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Bad babysitter

Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter

(18 Red Flags to Avoid!)

Hiring a babysitter isn't an easy task. You try to ask for trusted recommendations from your family and friends and check references, but picking the best sitter for your kids is still a tough decision.

What are the warning signs of a bad babysitter? If you notice a significant change in your child's behavior, your babysitter is acting secretive, or your child starts having a lot more accidents than normal, these can all be major signs of a bad babysitter. There are other factors to look out for as well, like a babysitter that always shows up late or struggles to follow your instructions.

A good babysitter is honest, responsible, trustworthy, and loves kids. In this article, we'll be looking at the opposite. Here are the signs that it might be time to find a new babysitter. One or two of these you may be able to write off as something else. But if you're experiencing many of the items on this list, it's time to terminate your sitter immediately.

1. Your Kid Seems Afraid Of Their Babysitter

If your child seems to be afraid of the babysitter, or they seem to get anxious and withdrawn around them, that can be a bad sign.

It's normal for kids to need a bit of an adjustment period when they get a new caregiver. They might throw a tantrum, pout, or cry when you go to leave at first. But if this behavior continues and doesn't seem to improve at all past the first few times they're with the babysitter, you might start to get a bit more suspicious and look into it.

A babysitter can never replace you as a parent, but your kid should feel comfortable spending time with them. Your babysitter might just not be providing your kid with the level of comfort and warmth they expect, so the two haven't been able to really bond yet.

The chemistry between kids and their sitters is important too, and just like adults, sometimes the two just aren't a match. And in rare cases, something more serious like cases of child abuse could be going on.

2. Your Babysitter Acts Secretively

When you get home, you're likely excited to hear about what your child got up to during the day.

Your sitter doesn't really have a reason to be anything but open and honest with you. How your babysitter and kid spend their time shouldn't be kept a secret from you.

If they seem a bit secretive of their daily routine, something might be wrong. Especially if they seem to be making answers on the spot, as opposed to actually recalling how they spent the day.

Either that or your babysitter just isn't good at communicating with you, which is a whole separate issue. Even a caregiver who only has basic English skills should be able to share the major points of your day and gets why it's important for you to know.

There's no reason to tolerate a babysitter who is secretive, or who is obviously lying or trying to deceive you. For the caregiver relationship to work, there needs to be a healthy level of trust there.

It might be easy to tell when your babysitter is lying to you. For example, if you expected them to feed your baby and there are way too many bottles left in the fridge at the end of the day. Other times they might be better at hiding their tracks when they're cutting corners or something shady is going on.

3. Too Many Accidents

Your child having some accidents is normal. Kids are fast and always getting into things they shouldn't. Babyproofing can help prevent some injuries, but it's never completely unavoidable unless you wanted to wrap every object in your house with bubble wrap!

For healthy and active kids, the occasional bump, scrape, or cut is totally normal and shouldn't cause any alarm. But if accidents are frequent or more severe, it can be a sign of trouble. They can signal that either your babysitter isn't supervising your child well enough, or potentially even physical abuse.

Your babysitter needs to be watching your child at all times to prevent them from getting injured and might be leaving them unattended while they play if they're always getting hurt.

A good babysitter will usually be proactive in explaining any injuries while you're discussing the day. They'll probably have a good reason like they took your kid to the park and they fell off the bottom of the slide. If they willingly point out your child's accidents then you're probably fine. It's when they neglect to mention them or actively try to hide them that you might start to worry.

Frequent injuries should be taken seriously. Today it might just be small cuts and scrapes. But if your babysitter is always watching tv or talking to their friends on the phone instead of supervising your child, tomorrow it might be sticking their finger into an electrical socket.

4. Babysitter Isn't Following Your Instructions

You ask your babysitter to do things, but you notice they aren't getting done. Even if you leave a list of important things for them to do.

As a parent, you know best for your child, and your sitter should be working with you to make that happen. Your sitter shouldn't act like they know more about how to raise your kid than you.

