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How to Say No to a Babysitting Family (5 Reasons Plus Tips)

How to Say No to a Babysitting Family

4 Sep 2020

 Matthew Taylor

Written & Illustrated by
Matthew Taylor

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There are times when you may need to say no to a babysitting job. But how do you say no to a family without burning bridges?

How do you say no to a babysitting family? Honesty is usually the best policy. Most parents will understand if you need time off to study for an exam or have some other engagement. However, you can keep your explanation vague if that makes you feel more comfortable. Providing lots of notice will make it easier for families to find a replacement.

In this article, I'll explore some common situations where you may need to say no to a babysitting family. I'll also give some additional tips to make it easier to say no.

How To Say No to a Babysitting Family

There are a lot of reasons why you may not be able to babysit for a particular family. Or you may simply not want to babysit for them, for any number of reasons.

I find that honesty is usually the best policy. Most babysitters don't have any kind of contractual obligation to continue babysitting for a particular family. All you have to do is politely decline.

It can be as simple as saying "Sorry, I'm not available to babysit at the moment." You can add additional details about how you're busy with another job, school, or any other details that you want. Just saying no should usually be enough though.

5 Reasons To Say No To A Babysitting Family (And How To Do It)

Here are a few common reasons why babysitters may need to say no to a babysitting family. For each one, I'll give an example of how you can politely decline for the specific situation.

In some cases, there may even be precautions that you can take in advance to avoid having an awkward conversation later on.

You Aren't Getting Paid (or Get Paid Late)

Unless you're a grandparent or other relative, chances are that you aren't just babysitting for free out of the kindness of your heart.

At the end of the day, babysitting is a business, not a charity. So if you aren't getting paid for your work, why would you continue doing it?

It's a bad practice to let parents get away without paying you. If they know they can get away with not paying you once, they might continue to not pay you in the future.

How to actually collect unpaid babysitting earnings from a parent who has stiffed you is an entirely different topic to itself that I won't be covering in detail here. But the main point to take away is this: If you aren't getting paid for your babysitting work, stop doing it! You don't want to dig yourself into an even deeper hole of money that you'll never be able to collect.

Not sure what you're worth? Read my article Babysitting Pay Rates (How Much Should You Charge?) to learn the going rates in your area!

Luckily most parents aren't malicious and intentionally trying to rip you off. They might just be very busy and have overlooked paying you in a moment of absent-mindedness. You can start by simply sending a polite reminder

If you send a quick text message asking for payment and still haven't been paid, you may try stronger tactics like saying no to future jobs until you get paid.

You might try something like "Hi Mrs. Brown, I would love to babysit again for little Jimmy. However, I'm currently short on funds and can't afford the petrol/bus fare to get to your home until I get paid for the babysitting work that I completed last week."

To avoid having to say no because of non-payment, try to make payment as easy as possible for parents. That gives less valid reasons for not getting paid. You may want to avoid only taking cash, so parents don't have an excuse if they don't have the right amount of money on hand. You can even send reminders or request payment through some banking apps.

If you do a lot of babysitting work, you may even want to sign up for a payment processor like Stripe which will allow you to take credit card payments using your phone. Of course, these apps will take a fee of around 3%, but it might be worth the peace of mind to always know that you've been paid before you walk out the door.

You Don't Have The Time

There are tons of reasons why a busy babysitter may not be available to work on a particular day.

You might have a week of exams coming up and need lots of time to study.

There may be a big assignment due for school.

Maybe you have relatives visiting from abroad for the week and you will need to show them around town.

You could have another part-time job or already be babysitting for another family.

Plus it's okay for you to have a personal life! There may be other hobbies or events that you need time to participate in, or you might just want a date night for yourself.

Whatever the reason, it's okay to tell your babysitting family that you won't be available to watch their kids for a particular night.

The easiest way to say no in this case is just to explain why you're too busy to babysit. Most parents will be understanding, especially if you have a big school project to complete or some other prior engagement.

