How to Find a Good Babysitter

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: I’d like some guidelines on choosing a babysitter. I am afraid to bring someone in to my home that I don’t know very well. We have several teenagers in our church and I’d like to use a few of them but how do I know which ones to use?

A: You can’t be too careful as to who watches your children when you are away. The younger the ages of your children, the less they can tell you about the babysitter, so you have to do your homework ahead of time.

  • The best place to begin is to ask for references from other parents. If other parents have used the sitter and have been satisfied, that usually is a good sign.
  • Interview the sitter and try to schedule a time to watch her interact with other children. Perhaps you could watch her in the church nursery or in a Sunday School class.
  • Talk to older siblings of families who have used a babysitter and get their impressions of the person. I think it is best to hire someone you know fairly well or take the recommendation from someone you trust.
  • If you can, find someone who shares your values. This usually impacts the way a sitter handles a problem, the type of media she brings into your home and the way she talks to your child. Ask her how she would handle specific problems.
  • Ask if the sitter has taken a babysitter class at a local hospital or community agency. My daughter did this when she was older and learned CPR, poison control and other important emergency protocols. Safety is so important that you need someone who knows and follows safety guidelines such as locking doors and windows, keeping hazards away from children, staying off the phone and is clear headed if a problem occurs. 
  • Is the sitter a caring person who actually likes children? If she is a teenager who is doing this for money but has no interest in your child and ignores your child most of the time, pass on that person. The sitter should also be reliable and consistent—showing up when she says, arranging rides, following the rules you outline, etc. A sitter who makes excuses for why she didn’t follow your instructions raises a red flag.
  • Ask your child how she liked the sitter, if she wants her back and pay attention to how she behaves when the sitter is gone. Even young kids can give you some indication of how they were treated.
  • You can also make a surprise visit home to see what is going on. Some people even go so far as putting cameras in their homes so they can watch how the sitter dealt with their child. That seems a bit extreme to me. I did surprise the sitter a few times when I forgot something. It was actually reassuring to see them smiling and having fun.


Extra Resource: What to Expect Baby-sitter Handbook by Heidi Murkoff (Workman Publishing Company, 2003)

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