How to Train a Babysitter

I started babysitting when I was just shy of 11 years old. Yes you heard correctly… 11 years old!! Why someone trusted me at such a young age to take care of their children, I am not sure. I was a very responsible kid, but I certainly had no idea of what the characteristics of a good babysitter were (I was after all young enough to be babysat myself still). I’m sure it helped them that they only payed me $1.50-2.50 an hour. Yes people, that is how much I made as a babysitter growing up. My how times have changed. I also was obsessed with “The Babysitter Club” books when I was a kid and dreamed of forming my own. Though I was good with kids, I really wish now I would have known more about what parents like in a babysitter, and obviously this varies between families.

As a parent, we have already gone through lots of babysitters. Between my different part time jobs or going on dates with Chris (which doesn’t happen enough), we have had the chance to experience many different scenarios and personalities. Some babysitters have been dreamy and some less than ideal, with everything in between. I have found myself disappointed at times with babysitters and I know that I have talked to many other parents who have a hard time setting up realistic expectations for babysitters. I really want you all to share your tips and feelings on the topic, but I would love to share some of my thoughts as well. It might be helpful to even share this post with my future babysitters, so they better understand where I am coming from and what my wishes are.  I am a pretty easy going person, so this is meant to be helpful and not scary :). Here are a few of my random thoughts about different scenarios:

The 14-15 year old babysitter:

  • I will pay you $6-7.50 an hour (pay can vary in each scenario)
  • I am most likely to use this age of babysitter for no more than 3-4 hours at a time (and probably not during bed time).
  • Since you can’t drive, I would love if you could get  ride to my house and I am willing to take you home. Sometimes it feels tiring to shuttle a babysitter around (especially if they don’t live close by). The more we can minimize this, the better.
  • My top priority is that my kids are happy and have fun with you. BUT, if you could take even just  10-minutes to clear dirty dishes from the table or pick up a few simple messes, that would be great. Even better if you can include my kids and have them help you clean up a little before moving on to the next activity. Like I said, paying attention to my kids is top priority as it is often a special treat for them, but please realize that parents feel stressed out when we walk into a complete tornado after a date or a long day at work.
  • Please don’t be on your phone the whole time texting while you are with my kids. Sure, take a few quick calls or answer a few texts, but for the most part, please put your phone away.
  • My kids LOVE to be read to. If you can’t think of anything else to do or have tried out all of my suggestions, keep on reading!
  • Please follow my specific suggestions for how much media time the kids can have. I usually make it pretty clear how much or if media is allowed during your time at our house. My kids are so excited to play with you, so be prepared to play!

The 16-18 year old babysitter:

  • I will pay you anywhere from $7-$9.00 an hour.
  • I am so happy that you can drive!! This is a huge bonus.
  • In addition to the list from above, please treat this time with my kids like a job. Again, the top priority is to have fun with my kids, but if you could take time to wash just the dishes you use with the kids, sweep the floor, etc.. that would be grand. Again, the kids can help too!
  • This age range of babysitter can help more with simple meal preparation, bathing kids, and executing (or beginning to execute) bedtime depending on the ages of the children.
  • Bonus if you show up with a babysitter kit with art supplies etc.. We had one babysitter show up with her old art supplies from when she was a kid, and my children were beyond excited.  It was such a simple thing, but I was really impressed.

The 18+ babysitter:

  • I will pay you up to $10 an hour. Because of our budget, we wouldn’t be able to afford to pay more than this.
  • You also can drive, and depending on how much I trust you, you might even be able to drive me kids to the park or other discussed nearby location. Please text me and let me know when you are leaving and what your exact plan is.  I want to know exactly where my kids are at all times.
  • If you are watching my kids after bedtime, it would be so amazing if you could spend 30 minutes cleaning up the house (if you have the time). I seriously was overjoyed when I came home and a babysitter had folded my laundry, done the dishes, and picked up. Yes, this babysitter was a mom, so she understood how helpful that was. I think I hugged her and thanked her a million times. I was seriously so overjoyed to have my house cleaner than I left it. She definitely went above and beyond my expectations.

In home childcare providers:

  • The pay with this has varied a ton based off what the person requested, how many of my kids they were watching, how many other kids they were watching etc..
  • Please take my kids outside to play as much as possible.
  • Please do let me know what your discipline practices are. I realize that my children might misbehave with you or not want to share, so please let’s make a plan of how you handle situations like this.
  • Please tell me if any other adults will be at your house. I even like to know if husbands are going to be home. I like to know exactly who is going to be around my children.
  • If you have guns in your home, that will probably be a deal breaker.
  • Let’s agree on what role media will play. I am okay with 30 minutes of a PBS show (or other agreed upon), but I do not want my kid sitting in front of tv all day. There have been times as a working mom, that I have had less than ideal situations in this scenario whenI was desperate for a sitter, and it feels yucky to know that your kid is being stuck in front of a television for too long.
  • Please feed my kids healthy food. Depending on how much I am paying you, I am totally willing to pack snacks for my kids or even lunch.
  • Please communicate with me if there is a problem. If my child is having a hard time interacting with another child, I want to know. If my child isn’t eating anything at your house, I want to know. If you feel like my child is not a good fit for you, let me know. I want  my children to be in an overall good situation, so I really need to hear how you feel about how things are going. It may be hard to hear if you don’t want to babysit for me or if there is a problem, but I want to know how things are really going.

