10 Tips for Hiring a New Babysitter
When I worked as a personal assistant, one of my tasks was to manage a team of four nannies. While I was with the high-profile family, one of the nannies returned to Mexico to care for an ailing father, and another nanny who was struggling with a long commute decided to pursue another position closer to home. Thus, I had to find two new babysitters who were capable of taking care of three incredibly active children. As it was my job to find qualified replacements, I spent a lot of time researching how to hire a babysitter. I also set up a system for future personal assistants to refer to if they ended up having to find a a new nanny. Here’s what I learned and what it consisted of: Scroll on for 10 tips for hiring a new babysitter.
Before you put up a Craigslist ad or start to search Care.com, consult with your network of friends, family members, and colleagues to see if anyone knows of a good babysitter. Ask your current nanny if they know someone. Sitters are often coming and going, and since they take the kids to the park and to activities, they will know the other good sitters within the community.
Post that you’re in the market for a new caregiver on Facebook and wait a couple of days to see if anyone provides you with leads. You never know: A friend whose little sister is in college could be looking for a steady sitting gig, or your cousin’s best friend could need extra cash to work her way through law school.
Once you’ve found a few good candidates, create a list of questions that are specific to your family’s needs. If your 3-year-old is super shy, ask the candidate if she has any experience working with shy kids. If your precocious 5-year-old is really active, inquire how the sitter will plan to keep the kid busy. If your 7-year-old boy has a tendency to pick on his little brother, find out how she will handle the two of them.
Throw in other typical interview questions: "How much babysitter experience do you have?" "Do you have any child development training?" "What do you like most and least about being a nanny?" "Give me an example of a previous child discipline problem and how you handled it." "What are your favorite activities to do with a child the age of mine?"
Use this list when you interview the candidates. Type up the questions, and write down each potential sitter’s answers during the interview. That way if you can’t decide between two sitters, you can refer back to their answers.
Figure out your ideal age range for a sitter. While a 14-year-old girl will be able to take care of her younger cousins on occasion, she’s probably too young to be responsible for feeding, bathing, and tucking in two rambunctious toddlers every Wednesday through Friday. The older you are, the more experience you are able to have, so if you want someone who has raised children successfully, search for an older woman whose grown-up kids have yet to give her grandchildren. Nannies come in all ages. However, note that a younger nanny will expect less money than an older, more experienced nanny. Also, an older sitter will be less inclined to run around the backyard and jump on the trampoline with your children.
Just as sitters come in all ages, they also come with a wide range of backgrounds. A good sitter will be certified in CPR. A great sitter will be certified in CPR and have a college education with an emphasis on child psychology and development. Figure out exactly what sort of background you're looking for. If you want a babysitter who can teach your children how to speak Spanish, find one who is of Latin descent. If you want your kids to play outside and be good at sports, look for a sitter who was on her college basketball or soccer team. Other skills to consider: infant care; water safety (if you have a pool); knowledge of nutrition and cooking; early childhood education; special needs care; and positive discipline.
Will your potential sitter be driving with your children? This is something you need to think about before hiring a nanny. Not only does she need to have a current driver’s license, but you also might want to learn about her driving record. Is she a safe driver? Will she use your car, or will she drive your children in her own car? If she will be driving her own car, will you provide a carseat for the children to use while riding in her car? How will she get to and from your house if she doesn't have her own car? If there is no car at your house when the sitter is there, what should she do with the kids in case of an emergency? All of these things need to be addressed and dealt with upfront in the interview process.
Tell the potential sitter what you expect of her. If you need her to be on call and available most weekends, clearly state that. Define the sitter’s responsibilities in writing. If you want her to help clean up the kitchen after dinner, make this one of her tasks. Make a list of your expectations—no personal calls while she is with your children, no sharing photos of your children on social media, no running personal errands while with your kids, etc.—and present them to the sitter in a printed document. Set ground rules for while the kids are sleeping. Do you want her to do the kids’ laundry during naptime? Can the sitter watch your television and eat your food? Be clear about all of these things.
What do you want the sitter to do when your sweet angel throws a temper tantrum? Do you count to five? Do you practice time-outs? Each parent has a different way of disciplining their children, so discuss yours with the sitter. Spend an afternoon with her and the kids. When one of them acts up, use it as an example to teach the nanny your discipline style.
Don’t trust your children to follow the rules when you’re not there. They will only be followed if they are enforced by the sitter. If she doesn’t know the rules, how can she enforce them? Print out a list of your house rules. If the kids aren’t allowed to watch television or wear shoes in the living room, put these items on the list. It may seem like you’re making a ton of lists, but it’s better to be clear from the beginning.
Does little Hunter need a back massage to fall asleep at nap time? Does Emily have to take her asthma medicine everyday at 4 p.m.? Explain behaviors that are particular to your children so the nanny is prepared to deal with them. Medicines, allergies, and vitamin information should be left in an easy-to-find spot for the sitter to refer to. If your child is allergic to peanuts, be sure the sitter knows a description of the reaction and the proper procedure to follow in case of an attack. Also, make sure she knows your family’s emergency plan and where you keep the spare key hidden.
Even though you are a parent hiring a babysitter, you should think of the relationship like you would a normal business partnership. Set a clear schedule, and make sure the sitter knows her salary in advance. Tell her when and how she will get paid, then follow through. If you say you will write her a check every two weeks, write her a check every two weeks. Will she get paid vacation time? Is she expected to travel with you? Figure out these things. Be respectful of her time. If you say you’ll be home at 8 p.m. every night, don’t show up at 10 p.m. four nights of the week. Establish a good business-like relationship from the get-go and you’ll be better able to manage the sitter.
Below, you’ll find some fun activities that will keep your babysitter and your kids busy.
Have you hired a sitter recently? How did you find her?