Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter
Learn the warning signs of a bad babysitter so you can take action as soon as possible and keep your family safe.
Firing someone is never an easy task, but sometimes it just needs to be done. Your babysitter is no exception.
How do you fire a babysitter politely? Do it face to face. Show compassion, but don't draw it out longer than necessary either. Offer severance or compensation as required, as well as a reference if the reason you're letting them go isn't their fault. Keep everything documented in writing to help protect yourself down the road.
Maybe you've lost your job and can't afford a babysitter anymore. Or perhaps your sitter simply isn't performing as well as you expect. Whatever the reason, in this article you'll learn how to fire your babysitter nicely and as smoothly as possible. As well as reasons you might fire a babysitter and reasons why you probably shouldn't.
Set clear expectations for them. Your babysitter can't meet your expectations if you haven't communicated them. Something that might seem like common sense to you might not be to them. Ideally, you want to have as many of your expectations in writing as possible. When you hire your babysitter, you should have an employment contract that lays everything out.
If your expectations have changed or your babysitter is no longer following your guidelines, you need to communicate about it.
Find the issue. Before you fire your babysitter, identify the issue(s) that's making you feel like things that aren't working out. Are they major things you likely won't be able to resolve? Or is it one or two small things that you might be able to discuss with them and work on?
Ask your friends and family members for input. Something small like yelling at the kids or rolling their eyes may be able to be fixed with a simple conversation.
Keep a paper trail. If you're having conversations with a babysitter that isn't meeting your expectations, you need to document it in writing.
This could just be a record for yourself to remember how many times you've had to discuss the issue and when. Or you might want to make it more of a "formal write-up" where your babysitter needs to go over the issue with you and sign and date it.
Documenting is a good way to let your babysitter know that after one or two warnings, you may have to terminate your relationship with them if some behaviors continue.
Once you decide to fire, make a new plan. You might reach a point where things just aren't working out, and you can't keep working with your current babysitter. If that's the case, it's time to make new plans.
Assume that once you fire your babysitter, the relationship won't be cordial and they won't agree to work another 2 weeks before leaving. Set up a new childcare plan so that you don't have to scramble to find a new sitter after the fact.
Do it face to face. You wouldn't want your employer to send you a casual email telling you that you're fired, and you wouldn't want your husband or wife to divorce you via text message. So give your babysitter the courtesy of firing them face to face instead of over email or phone too.
Do it quickly. Once you're certain that it's time to let your babysitter go, get it over with. There will never be a situation or time that feels "right" or "good" to fire them. Just do it right away once you've made your mind up.
Set a time. Schedule a time to talk to your babysitter and give them the bad news. Either at the end of a babysitting shift, or you might want to have them over at an entirely separate time. If you need someone there for moral support that's fine, but try not to make it feel like the babysitter is being ganged up on.
Don't have your kids there. Firing someone is an adult situation that kids don't need to be a part of. Your kids might still feel strongly about their babysitter, even if you don't think they've been doing a good job. Plus it might be embarrassing for your sitter.
Find a balance. You want to be firm in your decision but also show compassion. Don't waver and give your sitter a chance to talk you out of it. It will only make it harder the next time you have to try and fire them again.
There's no reason to be unnecessarily confronting or rude though. Be compassionate, keep the conversation short, and speak to them at the end of the day.
If your gut tells you that they'll still do a good job after being told you're letting them go, you might be able to just give them notice. But in most cases, it's better to simply give them pay for work already completed and maybe some severance and cut ties.
Labor laws may vary depending on where you live. Some places require you to pay immediately at the time of termination. Other places might only require you to pay on the next regular payday.
Offer a recommendation. Many times you have to let a babysitter go for reasons outside of their control, like if your kids are too old to need a babysitter any more. If that's the case, you can make getting their next job easier by giving them a letter of recommendation. It's a great way to let them know that you appreciated their work and it's not their fault you're having to let them go.
Offer compensation. If you're ending the relationship on good terms, you might let your sitter keep working for an extra couple of weeks while they transition into a new job. Or just give them a one-time severance payment.
Ask for any personal property back. If your babysitter has keys to your house, make sure you get those back. As well as any other personal items you've provided to them, possibly including credit cards. Consider changing alarm system and garage codes as well.
Inform school or daycare. If your babysitter has been picking up your kids from school or daycare, call and let them know about the change. You should inform them both in person and also in writing.
Explain to your kids. Having their babysitter suddenly never return can be a shock to kids, especially if they spent a ton of time together and grew quite close. Let them know the reasons if appropriate and if your kids are old enough to understand. But don't be surprised if they're still upset and feeling a bit betrayed by you anyway.
Rehearse it. It might help to write out yourself a script or some bullet points that you want to touch on. You might need to rehearse in front of the mirror or whatever makes you feel more comfortable too. The more you prepare for this, the more confident and relaxed you'll be, and less likely to stumble over your words.
Emotionally prepare. Don't blame yourself. Keep in mind that you're making the best decision for your family, and try not to let sadness or guilt factor into it. Before you speak with your sitter, take some time to relax and take some deep breaths.
Pick your words carefully. Don't use harsh and final-sounding words like "fired," especially if there's a chance you might need to hire your babysitter again in the future. Choose softer words like them being "let go."
Get to the point. Don't start a big dramatic speech that builds up stress and confuses your babysitter. Let them know within the first couple of minutes that you're letting them go. A big build-up doesn't help to soften the message and just makes things confusing. Follow your firing with any compensation offer quickly as well.
