10 Questions to Ask a Babysitter’s References

Posted on by admin | in babysitting

Through coffee meet-ups with other moms and introductions from a friend-of-a-friend, you have a line on a prospective babysitter. You chat on the phone, things sounds good, you ask for past references as a final step before meeting… now what?

Use this handy list of 10 questions to ask your prospective sitter’s references.

*If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of “grilling” another parent, consider adding an “on a scale of one to 10” element for applicable questions to speed up the process and make it feel more objective/less personal.

How did you come to meet your sitter? 

Pay attention to any unusual hesitations or nervousness. If, like you, she was a reference from another family, this will be an easy question to immediately answer. If the person you’re speaking to is really her boyfriend’s sister or her best friend from her junior year posing as a parent, this might catch them off guard. If this is the case, it wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to inflate their resume and might not signal a serious red flag, but honesty is a big part of the relationship and is necessary between a parent and sitter.

In what capacity and for how long did she work for you?

If the relationship was very brief, this could signal a problem. Although a nice person might not say anything negative about the sitter, if she was a real gem the parent would still be having her care for their children unless it was by nature a short term need, such as a travel nanny or to cover during a parental illness or short term contract. If the parent responds with a short term of employment, but qualifies that she only left so soon because she got a better offer for more hours/better pay, this also tells you she might be susceptible to poaching.

What are her best and worst qualities?

These sort of open-ended questions allow the parent to feel relaxed about sharing impressions, since there’s no sense of ‘if I answer in this manner, she’s going to be dismissed’.  Patience, maturity, creativity and a high energy nature are all things you can find out by asking this question that could color your child’s experience.

How would you describe her discipline style? Was this in line with your philosophy?

This tells you both her natural reaction to things going awry (and could be a deal breaker if you are on a different page entirely) and if she follows direction as to keeping with the household rules and consequences or believes in doing things her own way.

Did she have a routine when working with your kids?

Throw a rock and you’ll hit a study or article touting the benefits of routine for children to feel secure and comfortable, largely because it helps them understand the expectations put on them. If she doesn’t believe in following a routine, she might not have invested a lot of time in learning about childcare. (Although maybe an energetic, “fun” babysitter that will just play with the kids meets your needs for the occasional night out.)

Did she return the house in the same shape it was left?

Some babysitters “don’t do windows”. That’s fine. But if you return from a romantic date night or a stressful dinner meeting to a house covered in Cheerios, a sink full of dishes she personally used and a glue stick attached to the sofa cushion, it might be an indication that she’s not going to work out for you.

Did you ever have her sit overnight or drive the kids on outings?

This is telling. While parents have different ideas about what makes a good caretaker, the fact that another parent felt comfortable with her taking on that much responsibility shows their trust in her.

Did you ever have an emergency situation arise while she was caring for your kids? How did she react? 

Listen for clues as to whether she handled it in line with your philosophy (Did a cut finger get a call to 911? Did she put a hard bonk to the head to bed without checking for potential concussion signs?), if she remained calm during the event and how she communicated with the parents during and after the incident. Take note as to whether the emergency included tip offs that she might not be as diligent in watching the kids, such as if she “didn’t know how they got hurt” or “only turned her back for a second” before something disastrous occurred. Follow up with questions about how the kids acted after she had left – were they nonchalant because she kept her cool or affected because of a shared sense of panic?

Why did you stop the working relationship, and would you rehire her in the future?

It might have been something as simple as she had allergies and they had cats, or they needed overnights and she was a student. Knowing that there was no good reason for the two to part ways will feel as reassuring as learning that there was good reason, like if she had a boyfriend over or hid mishaps from the parents and told the kids to stay mum, so you know to steer clear if it’s an issue.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

This is the catchall for things that might have sprung to mind during the conversation. Build a connection with the reference, offer your info if they think of anything else and genuinely thank them for their time, stressing how important it is for parents to stick together when it comes to something as important as their kids.

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