Everything parents need to know about hiring and keeping quality babysitters and everything babysitters should know about running a thriving, happy business.
PART 1: How to Find, Keep and Manage a Great Babysitter
By Marye Audet
Parenting comes with a lot of hard decisions about almost everything, from choosing a style of parenting that works for you to selecting the right preschool for your child. Sometimes the most difficult decision of all is identifying someone who willl supervise your children when you are going to be away, whether it’s for an evening or a weekend. How can you be sure that the babysitter you choose will be responsible, loving, and attentive?
Where to Look
Hiring the teenager next door might have worked in the 20th century, but today’s 21st century parents have an entirely different set of issues to consider. Nearly every day we hear a news story about a child being neglected, abused, or abandoned by the person who was supposed to be watching her. Finding a trustworthy sitter isn’t easy.
Word of Mouth: The easiest and least anxiety-producing method of finding a good babysitter is simply to talk to your friends. Find out whom they use, whom they have been happy with, and whom they would never use again. You can be relatively sure that if your neighbor is using a babysitter that she raves about, it’s someone you can be comfortable with, too.
Local Organizations: This works especially well in smaller communities. Talk to a librarian, the high school counselor, YMCA, or homeschool association to find out who might be a good fit for your family. The homeschool association is usually the best bet, because the teens can often babysit anytime rather than just after school. A local community college is another good place to find potential sitters.
Online: Many websites specialize in matching families with babysitters. Babysittersforhire.com and SeekingSitters.com are two of the largest national sites. These websites screen applicants, do background checks, and match you with a compatible babysitter. Some companies have you find your own babysitter by writing an ad and publishing it onsite. Either way, you are given access to sitters in your area who have been investigated and certified through the company. Always read everything you can about the site before you choose a babysitter. There are small differences in the way that the websites certify their sitters, and you may like one better than the other.
It’s important to sit down with the potential sitter and ask questions. Having the sitter interview in your home will give you an indication of how she fits in with your family, how she interacts with the children, and whether or not there are problems you haven’t thought to discuss. For example, if you have a big dog, and the sitter is allergic to dogs, she won’t work no matter how much you love her.
By spending a little time with her you’ll get a better feel for whether or not she is right for your family.
It’s important that you have all the information that you need. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions. Here are a few to help you get started.
- How much babysitting experience do you have?
- How old were the children you stayed with?
- Do you have references?
- Have you ever had to handle an emergency? Tell me about it.
- How do you plan on enforcing rules when they are broken?
- Do you have a plan for interacting with the children?
- What activities do you like to do to with them?
- How would you comfort a child who is crying, afraid, or hurt?
- How would you handle a fight between two children?
- Do you drive? If so, do you have car insurance? Have you had any tickets?
- Have you been trained in CPR?
- Tell me a little about yourself.
- What is your hourly rate?
Of course, you should always check references. Here in the Age of the Internet it’s pretty simple to do your own background check. Search by their name and any other information you can think of. For example, Nancy Smith Facebook, Nancy Smith Houston Texas, Nancy Smith First Baptist Church. Don’t forget to search images, too. By taking an hour of your time and spending it with your favorite search engine you can find out a lot.
Keeping a Good Babysitter
As you can imagine, it’s a competitive market when it comes to getting and keeping a good sitter. You’ll need to make your home a desirable place for her to be.
Pay Rate: In Houston the starting rate for a babysitter is $10.50 an hour, and it goes up from there. Obviously, the better you like your babysitter, the more you’ll want to pay her, within reason. After all, if you are paying $10.00 an hour and the people across the street offer her $12.50, it’s quite possible that she will move on. Loyalty is a wonderful thing, but if another company offered you 20 percent more to do the same job for them that you’re doing now you’d take it, wouldn’t you? Of course, babysitting a quiet ten-year-old is different than babysitting a set of 18-month-old twins, so set your rates accordingly.
Be Nice: This should be standard practice, but all too often it isn’t. Simply being kind, generous, and respectful of your babysitter will go a long way to ensure the loyalty that you are looking for.
- If you have to cancel at the last minute, pay her anyway. She gave up some of her time to be committed to your needs.
- Keep some of her favorite snacks and sodas in stock . Make sure she knows that she is welcome to them.
- Send her cards of appreciation once in a while.
- Round up when the pay isn’t a whole dollar. Turn $25. 35 into $26.
- Remember her birthday.
- Give her a bonus at Christmas.
- Give her tips once in a while.
- Come home on time every time.
- If you do have to be out past the time you said you would, call her and let her know. Then pay a higher rate for the extra time.
- Teach your children to respect her.
- Have a meal prepared, or leave her money to order pizza.
- When there is a problem don’t automatically take your child’s side. Listen carefully and then take time to think about what you have heard.
