I’m tired of teenage babysitters, who are supposed to be playing with my kids, sitting on their phones, leaving my house a mess, and expecting to be paid well for it. To all parents, whether you are brand new and looking for a paid babysitter for the first time or you’ve got five kids and you’re just wondering if you’re handling the situation right, here’s some advice:
No matter if your teenage babysitter is an eager 12 year old or an experienced 17-year-old, stop treating them like they are doing you a big favor when they come to watch your kids for payment. You are giving them a real, paid job; treat them like you are their boss.
Too many times I have come home to my kids in bed later than wanted, toys sprawled all over the floors, and the dinner still sitting out so any hopes of leftovers are ruined. I paid for this? I used to let the babysitters off the hook, still paying her a good wage and then grumbling as I begin cleaning up after her, all because I just needed a date and apparently, this is what I can expect if I want that to happen.
But no longer.
Moms, it’s time we grow a pair and just set the terms, and then stick to what we’ve decided is best. If the kid doesn’t want to babysit for us because the pay is too low or we expect too much, that’s their right to pass over the job. They don’t have to come back again if they didn’t feel it was worth their time. We just move on to another teenager willing to work. If we absolutely loved the babysitter, then we readjust our terms and consider raising our rates if it will keep the same girl coming back. Be flexible, but firm.
I’ll explain what I offer to my potential employees (babysitters) as an example for you. This what I usually say to them as we discuss, in person or over the phone, if they would want to take the job:
“Hello! Thank you for being available to watch my kids this Friday so my husband and I can go to dinner. I have two kids: a three year old and a one year old. You will be needed from 6:30 to 9:30. I will leave dinner prepared and ready and they will be in bed by 7:30. Their bedtime routine is easy and they almost always go down well so the job will be overall pretty easy. After that, you can play on your phone, eat our snacks, and watch TV. Because this will be an easy job, I will pay you $15 for the three hours. That’s $2.50 per kid, for three hours total. I’ll let you know if we will be late coming home, in which case I will pay you overtime. If you don’t want to take this job, I understand. If you decide to pass, a recommendation from you of anyone else who might be interested in the job would be helpful. Check with your mom and your schedule and please get back to me by tonight so I can plan accordingly!”
Notice a few things:
- I set the terms for her to take or leave. I give her all the most important information right off the bat (date, time needed, payment amount, how many kids) and she can decide if she wants the job or not.
- I also use language that she will become familiar with when entering the workforce beyond our homes, such as “overtime” and “recommendation.”
- I also give her a timeframe of when she needs to get back to me with her answer. I don’t want to put her on the spot but I need to know in a timely manner. This adds to the responsibility she needs to take. When she interviews for future potential jobs, they will give her a timeframe of when she can expect to hear back about the job and she will be told of how long has to decide before she accepts or turns down the position. So why not use this outline for babysitting jobs, as well?
All of this is to help her understand that babysitting for money is a real job—not a favor she’s doing for me, or vice versa. I act like her boss and take charge. These are my children, after all, and I will protect them fiercely, so I want to know I’m leaving them with someone who takes the job seriously as well.
Things to consider as you adjust my above speech for your own circumstances:
- I did a little research to find what the average going rate for babysitting is in my state (Utah). If you don’t live here, you may want to check if it’s different in your state, which it could be.
- How much I offer as my base hourly wage is dependent on each girl I’m hiring. Things that change what I offer is mostly age, but if I know the girl’s family personally and want to help her out because I know she’s saving for college or something, I may offer more if my budget allows it. If the girl is older, I offer a little more because older teenagers understand the value of money better (I remember thinking $15 was $100 when I was 13 years old!).
- Also, older teenagers are more likely to have plans with friends they are putting off in order to give me their time, so I want to acknowledge that.
Once the teen accepts the job, I give her more details and expectations. For example, I let her know that I will provide dinner but she is responsible for putting any leftovers in the fridge and dishes into the sink. I feel like that should be an obvious thing she should know to do anyways, but from recent experience with three different girls, apparently this is something that needs to be explicitly said. *Sigh*
Other details I leave include bedtime routine instructions, contact information, and to have the kids pick up toys when they are done (again, something I thought was obvious but apparently not every teen knows to do this out of common decency).
There is one more unique thing I try to offer my babysitter: the chance to earn more money.
I leave a list of chores I would like done and the added amount I will pay her if she does them for me. I explain that she doesn’t have to do any of them, or can do as many as she would like and will earn extra upon my examination of a job well done. She is free to do these chores once the kids are in bed or while they are playing contentedly.
For example, dusting my furniture and banister will earn her another $0.75 and can easily be done while the kids play or eat their dinner. Cleaning the toilet in our guest bathroom will be another $1.50 (more, because who likes to clean toilets??). Vacuuming the living room and sweeping the kitchen is another $0.75, and so on. My price for each chore varies depending on the age of my babysitter (I can expect a better cleaning job from a 17 year old than a 12 year old). At the end of the night, once the babysitter gives me a report of how the night went and I see the work they did for the added cleaning jobs, I total it all up and pay out. But I let her know, even before the night starts, that I won’t pay for a job I can tell she didn’t take seriously. One quick wipe with a paper towel doesn’t earn a dollar fifty. This way, she will hopefully learn the value of every dollar she makes.
You’re not being rude or expecting too much when you follow this guideline and act like their boss—you’re helping them out. You’re teaching them what a job is really like and to have better expectations for future employment elsewhere. You are showing them that earning money isn’t as easy as sitting around on their phone and doing the bare minimum. If it were my daughter babysitting for you, I’d hope they would earn the money you pay them, and maybe gain some real work experience while they are at it.
I’ve been using these expectations for my babysitters for the past year now and I feel much better about the money I give them knowing that they are taking the job seriously. And I’ve had babysitters who keep coming back, so it must be working for them too.
What are some ways your babysitter earns her money from you? Leave us a comment!
Sunday 2nd of July 2017
One thing that's wrong with this: don't tell her it's easy/that the kids go down well/etc. That sets a teen up for low self esteem based on perceived failure when the kids are suddenly crying, or she doesn't know what kind of Tupperware you want her to use, or it's a kind of microwave she's never used, etc. If any of my real-life bosses told me a job was "easy", I would feel demoralized! I teach kids from 4-16, and I know that they are much more likely to feel excited and accomplished if they are given the idea that something is a fun challenge (that they're prepared for with explanations and demonstrations) than if I defensively tell them the task is "easy". No one wants to feel like you're talking down to them. It also sets up the illusion that you don't value their job.
Sunday 2nd of July 2017
L O V E D THIS!!!! Ugh I can't tell you how many times this has been a struggle for me. I have rarely even got sitters for us because of some of the things you mentioned. But I seriously loved the extra cash idea and just being honest that it is a job, not a paid favor. I have friends and we swap watch our kids, which is so nice but sometimes I really just want to leave noah at the house and get out of there so we can enjoy the night. I love your pitch by the way. great for keeping it mutually beneficial. And I don't know why people freak about the price. The last sitter I paid 20$, after noah went to bed and I fully regret that much money. Mind you it was to a single woman but that doesn't make any difference. she literally studied all night and made sure the house didn't burn. 2.50 per kid seems pretty dang good to me. Thanks for putting this out there. I think I needed this article to kick me in the butt for finding a good, consistent one. Love you!
p.s. this didn't even sound like your writing style. It was so confident and gave amazing direction. And thats not to say you are not that way in other articles, it just seemed so laid out for me do get something right that I struggle with!. Great job!
Friday 30th of June 2017
Omg! If these were the prices in my area. I would have date nights. I might actually make a hair appt. Or run errands in peace.