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How to Say No to Babysitting Grandchildren (8 Effective Strategies)

How to Say No to Babysitting Grandchildren

15 Dec 2020

 Matthew Taylor

Written & Illustrated by
Matthew Taylor

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You love your grandkids, but sometimes it can feel like you're really being taken for granted when it comes to babysitting.

How can you say no to babysitting grandchildren? It's okay to decline to babysit your grandchildren. Just be honest and straightforward about it. It doesn't matter if it's because you're too busy, if you don't have the energy for it, or you just don't want to. You don't have any obligation to babysit, and you shouldn't feel guilty about saying no.

In this article, I'll explain how to say no to babysitting grandchildren without feeling guilty about it.

Saying No To Babysitting Grandkids

As a grandparent, you would do anything to make sure that your grandkids are safe, happy, and healthy. And you also want to help babysit to give your own kids the freedom to work or have some free time to themselves.

With the cost of childcare nowadays, it's common for grandparents to be used to fill in as a babysitter or even as a full-time daycare when it's time for parents to go back to work.

But it can reach a point where it feels like you're spending more time babysitting your grandchildren than not. What if you don't want to commit to providing regular childcare? At that point, you need to learn how to say no to babysitting grandchildren.

Just because you're retired doesn't mean that you have an unlimited amount of free time. You shouldn't have to give up having some time for yourself because you're constantly babysitting.

If you want to cut back on the amount that you're babysitting your grandkids or to take a break entirely, then it's time to stand up for yourself.

Figure Out Your Reason For Saying No To Babysitting

There are lots of reasons why you may want to say no to babysitting.

Maybe you're busy with something else. Or you might just be physically and emotionally exhausted from chasing your grandkids around and need a break to recover.

Whatever your reason is, it's valid. You shouldn't feel guilty about it.

However, it's important to figure out exactly what your reason is because it will help to determine the best way for you to say no to babysitting your grandchildren.

It's Okay To Say "No"

First, you may need to start by coming to grips with the fact that it's okay to say no at all.

You need to have control over when and how much you're able to help babysit.

Saying no to babysitting might make you feel guilty. It can seem like you're letting your kids and grandkids down by not being able to help them out.

But the truth is that helping babysit at all is very helpful, and your kids are likely very grateful that you're able to give any time. So don't feel guilty if you can't help to babysit every time that you're asked.

Don't feel obligated to babysit just because you don't want to disappoint people. If you take on babysitting just to please people and avoid conflict, you'll just end up making yourself miserable.

If your kids try to guilt you for not babysitting your grandchildren that's on them, not you. No matter how hard you try to please them, they could still get upset with you. So stand up for yourself and learn to say no.

If you do decide to babysit your grandkids, make sure you're getting all of the important information and documents that you may need. See my article What Info do you Leave for a Babysitter? (Plus Parent Checklist) for a full list.

8 Effective Ways To Say No To Babysitting Grandchildren

Realize that you don't have any obligation to justify why you're not able to babysit.

You can simply say no to babysitting in a polite way, without having to go into further detail or elaborate on what's preventing you from babysitting.

A basic "Sorry, I'm not available to babysit" should be all that's needed.

But if you want to go into more detail about the reasoning behind why you can't babysit, that's an option too.

"Sorry, I'm Busy"

If you'd love to babysit but your schedule just doesn't allow it, you can explain what you're doing instead.

You might be volunteering, or have a weekly meeting with a particular club to do a hobby that you enjoy. You're entitled to some time for yourself, so take it! They can find another sitter for that day.

You don't need to get into specifics if you don't want to. A simple "I'm sorry, but I have a lot going on right now so I can't" will do.

"I'm Feeling A Bit Under The Weather"

If you're feeling ill, that's certainly a reason to pass on babysitting. You don't want to pass a cold or flu onto your grandkids.

Take some time for yourself to recover, and you can babysit again once you get back on your feet.

"I'm Not Physically Up To It"

Even if you're not sick, we all have days where we just aren't feeling it.

If you're feeling sore or don't have the energy to keep your grandkids busy for the afternoon, it's perfectly acceptable to pass.

Your grandkids would probably rather spend the day with a babysitter who can be active with them, as opposed to having to sit inside all day while you rest your sore back.

"I Don't Want To"

It might feel harsh and you may worry that it will upset your own kids. But after raising your own family and spending decades in the workplace, you just might not have an interest in babysitting your grandkids on a regular basis. And that's okay.

There's no law saying that once you turn 65, you have to open up "Grandma & Grandpa's Daycare Service."You probably have lots of other ambitions for your retirement that don't involve watching kids.

It's not unreasonable to simply say "I love you, but no thanks" to babysitting your grandkids.

You're also well within your rights to turn down babysitting during specific periods of a child's life. Maybe you've changed enough diapers for one lifetime so you don't want to deal with an infant, but you'd be happy to watch your grandkids once they're a little older. You can set whatever rules and boundaries make sense to you.

Negotiate Your Own Terms

If your kids propose a certain amount of babysitting and it seems like too much, let them know.

You can explain how you love spending time with your grandkids. But watching them for five days a week just feels like it will be overwhelming and unsustainable. Maybe you can offer to watch them for only one or two days each week if that feels more reasonable for you.

"My House Isn't Childproof"

Perhaps you would like to babysit, but just have legitimate concerns that your home is not safe for young kids.

Your home might be too large to keep an eye on kids all the time, or it might just not be childproofed.

You shouldn't be expected to put up baby gates on all your stairs, cover your electrical sockets, childproof all of your cupboard doors, or take other precautions just so you can babysit.

