you get home because they are waiting to get picked up (unless your babysitter is really cool and you actually want to hang out with them).
11. What is your rate and does it vary depending on responsibilities?
Generally, the parent can choose what they will pay the babysitter, though sometimes babysitters may have a set rate and actually won’t babysit for less. We’ve really lucked out with our babysitters and they’ve always said they don’t have a rate, it’s just whatever we want to pay.
We tend to pay differently though based on what is required. Sometimes we will have all the kids ready in bed before leaving, so the babysitter is just sitting watching TV while we are gone. We would probably pay a bit less than if the sitter had to make dinner and do bedtime. Having an agreement on the rate ahead of time can help to alleviate an awkward situation if expectations were different.
10. What are your responsibilities at home?
Personally, I would not be comfortable hiring a babysitter who has no responsibilities at home. I would like to know that they contribute at home before trusting them to make my kids food and clean up after them. If they don’t know how to make their own dinner, how can I expect them to make dinner for my kids?
I think it also is a good indicator of their character. You want someone who is a good example to your children and also knows how to somewhat maintain a household.
9. Do you have a curfew?
This is really important to ask if you plan to be out late and are using a teenager under 18. Sometimes parents will allow their kids to be out later when they are babysitting. However, they may have a set time that they are required to be home.
If they are not sure if they need to be home by a certain time, it might be a good idea to touch base with their parents if they are under 18. I highly stress that you respect your sitter’s curfew. If they need to be home by 10, make sure you get home in time. You don’t want them making you late, so offer them the same courtesy and set a good example.
8. How do you handle emergencies?
Branching off of this question, you will want to know if they have any first aid training. If they do not have that training, what will they do in a medical emergency? Do they know when to call 911 and when to just put a bandaid on a scratch? The same can apply for dangerous situations, fires, or any other sort of emergency that could come up. Find out the steps they would take in each situation to ensure they know how to stay calm and handle it well.
Always help out your babysitter too by giving them all the information they would need in any scenario like phone numbers, medical history, and any other information that could be useful. A friend of mine as a teenager was babysitting when one of the kids had a seizure. She handled the situation perfectly, however the parents had not told her ahead of time that seizures were a regular occurrence for the child. Needless to say, that information would have been beneficial.
7. How will you handle disobedience and bad behavior?
How many of you remember being kids and thinking you can get away with anything when you have a babysitter? I always hoped the babysitter would tell my parents we were perfect angels, even when we really tested their limits. Will your babysitter be willing to handle these situations?
Let them know how you would usually handle disobedience so that they can be consistent with the kids. Giving them a specific example and asking them to walk you through how they would deal with it is a great way to get an idea of whether they could handle difficult scenarios.
6. Will you be inviting any friends over?
If you are not comfortable with this, make it very clear that they are not to have anyone over while you are out. They may assume that it’s not a problem to invite their friend or significant other over after kids are in bed. Trust me, it happens! It’s not inappropriate for you to ask if they are in a relationship and expecting a visit!
You want to trust that your sitter will follow your rules and not be distracted when they are watching your kids. You also want to ensure your babysitter won’t be doing anything you don’t want your kids to see! If you are fine with them having a friend over once kids are sleeping, let them know what you are comfortable with. We’ve allowed babysitters to invite friends over, but they were always friends that we knew.
5. Do you have a cell phone?
We are living in a time where a lot of people do not have landlines anymore and rely solely on their mobile devices. If this is the case, you will obviously want to confirm that your babysitter has a way to contact you and to make calls in an emergency.
If they do have their own cell phone, make sure that it is reliable and charged. If they do not have their own phone, then you will want to make sure you leave a phone with them. I would never leave a babysitter without a means of communication. You don’t want them to have to run next door to call 911!
4. Do you have any allergies?
You’ll obviously want to be aware of any life threatening allergies that your babysitter has. We’ve had a babysitter who is allergic to peanuts, so I would definitely try to make sure my kids aren’t covered in peanut butter when they answer the door! I also make sure the kids know they can’t have any nuts in that time and I clean up all dishes and countertops that could have peanut butter.
If they have any pet allergies, you may need to put a pet in a bedroom while they are over. Or perhaps allergies could be a deal breaker if you have a pet and they can’t be in a house with them. This also helps you be aware too of any medications or epi-pens your babysitter could have on them so your kids know not to touch them.
3. How old were the kids you have babysat before?
Getting some background from them on their previous experience is very helpful. If they are a first time babysitter, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker. You may just want to leave more detailed instructions and show them around.
If they’ve only ever babysat older kids you’ll want to be sure that they know how to, and are comfortable with, changing diapers. Babysitting an infant is very different from babysitting an 8 year old, so get a clear understanding of what their experience level matches your kids’ ages.
2. How will you entertain the kids?
My favorite babysitters I’ve hired have actually brought their own toys for the kids. It’s such a smart idea because my kids were thrilled and excited to have something new to play with. This is definitely not an expectation, but it’s bonus points in my books because it shows they have a plan for entertaining the kids.
If they are hoping to just sit your kids in front of the TV, you will catch that pretty quickly when they cannot answer this question. I also prefer high energy personalities that I know will be happy to sing and run around with my kids and not be annoyed by their energy.
1. Can you provide references?
References can be a great way to follow up on their previous experience. If you can get a reference for a family they have babysat for before, that is best. You can ask them specific questions about what they thought of the sitter. They may have great things to say about them and that will help with your comfort level.
If they have something negative to say ask them if that prevented them from continuing to use that sitter. If it’s something minor but they are still happy to hire them again, it may be something you can let go of too (for example, they didn’t wash the dishes after dinner). If they are a first time babysitter, ask for references from teachers, youth leaders, or any other reliable source that can speak to their character.