We know babysitters want to do a great job of caring for your kids and while there are well known TV and film based archetypes, what can parents expect from your everyday sitter?
With no hard and fast blueprint, the job description depends entirely on the family and the sitter. The duties of a sitter could include:
- Meal preparation
- Light cleaning
- Changing diapers & preparing bottles
- Transporting kids
- Homework help
- Putting kids to bed
- Playtime or lessons (reading to them, doing crafts, etc.)
The responsibilities of a sitter will vary according to their age and experience, how long and how often they will provide care and your children’s specific needs. But how do you know what to ask of your sitter, and how does a sitter know what to expect? Here are some helpful tips for determining responsibilities for your babysitter.
The best thing to do is be direct. Parents should keep their focus and their caregivers focus on the child and their needs. Some sitters are willing to take on assorted household duties and other sorts of tasks. Make it clear that your primary concern as a parent is that your child is well cared for. And make sure, too, that your sitter does not feel unfairly burdened or distracted by other kinds of chores that were not explicitly negotiated as part of her responsibilities and job. If you give your sitter additional tasks, you should also give her additional pay.
This means putting your child’s safety and comfort first as well. For example, a 15-year-old, first-time babysitter may not know how to perform CPR, but a 45-year-old former-nurse should not hesitate. Your expectations may likewise differ if you’re hiring a one-time babysitter for a few hours versus a full-time nanny. It’s realistic to ask that a nanny or long-term sitter be CPR and first-aid certified, but if they’re not and you love the sitter, it’s okay to offer to pay for classes.
When you’re hiring a babysitter, also think about what additional qualifications could benefit your child. Is your son struggling in math? Look for a sitter who is acing her high school calculus class and can help with homework. Is your daughter taking piano lessons? Find a sitter with a musical ear who can help her practice. These above-and-beyond qualities are not typical babysitter responsibilities, but are specialties that can help your family. Just don’t expect to hire a tutor / babysitter and only compensate her for simply her babysitting role.
It’s reasonable to assume a babysitter will engage with your child rather than act as a bystander. This means she’s not watching kids from the corner of her eyes while reading a magazine, or plopping them in front of the television for hours. She is, after all, your partner in raising those precious, tiny people — if only for a night.
Entertainment is a huge responsibility to consider. The world of play is a child’s life, so you should expect creative indoor and outdoor playtime, in addition to any educational work you’ve asked the sitter to oversee. More experienced or long-term sitters should expect tasks like this.
A teenage sitter working for a few hours should do the basics. You should just expect your kids to be entertained, given light snacks and put to bed on time. If you have a more experienced sitter or nanny, you should expect help with homework, meal preparation, planned outings to the park, light cleaning, such as washing dishes from meals and tidying up after the kids, and possibly carpooling.
It’s always realistic to expect someone who tidies up after herself and the kids while she’s watching them, and respects the ground rules and routines. Whether it’s brushing teeth, washing hands, changing diapers or assisting with toilet training, ensuring your kids stay clean is a given for any sitter. If you’re potty training or have special needs, don’t forget to walk the sitter through the routines that work for your kid. The same is true of mealtime with specific food requests or allergies, and bedtime routines. Rules don’t go out the door just because you’re going out for the night, from eating veggies before dessert to brushing teeth before bed.
That said, discuss discipline for when house rules are broken. It’s not realistic to ask a babysitter to spank your child, but discuss time outs, loss of privileges and grounding.
Past that, encourage your babysitter to call you with any urgent questions or concerns. Also make sure she knows it is okay to call the police in an emergency. Setting these expectations in advance is the easiest way to alleviate most issues. We recommend continuous communication, even if it’s just regular chats between sitters and parents.
Early in the interviewing and hiring process, parents should make clear to the prospective caregiver that they will be an engaged parent, meaning a parent who will be asking about their child’s day, their activities and so forth.
Parents ride a fine line between being involved versus snagging the helicopter-parent title, but they do have a right to set ground rules and know what’s going on.
By being clear upfront, you can avoid feelings of resentment and intrusion down the road by a sitter who did not expect or welcome your involved stance. While parents can surely be unreasonable and too demanding of child caregivers, a parent should never feel afraid or reluctant or as if they are walking on eggshells when they wish to ask or know something about their child and the sitter experience.