What to Ask a Babysitter

Last week we looked at the different options available to parents in sourcing a babysitter. Today we look at the aspects one should consider when sourcing a candidate yourself, through a newspaper, listing site or other direct advertising.

checklist for hiring a babysitter

Consider the age of your children and that of the sitter:

Younger teenagers do not posses the emotional or physical maturity to deal with the many problems that could arise; in fact some of the situations that could arise may even be caused by this. A good general rule to apply: the younger the children, the older the babysitter should be and the more experience they should have. The sitters level of maturity is of vital importance to your children’s care. If you are comfortable with just anyone looking after them, then that’s your choice. However the babysitters own behaviour and maturity should ideally be a major consideration before leaving your children with him or her. Another consideration you should take into account is that; should you leave your children with anyone under the age of 16, you are legally responsible for anything that occurs in your absence.

Interview the potential candidates

If you are doing the research on a candidate yourself, it’s important to hold interviews with any potential sitters, to ensure that they are appropriate for your children. Where an agency has been used, if reputable, this should be done for you. Arrange to interview the candidates. Invite them to your home. Find a good interview guide (you can use the one provided on our website by clicking here). This will help you in knowing what questions to ask. Keep it casual so that you get to know what the particular candidate is like on a professional and personal level. If you interview a candidate that you feel may be “the one”, introduce her/him to your children and observe their interaction. Let the children lead the interaction, from showing her their room, or favorite toys etc. Do they interact well? Is the sitter genuinely interested in your children and do they like her as well? Your children will be a great indicator of the sitters sincerity and suitability. After she leaves chat to the children and value their opinion of sitter.  The combination of yours and their instincts will give you the impression you need.

Check potential sitters references

References are of the utmost importance! References can be an excellent indication of the sitters capabilities, skills and personality.  When you call the reference do not indicate to the reference for what you have been given the reference. Asking an open ended question such as ‘do you know the candidate’ or ‘how do you know XYZ?’ can often lead to some surprising and honest answers, which may indicate if a candidate has lied regarding the relationship.  Ask about the reference about their children, how old they were when the sitter cared for them, what the sitters responsibility was. Did they ever experience problems with reliability, timekeeping or otherwise? What was their children’s opinion of the sitter? What was the sitters interaction with the children like? How did they deal with issues and what was her personality like?

Quality and Personality

Some of the qualities and personality traits you should ascertain in an ideal candidate include:

  • Is she in good health? She should preferably not smoke, be experiencing any illness at the time of the babysitting and have no contagious diseases/viruses.
  • Is she dependable and responsible? She must be dependable in the sense that if she experiences any problems whatsoever, she feels confident enough to contact you about it. It should be clear that  she is willing to this and that if she cant make it to the job for any reason she gives you enough time to find a suitable replacement. She needs to realize that she is responsible for your children’s health and welfare whilst they are in her care.
  • Does she have a genuine interest in child care?  She should be understanding and love being around your children and this can be shown through her experience, training and your children will generally tend to automatically know whether her interest is genuine or not.
  • Self confidence is also very important. Your children will respond better to a sitter who can remain calm in all situations. She should be self confident and present herself in a respectable manner. She should be respectful of the children in the same way that you are. She should have good manners, and respect for the privacy of your family; both for your personal space, possessions and information. Cross questioning her about the previous babysitting jobs and families she has worked for and her attitude towards them is another great indication.
  • She should show a basic understanding of the different stages of a child’s development. For example she should know that whilst removing privileges from an 8 year old may work for discipline (positive behaviour modification, as we like to call it, read the article here), that a 2 year old, if time out is used, should never sit in time out for more than 2 minutes and that distraction would in any event be a better solution to any problems experienced at that age.  That while a child of 10 years old often goes to bed at 9pm and 4 year old may need to be in bed at 7pm. That she knows how to act respectfully to a child’s feelings while gauging their respect, should be a key skill.
  • She should be adaptable to your pattern and routines and have a responsible outlook towards working with you. This can be evaluated by the information she requests from you, emergency numbers, the route to the closest hospital, what the children are allowed to eat and what they are not etc. Watch she asks about. Is she simply interested in how much she is getting paid, or does she seem genuinely interested in you and your family.
  • Above all trust your instincts!

Emergencies and Medical Training

Accidental injuries in the home are one of the highest causes of death in children under the age of 14 in South Africa today and in fact the world over. Scary, right? The importance of proper first aid training should be obvious and cannot be stressed enough.

Ideally your sitter should have first aid training, know the Heimlich manoeuvre and the appropriate way to use this technique age appropriately. Knowledge of CPR techniques for children and infants is also vital.  You should have a first aid kit which is accessible to them and they should know where this kit is located. Sitters need to be alert at all times, if they suspect that a child requires professional medical assistance for any reason what so ever, they need to feel secure to do it even if it ends up to be unnecessary. If they do not have proper training they should at the very least be able to think logically and rationally in the case of an emergency.

In the case of an immediately life threatening emergency, a medical professional is allowed to treat your child, however if the situation does not immediately threaten the child’s life, the doctor will not be able to help without your consent. Ensuring that you leave a “consent to treat” letter with your sitter is a good option if you are very worried about this.

Remember that nothing is more important than the safety and well being of your children. Be prepared and responsible. Never cut costs when it comes to the safety measures you put in place! Your sitters ability to remain calm in the event of an emergency can mean the difference between the life and death of your child. Cutting corners and not doing proper research on your sitter can be fatal.

For more great articles and tips, please subscribe to receive our latest articles or join our new Facebook group. Got a childcare related question? Drop us a line at sitters (@) sitters4u.co.za or visit our website: www.sitters4u.co.za

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