EXPERT Q&A

How do I approach a babysitter who is not meeting my expectations?

Approaching a babysitter who is not meeting your expectations can be challenging. Childcare expert Martha Tyler provides tips for having difficult conversations while maintaining a good relationship with your babysitter.

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Question

We’ve had a babysitter care for our two children, ages 4 and 8, for a few months now, and we really like her. We set clear rules and guidelines from the start—including limiting screen time to an hour per day and even provided a list of games and activities to help her keep the kids engaged while they are in her care. However, we recently learned from our 8-year-old daughter that the sitter didn’t follow the rules during her last babysitting job. She played on her phone all evening while the kids watched TV and played on their tablets. Our daughter is very honest, and we have no reason not to believe her, so what should we do without being too confrontational? We like our sitter and have known her for some time, but don’t feel this is acceptable care for our children.

Answer

Oh, wow! What a frustrating situation, especially since you have gone out of your way to specify your expectations to your babysitter. Since you’ve taken a good initial step in setting expectations, it seems that the most appropriate next step is to have a conversation with your sitter about the issue if you want it to change. And while this may be difficult, there are certainly ways to approach it without seeming confrontational.

As you are planning to speak with your sitter, here are some questions to ask yourself in advance. Could this have been just a one-time occurrence? You mentioned that you really like your sitter. Was this the first time you’ve seen signs of this type of behavior? Could it have been a bad day for her and she just needed to depend on screen time to make it through?

Once you’ve sat down and sorted through your feelings a little more and talked with your partner, I would suggest scheduling a meeting with your sitter when the kids are not around. This can be tricky to do since you need all the caregivers to be in one place. If you’re struggling to find a time, scheduling a Zoom call once the kids are asleep is a good option.

When you talk with your sitter, start with what she’s doing right. Tell her what you appreciate about her. And then ask about the other night. Ask with curiosity. Be on the same team. Ask questions like, “How can we better support you in doing non-screen time activities?” Tell her why you want to make sure most of the time is off the screen. Something like, “We really try to reserve screen time for when we feel overwhelmed, so we’d prefer you use as little as possible.” I understand that you’ve said some of these things before, but saying them again can help determine if your sitter is willing to actually hear you.

Lastly, figure out where your boundaries are. Is this sitter’s other work with your kids spectacular? Could you be okay with one night per month being a little more screen time heavy? If not, then you might need to find a different sitter. But I think bringing it to their attention and trying to problem-solve together will help your sitter understand that this is important to you, which may lead to some behavior change.

You have every right to ask your sitter to engage with your children while you are away. Talking with her in a firm yet kind manner will help clear the air and also let you know a lot of information by how they react. You are paying for a service and you do deserve to have that provided.

I know these big conversations are scary, but we’re here to cheer you on!

Meet The Expert


Martha Tyler

Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!