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How to Avoid Babysitter Nightmares-Four Tips for a Positive Sitter Selection

Playing and giving treats are two hits with kids

Playing and giving treats are two hits with kids

Baby sitter 'No Entering Zones'

When parents decide to go out for an evening they want to know that their precious ones are left safe behind in the hands of competent care. However, usually that care may come in the form of a teenage babysitter. When my children were young that is who I would employ to help out-a neighborhood teen or the daughter of a friend…someone familiar to my children whose parents and family background I knew.

Usually, there were few bumps along the way. But, once in a while a major glitch would show up which made me immediately put the brakes on ever employing that person again. Here are two stories of my experiences with bad babysitters.

The first occurred while I was living in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you aren’t aware of how gorgeous this area is, or how rural, then be sure to check out Cardelean’s hubs on the topic. Links are included here for your convenience.

My first husband was a ‘Yooper’, the term used to designate a person born and raised in the Upper Peninsula. One year we settled into a little home with lots of yard. It was a bit on the outskirts of town so there was plenty of room for his garden. A young teen lived across the street and when we became a bit familiar with her I had her stay with me a few afternoons so the children could get to know her.

After the initial test period of leaving for short shopping trips, I finally left them with Sandra for an evening out. When I returned the house was a bit sloppy, but I disregarded this. After all, my toddlers were tucked into their beds sleeping and I could tell that they had a good snack.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I reached for my birth control pills that I discovered someone had tampered with them. My oldest daughter was very articulate at four and informed me that yes, Sandra had her friends over and there were even boys in the house-a cardinal rule that I stood firm on.

I immediately walked over to her home to discuss the situation with her and she confessed that she had a party while we were out, but assured me it was not her that took the pills…it must have been one of her friends.

Wow! It was my first ‘in your face’ awareness of how stupid teenagers can be! I looked at this girl in amazement and shook my head. “Look Sandra,” I began my lecture, “whether it was you or your friend let me explain that birth control doesn’t work by taking one pill to avoid pregnancy.”

I went on to explain that she needed to inform her ‘friend’ that this birth control was an ineffective way to avoid a pregnancy and oh, by the way, “I won’t need your services in the future.”

Sitter Common Sense

My girls were in elementary school when the next ‘bad sitter’ incident occurred. By this time I had divorced my husband, had moved back to my hometown and had just graduated from nursing school. My long awaited dream job came to fruition that June and I was ready to embark on the career I had worked so hard to achieve.

While in nursing school I met a fellow nursing student who had a teenaged daughter. Since Pat and I hit it off so well I had great confidence in her daughter’s sitting ability. Needless to say, this girl did not have a lick of sense that her mother had and, much later in time, had some very real issues of adapting to a life of maturity and responsibility.

One afternoon, after I finished my shift, I came home to find the doors wide open, the water in the bathroom sink running at full blast and no one in sight. I was appalled at the irresponsibility that was shown. I cleaned up the mess and carried the laundry to the basement to wash. Again, my jaw dropped to find that the water had seeped through the floor boards onto my laundry table and soaked all of the clothes I had folded the night before. Oh, I was furious.

Again, a few words to Annette, a thorough explanation to her mother, who was more than understanding, and the employment of this particular girl ended. I’m sure we all have horror stories of the worse sitters we have come across in our day, so here are a few tips to help you avoid those problems.

Staying alert and focused

Below are two examples of a babysitting scenario. In the first scene, this child decided to help himself to a kitchen (butter) knife and the family's future dinner: the butternut squash. When questioned by his mother on her return from her afternoon out he said he wanted to "carve the squash" like they had carved the pumpkins.

Right idea, but wrong circumstance. As adorable or funny as this may appear it could have turned into a horrible cutting accident and a trip to the emergency room.

In the second scene, this three year old is being taught a lesson in accountability as his mother told him, "you made the mess, you clean it up" and held him to it. As we can tell by the photo he was not a happy fellow.

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Had the sitter been more on top of things he could have enjoyed a pleasant afternoon when mom returned without mom being upset with the mess she faced when she came home from her enjoyable afternoon out.

Additional visual examples of sitter situations

A bad babysitter does not properly supervise the children.

A bad babysitter does not properly supervise the children.

A good sitter takes away dangerous objects and makes the child clean up after himself.

A good sitter takes away dangerous objects and makes the child clean up after himself.

Selecting a babysitter

Tip #1-have the sitter meet with and ‘play’ with your child for a few hours while you are at home. This way you are able to observe how she interacts with him, how confident she handles situations and questions he has, and the overall maturity and ease of the sitter, before you are actually out of view.

Tip #2-talk with your children, if they are old enough, to get the real scoop of what happened while you were away. Usually, they are willing to spill the beans if the subject is approached with a casual, nonchalance and you do not overreact when they give out ‘appalling’ information.

Tip #3-when working with an agency and you have an infant, set up a Nanny cam if you feel more at ease with letting a stranger take care of your baby. Personally, I would not be handing my baby over to a complete stranger-but, that is just my own opinion.

