Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
It's great to give the babysitter and your child some freedom to have fun, but there are also some basic rules that all parents should expect their babysitter to follow.
In this article, you'll learn some essential rules that all parents should enforce on their babysitters. Most of these rules are first and foremost to prevent your little one from getting themselves hurt or into trouble. There are some rules, however, related to behaviour that you should always expect from a babysitter.
With young children, horror movies or particular violent shows should be out of the question. Children often want to watch "grown-up" shows or movies, but the truth is that some of these are so scary they can really traumatize a child! I remember some children's shows when I was growing up that really terrified me and left a lasting impression.
So unless you want to be dealing with a child who is scared to go to bed for a few weeks, make sure you let your babysitter know what kinds of shows they should and shouldn't watch! In addition to scary and violent material, that also includes more "mature" content like 50 Shades of Grey.
Your sitter shouldn't just avoid inappropriate shows and movies while your child is in the room, but even after they've gone to bed. You never know when they might wake up in the middle of the night and come into the room when a big scary monster is on the screen.
There are plenty of more tame things that your babysitter can watch.
Is your babysitter not following the rules? Find out if it's time to let them go - How to Fire a Babysitter Politely (Plus 10 Reasons to Let Them Go)
It's a great idea to make CPR certification a must-have for any babysitter that you hire. Getting CPR certified is relatively straightforward. Normally the course only takes a weekend to complete, and then your certification is valid for several years.
CPR certification will give your babysitter the knowledge they need to deal with any emergencies or health issues your child might face while you're away. It's particularly useful for more inexperienced sitters.
If your babysitter isn't CPR certified yet, you might even offer to pay for a course for them. Many places now even offer online First Aid and CPR courses starting for as little as $25.
Even if they don't understand 100% of what you're saying, children definitely pick up on language!
Your babysitter definitely shouldn't be using curse words around your child. Most parents also discourage the use of "softer" bad words like dumb, stupid, etc. As well as potty talk.
It's not just the language that your babysitter uses, but what they talk about as well. Depending on your personal preferences and beliefs, you might not want the babysitter to discuss things with your children like sexuality, death, whether Santa is real or not, or any number of other sensitive topics.
Babysitters should be aware that anything they say around kids could get passed back to their parents, as well as on to friends and teachers at school.
Babysitters are put in a privileged position of trust since they're being left alone in your house for hours at a time. That means they can often learn things about you that aren't public knowledge.
But sitters should keep any information they learn on the job confidential. They shouldn't be saying negative things about the families they babysit for to other people, like how messy their house is, or talking about what reminders for doctor's appointments were on the calendar in the kitchen.
Babysitters should be careful what information they share with other people anyway because they never know what information will make its way back to you as the parent!
Even if babysitters are posting on forums or babysitting websites to ask other sitters for advice, they should handle the situation discreetly and protect the identities of their employers. It's pretty unprofessional of them to just post a screenshot of text messages with you online.
When you get home from your night out, you should expect your house to look about as neat as when you left it. Not like the babysitter threw a party while you were gone!
As a parent, you know how crazy things can get while watching a kid. Particularly if you're watching multiple younger kids. But your babysitter should still find a minute here or there to clean up little messes throughout the night, so they don't end up just becoming one giant mess!
If they feed your child dinner, it doesn't take too long to put the dirty dishes into the dishwasher afterward. If the children are done playing with a particular toy, they should take a few moments to put it away before they move on to the next one.
You shouldn't expect your babysitter to be a housekeeper (unless you’re paying them for that too), but there are some basic cleaning up tasks that should just be part of the job. Nobody wants to come home and have to spend an hour or two cleaning all the messes that happened while your child was in the care of the babysitter.
As a parent, you might be totally fine letting the babysitter give your child a bath, or you might not. And whatever you decide is completely fine. You just need to communicate your wishes to the babysitter.
Whether you're comfortable with it or not will largely depend on the age and experience level of your babysitter, and the age of your children.
