Spending time interviewing potential babysitters for your child doesn’t sound like the most entertaining way to spend an afternoon. However, it’s a necessity to ensure that your child is in good hands while you’re away. Asking the right questions can help you streamline the process and make it all as painless as possible. Think about your priorities when it comes to a sitter. Do you need someone who can keep up with your daughter’s exuberant energy? Is it important that they can cook a simple, healthy meal after your son’s hockey practice? What about safety and certifications? In addition to asking basic questions about scheduling, transportation, and their experience, here are five other questions that can provide you with some excellent insight into how a potential babysitter might fit in with your family.
What is your approach to discipline?
It’s inevitable that your child will have a temper tantrum or otherwise misbehave while in the babysitter’s care — the world is so new to small children, and figuring it out is frustrating. Talk to your potential babysitter about their approach to discipline and dealing with correcting undesirable behavior. Ask them how they typically handle these issues and what strategies they have to diffuse the situation calmly while still providing some reinforcement of better actions for your child. It may be helpful to provide them with a hypothetical situation, such as what they would do if your child refused to brush their teeth before bed, to understand their practices in action. You may find that their approach matches your own perfectly, or that you can discuss your preferences to see if they’d be willing to give those a try instead. It’s important that your child always feels safe and cared for, even when they end up needing a little time out, so that they’re able to trust the babysitter and enjoy their time together without fear of making a mistake.
Do you have any health or safety certifications?
For optimal peace of mind, it may be helpful to hire a sitter who has a child CPR certification or has taken other classes on child safety. These courses provide people with a comprehensive skill set that allows them to handle a range of emergency situations, ensuring that your child will always be safe. Ask them what they would do in certain situations, such as their course of action if they smelled smoke in the house. Other certifications or experiences that may be helpful to your family could include an awareness of how to deal with allergies, drowning, sudden infant death syndrome, or even nutritional expertise if you’d like the sitter to help prepare snacks and simple meals after school. Understanding the scope of their health and safety knowledge can help you make a confident decision about who you allow to care for your children.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Understanding what your potential babysitter likes to do in their free time can be an eye-opening burst of information. For example, someone who enjoys sitting at home and reading all day, while probably an intelligent person, may not be the best match for active children or those who need to be constantly supervised. Someone who enjoys arts and crafts could introduce your child to painting, dancing, and music, while someone who plays sports would likely be willing to go on outings to the park to kick around a soccer ball. Asking what your potential sitter does in their free time can also help you understand their values. Do they mention spending time with friends or family, being outside in nature, or taking classes for enrichment of some kind? These could tell you more about whether the potential sitter’s outlook on life matches yours, which might make for easier communication and understanding of your goals for your family.
Under what conditions would you think it necessary to call me?
Sometimes, a tricky situation can be handled on its own. Others, though, might require immediate attention from a parent. Ask your potential sitter what circumstances they believe would require a phone call to you. Their answer could be telling for several reasons. First, it’s important to limit the number of calls you receive to only the most important. You may not consider a small scrape worthy of immediate notification, and it would probably bother you to receive such a call while busy working or enjoying a night out. A visit to the urgent care clinic, however, might rank higher on your list of reasons to call a parent. Make sure that your new sitter understands what constitutes a necessary call and what does not. A sitter who is too anxious or too carefree could both be troubling. You want to know that the babysitter is responsible enough to handle small bumps along the way as they arise while also understanding when a larger problem should be brought to your attention right away.
What are your questions for me?
Just like a traditional interview for a 9-to-5 office job, allowing your interviewee to ask a few questions of their own could provide you with some telling information. Their questions can show both what their priorities are and how invested they are in caring for your children. A sitter who asks about your children’s bedtime routines, their preferences, and your expectations can be a great match thanks to their genuine interest in providing the best care possible. Someone who seems more focused on themselves — when they’ll get paid, how to notify you of vacations, and how often you might be running late so they can finally go home — may be too concerned with personal details technicalities too early on in the process. While these questions are often important, they can be too self-focused for a first interview and would be better off being discussed during a second interview, when it’s already clear that they’re an excellent candidate. Your purpose in the first interview is to ensure that your child care philosophies match with the potential babysitter, and questions that don’t focus on that goal could be a warning sign.