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Choosing The Right Babysitter

Choosing The Right Babysitter

By Laura Paster

Hiring a babysitter for the first time is a difficult choice. You have a thousand questions and worries. How do I find someone trustworthy and responsible? How young is too young to baby-sit? If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, here are some helpful tips to ease the process.

How to Choose a Babysitter

First, try recruiting a trusted family member or friend to watch your child. It is inexpensive and comforting to know someone loving is caring for your child.

Second, do some serious research. Call professional babysitting agencies, search online services, place and respond to ads. Put the word out that you are looking; tell your friends. Look for maturity, experience, emergency skills and a sincere interest in children.

The Appropriate Age

According to the American Red Cross, parents should choose someone older than 11. Other experts say the babysitter should be at least 14. Most teen sitters are between 13 and 15. Because children mature at different rates, some may be old enough but not mature enough and vice versa.

You are the best judge of the type of caregiver your child needs. Consider your child’s age first. The younger the child, the older the sitter should be. If you have an infant your sitter should be at least 15. A 13-year-old would be capable of babysitting older children as long as you have confidence in their maturity and are sure that your child will respect him or her.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring

During the interview, many parents hesitate to ask important questions for fear of coming across as rude. Do not do this. Don’t hold anything back and don’t make it easy. You will be more comfortable in the end.

First, ask for previous childcare experience and training. Did they receive any formal training in safety procedures? How interested are they in entertaining your child with games and activities?

Be sure to ask for references and call the references. Then ask the person if there is anyone else you can call. That way you can speak to someone who isn’t expecting a phone call. Talk to the sitter’s parents as well.

Ask the sitter to describe the best and worst child he or she ever babysat. This question will reveal their important attitudes about children and behavior and help you decide if they are right for your child.

Certified Babysitters

The American Red Cross, as well as other agencies, offers a course designed for sitters between the ages of 11 and 15. Throughout the course, prospective sitters learn leadership skills, how to keep the children under control, basic care, like feeding and diaper changing, safe play and choosing age-appropriate toys and activities. They also learn basic first aid. Half the course deals with everyday situations; the rest includes lessons on accident prevention, how to recognize possible abuse in the family and what to do about it, how to react safely to an intruder, both on the phone and in person, how to determine the seriousness of an illness and how to perform CPR.

At a minimum, your babysitter should have first aid training and know CPR. Certification in both will help ease your worries so you can enjoy yourself a little more while you’re out of the house.

If you plan to use a babysitter frequently who is not CPR certified, it might be a wise investment to offer to pay for a training course.

Hiring a Boy or Girl

Males commit 77 percent of all reported sexual assaults by babysitters. Be especially careful of hiring a young boy to watch your children. Also, nearly half of babysitter sex offenders are younger than 18.

This does not, however, mean a girl will guarantee safety. Females commit 64 percent of reported physical assaults, like hitting or slapping, against children. This is why it is important to call references before hiring. Overall, only 10 percent of babysitters assault the children.

Checking up on the Babysitter

Before you hire a sitter to watch your child alone, first hire him or her as a mother’s or father’s helper. You can get things done around the house while observing how the sitter interacts with your child. They can get to know you, your house, your ground rules, and most importantly, your child.

You might also consider investing in a nanny cam. These are small, wireless cameras built into common household items such as a clock, VCR or coffeemaker. They can be costly but some companies offer rentals. Tapes have revealed neglect, ignoring a child who asks for food or a drink, verbal and even physical abuse. As long as the camera is not set up in a private bedroom, closet or bathroom, it is legal in all 50 states. If you feel that this is an invasion of the sitter’s privacy, let him or her know that you plan on monitoring them once in a while without telling where or when.

If you don’t plan on getting a nanny cam, another great way to check on your babysitter and child is to simply stop back in the house unexpectedly. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel right about something, act on it.


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