If you just need some "me time" and don't feel like you can tell that to parents, you can just say that you're not available and leave it at that. No need to provide any extra details.

To avoid having to say no to parents when you're busy, you may want to set up a public Google calendar with your schedule on it. You can adjust the privacy settings so that parents can only see if you're busy or free, without listing specific details. That way parents can check for themselves to see if you have other prior engagements before asking you to babysit on a particular day.

You're Not Comfortable Watching Infants

Taking care of a baby is a more difficult task than regular babysitting of school-aged children. If you don't feel up for changing diapers or feeding an infant yet, that's totally understandable.

It's better to tell parents upfront, rather than get yourself into a situation that you don't think you can handle.

You can just say something like "Unfortunately I'm going to have to decline babysitting for you. I don't have any experience bottle-feeding infants or changing diapers. So I'm not sure that I would be able to provide the quality of babysitting services that you deserve."

Parents are understanding and will appreciate your honesty. That way they can find a babysitter who is more experienced with infants. Or they may even offer to help show you the extra skills that you're lacking so you can babysit for them in the future if that's something you would be open to.

The same applies to babysitting disabled children or any other situation where you don't think you have the necessary skills or experience to properly support them. It's best to just decline rather than do a sub-par job.

You're Tired or Ill

Just being tired might seem like a pretty weak excuse. In reality, though, you shouldn't be babysitting if you don't feel like you have the energy for it.

It's a lot of work to play with kids and chase after them all night. If you go into a babysitting job already feeling tired, you're going to be absolutely exhausted by the time it's over.

Parents would rather find another babysitter, rather than risk hiring one who seems like they may fall asleep while watching their child!

You could say something like "Sorry, I'm just not feeling very well tonight. I'm not sure I would be able to provide your child with the attention they deserve, so I'm going to have to decline."

If that seems like too much info or too much of an excuse, you can just keep things brief. Just say you're busy or not feeling well. They don't have to know that the reason you'll be busy is in bed getting some much-needed rest!

Feeling sick is an even stronger reason to say no to your babysitting family. They don't want you coming to their house and getting germs on everything, or getting their kids sick. Just telling parents that you're sick is normally more than enough to get them looking for a replacement sitter.

Are parents pushing you to work even while you're sick? See my article Should you Babysit when Sick? (How to Manage Parent Expectations) for more help.

You Just Don't Want To

Some babysitters and families just aren't a good fit for each other.

Even if you complete a babysitting interview and a family is eager to hire you, you might not feel the same about them.

Getting to know the family that you're going to babysit for is a two-way street. So if they don't seem like people that you want to babysit for, it's okay to say no.

Ideally, you should say no to them as soon as you're offered the job. That way they can continue looking for another sitter.

You can keep things vague. For example, you can just tell them that your situation has changed and that you're no longer available. If you want to be direct, you can just tell them that you don't think it's a good fit.

In other cases, you may only realize once you accept a job that you really don't like the child that you're put in charge of. Perhaps they're a real brat and won't seem to listen to anything you say. If you don't think it's an issue that you can work out by talking to the parents, it might be best to just walk away and say no to babysitting for them again in the future.

Of course, you don't want to tell them that their child is a monster! You can just say that your schedule has changed and you aren't available. Or you might allude to the fact that their child is the issue by saying that their behavior is more than what you feel capable of handling.

Other times issues may arise after a few babysitting jobs that relate to the parents. They might be overly critical of how you babysit. They may treat you like you're untrustworthy, or you may disagree with them on how you believe children should be disciplined.

In that case, you may also want to say no to any future babysitting jobs. You could say something like "Sorry, it just doesn't feel like a good fit." Or you may keep things vaguer and just say that you currently aren't available for any more babysitting jobs.

Get to know your babysitting family early on. Check out my article What Should Babysitters Ask Parents? (20 Important Questions) for some things to definitely discuss.

5 Additional Tips To Make Saying No Easier

Saying no is never easy. But the steps below will make the task seem a bit less stressful.

