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September 03, 2012

Best Traits in Babysitters

Blog-qualities-in-a-babysitterMy favorite babysitter was both mature and silly. She followed my rules and probably broke some too (sometimes sweet treats and late bedtimes are a sitter-must – otherwise, what’s the fun of Mom and Dad going out?). She also loved my sons.

As summer ends, the school year begins, and life as we know it seems to get back on track. This is when sees a surge in families hiring babysitters for date nights and daily help around the house. So a few of us started talking about what qualities we’ve loved most about babysitters we’ve hired (past or present). Here is what some said:

  • Responsible. You’ll want to feel like your kids are in good hands no matter what gets thrown their way. During your interview, make sure to ask your sitter what he or she would do if there was a power outage or a knock at the door. And how would she respond if your child fell off his bike or had a bad reaction to a food?

  • Tidy. This was huge. No one likes coming home to a messy house after a long day or night. Especially if it’s the sitter’s mess!

  • Intuitive. Parents often dread having to tell a sitter or a nanny what to do in each situation. It’s so nice when the sitter jumps in and tries a trick of her/his own. Take separation anxiety, for example. One mom said she knows she’s hired a great sitter when she leaves the house hearing squeals of joy instead of screams and tears because the sitter has created a means of distraction.

  • Silly. When Mom and Dad hire a sitter, it should mean something fun for the kids. So what better than a silly sitter who can get the kids laughing or bring some shy kids out of their shells?

  • Nurturing. Kids have different temperaments, even within the same family. So it’s nice when a sitter can be patient, calming, loving, fun and compassionate all at once. It can help the kids warm up to him/her and shows she/he really cares about the kids – rather than just wanting to make money.

  • Great cook. A number of parents said they ask their sitters to either cook or help their kids eat dinner. So fun tricks to get kids to eat their meal -- and their veggies – is important. (See tricks to solving kid problems >>)

  • Keeps you in the loop. It’s hard for parents, especially those who work, to feel like they might be missing out on some of the fun and milestone moments in their kids’ lives. Parents love when a sitter sends them pictures and updates from their day.

  • Plans outings and playdates. Parents who hire daytime sitters, whether they’re nannies, part-time nannies or help for the stay-at-home parent truly appreciate when the sitter plans exciting (active) activities and field trips for their kids. It’s nice to feel like their kids are having a great time and meeting new people even if they’re not with them. It’s also nice to know they’re getting good exercise.

  • Rule-abiding. Your sitter is paid to act as you would if you were with your kids. With that in mind, she should follow the schedule you have created and stick to the family rules. This said, most parents agreed that the sitter can “break the rules” to give the kids an extra treat with something small like a lollipop, a 15-minute extended bedtime or an extra computer game – but this should still be run by the parents first.

Tell me, what would you add to this list? What is your favorite quality you look for when hiring a babysitter?


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Jeanne D

I love this! I am in the process of looking to find a nanny and this list is definitely going to come in helpful. The one think it's missing from the one that I came up with myself is PUNCTUAL/good at time management. If the nanny's late, I'm going to be late for work. Since I'm returning to the workforce into a new company/position, if I'm late, it reflects extremely poorly on me. If she doesn't keep track of time well, she's also going to throw off my kids' schedules, even inadvertently, which I've worked extremely hard to perfect. When they're off schedule, a good day turns into a painful one quickly.

Johanna Emig

I'm glad I got this email this morning. It just helped me decide what to do with one if my babysitters. She is great until it comes to following a schedule or asking if she doesn't know where something is (she can't even operate a manual can opener). Thank you Sheila. This helped

Amie T

Jeanne D, I wish there was a way to "like" comments. You're right, punctuality is incredibly important when it comes to child care. I always try to arrive 10-15 minutes early, depending on the family.

Sharon Brady

I am a caregiver and try very hard to respect the families wishes. I also do more than just sit we dance, do art projects, play outside, sing, read,, and laugh a lot.
Following the families schedule is very important.

Valerie D.

Great! I have all of these qualities, so I guess that's why I love being a caregiver so much! I've tried office jobs before and always end up going back to childcare. Like they say, ya gotta do what you love to do! I've always gotten more self-satisfaction from caregiving jobs. The rewards are many and the memories, even more. I enjoy feeling that I've made a difference in a child's life, as well as the family's.

Amanda Milbrodt

I love that list and I believe I have all those qualities. I enjoy kids and would want to find a babysitter or nanny with the elements of their personality being equal to or higher than I expect. I would accept nothing less than those traits for my child's babysitter. Thank you. If you are looking for a sitter; consider hiring me please.

 Hypnobirthing Bristol

It is truly a great and helpful piece of information.
I am satisfied that you simply shared this useful information with us.
Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.


Excellent post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Many thanks!

Jennifer C.

I really hope in the future (maybe you have, I just haven't seen the post yet) you would write a post about the difference between a babysitter and an actual nanny. This post refers often to a babysitter but in the sense of what a nanny actually does. Nannies take great offense to this. Babysitters are not doing this as their career, while nannies are. Nannies are also usually college educated with years of experience in the field.

I am a nanny of 23 years, but I also "babysit" on occasion on weekends for families needing a date night. Babysitting is a person (age doesn't matter) that is coming by on an evening while the parents go out for a few hours to dinner, a school function like parent conferences, or to a wedding reception that is for adults only. The times are usually in the evening close to a child's bedtime, thus the children are usually sleeping the majority of the time the babysitter is there. Yes, sometimes a family needs a babysitter for a saturday afternoon to attend a party or such, and yes this would still be considered a babysitting job. You are not needed to help plan all the educational needs of the child for the duration of their growing years, you are not working a set number of hours every week for this family this is just on occasion, you are not needing to do any assistant type duties, etc. But you are in charge of their well-being of course and for the most part are there to play with them, sometimes ordering pizza for dinner, and watching a movie after bath time.

Nannies are part time or full time, but work regularly every week, weekdays mostly, and are helping the family actually raise their children. They are with the children most likely, more hours in a week than the parents are. They are helping with the educational needs and social needs of the child during the day/week, they are doing errands and taking kids to activities, they are helping the family around the house and possibly even doing some household assistant/management type duties like shopping, cooking, laundry, etc.

A nanny is much different than a babysitter, I wish would respect the difference and use the terms correctly.

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