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How to Interview a Babysitter

Whether you’re finding a babysitter for the first time or the fifth, it is important to find someone who is trustworthy, understands how to relate and care for kids and, most importantly, gets along with your child.  Before you hire a babysitter, take some time to think about what kind of babysitter you want and how you will find out whether a prospective babysitter has these qualities.

First, Decide What You Are Looking For in a Babysitter

In order to know if a potential babysitter is a good match for your family, sit down and ask yourselves what qualities are important to you. What kind of parenting philosophy do you currently have, and is it important that your babysitter’s attitudes match that philosophy? How much experience do you want a babysitter to have? What kind of activities do you want them to do with your child? When you know what qualities you are looking for and have agreed on these guidelines with your partner, you will have a much clearer picture of the kind of babysitter you are looking for during the actual interviews.

Ask Your Prospective Babysitter the Right Questions

Based on the qualities you are looking for, ask questions that will help you to see whether or not a potential babysitter is a good match. Closed questions, such as, “How much experience do you have” or “Do you believe in sending a child to a time-out” invite short answers, either stating the facts or a simple yes or no. Open ended questions, such as, “what you would do if my child became injured” or “describe the relationship you have had with other children you have cared for” invite the prospective babysitter to give a longer, more descriptive answer. A combination of these types of questions will allow you to get the best picture of his or her skills, experience and attitude.

Don’t Ignore Your Gut Instinct

Do you feel confident in this person’s ability to be caring and patient with your child, or do you have lurking doubts about their ability to be responsible? Even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that makes you feel unsure, pay attention to your feelings and initial reaction when meeting a prospective babysitter for the first time. It is best if both parenting partners can be part of the interview process, so that both people have met the babysitter and feel confident about the quality of care he or she will provide.

Have a Trial Playdate With Your Potential Babysitter

If you’ve found a potential caregiver that you’re thinking of offering a regular babysitting job to, invite him or her to come over and play with your child or children for an hour or two while you are still at home. This can be a good way to see the interaction between the babysitter and your child, in a safe and non-threatening way. If you want to be extra sure that your babysitter is trustworthy and providing good care, come home at an unexpected time and see how things are going.

If you’ve got a trusted friend or family member available to babysit for you, you might feel confident going ahead without a formal interview or trial playdate. In this case, it is still a good idea to clearly spell out your household policy on discipline and safety precautions. It goes without saying that, durring your filtering process, a background check is an absolute must. Thanks to google, everyone knows how to obtain public records for their locality.  A trusted babysitter is an invaluable resource for parents, and it’s well worth it to go through the extra effort of determining your expectations and carefully interviewing prospective babysitters to be sure that your family’s relationship with your babysitter is a positive one.

Originally published on Suite101.com on June 26, 2008

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