Don't Wait Until The Last Minute To Say No

The more advanced notice that you are able to provide to parents, the less of a concern it will be if you say no.

Try to provide them with as much time as possible to find a replacement babysitter. It's stressful for them to have to call around and find another sitter at the last moment.

If you have a particular day that you always babysit for a family, let them know a few weeks in advance if anything interferes with that. For example, if you have an exam or are going away on a family vacation.

Sometimes emergencies come up where you won't be able to provide much notice. But even when you're sick, you can give your babysitting family a heads-up that you might not be feeling well enough to babysit this week.

Provide Your Own Replacement Babysitter

If you're a babysitter, then there's a good chance that you also have other friends in the same line of work.

Rather than leaving parents scrambling to find their own sitter, why not recommend one or two of your friends to them?

There's a good chance your babysitting family trusts your judgment and opinion, so they'll happily accept your recommendations. It also makes things a lot easier for them.

Having an arrangement with a few other babysitters in your area to refer each other jobs is a smart thing to have in place. You can provide some extra work to your friends when you're busy, and you'll get some extra work of your own filling in for friends who aren't available too.

Don't Worry About Disappointing People

The truth is that you'll never be able to please everyone. Sometimes you just need to say no or take some time for yourself.

It's okay to put yourself first and say no to a job. Especially if you're so busy that you feel like you're at risk of burning out, or the job just isn't a good fit.

All babysitters will have to disappoint the families they babysit for at some point. Even if it's just once they finally decide it's time to retire from babysitting for another job.

You can't keep babysitting for families that you don't enjoy working for or doing a job that you don't like just to avoid upsetting someone. Feeling guilty isn't a good reason to keep saying yes to more babysitting work. Especially if it has become a burden on other areas of your life. It will start to build resentment and start to show in your work.

I'm giving you permission to say no!

Constantly getting stuck babysitting later than you expected? My article What To Do If Parents Are Late Home? (4 Tips For Babysitters) will tell you what to do!

Don't Say Yes Right Away

It's tempting to immediately say yes to any babysitting job that comes along. Especially if you're short on cash, or need any job to start building some experience.

If someone puts you on the spot, you don't have to say yes right away though.

Do you have a nagging feeling that you have some prior engagement that day? It's way better to ask if you can check your schedule and get back to them, rather than saying yes and then having to walk it back later.

Whether you're asked in-person or in a text message, don't feel like you need to reply immediately.

Instead, say something like "I respect that you need to confirm your plans, but I need some time to think about it. Is it okay if I let you know by Tuesday?"

Most parents are okay to give you a day or two to think about it. Just don't wait too long into the future to confirm or decline.

Avoid Lying

Making up a convenient lie seems like the easiest way to get out of a babysitting job. But it can come back to negatively impact you in the future.

You might say that you have to attend your uncle's funeral so you can't babysit. But how awkward will it feel when your babysitting family gives their sympathies next time they see you? What if they send flowers to your home? What happens when you actually do need to attend your uncle's funeral in the future?

The problem with lies is that once you start, you have to keep up with them. You have to remember all of the details. And if you slip up, it will make you seem like a less trustworthy babysitter.

You might lie to your babysitting family to try and spare their feelings. But more often than not, lying ends up creating more risk of damaging the relationship instead.

If you don't want to tell the truth outright, it's better to keep things vague than to lie.


Learning how to say no is hard for a lot of people. But knowing how to say no to a babysitting family in a tactful way is a skill that you can pick up.

Honesty is usually the best policy. If you have a valid reason why you can't babysit like needing to study for an exam, just explain the situation. Most parents are understanding that you have a life and responsibilities outside of babysitting.

For situations where it would seem hurtful, to be honest about why you need to say no, you can fall back on more vague statements like "my situation has changed", or "I have a prior engagement." If you don't want to babysit for a family again, it's also okay to just tell them that you don't think it's a good fit.

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