Some tips in general:

  • Please tell me when you enjoy something my child has done. I can honestly say that I have had sitters (that didn’t last) that I could tell really did not enjoy my children at all. On the other hand, I can tell when  sitter genuinely enjoys my child and cares. It always makes a parent feel good when you tell a parent about something funny your child did or how you were impressed by something (like how the older siblings were so kind and helpful to the your younger kids). Even texting a picture of your kids having fund doing something feels comforting. And to add to this.. kids are so smart. They know if you like them or not. I know that my youngest and often times most feisty child will give someone even more of a hard time if she can sense that they don’t enjoy her. Because she can be a firecracker, I can help you give some helpful tips to helpfully make your time with her more pleasant if she happened to wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
  • Ask as many questions as you want, and don’t feel dumb for doing so. I always felt too bashful to ask the parents I babysat for a lot of questions. Feel free to text me if you need to know how to do something or where something is in our home.
  • I realize that I am far from a perfect parents and that my children can have off days (and some have had a really hard time leaving mom or dad), but please know that it is a big deal to trust your child with someone. If I have asked you to watch my kids, you must be someone I feel like I can really trust. I want this to be a good experience for everyone!

I really want to hear your thoughts on what are important qualities of a good babysitter. We do not expect you to be perfect babysitters, but we do expect you to treat this job seriously and to do your best! Also, how much do you pay your sitters? I’m sure this varies by family as well as region that you live in.  Have you ever had any deal breakers that caused you to never ask a babysitter back (I have)? Let me know what is missing from my lists!!



Rachel - August 10, 2014 - 2:25 pm

Great list! Ryan and I leave the kids for up to two hours with a twelve year old neighbor. Her parents are usually home and she almost always brings a friend or her older sister. The kids LOVE her because she plays with them non-stop. Eleanor actually cried when she left. There is something about that sweet-spot for girl and boy babysitters between the ages of 12 and 14. They really play! That’s being said, we only use her for short bursts and not during naps or bedtimes.

One more bullet to add: Please feel free to text me a picture at some point while I’m gone. I start to ache for my kids after being gone for more than a few hours and pictures really help.

EmmaJ - August 10, 2014 - 3:22 pm

We generally only use babysitters for date nights, and maybe once a year for something during the day. We are lucky to have good neighbors who will watch our children (and vice versa us theirs) if there is something during the day. The girls we hire are always from our church and normally 15-17 years old. We pay $10 an hour for 3 kids and round up if it isn’t a whole hour. This usually requires them to make dinner and do bed time. We let the kids watch one movie and then the babysitter usually plays games or do a puzzles. We also ask that they read scriptures and do prayers. We favor the girls who can drive themselves to and from our house and currently we have two girls on regulate rotation. They are great girls and are usally doing homework when we get home. The house is always cleaned up from whatever they played with the kids.

Karli - August 10, 2014 - 3:30 pm

Kara, I’ve always known we were kindred spirits. I actually DID try to set up my own babysitters club at age 11. Didn’t last super long, but it was a great attempt. I am perfectly comfortable with certain 11 and 12 year olds watching my kids, as they are much more attentive and excited about it. But I play it on a case by case basis. I almost never pay more than $6 an hour, but I will give bonuses for doing dishes and going above and beyond. I do think kids either haven’t been trained like we were to go above and beyond or they’re lazier. I’m not sure which.

And while I like to hire sitters to provide teens with jobs, my life has been changed by the formation of a babysitting co-op in my neighborhood. It has saved me lots of money, provided my kids with social time, and made me freer to go things without all the kids in two and without feeling guilty about pawning them off on a friend. Also, it’s much more helpful during the day when teen sitters are in school. I can email you details if you’re interested. I know you’d have the resources down there to set one up in no time.

Finally, I’m curious as to your feelings on male babysitters. I know a lot of people who won’t have one as a rule, which is sad to me, because my oldest son will someday make a great babysitter.

kara - August 11, 2014 - 12:04 am

I think that you are right about 12-14 year olds being most willing to really get down and play with kids. I would definitely consider a younger kid if they lived close and had parents nearby.
Sounds like you have a good setup with babysitters. I feel like the process is getting easier now that I don’t have a baby or young toddler. My kids are at easier stages to be left, which makes it nice!
I do want to hear more about the babysitting co-op. I’ve heard of them happening hear, but they always sounded kind of complicated and hard to keep drama from happening. Tell me know more. We have had a teenage boy babysit a couple of times. I am not opposed to having a boy, I just am not sure how to seek them out. I imagine that Gabe would also someday be a great babysitter. He LOVES playing with any toddlers of our friends
Another point that I forgot… I think that it is important for the moms to take the sitters home afterwards instead of dads. I remember many many awkward car rides home with dads. Not that they were creepy or weird or anything… but awkward is the right word. I think that some dads may not be as prone to chit chat as moms, so sometimes those 10 minutes felt like an hour :)