- Give her good references. If she’s that good she’ll get the other jobs anyway.
- Common courtesy is important at all times.
Sadly, sometimes no matter how good a fit she initially seemed to be for your family, things just might not work out. It’s important to handle problems courteously and professionally.
Nanny Cam – Yes or No?
More people are using surveillance methods for checking up on babysitters. This is probably a good idea, especially if you have a child that can’t communicate well, whether due to age or other issue. If you have children that are old enough to let you know what is going on, you really don’t need a Nanny Cam unless you suspect something is going on that they are too intimidated to tell you about.
Handling a Reprimand
Sometimes things happen that aren’t bad enough to prompt you to let your babysitter go, but are too serious to ignore. You’ll need to have a meeting with her to discuss your concerns. It’s best to do this away from the house or when the kids are in school, if possible. Keep it casual—a long talk over a cup of coffee is great.
- Prior to the meeting make notes so you know what you are going to say.
- Don’t pre-judge the situation.
- Stick with the facts and keep your voice even.
- Don’t make threats or accusations that you can’t back up.
- Listen to what she has to say.
- Discuss how the event will be handled in the future.
Things that you may want to talk to your babysitter about are:
- showing up late,
- having friends over,
- yelling at the kids, and/or
- ignoring the children.
When You Have to Let Her Go
Things like alcohol or drug abuse do not need conversations—these should be grounds for immediate dismissal, and that policy should be made clear from the very beginning.
If you have to let your babysitter go it’s best to invite her to your house and tell her in person. Pay her a bonus if she has been good but you don’t need her anymore. It’s also a good idea to have a reference letter ready for her so that she can show it to other prospective employers.
If there has been a problem and the reprimand didn’t solve it, then there is no need to provide a bonus or a letter of recommendation. It would be best to just tell her that you are letting her go because the problems you were having haven’t been solved. Don’t get emotional, and if she reacts badly make sure that you remain calm and professional.
Getting and keeping a great employee is a combination of luck, due diligence, and treating her well, whether you’re hiring a project manager or a babysitter. It’s good to keep that in mind.
PART 2: How to Start and Manage a Healthy, Fun, and Profitable Babysitting Business
By Lauren Galley
Babysitting is a great way to earn some extra money and be entrepreneurial, as well as gain responsibility and maturity. I started babysitting around the age of 15 and had a lot of fun caring for children. But often times the job is not as easy as it sounds. You have to find clients, transportation to your babysitting jobs, and of course you must have all the characteristics people look for in a caregiver for their children. Yikes! It sounds like a lot of work. But don’t worry… it is very doable and can be very rewarding both financially and emotionally.
1. Get consent from your parents. Babysitting is a great way to earn money and have fun with children, but you need to deliberate with your parents first. Some mothers or fathers will come down on this idea with an iron fist, so how do you persuade them that you are responsible enough to take on this job? Read on to find out how.
Your parents may have some tough questions for you and want some evidence that you are ready for such a position. My advice would be to help out around your house: clean your room regularly, help with the laundry, feed your animals, etc. This will show them how accountable you are and that you are old enough to start having a job and business of your own. Adulthood is the key. Don’t nag your parents over and over. The more you pester them, the less likely they are to ever give you what you want. Bring it up a few weeks later. Give them a talk on why you believe you are ready for the job, what safety precautions you will take, etc. Don’t be nervous; parents are always there to help and they will be proud that you are taking the initiative to earn some spending money responsibly.
If the answer is YES, make sure you show that you appreciate their co-operation and kindness. A thank you goes a long way! If you are babysitting only for your siblings you can tell your mom that you don’t need to get paid. This will show how thoughtful you are and how much you desire to learn before you step up to real clients.
If they say no, propose to “mother sit.” This is for moms who are busy and can’t spend enough time during the day with baby. Find a mom receptive to your service, and have your parent come with you to supervise. This way they will see what it will be like for you. Use all your skills and try not to ask, just pretend your parents are not there.
Getting your parent’s permission is most significant before you begin other steps! They may want to talk to you regarding the responsibilities and consequences first, or they may have concerns about your age and readiness to care for someone else. Collect references and recommendations. Begin by requesting your parents, friends, relatives and acquaintances to recommend you to anyone they know who wants a babysitter.
2. Pursue training. Before embarking on the journey of this fun business I would recommend taking a babysitting class. Red Cross is an option, but really any well-known course will do. Select a course that is helpful and informative. Many parents will feel better about leaving their kids with you. Use a search engine to hunt for Red Cross Babysitters Training, Safe Sitter and other babysitting classes in your local area. Safe Sitter is suggested because it will teach you about more than just the medicinal side, and you get a certificate, safety kit and a nice little manual that tells you everything you need to know.
