Even after you’ve gone through a thorough screening process and hired a child care provider, you may still feel a little anxious about leaving your little ones with someone other than yourself. Whether your babysitter is your next-door neighbor or a Super Sitter on Sittercity, the sitter monitoring process is a critical part of easing your fears, ensuring your child receives superior care and making the most of the child care relationship.
Below you’ll find Sittercity’s three-step monitoring process to help you determine whether your sitter is and continues to be a good fit for your family.
STEP 1: ASSESS THE MATCH
Sometimes sitters look great on paper (check out those glowing references!), but that doesn’t always mean that she’s going to be the right fit for YOUR family. As soon as you invite a sitter into your home, pay close attention to her relationship with your children.
Here are a few signs that your sitter might not be the best match:
- Sitter has a different view on discipline than you do and is reluctant to change her tactics
- Child doesn’t seem very interested in the sitter when she arrives
- Sitter lacks energy or enthusiasm when she is with your child
- Sitter has or develops a patronizing attitude towards you and your parenting preferences
On rare occasions, certain warning signs may indicate something more serious than a simple mismatch. The following signs are major red flags that, at the very least, it’s time to install a nanny cam to confirm your suspicions:
- Sitter blames the child for problems/issues he did not cause
- Sitter demands a level of perfect behavior that no child can live up to
- Child’s behavior changes drastically (becomes excessively clingy or aggressive)
- Child cries, screams and begs you not to leave when the sitter arrives
- Child develops unexplained bruises, cuts or burns
- Child loses his appetite or starts having recurrent nightmares
Remember: Your gut reaction is all the evidence you need to make an assessment about the sitter-child relationship! Always trust your parental instincts, as no one knows your child better than you do.
STEP 2: COMMUNICATE
Talk to your sitter.
A major part of any strong child care relationship is communication. One simple way to keep line lines of communication open is to provide your sitter, upon her arrival, with a quick list of questions you’d like to discuss for no more than five minutes once you return. Some questions to consider:
- What did you do together today?
- How did my child behave?
- Were there any problems?
You may also want to set aside 15 minutes each month to call your sitter and discuss how everything’s been going from her perspective. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Do you find yourself running into any obstacles when I’m gone?
- How has my child’s behavior been in general?
- Do you have any concerns about my child or about the job itself?
Talk to your children.
Why not go straight to the source? Ask your children gentle, open-ended questions to help get them talking. Listen with a nonjudgmental attitude and don’t try to lead your child or talk them out of any feelings. Take any complaints or negative feedback seriously!
- Did you and [sitter] play today? What did you play?
- What was your favorite part of the day?
- Tell me about something silly or funny that happened.
- Did anything make you worry or make you sad today?
STEP 3: OBSERVE
Throughout the entire child care relationship, keep an eye on your child’s (and sitter’s!) behavior over time. And remember — you don’t have to do it alone. A neighbor can always lend a helping hand (or eye and ear…).
In your child, look out for sudden behavioral changes, drastic mood swings and any of the critical warning signs we mentioned in Step One.
Pay attention to your sitter’s behavior as well. After all, she’s human too and bound to be affected by personal issues and struggles; however, if her resulting behavior becomes questionable or starts resembling those warning signs, it is time to move on to a more capable caregiver.
Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an open eye and ear when you have a sitter over. When the sitter takes the kids outside, for example, your neighbor can easily peek over to make sure things are going well.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for a noticeable change to occur. If you’d really like to see the sitter in action yourself, here are two ways you can witness the dynamic of the nanny-child relationship firsthand:
- Come home unannounced. An unexpected drop-in will not only put you smack-dab in the middle of the sitter-child relationship so you can see it yourself, it may also help keep your sitter on her toes the next time she comes over and wonders if your early return may be a repeating occurrence.
- Install a nanny cam. The most diligent parents we’ve seen use a nanny cam to confirm their suspicions or alleviate their fears. Available systems vary widely in terms of capabilities, from recording the situation for playback later to live streaming to your computer or mobile device. We recommend doing some research and reading online reviews to determine which system best fits your needs.