Babysitters are entrusted to care for the most precious people in your life. Here are five steps you can follow to make sure you hire the best candidate for the job.
Step One: Ask trusted community members for recommendations.
Some of the best babysitters come from referrals of other parents who have found a babysitter they are delighted with. Ask friends, relatives, and moms you meet in the supermarket or on the playground. In addition, you may want to ask preschool teachers or early grade school teachers for recommendations and advice. These early childhood experts often keep a list of recommended sitters, and they may even provide babysitting services themselves.
Step Two: Interview the prospective babysitter.
Ask for references and call several families whom the babysitter has worked with. Also during the interview, ask the candidate if she has any special qualifications, such as first aid training or CPR certification. Ask her what she would do in the case of emergencies such as accidental poisoning or choking. And do not be afraid to ask the potential sitter about her personal habits, such as swearing, smoking, or drinking. If you are interviewing a younger sitter, you may want to ask about Red Cross Certification. Red Cross babysitting courses are designed for 11 to 15 year olds, and instruct participants on such topics as first aid, diapering and feeding, as well as safe and age appropriate toys and games. The interview with your prospective sitter is also the time to work out such details as the rate of pay and transportation to and from the job.
Step Three: Make sure you choose someone who is experienced enough to handle your children at their present ages and stages.
Infants, in particular, will require special care and experience. Toddlers and school age children can have a lot of fun with a younger sitter, but make sure to provide the sitter with a list of emergency numbers, including contact information for nearby relatives and neighbors, as well as your family physician. Of course, you will need to leave detailed information as to where you are going and when you will be returning. Write down your cell phone number for both the babysitter as well as for your children, if they are old enough to call you themselves. Make sure to keep your cell phone with you and turned on at all times while you are away.
Step Four: Give the babysitter a clear idea of your expectations, as well as the House Rules.
If you have older children, it is a good idea to explain house rules, including bedtime and meal instructions, to the babysitter in the presence of the children. This will minimize any objections the children might have in your absence. (Many sitters are familiar with the "but mom says we do not have to go to bed until 11" routine.) You will also want to discuss any special expectations you have about the way discipline issues are to be handled.
Include specific rules that may affect each individual child, such as "No snacks before dinner." And remember to include rules you expect the sitter to follow (such as no visiting friends, no long cell phone calls, no loud music). Discuss special instructions personally when the sitter arrives at your home, and reiterate them in a set of written instructions for her reference, as well.
Step Five: Make sure to discuss with the children what kind of behavior you expect from their babysitter.
Discuss with them what abuse is (physical and verbal) and instruct the children to tell you immediately if the babysitter does something to hurt them or to make them feel uncomfortable. If your children are sufficiently old enough, instruct them to call you if anything occurs that they think you should know.