The babysitter just needs to know one way or the other, so they can stick to your bedtime routine as closely as possible.
Give your sitter clear instructions on who to call in an emergency and in what order. In an emergency, they should always call 911 first and then call you immediately afterward.
Babysitters might be cautious about calling for help if they're worried it will make them seem less responsible or mature. But let them know that it's fine to call you or another family member in case of a small emergency. And for anything serious that probably requires a trip to the hospital, they should call 911 first. A few minutes of hesitation can make many serious medical situations a lot worse. So you want someone to get there as soon as possible if something goes wrong.
Your babysitter definitely shouldn't be giving your child any medicine without first checking with you to make sure it's okay.
Even if your child has a cold or fever and the babysitter just wants to give them some ibuprofen or Tylenol, they should still check with you before administering any kind of medication.
They have no way of knowing if you've already given the child medication before you left. Which could result in a serious overdose if they double up on the dose. They also don't know what kinds of medications your child might be allergic to.
It's a good idea to also have set foods, meals, and snacks that are approved to give your children while you're gone. This might be because your child is allergic to something, or you just want them to avoid eating junk food while you're gone. In that case, it's extra important to set clear expectations of exactly what they can and can't have. Having an approved list means that when your child asks a babysitter for a snack, they'll always know what things are okay to give them.
Babysitters should avoid giving new foods to your children that they've never tried before because they never know what kind of food may trigger a new allergy that you weren't previously aware of. If your child already has a known allergy that requires an EpiPen, they are at higher risk, but even if your child has no previous known allergies, it's still a good idea to stick to foods they already know are safe to eat.
Do you have a bad feeling about your babysitter? Check out this article to see if your hunch is correct - Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter (18 Red Flags to Watch Out For!)
How much screen time your family allows might vary a lot from other families, and might depend on the age of your child. Some families give their children practically unlimited screen time, while others allow only a small window of time per day or no screen time at all for children under a certain age.
Whatever your house rules are surrounding screen time, just be sure to communicate them to your babysitter clearly. Whether that's a certain amount of time per day or no television within a certain number of hours of bedtime.
Having your babysitter cancel at the last minute can ruin your plans, or cause a ton of stress as you're left scrambling to find a quick replacement. All around, it's an annoying thing to go through.
So if your babysitter has to cancel, let them know that you would appreciate getting as much advanced notice as possible so that you can find other arrangements. That way it won't ruin whatever special day you have planned. Since you're basically their employer, your sitter should respect your time and avoid canceling if at all possible.
But everyone gets sick from time to time. Trust me, you'd much rather have no babysitter at all, rather than dealing with a house full of sick children afterward.
Babysitters should have their phone turned on and nearby in case you need to get in touch with them, but that doesn't mean they should have their phone out while they're babysitting.
Let your sitter know that they're on the job, and like most other jobs, you shouldn't be taking selfies, texting or calling your friends while you're working. A babysitter that's on the phone is distracted, and it's more likely that your child will get hurt or cause a mess. So ask your babysitter to keep their phone in their pocket. Or even ask them to keep their phone in their bag or purse and only check it every hour or half-hour for messages from you.
In general, your sitter shouldn't be doing anything that causes them to get distracted for a few minutes or more at a time.
Like with any other job, you don't want the babysitter you hire to be under the influence of any substance that alters their perception or ability to give your child the attention they need.
Some babysitters might think it's okay to slip outside for a few minutes and have a cigarette after the children have gone to bed, or to enjoy a glass of wine. But remind them that they're still on the job, even if the kids are asleep. If there's an emergency or the kids wake up, they need to be mentally sharp and able to be responsible.
Any kind of tobacco use is seen as unprofessional and tends to be looked down upon by parents nowadays, who don't want their homes to smell like smoke. Even if your sitter goes outside to smoke, it will still be on their clothes and transfer to your furniture.
If your sitter is a smoker, ask them to consider chewing nicotine gum while they're on the job. It will help prevent cravings for a cigarette while also not leaving your house smelling like smoke.