Instead, maybe you can offer to babysit your grandkids at their own home. You can get your kids to pick you up and drop you off. That way you can watch the kids for a weekend or evening while they go out, but you don't need to put hours of prep work into your own home to do it.

Offer Other Ways To Help

If your time is too limited to babysit, you might be able to help out in other ways.

Maybe you can pick up your grandkids from daycare or school a few days per week. Or if you enjoy cooking, perhaps you could help prepare some meals for the family to save them some time when they get home from work.

Don't Lie

There's no need to lie to your own family when you can just be honest and say no. If you get caught in a lie, it can backfire and make things worse. Trying to keep up with a lie will just create more problems for yourself in the long run.

It might feel like lying is the easy way out of babysitting without hurting anyone's feelings. But if you get caught out, it can actually do even more damage.

So just be honest. Give a bit of reasoning or apologize if you need to, but don't make it more complicated than it has to be.

Set Limits and Boundaries on Babysitting Your Grandchildren

Your best option is to avoid having to say no to babysitting your grandkids in the first place. You can do this by creating reasonable expectations and schedules from the very beginning.

You can agree to babysit only on certain days of the week, or for a certain number of days each week. Maybe you'll watch your grandchildren every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Alternatively, you can let your kids know which days you are busy and babysitting is off-limits.

Personally, I would recommend setting specific days that you are okay with babysitting. If you do the alternative and only share what days you can't babysit, you may end up doing it more often than you'd like.

You want to watch to make sure that you don't find you're becoming the default option for babysitting more and more often. Unless that's what you want and you've agreed to it.

Otherwise, your kids may get into the habit of taking you for granted and always coming to you first when they need a babysitter. That can quickly become overwhelming (and annoying!) for you.

Help To Find Childcare Alternatives For Parents

You don't want to leave your grandkids out in the cold, metaphorically or literally! So help parents come up with an alternative plan for who will watch their kids when you aren't available.

As a grandparent, you know from experience raising your own kids how hectic it can be. Modern parents are just as busy now as ever. And often they're just looking for the first and easiest way to offload their kids when they need time alone, as opposed to finding a more sustainable solution.

It might be worth spending a few hours of your own time to help find another babysitter or a daycare program for your grandkids. Of course, it's not really your responsibility if you don't want to do it. But it might really help you out in the long run and lighten the burden off of yourself by getting someone else involved.

You may even offer to chip in some money to help cover babysitting or daycare costs. Although understandably many grandparents aren't in a position where they can do this.

Don't overlook free options either! If you have other family members, see if they can take on some of the babysitting load as well. There may be some uncles or aunts who would love to take their niece or nephew for the day but just haven't been asked about it yet.

If you belong to a church, see if they run a babysitting or daycare service of their own. Look at community centers, non-profits, charities, and activity clubs in your area too. Many will offer some form of childcare program at a greatly reduced rate compared to a private daycare. Even if they can only help to watch your grandkids for one or two days per week, that's still a significant part of your schedule that you can free up.

See my article Can't Find a Babysitter? (Try Our 13 Sitter Alternatives) for a few more options as well!

Sleep On It Before Saying Yes

When you inevitably get approached by your kids to ask if you can babysit, don't feel like you need to immediately decide right then and there.

It's okay to take some time to think about it.

You don't want to rush in and bite off more than you can chew. Especially if it's a big commitment.

If your kids ask if you can babysit your grandkids every weekday for the entire summer, or one day of the weekend, really stop and take some time to think about it.

Is it sustainable for you? How will it impact your own needs and activities?

I know that you want to help your kids as much as you can. But it's important to only take on reasonable amounts of babysitting to prevent yourself from getting burned out as well.

Set The Ground Rules For Your Acceptance

If you do agree to babysit your grandkids, it's important to make sure that you and their parents are on the same page. You don't want misunderstandings or assumptions to lead to a disagreement.

So make your expectations clear upfront.

What About Food?

Is it fair that you're expected to provide food for your grandkids, or do you want them to arrive with lunch already packed? If you are going to feed them yourself, are there any rules or diet restrictions that you should know about?

Read my article Do You Provide Dinner for Your Babysitter? (Try These 8 Easy Food Ideas) to see what my take is on this topic!

Additional Tasks

If you're babysitting in the home of your grandkids, are your kids expecting you to do any chores? Be specific about what tasks like laundry or cleaning up you are and aren't willing to do.

Where Will You Babysit?

Are you going to watch the grandkids at your own home, or theirs?

If they are coming to your house, be sure that their parents are equipping them with all of the things you will need to take care of them for the day. Whether that's diapers, toys, formula, or whatever else.

Parent Expectations

What's expected of you in terms of discipline? How much supervision do you need to provide? How much do your grandkids need to nap?

Try to cover as many possible topics and scenarios as possible that could come up while you're watching your grandkids, to make sure that you're on the same page.

Keep An Open Line of Communication

Nobody likes to have babysitting dropped on them at the last minute when you may already have plans. Let your kids know exactly how much advance notice you expect when they ask you to watch your grandkids.

Even if they think they may need to rely on you as a fallback if some other plans fall through. It's better to be prepared and not needed than surprised at the last moment.


I'm sure that you'd do anything to help your kids and grandkids. But sometimes you need to take some time for yourself too. It's okay to say no if you can't babysit for whatever reason. Or even if you just don't want to do it!

You don't need to begrudgingly accept to babysit your grandkids when really you'd rather be out doing your own thing. Retirement isn't just about sitting in a rocking chair all day. You need to get out there and do some activities that you enjoy, so sometimes you'll need to say no to babysitting!

Don't be afraid to set boundaries and let your kids know that you have a life of your own too.

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