Babysitters – and the death of common sense…

15 Dec

Moving to another city where we have no family and friends…has pushed us to do something we otherwise might not have done — use babysitters. We are lucky (I guess) because we live by a college and therefore we don’t have a deficit of potential babysitters. The experience has taught us a couple of things that people don’t usually talk about in their posts or articles. I thought it might be a good idea to mention some things we learned that goes well beyond the ‘what-to-ask-potential-babysitters’ post.

Firstly – never assume anything. Maybe its the ‘new’ generation or just me, but a lot of things need to be mentioned and not left up in the air– namely –

- cleaning up after themselves and the kids – we don’t expect the babysitter to clean the house, but they must put stuff and toys away when done. We expect them and our kids to clean up after themselves…you would be surprised what a mess that could be welcoming you back from a date night if you don’t make this clear!

- No uninvited ‘guests’ — I know “say what?!” but it has happened to a friend of ours – this is where my comment on the death of common sense comes in – make it clear they cannot have friends over to ‘hang out’ when you are gone – especially without telling you first. Ugh.

- Make it crystal clear how your family disciplines your kids — moving to Oklahoma has made us realize that in general a ‘little’ corporal punishment (i.e. spanking) is acceptable. Unfortunately for them, not in our household. A friend of mine was making it clear to her babysitter that they do not spank and that’s when it hit me that we never tell our babysitter our rules for discipline. Whether timing out, or quiet time, you have to tell your babysitter what your expectations are.

- Make it clear how you deal with crying or sadness. Another friend of mine came home with her daughter crying and her babysitter just standing there looking at the toddler. I have told babysitters that I expect them to sooth and carry my child if they are crying – bouncing on the exercise/yoga ball also helps sooth my toddler. It helps both your child and your babysitter to know what the best ways are of soothing your children and getting them to calm down.

- To help ensure your kids have fun and enjoy their time with the babysitter, set up activities you know they will enjoy! For our 5.5 year old this means having arts and crafts projects ready to go. Both our daughters love books, the toddler can be read to by big sis or the sitter. If the weather is good, we give the sitter the bug spray and tell her to take them into the backyard for some time on the swings or to kick a ball around. If it’s an extended time that we will be out, we leave a DVD for them to watch together.

I’m definitely not saying that all babysitters need all these instructions and have no common sense, but in a case where you don’t have neighbor’s teenage children you’ve known for years, or relatives you can rely on — it pays to be clear rather than vague.

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