Clean Up Your Act - HOW TO BE PRACTICAL & GET ORGANIZED
Babysitters 101 - everything you need to know about the care & feeding of your teenage babysitter
by Claire Yezbak Fadden
We’ve all suffered through it: Missing out on a party or a wedding because we couldn't find a reliable teenage babysitter. Is there a secret to locating that special someone your children enjoy, you trust, and who is also available on a Saturday night? I don’t have all the answers, but here are some insights shared with me from several teenage babysitters I’ve known over the years. These are their tips on how to find the perfect sitter, ways to make the sitter’s job easier, how your night out can be worry-free and even some great ways to show your appreciation throughout the year.
Where to Look and What to Look For
The best way to find a reliable sitter is through word-of-mouth. Ask your neighbor’s teenage daughter or close friends who have made a reliable find. Check with your church’s youth director or a junior high or high school teacher. They may recommend some high-achieving students. The important thing is to get the word out to people who share your standards about caring for children.
When you’re screening sitters, there are several things to consider. How old are they and how long have they been watching children? Do they have younger siblings who they’ve taken care of ? Can they watch more than one child at a time? What ages are they comfortable with?
A 13-year-old boy may be just fine to stay with your 5- year-old for an hour while you do weekly shopping. But you might want an older sitter if you are leaving an infant or going to be gone for a longer period of time.
Have they babysat for anyone you know, or can they give you references to call? How did you find out about them?Consider having a first-time sitter come over a time or two while you’re at home. This gives both the children and the sitter a chance to know each other. And you can observe how they get along.
Don’t forget to ask your child after the sitter has left what things he or she liked and didn’t like. What kinds of activities did the sitter do while you were gone? How well were the instructions you left followed?
Some Ground Rules
PLAN AHEAD – Everyone likes to have their time respected.Teens are no different. If you know that you’re going to need a babysitter a week from Thursday, make arrangements as soon as possible. Don’t wait until Wednesday night. You may be disappointed when your regular sitter is already booked or your sitter may resent that you didn’t call sooner.
Give the sitter an approximate time you’ll be home. If you’re going to be later than expected, call and ask if he or she can stay. Find out if your babysitter is allowed to sit after midnight, especially during the school week. Be prepared to pay up to double your normal rate for time spent after midnight.
THEIR PAY – Babysitting rates vary greatly and can depend on the number and the ages of children who are being watched. It can be awkward for a teen to discuss payment. For this reason, find out what your sitter charges and agree upon an amount at the beginning. If you’re curious about what to pay, you can also ask friends with children who utilize sitters. Remember to be generous with your timekeeping. If you were gone for three hours and 45 minutes, treat your sitter well and pay for four full hours. And a tip is always appreciated.
THE DRIVE – Ask your sitter if he or she has a preference as to which parent picks them up and takes them home. Some teenage girls are uncomfortable driving to and from a babysitting job with the father. They’re glad when the mom takes on the chauffeuring duties.
REFRIGERATOR RIGHTS – What are they? Let the sitter know if it’s OK to eat the double-chocolate nut-fudge ice cream in the freezer. If the three dozen cookies on the counter are for the school bake sale tomorrow, let him or her know that, too.
While You’re Gone
In front of the children, give the babysitter instructions as to what is and is not allowed during your absence. This is the time to give out the rules about not eating in the living room, how much TV can be watched and if friends are allowed over.By doing this, the sitter and the kids are operating from the same place.
If you’re going to be gone during a mealtime and you need the sitter to prepare something, leave instructions as to what to fix. Be sure there’s enough for the sitter. (They get hungry too.)
Whenever possible, leave a phone number of where you’ll be. Nowadays, most of us have cell phones. Consider taking yours along on your night out. If you won’t be at a number where you can be reached, leave the phone number of a relative or a close friend. Sometimes the sitter may have a question or need to reach you to clarify an instruction.
If you haven’t done so yet, prepare a list of emergency phone numbers and make sure your sitter knows where they are. Show your sitter where the first-aid supplies are located.
They Have Parents, Too
Let your sitter know that you are responsible for her whereabouts while she is babysitting. Sometimes the sitter may make plans with friends for later in the evening – after you’ve come home. It’s your responsibility to make certain your sitter’s parents have cleared the arrangements.It’s especially important if these plans include the sitter being picked up at your home by someone other than her parents. Your sitter’s folks think she is babysitting until midnight at your house.In reality, you got home at 9. That’s three hours of time that the sitter’s parents won’t know where their child is.
If your sitter is sneaking around behind her parents’ backs, would you want her taking care of your children? (If she's breaking their rules, can you trust she's keeping yours?) You may want to reconsider using her services and find another reliable sitter who agrees to your rules.
Show Your Appreciation
If you’ve been fortunate enough to find a trustworthy babysitter – one who has a genuine interest in your children – you are Lucky. Let your sitter know that your kids get excited when they know he’s coming over. My sons’ favorite sitter, Annie, would do little things to make the night special.She would load up videos and add M&M’s to the popcorn. You would have thought she was taking them to Disneyland.Needless to say, when we were deciding on who to call to babysit, my boys always insisted that we try Annie first. And if your sitter comes on a regular basis, remember her during the holidays. Find out when her birthday is. Your kids will enjoy signing the card and your babysitting requests may find themselves at the top of her list.
A great way to show your appreciation to your sitter is an extra few dollars at the end of a long night. It can mean a lot to a 15-year-old who’s saving to buy something special.
Claire Yezbak Fadden is a freelance writer and the mother of three sons. Follow her on Twitter @claireflaire.