Don’t Make These 5 Common Childcare Blunders

Parents tend to make the same five mistakes when it comes to childcare. Lynn Perkins, CEO and Co-Founder of, helps you avoid them.

A good sitter is hard to find. And just as tough to keep. Up the odds of hiring a gem who’ll stick with you for the long haul by avoiding these all-too-common blunders.

1. Setting unclear expectations.

The first time you meet with a new babysitter or nanny, you will likely discuss primary responsibilities, such as hours and pay requirements. Make sure you also discuss your day-to-day expectations, including discipline style, what he or she will do in case of an emergency–be sure to have a clear plan in place, including key contact numbers–and how and when you expect to be notified when there’s a non-emergency problem at home.

Be frank about secondary job expectations that could easily make or break the relationship if you aren’t on the same page. Examples include expectations for cooking, cleaning, and miscellaneous errands.

Make sure you are also upfront about the employment commitment you are expecting. Are you looking for someone who will ideally stay with your family for years or is this is a short-term gig? Neither of you can predict the future, but you’ll want to know if she’s planning a long trip in a few months, for instance.

2. Failing to treat your provider with respect.

You can show your respect by keeping the lines of communication clear and open, and asking that they do the same. This includes remembering that everyone has days when they are running late — but limiting these and make sure you give as much notice as possible. Her time is as important as yours. And insist that your children show the sitter as much respect as you do.

Also, remember to demonstrate to your children that the nanny or babysitter is in charge when you are away. If your child asks you when you are walking out the door if he can go to the park after lunch, let him know that the nanny will be in charge then, and she will make that decision. Likewise, if you come home from work and your childcare provider has restricted the child from doing something, support that decision. Show you appreciate and respect the babysitter’s authority with your children.

3. Ignoring your gut and your child’s behavior.

Just because a babysitter has fantastic credentials and glowing reviews doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is the right fit for your family. Pay attention to your instincts and observe your children’s reaction to her as well. It is normal for children to be shy around new people. However, if after a period of time your child still seems unhappy, unusually reserved or upset when the babysitter is around or mentioned, it could indicate that the person is not the right fit. Trust your intuition.

4. Falling out of touch.

In your rush to get to work, it’s easy to run out the door and assume that all is going well unless you hear otherwise. Make an effort to stay connected by dropping in, sometimes unannounced, to visit your child and observe him or her with the babysitter, whether that is at your home or other location. Be sure to meet with her for check-ins a couple of times a year, to discuss how the job is going and make any necessary adjustments. To keep the conversation candid, make sure your child is not around to overhear or distract.

5. Looking only at your short-term needs rather than thinking ahead to the future.

It’s hard to imagine how different your child will be even a year from now, but time goes quickly and your child’s needs change as he or she gets older. Consequently, your childcare needs will change. If you are hoping to keep the same babysitter for a period of time, evaluate how he or she will meet your family’s needs today and at a future stage.

For instance, if you plan to have more children, determine if your prospective nanny is willing to juggle more than one child and if she can handle a newborn. Will she be willing to drive your child to school? Is she able to help with homework or chaperone play dates? If you aren’t sure what your child will need a year from now, ask parents with older children for advice.