Constructive suggestions from your babysitter should be welcomed, especially if they spend a lot of time with your child and get to know them really well. But they shouldn't seem critical of your parenting or refuse to do things that you ask.

If you and your babysitter can't see eye to eye on basic things like sleep, safety, or nutrition, then maybe it's time to find a new caregiver.

5. They Always Show Up Late

Your babysitter is often showing up late. An unreliable babysitter will repeatedly leave you hanging until the last minute, without even calling or texting to explain that they're running a bit behind.

Sometimes unavoidable things like family emergencies happen. But if your babysitter is always late or canceling, it can be really inconvenient for you to have your plans destroyed at the last minute.

Tardiness can be a sign that your babysitter might be unreliable in other areas too.

Find a sitter that is considerate of your time and committed to the job. If they don't care enough to get to your home on time and be sensitive to your needs, it's time to find another babysitter who will!

The same is true of changing the end time of their babysitting at the last minute. For example, if you're on your way out the door and they tell you at the last minute that they need to leave an hour earlier than you previously agreed to.

Ideally, your babysitter will show up five or ten minutes early to discuss any special arrangements or instructions for the day. Punctuality and commitment are critical qualities for your babysitter to have. You've got a busy enough schedule without needing to worry about whether your babysitting arrangements will fall through too.

Even if your babysitter has a sudden emergency and can't show up, it's common courtesy to at least call or text to inform you so that you can make alternate arrangements for your kid. Ideally with as much advance notice as possible. Simply not showing up for a babysitting shift isn't acceptable behavior.

6. Your Kid Looks Dirty, Unkempt, or Hungry Afterward

When you get home at the end of the day, does your kid look dirty and unkempt?

Like occasional accidents, it's normal for kids to get messy while they're playing and eating. But if you come home at the end of the day and your kids still have peanut butter on their fingers from the sandwich they had for lunch, or their diaper is always full when you get home, that's a bad sign.

If your child is always tired, cranky, and can't keep their eyes open when you get home, that's a sign that your babysitter is skipping your child's regular nap times.

A good babysitter will wash your baby's face and hands after they're done eating or playing. As well as changing their diapers and clothes frequently, and even giving them a proper bath if needed.

If you've got a sitter who can't handle the basics like keeping your child clean and fed, then they aren't doing a satisfactory job. There's no point keeping a babysitter around who isn't capable of doing the most basic childcare tasks.

7. Your Babysitter Doesn't Engage With You

A little smile and some small talk aren't too much to expect from your babysitter.

They should speak to you before you leave and after you get home enough to make you feel comfortable. That includes things like asking about your kid and wishing you a good time when you leave.

If your babysitter can't make that kind of effort with you, don't expect they're doing it with the kids either. That might show a general disconnect or major lack of all-around communication skills.

It's fair to expect a little feedback from your caregiver and have them go over what they did with your child while you were out. If they don't have much information to share or seem to be withholding something, that can be a bad sign.

A great babysitter will tell you exactly how the day went, sometimes bordering on a minute by minute recount of what they did with your kid. They might also mention anything that concerned them. They should be able to at least share the basic ups and downs of the day with you.

8. They Don't Respect Or Care About Your Instructions Or Parenting Style

A good babysitter will take note of the specific instructions you provide, acknowledge them, and actually act upon them. A quality babysitter is one who is a good listener. They can also adapt to your values and parenting style. They don't try to impose their own beliefs onto the baby.

If you tell your babysitter that your kids need to eat or be in bed at a certain time and they're rolling their eyes, they probably aren't going to follow through with it and stick to your plans as you've laid out.

For some babysitters, even a written list will be neglected. They might just assume they know kids well enough to wing it, and that they know best.

You might warn such a babysitter once or twice, but if they still aren't doing things the way you want them to, it's time to let them go. Don't put up with a highly critical babysitter, or one who thinks they know better than you when it comes to basic things like bathing, dressing, or feeding your child.

9. Kids Are Upset About Being Left Alone With Them

It's normal for kids to be a bit upset when mom or dad are leaving. But if they have a total emotional meltdown when you leave, especially only with one particular babysitter, you should take pause and wonder if it's maybe related to that particular person.

