How to find candidates, how to choose, and how much to pay
Whether you’re having a family emergency, pulling a late shift, or simply in need of a quiet night out with your significant other, having a trustworthy babysitter on speed-dial can be a lifesaver for parents everywhere. But you’re not asking someone to water the flowers—these are your kids. And you want to make sure you’re leaving them with someone you can trust to care for them the way you would. These tips will help you find that person.
1. Where to start looking for a great babysitter
When it comes to looking for a great babysitter, it pays to look closely around you before hiring a complete stranger. Trustworthy family members, especially teenage or college-age cousins, nieces and nephews looking for a little extra cash are great candidates. Neighbors, coworkers, or family friends that you know well can also be a great way to start looking. If none of these people are available, ask them who they know who can babysit.
If you still can’t find any good candidates, you may want to turn to the internet. Websites like Care.com and Sittercity.com offer vetted, background-checked babysitters. It’s a good idea to start there before looking anywhere else or posting your own ads.
2. Background check, get references and interview potential babysitters before going forward with the hiring process
If you already know your sitter, this might be unnecessary; but if your sitter is a stranger or simply an acquaintance, you’ll want to background check them, get references, and conduct a short interview to make sure they’re a good choice for your family.
Background checks, which will allow you to see if a potential sitter has any criminal history, can be conducted either online or at your local police station. In terms of references, two should be sufficient, and ideally they should be from parents or caregivers of non-related children for whom the babysitter has worked in the past.
Finally, the interview: it doesn’t need to be long, but it should be thorough. Ask questions about their child-care experience, what they would do in emergencies, how they would comfort a child if he/she became upset, and which activities (i.e. games, reading stories) they like to do with the children in their care.
Be sure to mention any rules and restrictions you might have for your children to ensure they are able, willing, and ready to follow and enforce them.
3. You pay for what you get, so don’t skimp!
When your child’s health and safety is in question, you don’t want to skimp on a second-rate sitter. At the same time, you don’t want to go bankrupt for taking some time off from parent duty. So, what do you pay your sitter? The answer: it depends.
First, let’s look at what the average babysitter makes, which is $10-$14/hour. If your babysitter is a neighborhood teenager or child of a family friend, it’s usually fair to pay closer to $10/hour. For older teenagers and college students, $13-14 is a safer bet. For older, more experienced sitters (who also need to support themselves) you may want to pay $15-16/hour, and more if the sitter is taking care of multiple kids. Of course, you’ll want scale these up or down based on local prices and cost of living. A rate of $20 may be a basic rate in bigger cities, while $10 might be generous in smaller towns.
Don’t forget to include gas, food, and/or ticket money if you want the babysitter to do any activities with the kids, like going to the movies, getting food, or picking up ice cream!
4. Test before deciding, with kids and pets
The last thing you want is to interview a sitter that seems great and decide to hire them, only to see the worried look on your child’s face as you leave them with the babysitter for the first time. That’s why it’s essential to test the sitter out before making a final decision. All you’ll need is 5-10 minutes to simply have the sitter greet your kids and hang out with them.
Then, once the sitter has left, ask your kids how they feel about the sitter. It’s also important to gauge your pet’s reaction to the sitter. While a particularly noisy or anxious pet might not like your new babysitter no matter what, pets (especially dogs) have been known to alert parents to potentially abusive babysitters.
5. Use your instincts: do you feel like you can trust this person with your children?
While it’s not scientific by any means, it’s important to trust your gut instinct before you hand off your kids to a babysitter. Even if a sitter has great references, aces your interview questions, and tests well with the kids, if you feel something is off, you should seriously consider making a different choice.
Gut feelings are often the brain’s way of warning us of danger, so you could be subconsciously realizing something negative about the babysitter that you can’t quite put a finger on. Even if you turn out to be wrong, it’s better to be on the safe side when it comes to your children’s well-being.
Choosing a babysitter is an important choice. It’s tough to trust a stranger with your children, so it pays to choose carefully. Simply ask around, do your homework, research your candidates and, no matter what, trust you gut. You’ll likely have a great babysitter in no time!