I’ve Got a Name! ... Now What?
Just because a young lady or gentleman (I have several friends with sons who prefer male sitters because they’re more fun for the boys) is available to babysit doesn’t mean that person is the right sitter for you. For instance, if you have a very young baby, make sure to ask if your candidate has experience with infants. If you aren’t able to pick up your sitter, you’ll need to make sure she has transportation.
Punctuality is a good indicator of maturity and responsibility, so I like to schedule an informal interview a week before my outing. If the prospective sitter arrives late, seriously consider trying someone else. If she dresses like Britney Spears, calls you anything other than Mrs. Smith, or seems like one of the dimmer bulbs on the porch, politely cancel the job as soon as possible.
I require that my sitters complete the Red Cross babysitter certification course, which covers first aid, feeding, bathing, emergencies, and general child care. I’m also very blunt with new candidates and ask them for their GPA and what extracurricular activities they participate in. A kid with low grades and no sports or hobbies isn’t generally the kind I desire.
The other important quality to look for is honesty; that can be hard to gauge with a young person you don’t really know, but it can show up at odd times. I once had a sitter that told me up front that she’d turned her back, and my daughter had accidentally rolled down our steep driveway on her tricycle and careened into the street. There wasn’t a scratch on my little daredevil, so I’d never have known this if she hadn’t been so honest. My neighbors, who witnessed the event, were amazed and impressed when I told them that I was already aware of it, and said, “That’s a good sitter. Keep her!”
You want a sitter who will tell you when something’s been broken, rather than hide it in the trash, or one that will admit that she caved into a tantrum and let your son have three lollipops in a row. A babysitter that will tell you exactly what happened while you were gone gives you peace of mind.