Finding a Sitter

Published Categorized as Education, Family, Parents, Safety
Babysitter at work

If you are looking for an occasional babysitter, you might decide to employ responsible adolescents from the neighborhood, typically teenagers who are looking to make extra spending money.

Teenage Babysitters: Advantages & Disadvantages

There is an advantage to having young people as babysitters, since they are generally energetic, playful, fun-loving, and entertaining for your children. The disadvantage is that they may be less strict than you are with discipline, and they may not be experienced in handling problem situations. If your child is close to twelve years old, you will need someone considerably older to babysit. A teenager only one or two years older is not likely to have much authority. Be sure to speak with the parents of any teenager you are considering hiring, to get a sense of how he or she handles responsibility. It is also a good idea to check with other families who have used the teenager for babysitting.

The best strategy is to develop a list of three or four sitters who know your child and can be called upon if your regular sitter is busy or ill. Make sure they all understand the rules that apply to sitting at your home regarding:

  • TV watching
  • Visitors
  • Smoking or drinking
  • Telephone use
  • Taking your child outside

If You Need a Sitter on a Regular Basis

If you need a sitter on a more regular basis, you may need to employ an older person. Newspaper advertisements, agencies, and word of mouth are the most common means of recruiting people. Sometimes local colleges have rosters of students interested in babysitting.

Qualities to Look For

And what qualities should you be looking for in this babysitter? In general, he or she needs to be mature, reliable, friendly, and pleasant with children. He or she should be someone with whom your child enjoys spending time. In fact, as your youngster gets older, she should have some say in your selection of caretakers.


Interview applicants thoroughly to get a sense of their reliability and competence.

Questions to Ask

  • Ask them about other positions they have held
  • The ages ol children they have cared for
  • What their responsibilities included
  • How they would handle various situations (such as your child not wanting to do homework)
  • Activities they enjoy doing with children

If you think reading or singing to your child is important, look for a babysitter who enjoys these activities. Explain fully your expectations—for example, will the child care involve housecleaning? Ask for and carefully check references. 

Before Your Hire

If one person stands out among those you’ve interviewed, have him or her come for a “visit” while you are home.

  • Introduce him or her to your child, and pay him or her for an hour of child care while you are there to watch.
  • Evaluate this first encounter in helping you make a final decision.
  • Ask your child about the sitter, and be sensitive to her comments.
  • Trust your intuition about whether the sitter will work out, and follow that feeling.

How Much to Pay

The hourly rate for babysitting varies from community to community. In general, pay should increase with responsibility and with the competence of the babysitter. Caring for multiple children or adding household chores to child care merits a higher hourly rate.

Au Pairs

Some families prefer to hire an “au pair.” Typically, this is a college-age person from another country who agrees to live and work in the United States for a specified period of time (usually one year). While an au pair can be expensive, he or she can bring cultural richness into your family. Recognize, however, that many of these individuals also need to be given support and assistance in adjusting to the United States. To find an au pair, use an agency that specializes in these placements. 

Arrangements with Neighbors, Family & Friends

Some families develop cooperative arrangements with neighbors or family friends who also have children. Families take turns providing child care for one another. Even in these cases, be sure you are clear about the rules you expect to be applied to your children. It is also helpful to keep track of how much child care each family is providing, so no family feels that the exchange of service is out of balance.

Emergency Numbers

No matter what kind of sitter you select, make sure that the person with whom you leave your child has a list of all emergency phone numbers, including where you can be reached, and the names and numbers of trusted neighbors, relatives, and your child’s pediatrician. The emergency hotline number (such as 911) in your locale, and the number of the poison control center, should be displayed on or near the phone.

Source: Adapted from Caring for your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)