How to Spy on Your Babysitter

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close-up of toddler

Photo by yadayada

I have the greatest babysitter in the world, someone I trust completely. But I still get nervous leaving my kids with anyone who isn't me. I'll bet I'm not alone in that.

Genvieve Thiers, founder of sittercity.com, which helps you find great care providers in your area, has a simple three-step screening process for me and other rightfully cautious moms. This guide will help ensure that the babysitter we pick is the right fit for our family, so we can function at work or spend a night out without worry.

 

STEP 1: ASSESS THE MATCH

Pay attention to the sitter's relationship with your children. Here are a few signs that she might not be the best match:

  • Sitter has a different view on discipline than you do and is reluctant to change
  • Child doesn't seem very interested in the sitter when she arrives
  • Sitter lacks energy or enthusiasm
  • Sitter develops a patronizing attitude towards you or your parenting preferences

Some warning signs can indicate something much more serious than a simple mismatch (do NOT keep this sitter!):

  • Sitter blames the child for problems he didn't cause
  • Sitter unreasonably demands perfect behavior
  • Child's behavior changes drastically (becomes excessively clingy or aggressive)
  • Child cries, screams and begs you not to leave
  • Child develops unexplained bruises, cuts or burns
  • Child loses his appetite or has recurrent nightmares

STEP 2: COMMUNICATE

 At the end of each sitting job, take five minutes or so to run through some quick questions about the day's events. Here are a few examples: 

  • How did the day go? What did you all do?
  • How did my child behave today?
  • Were there any problems?

Another thing you should do is set aside 15 minutes each month to call your sitter and discuss how everything's been going from her perspective. Consider general questions, such as: 

  • Do you find yourself running into any obstacles on the job?
  • How has my child's behavior been in general?
  • Do you have any concerns about my child or about the job itself?

STEP 3: OBSERVE 

  • Ask a neighbor to keep an open eye and ear. If the sitter takes your child outside, for example, your neighbor can peek over to make sure things are going well. 
  • Come home unannounced, perhaps for lunch. An unexpected drop-in will put you smack-dab in the middle of the sitter-child relationship and will help keep your sitter on her toes. 
  • Install a nanny cam. The most diligent parents we've seen use a nanny cam to confirm their suspicions or alleviate their fears. Many nanny cam services have live feeds that you can watch on your computer or cell phone while you work, such as the one available at sittercity.com.

++How do you monitor your baby-sitter? Have you ever used a nanny cam?

child care, discipline, safety