It might be just separation anxiety on behalf of your kid, or it could be the sign of something more serious. If you use multiple babysitters and find your kid only freaks out when they're left with one of them, it might be time to cut that sitter out of your rotation.

What about for babies? They aren't old enough to tell you when something is wrong with words, but their behavior can often indicate when something is wrong.

If your baby seems scared of the sitter or cries when they see them, that could be a sign. Although regular anxiety when you leave might mask this. After you've been using a babysitter for a while and your baby still seems upset to be left with them, they might be scared for a legitimate reason.

See our Guide to minimising separation anxiety to learn how to leave your child with a babysitter without them getting stressed out.

10. A Change In Your Child's Behavior or Sleeping Pattern

Behavior changes from a bad babysitter don't only have to be when the sitter is around.

If your kid is normally independent and really outgoing, and all of a sudden they become really withdrawn and clingy, see if those changes line up with when you started using a new babysitter.

Waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares or night terrors, along with other sleep issues like suddenly starting to wet the bed can also be cause for concern.

A child's behavior can change naturally as they age. Sometimes in pretty dramatic ways. But you shouldn't ignore these potential warning signs. Take action quickly to see if it might warrant further investigation.

If your child is old enough to communicate, get as much information from them firsthand as possible. When the babysitter isn't around, ask your kid to talk about how they spent time with the babysitter and the events of the day. Just talking to your child about their day can give some insight into what's going on when you're not around.

If something is wrong, many children won't want to talk about it initially out of fear of repercussions. It's important to give your child the freedom and confidence to talk about how they feel. Let them know that it's okay to be afraid but you'll help keep them safe if anything bad is going on.

11. They Invite People Over Without Your Permission

Babysitters who have worked for your family for a long time might start to gain confidence and start to feel entitled. For example, they might start to have their friends or even a date over while you're gone.

Some parents are okay letting a babysitter have a friend over to help and keep them company since it can get a bit spooky watching kids alone in a strange house at night. But babysitters should never assume that they can invite people over to your home whenever they want.

When your babysitter has someone else over, there's a good chance your kids are getting less interaction and attention than they would without an extra person there.

Having people over without your knowledge isn't being respectful of you or your home. It's a good enough reason to stop using that babysitter, although you may want to give them a warning first.

Avoid this situation by making it clear to your babysitter when you hire them that they need to get your permission to have a guest over. And it's best to not let them have their boyfriend or girlfriend over because you don't know what's going to happen on your couch!

12. Your Babysitter Always Seems Exhausted or Lethargic

You want a babysitter that can make sure your kids have a good time and stay entertained while you're gone. If your babysitter is always showing up looking totally exhausted, they aren't going to be able to provide the kind of care you should expect.

A tired babysitter is more likely to just sit your kids down in front of the TV while they go relax in another room.

13. Physical Signs On Your Child

Some bumps and bruises on a baby or toddler are normal once they start moving around. But an infant who hasn't started to crawl yet shouldn't have any bruises on their legs or arms.

If your child has bruises appearing after babysitting that your sitter didn't tell you about, that might be a warning sign of abuse. The babysitter might not be causing the bruises themselves, but they might not be watching your child closely enough, which puts them in situations where they can frequently hurt themselves.

It doesn't just have to be bruising either. If your child is suddenly getting a lot more severe diaper rashes than normal, they might not be changed enough. If it looks like your child has been spending too long in soiled or wet clothes, it's time to get a new babysitter.

It's your responsibility to make sure that your kid is safe and not being abused. If you suspect something is going wrong but aren't completely sure, you might want to consider installing a nanny cam in your home.

Learn more about nanny cams and how to use them legally in our article: Is it legal to record a babysitter.

14. You Suspect They're Stealing

One of the worst feelings as a parent is suspecting that your babysitter is stealing from you.

It might be something as small as some spare change going missing, all the way up to suddenly missing a piece of jewelry.

