What Are Realistic Babysitter Responsibilities?
Know what's fair to expect from a sitter.
Maria Adock, Contributor
Articles> What Are Realistic Babysitter Responsibilities?
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From Mary Poppins to Supernanny, parents have seen a few too many miracle-working child caregivers to be 100 percent sure what to expect from an everyday babysitter. And sitters want to do a great job caring for your kids, but how do they know what falls under their job description? Unfortunately, there is no standard blueprint for babysitting. It depends entirely on the family and the sitter. Realistic babysitter responsibilities usually vary by the age and experience of the sitter, how often the sitter is spending time with your family and the needs of your children.

A babysitter's responsibilities can include things like:

  • Cooking/feeding
  • Performing light housekeeping
  • Doing laundry
  • Changing diapers
  • Preparing bottles
  • Transporting kids (bringing them to soccer practice, picking them up from school, etc.)
  • Helping with homework
  • Making snacks
  • Getting kids ready for bed
  • Playtime/lessons (reading to them, doing crafts, etc.)

But how do you know what to ask of your sitter -- and how does a sitter know what to expect? Here are some helpful tips for determining responsibilities for your babysitter.

Discuss Expectations
According to Richard Bromfield, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of "How to Unspoil Your Child Fast" and "Embracing Asperger's", the best thing to do is be direct. "Parents should keep their focus and their caretaker's focus on the child and her needs," says Bromfield. "Some caretakers are willing to take on assorted household duties and other sorts of tasks. Make it clear that your primary concern as a parent is that your child is well cared for. And make sure, too, that your caretaker does not feel unfairly burdened or distracted by other kinds of chores that were not explicitly negotiated as part of her responsibilities and job." If you give your sitter additional tasks, you should also give her additional pay.  

Assess Qualifications
This means putting your child's safety and comfort first as well. For example, a 15-year-old, first-time babysitter may not know how to perform CPR, but a 45-year-old former-nurse should not hesitate. Your expectations may likewise differ if you're hiring a one-time babysitter for a few hours versus a full-time nanny. It's realistic to ask that a nanny or long-term sitter be CPR and first-aid certified, but if they're not and you love the sitter, it's okay to offer to pay for classes.

When you're hiring a babysitter, also think about what additional qualifications could benefit your child. Is your son struggling in math? Look for a sitter who is acing her high school calculus class and can help with homework. Is your daughter taking piano lessons? Find a sitter with a musical ear who can help her practice. These above-and-beyond qualities are not typical babysitter responsibilities, but are specialties that can help your family. Just don't expect to hire a tutor/babysitter and only compensate her for simply her babysitting role.

Expect Entertainment
It's reasonable to assume a babysitter will engage with your child rather than act as a bystander. This means she's not watching kids from the corner of her eyes while reading a magazine, or plopping them in front of the television for hours. She is, after all, your partner in raising those precious, tiny people -- if only for a night.

Entertainment is a huge responsibility to consider. The world of play is a child's life, so you should expect creative indoor and outdoor playtime, in addition to any educational work you've asked the sitter to oversee. More experienced or long-term sitters should expect tasks like this.

A teenage sitter working for a few hours should do the basics, says Tracey Black, a San Diego mother of three and founder of parenting blog Don't Mess With Mama. "I just expect my kids to be entertained, given light snacks and put to bed on time," she says. "If I have a more experienced sitter or nanny, I'd expect help with homework, meal preparation, planned outings to the park, light cleaning, such as washing dishes from meals and tidying up after the kids, and possibly carpooling."

Review Routines
It's always realistic to expect someone who tidies up after herself and the kids while she's watching them, and respects the ground rules and routines. Whether it's brushing teeth, washing hands, changing diapers or assisting with toilet training, ensuring your kids stay clean is a given for any sitter. If you're potty training or have special needs, don't forget to walk the sitter through the routines that work for your kid. The same is true of mealtime with specific food requests or allergies, and bedtime routines. Rules don't go out the door just because you're going out for the night, from eating veggies before dessert to brushing teeth before bed.

That said, discuss discipline for when house rules are broken. It's not realistic to ask a babysitter to spank your child, but discuss time outs, loss of privileges and grounding.

Communicate Often
Past that, encourage your babysitter to call you with any urgent questions or concerns. Also make sure she knows it is okay to call the police in an emergency. Setting these expectations in advance is the easiest way to alleviate most issues. Bromfield recommends continuous communication, even if it's just regular chats between sitters and parents. And print out this emergency checklist to leave for every babysitter: Child Care Safety Checklist

"Early in the interviewing and hiring process, parents should make clear to the prospective caretaker that they will be an engaged parent, meaning a parent who will be asking about their child's day, their activities and so forth," Bromfield says.

Parents ride a fine line between being involved versus snagging the helicopter-parent title, but they do have a right to set ground rules and know what's going on.

"By being clear upfront, they can avoid feelings of resentment and intrusion down the road by a caretaker who did not expect or welcome their involved stance," says Bromfield. "While parents can surely be unreasonable and too demanding of child caregivers, a parent should never feel afraid or reluctant or as if they are walking on eggshells when they wish to ask or know something about their child and the caretaking experience."


Maria Adcock, proud first-time mom, is a marketer and freelance writer in Long Island, New York. Maria has worked for publications such as InStyle, Real Simple, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, Cooking Light, and Health. Her work can be found here.


