How To Get A Good Babysitter

how to get a good babysitter copyIf you’re wondering how to a get a good babysitter, I’ve got a suggestion for you.  Tap the teenage market and find yourself a terrific babysitter.  So what do you look for in a good one?  How do you know what’s going on when you go out? What are the secrets to knowing whether you have a mini Mother Theresa in your home versus a psychopathic version of Anne of Green Gables?

Teenagers are good really, you just have to know how to find the right one.

The article I read was older, but it got me wondering how much attitudes have changed about hiring teenage kids to give mom and dad a well-earned night out. Are you terrified of leaving your little one with a gawky teenager in case your house burns down, or are you comfortable with giving the younger set some work experience?

When my kids were small, we had some adventures on the babysitting front. One night I came home to find my two-year-old son wearing my gym pants (you can imagine what those looked like). Another time we came home to a bath full of water with, yes, you guessed it, something rather nasty floating inside. We had both good and bad babysitters. Some lasted for years, and a few lasted just one night.

I’m a firm believer in teenage babysitters. I was one, and my daughter was a terrific one. The biggest complaint of parents is that teenagers are irresponsible and stuck on their phones with attitudes like, “Who cares if he needs a bath? I want to be on Facebook.” Well, there are no doubt a few of those, but what it really comes down to is good judgment, and I don’t think we should paint all teenagers like that when many of them are really excellent.

First what are the practical considerations?

First, though, the practical stuff. While there’s no minimum legal age to babysit in Canada, there’s still an age below which it doesn’t make sense to go, and that was fourteen for me. When my children were growing up, people seemed to think twelve was fine, but while twelve-year-olds made good mother’s helpers, asking them to take full responsibility for a bunch of kids running in different directions seemed too much.

Secondly, and even now, people ask for the babysitting course as though it’s a sort of litmus test of interest and dedication. Well, I used to teach the course many years ago, and there’s no doubt that a lot of kids arrive at the workshop in a good mood and ready to work hard. That’s before they see the material, though, where so much is crammed in that I’d be surprised if they remembered a fraction of it. It’s a piece of paper, and really, it means, well, not a lot. It certainly isn’t the standard many people think it is, and although it has some good and useful information in it that’s worth learning, I’d hate for any parent out there to think that a teenager who passes the test is somehow infallible. Thinking some kid is infallible leads to complacency, and complacency is, well, just plain dangerous. A teenager, after all, is a teenager.

What makes a great babysitter?

So if the paper really doesn’t mean that much, how should you choose a good babysitter, and how do you know you might be a good candidate? What are the real markers of a good babysitter?

Well, first, make sure you have an interview when the kids are home. Watch how they interact with your child. Do they seem interested, or do they sneak frequent looks at their pocket or wherever their phone is? Do they make eye contact with both you and your child? Do they ask about things like what to do at bedtime and what the kids like to play with or eat, and ask for resolution if something seems unclear? Have they got references?

Conversely, if they immediately ask what you’re planning to pay them, what time they can put your kid to bed, or whether they can have friends over, then you know your formerly hot prospect has now gone cold.

Include sometime time to familiarize the teenager with your home.

Having said all of that, the biggest test is after you’ve taken the leap of faith and chosen your new babysitter. First, make sure you have some training time when you’re at home and you can show them what to do. Make sure you pay them during training and observe carefully. Try leaving the room here and there so as to give them a moment with the kids alone, and then watch the children’s reaction to them when they reappear. Then, when you leave them at home, come back aware of what signs to look for to tell you how things have gone.

If your babysitter says immediately that everything went fine, be a bit suspicious. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad babysitter, but if you find one that opens up about the difficulties they encountered, it’s a great sign of maturity, and it will likely mean that they’ll be one you’ll want to hang on to.

Take note of the unusual.

Did they leave your home clean? Of course, I don’t mean scrubbed, but did they make an effort to clean up the toys and leave it as you left it for them, or are there dirty diapers on the counter along with the remnant of a chip bag? As you poke your head into your child’s room, do the kids seem clean and content? If they’ve still got dinner stuck to their face, then you know that your babysitter couldn’t be bothered to properly handle bath time and decided against the extra work.

The next telltale signs will come in the next few days. Firstly, did your child seem well rested and look like they had a good night’s sleep, or did they just seem cranky and miserable? When your babysitter comes back, does your child seem anxious or withdrawn, or does he or she seem genuinely pleased to see them?

None of these are full-proof, but they will point you in the right direction and teach you how to get a good babysitter. And if you do get a babysitter you love, treasure them and pay them well; don’t make the mistake I did, which was to tell all my neighbours which ensured that my newly acquired babysitter was never free! Some secrets are, after all, worth keeping. For more information on Annie’s services, please click on this parenting services link.

Have a good laugh with this article on why there’s no such thing as the perfect parent.

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Here’s Annie the Nanny’s advice to one mom who wonders the best way to deal with siblings who are fighting.

Did you know Annie the Nanny was on CTV morning show in Calgary for years.  Here’s one clip about choice and its importance in toddler development.

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