8 Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter

Babysitter neglecting child
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Finding a babysitter can be a challenge for many parents, but being comfortable with and confident that the one you've picked will keep your kids safe and happy can be somewhat unnerving. Here are some warning signs that you've hired a bad babysitter and need to find someone else pronto!

Refrains From Engaging in Conversation

It's not too much to expect for a sitter to greet parents, smile, and engage in some small talk. They should ask about the kids, wish you a good time, and converse long enough to make you feel comfortable.

Be concerned if the sitter doesn't do the same with the kids either; that bodes a major disconnect that could signal a strong lack of communication all-around.

Fails to Focus on Instructions

A good sitter should note instructions you're providing and acknowledge a thorough understanding. If you're telling the sitter that kids must have a bath and be in bed at a certain time, and they are going "yeah, right, whatever" or doesn't seem to be paying attention to anything you're saying, you should worry about any follow-through occurring.

Parents can help avoid this by providing written instructions; however, a quality sitter will take notes or be able to recite the information back.

Arrives Late or Is Unreliable

Family emergencies or the unavoidable can certainly happen, but a chronically late or consistently canceling babysitter can create a huge hardship on parents and destroy best-laid plans. If your sitter doesn't care enough about the job to arrive on time and be sensitive to your plans, then find one who will!

The same is true of a sitter who tells parents as they are getting ready to dash out the door that they must be home at a designated time that is different from what had been agreed to.

Kids Wail About Being Left With Them

It's not unusual for kids to not want to be apart from mom or dad. But if a kid becomes an emotional wreck over being left with a particular sitter, parents should have second thoughts about using that person.

It could be nothing more than separation anxiety or the kid being told "no" and holding it against the sitter, or it could signify something more. If parents find that it is an individual only vs. having a sitter in general, then look elsewhere the best interest of your child.

Kids Change Behavior or Sleep Patterns

If a normally outgoing and independent child suddenly becomes clingy and withdrawn or begins waking up throughout the night with terrors or other sleep issues, and the change can be attributed to timing with a sitter, then parents should be concerned.

Children's behaviors can change, even dramatically, but these are warning signs that should not be ignored. Parents should react swiftly and decisively, and determine whether further investigation is warranted.

Kids Have Frequent Accidents

A cut or scrape or two is a normal occurrence with healthy and active kids and should present no cause for alarm with parents. Still, a good babysitter will be quick to offer an explanation (i.e. a trip to the park resulted in a spill from the slide).

But frequent accidents that result in injuries beyond that could signify either a lack of supervision or worse, physical abuse. Unexplained injuries of any kind should serve as flags that could signal trouble, especially if they seem excessive.

Invites Someone Else Over

Sitters sometimes gain the confidence of families, and then with time feel "entitled" to invite a friend or even date over during the evening. While parents sometimes even offer this to help relieve nerves of being in a home alone with kids, it's out of line for a sitter to assume this action is okay.

Chances are, your kids will receive less direct attention and interaction if your sitter has someone else there as well. And, without asking first? That's a good reason for termination.

Seems Lethargic or Exhausted

You've hired a babysitter to watch your children while you're out having a good time (or at least kid-free time), so the least of your worries should be whether your kids are entertained and having safe fun in your absence.

A sitter who arrives seemingly exhausted or without energy is not going to provide quality care. Parents should worry about a lack of supervision or a sitter who simply plants tots in front of the TV and gives orders for not being disturbed.

1 Source
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms [Fact sheet]. April 2017.

By Robin McClure
 Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.