Choosing the Right Sitter

As most parents know, finding a babysitter for your daughter can be a challenge. Regardless of her age, parents often feel anxious about leaving their child in the hands of another. Questions often arise such as: How can I tell what sitter is right for my daughter? How much should I pay? And, will my child be safe with whomever I leave her with?

Often, parents wonder if a truly “great sitter” is possible to find. The truth is that there are lots of smart, energetic, fun, sitters out there, you just have to know where to look.  Try these sure-fire babysitter tips to help you on your quest for a night off.

Find the Right Sitter:

  • Network. The best way to find a qualified babysitter is usually through people you know. Ask neighbors, coworkers, friends, and members of your church for recommendations.  If you belong to an organization, such as the PTA, that can also be a great place to start. Be sure to target people in your network who have children around the same age as yours.
  • Conduct an interview. Once you identify a few potential sitters, call or meet with them. While this next step can be time-consuming, it is very important. After all, you are interviewing someone for the job of “watching your child” which requires a tremendous amount of trust. During the interview, you may want to ask questions such as:
  • Do you feel comfortable enforcing rules like bedtime, chores, and curfew?
  • Is one of your parents available in the event of an emergency?
  • Will you play with and watch my child while she is awake?
  • Do you have your own transportation?
  • Are you CPR or first aid certified (also, do you work with children requiring ‘special needs’ if applicable)?
  • What do you charge per hour?
  • Invite the babysitter over before the “big night.”  Invite the sitter over for a few minutes to see how he or she interacts with your daughter before you hire them. Often, you can tell a lot based on careful observation and how they interact with your child.
  • Boys vs. Girl sitters. In the babysitting industry, there tends to be a bias toward hiring female sitters. But, be aware that responsible males can also make great babysitters – especially if you have boys.

When the Big Night Arrives:

  • Get organized. Prepare an information list for the sitter with items such as: where you can be reached; cell phone number, address, police; a neighbor that can be contacted in the case of an emergency; time you expect to be home; bedtime rules; special snacks or other requests for your children.
  • Discuss expectations. Make sure your sitter knows exactly what you expect from him or her. It’s important to lay out any “ground rules” that you have such as “no friends over while I am gone (that includes boyfriends or girlfriends). Remember, while most sitters are responsible, there are those who will try to take advantage of certain situations. It’s better to lay out your rules ahead of time than risk the unknown.
  • Take a tour. Provide the sitter with a brief synopsis of information he or she will need for the evening. It might be helpful to give your sitter a brief tour of your home and to show them where to find things like flashlights, batteries, and first aid supplies. You should also tell them where your children’s clothing can be found; go over any homework that will need to be completed; and expectations about answering the door or telephone while you are away.
  • Determine the “cost factor.” Make sure you have agreed on an amount during the interview process. Rates vary based on degree of expertise, your expectations (will the sitter spend the night, clean for you, etc.), and even the state you live in (some states have a higher cost of living factored into the charge).

The average going rate per hour is usually between $5 – $15. The best way to determine a fair price is to ask around your network. Friends and neighbors will be able to give you a ballpark range that you can communicate to the sitter. In addition, if the sitter does an exceptional job, be sure to tip him or her. This will ensure that they will say “Yes” to you next time you call to request their service.

  • Remember to have fun. All of the stress of finding and hiring a sitter often has parents “worrying” while they are away instead of “enjoying” their time without their children. Bringing a cell phone to check-in from time to time is fine (especially if you have small children) but don’t forget to have fun!
  • Chat with your child. Be sure to talk with your child about the sitter after you arrive home (or the next day). Ask them what their opinion was of him or her. Children are usually very honest and they are the best measure of whether or not you should hire a particular babysitter again.