It’s great if you have trusted family members who are willing and able to pitch in with child care — but it’s not always possible. If you’re faced with the prospect of hiring someone you don’t know very well to care for your child, it’s really important to do your homework and ask the right questions. Here are some questions to start you out:
1. “Can I have your full name, address and phone number?” Sounds simple, but it’s important to make sure you have someone’s complete information.
2. “How long have you been driving?” If your sitter is going to be driving your child around, also ask to see her license and copy down the license number. Seriously consider performing an online background and driving-record check.
3. “Can you tell me about the last few families you’ve worked for? Do you mind if I call them?” Ask, and then follow through. When you speak with previous employers, ask both specific and open-ended questions, such as, “Tell me about Rebecca” and “What’s she like with children?”
4. “What do you do when children misbehave?” It’s important to talk house rules and discipline with a sitter. Empower her to employ time-outs or to withhold cookies, but make it clear how you feel about physical punishment.
5. “How much do you charge? Are checks okay?” Be up-front about what you’ll pay and how you’ll pay it. If you offer steady employment, some sitters may be okay with being paid by check at the end of the week.
6. “What would you do if a one-year old (or a two- or three-year old) is bored?” That kind of question can give you a good sense of whether or not the sitter will take the initiative to entertain your child creatively or just stick her in front of the TV.
7. And finally, before you commit to hiring someone, ask yourself, “What does my gut say?” Even if a prospective sitter gives all the right answers and looks perfect on paper, trust your instincts. If something feels wrong to you about a person for whatever reason, don’t leave your child with them.
Sandy & Marcie Jones are the authors of Great Expectations: Baby’s First Year.
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