Show compassion. You don't want to get overly emotional, but if you don't show any compassion at all it can come across cold and heartless. That might be detrimental if you do ever need this babysitter again in the future. Show sympathy for their situation and that you can put yourself in their shoes.
Be honest. Just tell them the truth. If it's not something your babysitter did and is just due to unfortunate circumstances like losing your job, tell them you did everything possible to avoid this. If they did something wrong, provide concrete examples and reasons why they're being let go. The stronger your argument, the less likely it is that they'll try to reason their way out of it.
Give your babysitter time to react. If your kids are approaching an age they no longer need a babysitter or signs that your family is struggling financially have been clear, your babysitter might already be somewhat prepared for what's coming. But you might completely blindside them as well. Be prepared that this conversation will come as a big shock to your sitter. Answer any questions or concerns your babysitter has.
Offer help. If you know anyone else who needs a babysitter, perhaps you can put them in contact with each other. Or you can ask around your family and friends to see if anyone else needs a sitter.
End with a high note. Let your babysitter know how much you valued their services and that you regret things have to end now. Let them know if you'd like the option of re-hiring them if things change in the future, but don't make any promises you can't keep either. Let them know that the kids adore them and other feel-good facts.
Get it in writing. Even if things end cordially, you should still put the details in writing. Your sitter may have been in shock and not heard every word you said during your conversation. Write down their last day of employment, severance pay amount, and other information.
Should you let them say goodbye? You'll have to listen to your gut and see how you feel about letting your sitter say goodbye to your children. In some situations, you might feel okay about it, and in others, it might not be appropriate.
If your sitter has been watching your kids for years and they're very attached, it's good to give everyone a chance to say goodbye. Explain to your kids that their sitter won't be coming over anymore, or that someone else will be caring for them.
Be flexible with your kids and sympathetic to their situation too. If they want to write a goodbye card to send to their babysitter, let them.
Lying. If your babysitter says they're doing something, but you have proof they really aren't. If they're constantly not telling the truth, you should question whether you can trust them around your kids.
Theft. You hired a new babysitter and suddenly jewelry, loose change, and other items around the house have started to go missing. Consider alternatives, like your kids taking and hiding things, or that you may have simply misplaced something. But if there's a consistent pattern of objects disappearing, your babysitter might be the culprit.
Signs of abuse. Scrapes and bruises on children are pretty common. But if your kids seem to be getting hurt more than normal, have hand marks on them, or seem afraid of your babysitter, you want to deal with the situation right away.
Signs of neglect. If your child always seems hungry or dirty when you get home, your babysitter might not be withholding their responsibilities to the level you should expect.
Substance abuse. If your babysitter is acting a bit odd, trust your gut. If you have proof that your babysitter has been using drugs or alcohol on the job, or you find drugs or alcohol in your home, you should end your relationship with them right away.
Lack of reliability. Everyone is late occasionally. But if your babysitter is constantly late or calling in sick, you might want to reconsider working with them. Reliability is an important part of being a good caregiver.
Failing to enforce house rules. If your sitter can't enforce your rules, it might not be a good fit either. If you often come home and find your kids have been watching TV or eating candy more than you allow, it might be time to let your sitter go.
See our complete list of bad babysitter warning signs to look out for.
Not every reason you might want to fire a babysitter is their fault. Here are some reasons you could need to let a babysitter go that isn't anything they've said or done.
You're moving. Obviously, if you're relocating to another city then you won't be able to use their services anymore. But even moving across town might make it inconvenient too.
Your schedule or needs change. Maybe you've started working nights instead of daytime shifts, or you're going to work from home and can watch the kids yourself during the day now.
Financial issues. If you lose your job or the economy takes a downturn, you might not be able to afford a babysitter anymore and might have to rely on family or friends instead.
Not giving them enough time to settle in. Realize that your new babysitter can't read your mind and will take a bit of time to figure out exactly how you like things done.
Unrealistic expectations. Your babysitter can't pick your kids up from school, take them to the park, prepare dinner for them, and clean your house all in 4 hours.
Micromanaging. Give your babysitter general instructions, but don't try to manage every single move that they make. Give them a bit of freedom to take care of your kids in their own way, as long as it's working.
Jealousy. You shouldn't feel threatened that your kids love your babysitter more than you, or start getting paranoid that they're having an affair with your partner. Instead of being jealous, be happy that your family is being taken care of and has someone they're close with.
If your babysitter is only part-time and working for you occasionally, you likely don't owe them unemployment. For long-term babysitters who work multiple days per week or are more like nannies, you might have been paying taxes on their behalf. If that's the case, there are really two scenarios.
If your babysitter is let go because of no fault of their own, they might be eligible for unemployment benefits.
If your babysitter is getting fired because of their performance, they probably won't be eligible for unemployment. If they apply you'll still get a notice from the government that they applied. Just explain the situation truthfully.
A written agreement isn't necessary, but it's very important and can make your life a lot easier if things with your babysitter don't work out. Having specific parts of the contract to point to during firing can make things easier because it's clear which of your rules the babysitter has violated.
Firing a babysitter is something that needs to be handled carefully. It can be a difficult and emotional situation for everybody involved.
As a parent, you might worry about guilt and potential retaliation from your babysitter.
It's going to be an uncomfortable situation, but you can't put it off forever. After reading this article, you should now have a good idea of how to lessen the impact and let your babysitter go as smoothly and politely as possible.
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