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(6) Comments
Rebecca R.
Rebecca R.
I think Patricia said it right, but I also think many parents want the Mary Poppins or Super Nanny, they just don't want to pay for it, and some may not be able to afford it. When I see the term "light housekeeping" I cringe now because many families use it to mean mopping floors, vacuuming carpets, doing laundry, cleaning dishes, etc, but still expect you to watch their children, without offering extra pay. One family I worked for for nearly 2 years stiffed me for money when they had friends visit from out of town and expcted me to watch their friends 2 children in addition to the 3 I was already watching! I was also expected to clean up after friends and family members that did not reside in the house. I was never reimbursed for things I had to provide, such as laundry soap and dish soap as well as diapers. I think it's very unrealistic to expect your care provider to have to provide anything for your home. That is YOUR responsibility since it is your home. It seems to me, moe and more people want a whole ot of something for nothing. It's expected to need to clean up messes made when I'm there... I shouldn't have to clean up messes made up to 3 days prior to my being there.
May 25, 2014 at 9:29 AM
Linda L.
Linda L.
I am going to be starting with a family. It will be 4 days a week and they told me since it is part time I would not receive any sick, holiday,vacation time. It is 30 hours per week and one parent works from home every day. However, she is pregnant with a second child so after the child comes I am going to ask for 1 dollar per hour more and some benefits.
September 2, 2012 at 10:02 AM
Daniele T.
Daniele T.
Well said Patricia! :)
Imagine a parent that needs to go out to work every day, and sometimes their boss forgets to approve their expense report, or payroll missed out to include a few extra hours of work, or God forbid there was an error in their paycheck and they got less money or no money at all in their account...
My point is, everybody have bills to pay! Including babysitters! For understandable reasons babysitters don't make as much money as a teacher, a nurse or a doctor, but they are all care givers, and they should love what they do; so the time spent caring for loved ones must be appreciated and respected like any other job.
August 31, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Patricia U.
Patricia U.
I am commenting because I want parents to realize they have to have the same realist expectations of a nanny that they have for themselves as a parent. I have had over 30 years of experience in taking care of others children and I could write a book. My favorites are I can't pay you and when you insist on being paid they say with surprise you are all about the money lol. Arent we working to get paid? Doesnt the parent? Please pay your nanny on time. My other things are being called last minute the parent is staying home and then not getting paid for the day. You have paid sick days and so should the nanny? I have been written bad checks ,had people pay me days,weeks late ,had parents expect me to use my car,my gas and my money to take their children on trips because we are supposed to love kids,Right? I do love children and have for over 30 yrs but I will say that its the parents who treat their nannies with disrespect that have the children who have behavior issues. Respect is a learned thing and its needed to succeed in life. A nanny wouldnt be doing her job if she didnt teach respect. A child success is important to us as childcare providers or we wouldnt be doing this kind of work,however we need to be paid and treated with respect! I think parents should provide the car with insurance, and gas money and money to go places . I think if parents want trips and expensive places for their kids then they need to provide the access. Nannies dont make a lot of money and anybody doing childcare knows you dont! Children are told life has to be all about doing things,running places and having everything planned out for them with no ability to creat on their own. They have no ability to use the imagination they should use to play and be creative . There is responsibility in life and children need that too. Going places should be after the work,the room clean,the homework done etc! A parent has to ask would I have time to do everything expected here for the kids and still have time to be out? And, ask has the child earned this privledge? I believe that a child succeeds or fails when he learns respect and that life has consequences for bad actions . I dont feel Im doing my job unless a child does well in life and suceeds. I have seen children grow into adults who have productive and independant adults with kids of their own. I have seen the other way too. I prefer to teach children to know how to respect other people and treat others well,and that is learned from parents and caregivers who mentor and show by example...........(: Thanks for listening lol I guess I am just searching for that special family who appreachiate an educated loving really care about your child nanny!

*A note here for nannies and parents. Do you realize that most of the time the nannies car IS NOT covered by insurance for transporting your child unless she has a rider on her policy to do so? Your car IS!
August 28, 2012 at 3:15 PM
Denise B.
Denise B.
I am interested in working from my home. I would like to babysit a few toddlers during daytime hours. I enjoy teaching Hooked on Phonics and Hooked on Math and would like to implement that into my program. I am not quite sure how to market this idea. I would like to get a group of very involved parents and ones who will be willing to reinforce what I teach during the day. I would also like to learn what the going rate would be for something like this so that I can be competitive with my fees. Anyone out there with any ideas and advice?
August 19, 2012 at 2:39 AM
I am looking into the possibility of a child care facility and may later branch out into home-evening sitters and even Nanny's as time goes on. I am seeking my associates degree at this time with South University Online. I have raised 4 beautiful children(adults now) Grandmother of 9 wonderful grand- children and the 10th on the way in Jan 2013 and I also have 2 greatgrands, lots of experience. I ran a cleaning service when my own were still home for 12 years. Now at 63 I see the need for good corporate child care in our area.
My children turned out well 2 work in supermarket one is in florist dept. and one checks in the vendors at the back door; youngest daughter is an RN in the OB dept. at UVA and my youngest and only son is a paid firefighter in FL. My grands range in ages 23 to almost 2 years of age. I have been active in their growth and maturity and all are awesome to me of course. What I am looking for is class structured material for pre-schoolers and crafts and material to awaken the creativety in these budding genius and how to gauge there readiness to accomplish greatness without going on to a doctorates degree before I start
August 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM

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