You set boundaries and expectations for your children, babysitters often wish they could enforce similar rules on parents! But since they need to keep parents happy or risk losing their jobs, sitters are often afraid to speak up about some of the annoying things that parents sometimes do.
So here's a list of some everyday things parents do which can annoy babysitters. We'll let you know, so the sitter doesn't have to! Maybe you're currently doing a few things on this list without knowing it. Try to limit these, or eliminate them entirely if possible. Otherwise, don't be surprised if you have a hard time finding a repeat babysitter!
1. Checking In Too Often
As a parent, I know it's important to remember that your child is safe and that the babysitter has everything under control. If you haven't left your kid with someone else many times before, it can be tough.
While you have good intentions for constantly checking in every 15 minutes to see how things are going, it can be quite annoying for your babysitter. Particularly if you always expect a prompt response from the sitter.
Remember that the first goal of your babysitter is to make sure that they're giving your kids their full attention. Every time that you interrupt them with a phone call or text message, those few seconds when they're distracted might be just the window of time that your child needs to hurt themselves or make a big mess. By trying to be too plugged in as a parent, you're preventing the babysitter from being as watchful as they should be.
Of course, there's no problem with sending one or two texts while you're out just to check-in and see how things are going. But if you're asking for a full play by play multiple times an hour, that's excessive.
2. Not Telling Them Where You're Going
You should always give your babysitter plenty of details on where you're going for the evening, and when they should expect you to get home again. If possible, provide them with a phone number for the restaurant or other location where you'll be.
Nowadays we almost all have cell phones, so it's easy to take for granted that anyone will be reachable at any time. But what if your phone's battery dies or you accidentally switch it to silent? Then your babysitter will have no way to contact you in case of an absolute emergency.
If your child gets seriously hurt and needs to go to the hospital, or your home catches fire, you'll want some way for the babysitter to reach you. Even if your personal phone isn't working. Always have a backup plan!
Babysitters do things parents aren't fond of too. Find out more by reading my article - Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter (18 Red Flags to Watch Out For!)
3. Asking The Babysitter To Enforce Rules That You Don't Enforce Yourself
You want the time you're away to go as smoothly as possible for both your child and the babysitter. Normally that means trying to keep things like discipline, mealtime, bedtime, and other normal routines and expectations as consistent with what you'd normally do as possible.
Asking your babysitter to take on disciplinary issues or enforce rules that you don't yet do yourself is a recipe for disaster. Don't expect the babysitter to be able to get your kids to finish all of their vegetables or do their chores if that's something you can't usually do yourself either.
You should have realistic expectations for what your babysitter can accomplish. Particularly if they're only a teenager. If your babysitter keeps your kids safe, content, and fed, then that should be enough.
If you set the bar too high for your babysitter, you're just setting them up for failure. Not only will it create a miserable experience for them, but your kids won't have a good night and will start to see the babysitter as their enemy.
4. Not Providing Food For Your Sitter
If your babysitter is going to need to feed your children while you're away, that's probably a good indication that they're going to need something to eat too!
It's common courtesy to leave enough extra food so the sitter will have something to eat as well. If you really want to treat them, you can leave them some extra money to order a pizza once and a while. If you're grabbing fast food on the way home for your kids and then heading out, ask the babysitter if you can pick anything up for them as well.
Your babysitter will need a more substantial meal if they're babysitting over dinner time compared to any other time of the day. At lunch, they might be able just to make themselves a quick peanut butter and jam sandwich, but at dinner time they'll need more of a full meal.
It doesn't hurt to stock up on some extra snacks such as popcorn and granola bars, and let your sitter know that they can help themselves if they get a bit hungry.
See my recommended food ideas for babysitters in my article - Do You Provide Dinner for Your Babysitter?.
5. Not Setting A Clear Bedtime Routine
If you don't give your babysitter a specific time that your children should go to bed, then they'll have to make a decision for themselves. And more often than not, your kids will end up staying up later than you'd like. That means cranky kids the next day.
Every family's nighttime routine is a bit different, so don't assume that your babysitter will automatically know what yours is.