3. Select a name for your business. Be professional and make some business cards to hand out to prospective clients. If possible, have them typed up. That brands it to look more professional! Select the age range that you want to watch. If you believe taking care of a younger child is too difficult, don’t take that job. If you are too near in age to your clients, don’t take that job, either. It’s important that you are comfortable and content with the age range you have chosen. Remember that it is never too late to change your mind.
4. Determine what you will charge for babysitting. Charge the right amount of money, not too much or too little. Depending on your area and expertise as well as the age of the child, your price should range between five and 20 dollars. It might also be a good idea to find what others in your area with the same level of experience are charging so you can charge the same or a similar price as them. For example if you live in Houston and all your friends who have the same level of experience as you charge $8-$10 an hour for one child, you should charge the same amount.
5. Know how to take charge of a situation. Make sure in advance that one of your parents is going to be home, in case of a crisis. You need to know how to handle situations like choking, break-ins, fires, a storm or hurricane, or unsafe incidents in the client’s home. It is unsafe to babysit without knowing the correct way to handle an emergency.
6. Promote yourself. Post flyers and to hand out your business cards. Use bright colors to get the parents’ attention. Be sure to include ages you will babysit, your phone number, and days or hours you would be available. Do not give out your address or full name yet! Some people may be looking for you for the wrong reasons! Once you have printed these items, it’s time to start advertising. Post your flyers in the neighborhood or at your school, library and so on or hand them out to neighbors. Consider creative ways to get your name known. Use blogs, cards, flyers, your logo on Halloween chocolate, etc. Don’t over-advertise; pestering clients and potential clients is not professional.
Congratulations! You have learned how to start your business! You have permission from your parents, you have gathered references and recommendations taken a babysitting course, chosen a name for your business, determined the age range that you want to babysit and decided what you will charge for babysitting. Now it is time to start actually babysitting!
1. Wait for individuals to contact you. Stay active by offering your services to parents of children you know. Talk to the mother or father of the child ahead of time to figure out things about their daily lives. This consists of how to discipline the child, basic food and eating habits and rules. Pay attention! Don’t talk on the telephone while the baby is playing. Watch them and babysit with care. This is exactly why you got the job, to keep a lookout on the kids!
2. Keep the phone number of the parents by your side. Get a list of things that the child should eat, cannot eat and is allergic to. This is always good to know so that you can put these things out of grasp of the child, who may look around.
3. Be nice to the kids. Make them feel you are someone they can have faith in. This doesn’t mean the kid does whatever she or he wants; be a little strict but not too severe! PLAY WITH THEM! Sending them away to play on their own will not send them running to Mom asking for you to come again next time.
Babysitting is a huge responsibility and a lot of work, but it is also a TON of fun that will also help you start saving your own money. I remember when I got my first babysitting job and the feeling of maturity that came along with it. Getting paid for my work was a really rewarding experience and something I will never forget.
Good luck babysitting, and make sure to absorb every moment of it because you may not be able to play make-believe at your future jobs!
By Eric L. Zielinski
Typically, unless it’s expected, a phone call from the babysitter makes every parent’s heart miss a beat.
Are the kids ok?
Is someone in trouble?
The call usually involves something along the lines of where the mustard is or how to put on Netflix, but it’s important not to dismiss that this concern is a sign that you are not 100% confident that your kids are OK. Although you’ll probably never be completely at ease with someone else watching your children, if you could do something to help guarantee that emergencies will be handled more appropriately, then why not do it?
Following these two simple steps will help ensure that everyone is in good hands next time you go out on a date with your honey. This peace of mind is priceless.
1. Don’t Forget the Fundamentals: Emergency Protocol
Not too long ago, everyone had landlines hanging on to the wall or in a fixed position such as a countertop. As a permanent fixture of the house, it was often times decorated with sticky notes providing phone numbers to Grandma’s house or the neighbor’s house next door. This made it especially easy for the babysitter to know what to do or whom to call when an emergency happened, because it was literally plastered on the phone! Today, however, Mom & Dad can be reached instantly on their cell phones, and many parents forget to post emergency phone numbers and procedures somewhere in the house.
Don’t make this mistake. Before you go out on your next date, type this information up, have it laminated, and put in on your fridge:
- Parents’ cell numbers
- Emergency contact cell numbers (in case parents do not answer phone)
- Pediatrician phone number
- Address/directions to the nearest children’s hospital or urgent care facility
- A friendly reminder to “CALL 911 FIRST!” for emergencies
- Location of first aid box
- Location of medications or inhalers your children need
2. Invest In Their Future
The American Red Cross has specific training and certification for babysitters for good reason. Although they offer much cheaper options (like online classes for $25), it is important not to skimp on investing the $140 for the Babysitter’s Training and Pediatric First Aid/CPR class. It may sound a little pricey, but can you put a dollar amount on your kids’ health?