Navigating the sitter/parent relationship can be tricky for both sides. Here are a few common topics and what you can do to smooth things over.

1. Please come home (and leave) on time

If you tell your sitter you’ll be home around 10, do your best to be home around 10. Even if your sitter doesn’t have much to do because the kids are asleep by then, she might have plans afterward that are derailed if she doesn’t know when to expect you home.

Likewise, if you tell your sitter to arrive by a certain time but aren’t ready to go just yet, keep in mind that she is still on the clock. Though you might not need her help just yet because you’re running behind schedule, respect her time and pay her for the same window of time you hired her for.

2. Compliments go a long way

Just like any job, knowing how much you are valued and appreciated can make a huge difference. If you were really impressed with an activity your sitter did with your children or were amazed that she actually got them to eat their vegetables, let her know that you appreciate her hard work.

3. Your kids are my top priority — not your laundry

Unless you’re paying them extra, your sitter is not there to do non-kid chores like walk the dog or load a week’s worth of dirty plates into the dishwasher. You want your sitter to be spending quality time with your children, and it’s hard to do that if you’ve also left them a to-do list of miscellaneous tasks.

Of course your sitter is responsible for cleaning up any messes that happened on her watch. If you return home to scattered toys and dirty dishes that weren’t there when you left, let her know that you’d like her and the kids to clean up after themselves next time.

4. Let me know ahead of time if the kids are sick

There’s a good chance that if your kids are sick, your sitter might catch the same bug while she’s on the job. Don’t blindside her when she shows up for work with a coughing sneezing child. Give her a heads up, and let her decide if she’s comfortable sitting for a sick kid. It can go either way — some sitters don’t mind at all, and some would rather forgo the income and stay home.

Likewise, you should let sitters know if you don’t feel comfortable if they show up sick.

5. The kids will only respect my authority if you do

If the kids know that mom or dad will revert a sitter’s disciplinary decision when they get home, then they won’t respect the sitter’s authority. This can make the sitter’s job difficult — and the kids might not finish their homework or get to bed on time if they don’t think what the sitter says goes.

Discipline can be tricky because you and your sitter may have different methods. It helps if you establish ground rules beforehand. Be clear about how you discipline and what potential issues might come up. Make sure everyone’s on the same page before you head out the door, and it’ll be smoother sailing while you’re gone and when you return home.

6. Just let me know if something comes up

Sitters know that things out of your control can pop up — there might be traffic that keeps you longer, or the event you thought would last all night might end early.

If your plans change or fall through, let your sitter know with a quick text or call. Keep her in the loop as soon as you know so she knows when to expect you home and can plan accordingly.

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