Kids do best with some structure. So let your sitter know what your kids need to wind down before bed. That includes stuff like whether they can brush their own teeth or need help, which days of the week they need a bath, if they need to be read a story before bed, when to cut off snacks and drinks, and more.
Want to know some signs of a good babysitter? Check out this article - What to Look For in a Babysitter (12 Essential Qualities)
6. Not Saying When You'll Be Home, or Changing The Time
If your babysitter is working at night, they usually won't have any plans afterward except for going home and going to bed. But for older teens, they might be planning to go to a party afterward or hang out with their friends. And if they're babysitting for you in the afternoon, they could have all sorts of plans lined up once they're done working for the day.
Make sure you're realistic about when you'll be home. Don't tell the babysitter you'll be home at 9 pm if it's unlikely that will actually be the case.
Be upfront about when your babysitter should expect you. If it's going to be a long and unpredictable night including dinner and then a few drinks afterward, it might be hard to give a specific timeframe. Let your sitter know in advance if it might be a wild night and there's a good chance that you'll get home quite late.
It's okay if you can't give one specific time. But if that's the case, at least try to give a range. For example, you might say that you'll be home sometime between 10 pm and midnight. Then try to hold yourself accountable and be sure you're back sometime in that range.
It's no fun for the babysitter if you leave it totally open-ended, and they're left watching the hours tick by and wondering if you'll ever return at all!
Most of all, try to avoid changing your plans while the babysitter is already at your home. If you've organized to just go out for dinner and then get home at a reasonable hour, don't tag a movie onto it at the last minute. Babysitters are usually quite flexible and accommodating, but it's just not a polite thing to do. You never know if they might have to study for a big test the next day, or anything else.
7. Not Working Out Pay In Advance
Let's face it. As the parent, you hold most of the power and leverage in the parent-babysitter relationship. So if there are any disagreements, the sitter is likely going to have no choice but to agree with you. But that can create some pretty awkward situations for both of you. Especially when it comes to pay.
If you were going to a job, you'd expect your employer to let you know exactly how much they'd be paying you before you started to work. Otherwise, they could just change their mind at the last minute. So give your sitter the same courtesy and make sure their hourly or nightly rate is worked out in advance and they know exactly how much to expect. Before they even take the job.
You can always tip your sitter a bit extra or pay them more if your night ran late. But they should at least have a minimum amount in mind that they can expect.
8. Not Having Money On Hand To Pay
If you hired a babysitter, you better have picked up some cash in advance or on the way home to pay them with! There's nothing worse than realizing you don't have the right bills in your wallet to pay your sitter, or you might not have any cash on hand at all.
Don't put your sitter in an awkward situation where they have to walk away empty-handed and wait to get paid next time they babysit for you. It's an added stress they don't need, wondering if and when they'll get paid. So have the money ready to pay them every single time they babysit for you.
$40 might not be a huge deal to you. But to a teenage babysitter with no other source of income, not getting paid right away for their babysitting work might be the difference between being able to go out with their friends the next day or not. Don't put them in that situation!
Electronic payment transfers make paying your babysitter easier nowadays, but some younger sitters may not even have a bank account of their own yet.
How much should you be paying your babysitter, anyway? Find out in my article here - Babysitter Pay (The Complete Guide for Parents)
9. Arguing In Front of The Sitter
Parents yelling at their spouse in front of the babysitter happens more often than you'd think! And it will almost always make the babysitter feel uncomfortable.
Maybe your night didn't go the way you expected, or you had a fight with your spouse on the way home. But you need to put it on hold for a bit until you can check in with your babysitter and send them on their way. After a long night of chasing around your child, they don't want to end the night off by hearing you shout at your partner.
It's normally a good idea not to get super drunk, even if you have a babysitter. Dealing with really drunk adults can be a weird and jarring experience for a teenage babysitter. Plus alcohol and squabbling tend to go hand in hand for some people. Don't put them through that.
10. Staying Home With The Babysitter
If you're hiring a brand new babysitter, then it's not a bad idea to have a trial run where the babysitter works while you're still in the house. But if you're doing it on a regular basis, it can be a bit awkward for the babysitter.