Tip #4-Pay well for good care. If you are satisfied with the work your sitter does, reward them well. It pays off double-your kids are happy, you are too, because you can leave knowing they are with someone competent, and the sitter will be sure to leave her calendar open for jobs from you. It’s a win-win-win situation.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on December 31, 2012:

Yes, Vellur, I agree. There are so many 'crazy' people out there...many parents choose not to go out at all. Sometimes, even family members can't be trusted to be reliable. Thanks for your comments. Happy New Year to you.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on December 30, 2012:

Great tips for mothers who have to hire baby sitters. Choosing the right person is very difficult.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 15, 2011:

Simone, I hardly think that you could possibly be a bad sitter at any point in your life, LOL Glad you liked it.

Cara-yeah, tell the one behind this I'll call again for additional 'proof' if needed, LOL Thanks for reading. I LOL every time I see those two phots. Esp poor little crybaby! LOL

cardelean from Michigan on November 14, 2011:

Hahaha! Yep a "bad" babysitter. Glad you added the photos and that my "babysitter" could help you out! LOL

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on November 14, 2011:

YIKES! I thought I was a bad babysitter, but I'm starting to feel a bit better about my performance.

Your vetting advice is great! It's kind of intimidating how much responsibility babysitters are given, so choosing the right person is all the more important.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 14, 2011:

Be sure to check the hub out-I added two new photos and an additional explanation. :)

Chin Chin-good for you for being able to stay home with your children. Not every one is able to and you are blessed with that opportunity. Thanks for reading. :)

Gail-it was filled with socioeconomic stats, health rate/pregnancy/welfare stats etc. LOL This was WAY before I ever thought about going to college...I guess I just listened too many times to my father driving his points across in a 'logical' manner. BTW I changed the hub so be sure to catch the end of it.

RedElf-that must have been a horrible fright for you and I certainly would have blown my top!

Cara-thanks for reading and commenting...and loaning me the additional photos. Just in time :)

Hi Ruby-I sure do remember that. And, it doesn't stop at infants. There was a story awhile back about a daughter who set up a camcorder for her elderly father being taken care of by a home visit caregiver. Several days after she hired the person she checked the video and to her horror found the woman beating her father. She was sick about leaving him with her and of course pressed charges. There sure are a lot of sick people in the world! Thanks for your comments.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 13, 2011:

Great info. Denise. Very important. Remember when this family had videos installed in their home and witnessed their babysitter beating their child? Scary..Thank you..

cardelean from Michigan on November 13, 2011:

Hmmm...I remember those days! Hence the reason my kids have yet to be left with anyone but family. Great job and yes a must read for all parents.

RedElf from Canada on November 13, 2011:

Great tips, Denise. I have had a few bad sitters, but nothing really dangerous, thank goodness, except the one night my (not regular) sitter bailed with her boyfriend. They didn't leave me in the lurch, though - they called in a friend.

The friend decided she was bored and left with her boyfriend, but only after arranging for her kid sister to take over. Unfortunately, the kid sister was only eight! I arrived home to find a sleeping child only two years older than her charges.

Needless to say it hit the fan, and was passed back along the chain to all involved.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 13, 2011:

What a fascinating story about the "Letter to the Editor". Surprising that on such a potentially controversial topic you got a lot of positive feedback from others. You must have done a great job of expressing your opinions.

Chin chin from Philippines on November 13, 2011:

It really is important to know who we are entrusting our kids to. I haven't really employed any sitter for my children as I stay at home most of the time.

Thanks for sharing the lessons you learned from your experience with babysitters. Voted up.

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 13, 2011:

Thanks Annie for reading and commenting. I've lost track of the hub # LOL I'll meet up with you again, soon. I'm going to catch some sleep now before my next shift. :)

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 13, 2011:

Gail...what a learning experience for me and that teen. And, in that same era of living up in that rural area they had a clinic (planned parenthood) which many residents were attempting to close b/c they feared it promoted promiscuity and pregnancy.

I was a new mom when I read the article and responded with a letter to the editor. Cara was just 2 yrs old and Christa an infant. I could not believe the ignorance of the citizens choking off a link to a better life for kids that chose not to be saddled by an unwanted pregnancy.

Well, I wrote the 'letter' which was just short of a dissertation, LOL. It was half a page of the paper! I clearly assumed that it would be edited, but every single word was printed. I had many people come up to me to comment and give accolades for standing up and speaking my mind. Obviously, I felt very strongly about the subject matter. Not that I am advocating premarital sex, but just trying to be open minded and realistic.

Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

annmackiemiller on November 13, 2011:

thanks for sharing this Denise - I thought it was great. voted up and stuff

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on November 13, 2011:

What a great hub and your points really hit home because of the examples you gave of your own baby sitting disasters. Loved the great tips which parents would do well to heed.

Voted up across the board (the birth control pill scenario made me laugh, despite the fact that the repercussions to you and the ill informed teen who thought just one pill would protect her, could have been extremely serious!)

Denise Handlon (author) from North Carolina on November 13, 2011:

Good morning, Frank-thanks for reading and commenting. I think the tips are definitely a must read...but, as a new parent reading my horror stories I would not be going out at all, LOL

Hi Will-that's right, and you and your wife will make awesome grandparents. It's much more fun. Thanks for your comment.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on November 13, 2011:

Thankfully, those days are over. The next babysitters will be us!

Great points.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on November 13, 2011:

helpful and useful it should be a must read for new parents huh? what say you on that!

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