You want a sitter that actively plays with your children and keeps them engaged, but there's a line between playing nicely and getting a bit rough. Particularly if your children are a bit older.
Talk to your sitter about what kinds of play are and aren't appropriate for your kids to engage in. And if your children are prone to roughhousing, it's good to speak to them about how to behave for the babysitter before you leave as well.
Keeping things toned down will help prevent injuries.
Your babysitter should have a list of activities they can do with your child to keep them busy. Whether the sitter is playing with them actively, or just supervising them more passively while they do crafts, they should be spending some quality time with your child. You don't want a babysitter that just watches television or is on their phone the entire time.
Most parents are in agreement that babysitters should never yell or spank children.
Make sure you explain in detail how your babysitter should handle discipline, and what they need to do if your child is misbehaving. To keep things consistent,they should aim to use the same discipline strategies that you as the parent would normally use.
Your babysitter might feel bored if they're babysitting at night and your children are just in bed, but that's not an invitation to have their friend or partner come over to your home unannounced.
You're paying them a good hourly rate to do a job, not to hang out with their friends. Plus you as the homeowner are responsible for anyone they bring into your home and have liability if anything goes wrong.
You've seen what happens in television shows or movies when babysitters have their friends over. Just don't do it!
By age two, 90% of children have been featured on social media. But many parents are now looking to reverse that trend.
You probably don't want your child, or pictures of the inside of your home, ending up on some teenager's Instagram or other social media account.
For many parents, it's a safety and privacy concern. They don't want the photos or names of their children out there on the internet for everyone to see. Tagging people in photos or allowing phones to detect the locations where photos took place can be a privacy nightmare.
Make it clear to your babysitter that taking pictures of your children without permission isn't appropriate.
Did your sitter really mess up, and now you're considering legal action? See what your options are here - Can You Sue a Babysitter? (What the Law Says)
If you expected your children just to spend a nice quiet day around the house, you might be shocked to hear that your babysitter took them out to the local pool or the zoo!
Parents always want to know where their children are. If you've hired a babysitter to come to your home, it's normal to assume that both they and the children are going to stay in the house unless anyone says otherwise.
So always get your babysitter to ask for permission in advance before taking your child out anywhere unless there's an emergency.
The opposite is also true. If you expected your sitter to take your child to a music lesson and soccer practice and they didn't go because your child was feeling sick, they should let you know that as well.
It's fair to set boundaries for your sitter and let them know there are specific places in the house where they shouldn't go.
There's almost never a reason for your sitter to go looking through closets, dresser drawers, or medicine cabinets. Unless they need to get something specific like pajamas for your child, or a medication that you instructed them to administer.
That goes for babysitters using your family computer as well since you might have all kinds of personal accounts that are logged in by default.
While a lot of this is common courtesy and you'd expect babysitters to adhere to these kinds of things anyway, it doesn't hurt to make it clear and actually list the "out of bounds" areas in your home.
Do you want to set up cameras in your home to make sure the babysitter is staying honest? You'd better make sure it's legal in your area first! Find out more here - Is It Legal to Record a Babysitter? (What the Law Says)
Maybe you were wondering if setting a particular rule for a sitter was crossing a line and being too controlling or not. Now that you've read this list, you should have a good idea of most of the common rules that parents set and enforce with their babysitters. These rules are the norms for most parents, so you shouldn't feel guilty about requesting your family sitter to follow any of them.
Now that you have rules laid out from your babysitter, it's good to also look at things from the babysitter's perspective. Check out my article – Things Babysitters Wish Parents Would Stop Doing – to see what's expected on your end.
Written & Illustrated by:
Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.
Reviewed & Edited by:
Renee is a children’s author and freelance writer from the Sunshine Coast, Australia. She has 20 years of combined experience working with children as a babysitter, swim coach, special education teacher and an after-hours care supervisor.
Updated: 23 January 2020
First Published: 18 September 2019
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