Babysitters who steal are normally shady in other ways too and might be telling lies about other things. It's less common to have an otherwise amazing babysitter who steals from you. So you'll probably notice other things, like your sitter lying about not changing the baby enough or spending enough time with your child.

Asking your babysitter if they know what happened to the jewelry is pointless because they'll just lie and tell you that they have no idea.

If valuable things are going missing from your home every time your babysitter is over, it's time to stop letting them into your house immediately before they can take anything else or do any more damage.

15. They Spend Too Much Time On The Computer

You may have explicitly given your babysitter permission to use your family computer to type out their homework or check their email. But they might also be using your computer without your permission.

If you feel like you aren't getting the level of care you expect from your babysitter, it's worth taking a second to check the browser history of your computer. Are there a bunch of websites in your browser history that you don't recognize, like Facebook pages of people you don't know, or Youtube videos that no one in the house has watched? Your babysitter is probably the reason.

Whether you give your sitter permission to use your computer and internet or not, they shouldn't be misusing those privileges at the expense of taking care of your baby.

If you're worried the babysitter is using your computer without your permission, it's best to require a password in order to log in.

If you do let your sitter use your computer, you should sign out of all your commonly used websites before you leave them alone in your home. Otherwise, they might go looking through your personal emails, Facebook messages, and even banking information which can pose some serious security concerns.

16. Your Friends Tell You Something's Going On

Are you friends with other parents who take their kids to the playground? Or maybe your neighbors are keeping an eye on your kids and babysitter for you.

Either can give you some insight into how your babysitter is doing when they're outside of the home. They might let you know that the babysitter always seems distracted or isn't paying attention to your kids while they're playing at the playground or in your yard.

If you always go to the playground with your kids at a certain time and ask your sitter to do the same, you can check with parents there. If they don't recall ever seeing your children or sitter at the park during those days, your babysitter might be lying and not taking them outside at all.

17. Sudden Changes In Babysitter's Behavior

It's not only the quality of new babysitters that you hire that you need to worry about. A good babysitter can start to go bad after several years of great service at any time without warning.

There could be many underlying reasons for it. Maybe they're just sick of babysitting. Or perhaps they're going through a breakup or divorce, the death of a close family member, or it could even be the sign of a developing drug or alcohol problem.

If your babysitter seems less engaged, starts frequently showing up late, or otherwise starts performing worse at their job, you should confront them about it instead of letting it continue to get worse.

18. Just A Gut Feeling

As a parent, you usually have pretty good intuition when it comes to your kids. If you have a bad feeling about a particular babysitter, find another one. When in doubt, trust your gut. Sometimes the unconscious mind can pick up on little clues that we aren't consciously aware of.

If you suspect something is wrong or don't feel great about leaving your kid with a certain sitter, it's probably your parental instincts telling you to steer clear of them.

You need to be able to feel completely comfortable with the person you're putting in charge of your baby. If you can't trust them, then it's time to look for someone else. Most of the time it won't be ambiguous, there will be easily explained reasons for why you feel the way you do.

Related Questions

What should I do if I suspect I've got a bad babysitter?

It will depend on exactly what's happening and the severity of the situation. If you suspect something is going on but don't have any clear proof, you might be okay to wait to see if things clear up. Maybe your child did honestly just slip and scrape their knee.

You might want to consider installing hidden cameras to monitor your babysitter, depending on the laws where you live and your ethical feelings about using such tools. Installing them and letting your sitter know can act as a preventative measure if nothing else.

If you're seeing obvious signs of neglect or abuse, it's time to report your babysitter to the police or other proper authorities. It might seem harsh, but remember you'll likely prevent other children from becoming victims of your sitter's abuse or negligence.

Should I include my kids in the decision to replace their babysitter?

It's generally a better idea to keep kids out of this decision. It's too much extra responsibility for them, and it's really more of an adult decision. You can definitely ask your children for feedback in a more indirect way though, like asking about how they like the babysitter and what types of activities they do together.


Written by:

 Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor

Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.

Published: 8 February 2019

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