While you're paying the babysitter and can do whatever you want, it's hard for the babysitter not to feel some extra pressure and judgment having the parent nearby, or especially if you're in the same room. It makes them wonder why they need to be there at all, if you're there. It also makes it confusing for the child as to who's really in charge at that moment. Plus many babysitters can feel more self-conscious about singing to babies or playing make-believe with your children if you're there.
There are some specific situations where this is more okay than others. For example, if you work from home. You might just need several hours of uninterrupted time to focus, and you'll be doing it in another area of the house where you won't be disturbed. Most babysitters are more okay with that. But if you're just sitting on the couch while a babysitter watches your child, it can seem a bit weird for them.
Everyone needs a break. But if you're just hiring a babysitter so you can chill out and relax in your own house, you'll want to let the sitter know that will be the situation in advance.
11. Not Working Out Transportation in Advance
You and your babysitter might have very different expectations and assumptions when it comes to transportation.
Some sitters may automatically arrange to have a parent or older sibling pick them up when they're done. While other babysitters may expect you to give them a ride home or pay their cab fare.
If your babysitter is old enough to drive, then this one doesn't really apply to you. But in any situation where your babysitter doesn't have their own car, you should figure out the logistics of them getting home in advance.
If you didn't communicate clearly in advance and you've had too many glasses of wine to drive them home, their own parents might not be happy to get a phone call to come pick them up at 1 am.
12. Trying To Cut Costs
You're trying to raise a small child and you're on a budget. I get it. But some parents really go too far trying to save a few extra dollars.
Some parents will actually start a timer the minute they leave the house, and stop it when they get home. Then they'll whip out their calculator to figure out exactly how many minutes they should pay you for.
Don't be that parent. If you get home a bit early at 10:45 instead of 11, just round up and pay them for the full hour. If you're paying your babysitter with handfuls of loose change, you're probably doing it wrong.
13. Not Leaving Enough Money For Activities
Most babysitters are happy to take your kid out to see a film or go to the zoo. But if you ask them to do that, it's important that you leave them enough money!
Teenage babysitters probably don't have the money to pay for things like that and get reimbursed later. So it's important to make sure you give them enough cash upfront. It's better to give them a bit extra, as opposed to putting them in an awkward situation where they don't have enough.
14. Canceling At The Last Minute
Everybody needs to cancel once and a while. But you expect your sitter to give you plenty of notice when they cancel, so you should give them the same courtesy as well. Don't call them up an hour before they were planning to babysit to tell them you won't need them any more.
Try to give notice if things change as far in advance as you can. Remember that your babysitter is setting aside time from their busy schedule to babysit for you, and might be relying on the money they would have got from that job.
Sometimes emergencies do happen. While you aren't required to pay your babysitter if you cancel at the last moment, it's usually courtesy to at least give them part of what you would have paid them, since you canceled so late. At the very least, make sure you express that you're sorry and appreciate them.
If you have too many last-minute cancellations, don't be surprised if babysitters start saying no next time you ask to schedule them!
15. Not Mentioning Other Kids Will Be There Too
Not telling your babysitter in advance that your child will have friends over is the equivalent of your boss suddenly piling twice the work onto your plate without warning. Most babysitters are fine watching an extra child or two, but they'd usually like to know in advance so they can plan and prepare for it a little bit.
If your child wants to have friends over, either try to reschedule or make sure the babysitter is okay with it first before you say yes. And if the friend you're going out with wants to dump their kids onto your babysitter, tell them to get their own!
You should never expect your babysitter to watch additional children for free. Even if it's just your child's friend, it's still extra work for the sitter. So their hourly rate should be adjusted up a bit accordingly.
Do you have a child with autism? Be sure to let your babysitter know in advance, and follow this guide - How to Find a Babysitter for an Autistic Child (The Complete Guide)
Now you have a good idea of some of the things babysitters wish parents would stop doing, but never felt like they could say!
Trying to avoid as many of the items on this list as possible will help ensure a better relationship between you and your babysitter. At the end of the day, a lot of these items simply come down to common courtesy and what you'd want if you were in the babysitter's shoes yourself.
Do you feel like this article was too harsh on parents and gives babysitters a bit too much leeway? Check out my article – Babysitter Rules All Parents Should Enforce – to balance things out!
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The Perfect Gift For Your Babysitter
My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder