When a parent looking to find a babysitter posts a “babysitter wanted” ad what do you suppose they’re looking for in a babysitter? Well after you talk over your babysitting rates and you arrive at the job, did you ever wish you had a list of babysitting tips, that you could easily refer to? Something that would help you to fulfill the parents expectations for a good babysitter who they’ll want to ask back to care for their children again and again? Well we’ve compiled a list based on years of serving hundreds of Orange County and San Diego County families which we hope will help you in your babysitting adventures.
Parents: you may want to read through this list also. It can help you to know what to expect from your own babysitter.
DO clean up so that the home or hotel room looks as good as it did when you arrived. Tip: If you make it look a little better, by doing things like emptying the dishwasher, doing up dishes left in the sink, sweeping up food around the pets eating area … you increase your chance of being placed on that parent’s Favorite Babysitters List and you may even receive a tip.
DO cover up any tattoos as much as possible. Tattoos can make you look scary to children and parents alike. Or on the opposite side, tattoos can be attractive to children, especially if they like you and then of course the parents won’t be happy when their child tells them they want a tatoo like their favorite babysitter.
DO remove any facial piercings. Piercings are not always appreciated by the parent of a young child who may think it’s “cool” and want a piercing themselves. Really young children may even try to grab a nose ring and that’s not fun for anybody.
DO answer the parent’s telephone (unless the parent requests that you not do so). Take a complete message and speak in a friendly, helpful tone of voice. Tip: we recommend that you ask the parents if they want you to answer the phone. Many parents prefer that you let incoming calls go through to the answering machine. If they need to reach you while they are gone you can work out a signal where they call back immediately so that you know it is them and can pick up the phone.
DO give the parent any receipts for money you spent while taking care of their children. This probably won’t happen often, but if the parents ask you to take the kids out for pizza you will want to make sure to give them the receipt, whether you spend your own money and are asking for reimbursement or you spent their money and are showing them an account of what you spent.
DO have a positive attitude when parents call to check in. If you are having a difficult time, ask for their advice but don’t whine about how difficult the situation is. Allow the parents to be at ease while they are out and paying you to care for their children. If the situation was so difficult that you are determined never to come back it’s best not to let them know at that time. Let them enjoy their time away and next time they call for your babysitting services you can just be busy.
DO let parents know if a child was misbehaving and if the child received a time out or another privilege was revoked. Time out and revoking of privileges are the only disciplinary tools that you have as a babysitter. Keep in mind that the parents will most likely be embarrassed that their child misbehaved so reassure them (if true) that everything worked out okay, you just wanted to let them know what happened while they were out.
DO ask the parents what the bedtime routine is. It’s no fun to be faced with a child who will not go to sleep until they have their binky, silky, passy or slimey and you don’t know where it is or WHAT it is for that matter.
DO get written permission if you are using a parents’ car.
DO follow all reasonable parents’ requests such as to bring in mail and newspapers, walk the dog, help children with homework, etc. If a client asks you to do something that you are uncomfortable with or consider an unreasonable expection of a babysitter such as to clean the bathroom, do a weeks worth of laundry, give the dog a bath … it’s best to discuss it at the time they ask you, rather than to agree to it and then not do it or do it and then resolve never to come back. Being open and up front keeps everybody happy and keeps your babysitting calendar full.
DO keep bathroom and bedroom doors open at all times and especially when bathing, changing, dressing or helping potty training children. This helps to eliminate any misunderstandings or possible false accusations.
DO encourage children to partake in educationally oriented activities rather than watch TV or play computer games. If you have your own “bag of goodies”, please bring them to assignments.
DO take medical and transportation releases with you at all times and make sure client signs them if there’s the chance that you may administer medication or take the child anywhere outside of the home or hotel room. Make sure to send any signed releases in with your time cards.
DO dress professionally for all assignments. Shorts, jeans and t-shirts are fine, but any tattoos should be covered and any facial piercings removed. No inappropriate images or verbiage should be portrayed on clothing. Clothing should be modest and clean.
DO check with the operator before making a call, even one that is in the same area code as your client. Many calls within the same area code still carry a local long distance charge, which oddly enough can be 10 times the charge for a call across the country. Who knew? If you have a calling card this would be the time to use it. If you do not have a calling card DO NOT make a call that may be charged to your client’s phone.
DO check with the front desk before making a call from a hotel room as many hotels charge for every call made, local or not. A calling card will not help you here, although a cell phone will.
DON’T make phone calls unless absolutely necessary. If you did make a phone call; when the parents return mention that you used the phone to confirm another job or whatever the reason was. You want to make sure to do this, because chances are that the next day your DC (dear charge) will say “the babysitter was on the phone the whole time”. They’re not trying to get you in trouble. It’s just that in a child’s world the fact that you delayed making their peanut butter sandwich for five whole minutes because you were on the phone feels to them like you were on the phone “the whole time”.
DON’T eat the client’s food unless they give you permission to do so.
DON’T spend time on the client’s phone or the client’s computer unless they’ve given you permission to do so and even then do so sparingly. Remember that you are there to care for their children, not to do your own business.
DON’T ask the parents to come home if a pet or child is sick or otherwise difficult to handle. DO call parents though to alert them to the situation.
DON’T let children go with anyone unless you have written permission from the parents. Make sure to let the parents know if they call in or when they come home if their child left the home with an adult.
DON’T let anyone into the home or hotel room without permission from the parent. Feel free to refuse someone access to enter the home. It is much better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to let the parents know if someone asked to take the children.
DON’T transport children or adults in your own car. It’s a good idea to have a signed note from the parents if you’ll be walking with the children outside of the family’s property, taking the children on public transportation or using the parent’s car.
DON’T administer any medications without a signed release.
DON’T smoke, drink alcoholic beverages, make personal phone calls or have a guest visit you while on an assignment.
DON’T be late – EVER. Be cogniscent of the fact that the family has made plans based on your commitment to be at their home to babysit the children at a certain time. If they have tickets to something that they cannot attend or are late arriving because of your tardiness, they may ask you to reimburse them.
DON’T complain to parents. It’s a good idea to ask for advice, but it’s never a good idea to complain.
DON’T spend money on the children unless the parents have given you permission to do so; i.e. they ask you to order a pizza or to flag down the neighborhood ice cream truck. And if you do spend any money make sure to give the parents the receipt.
I hope that this simple list will help you to understand what a parent’s expectations may be for a good babysitter who they will ask back again and again.