7 Tips for Beginning Babysitters and Nannies From Lessons That I've Learned the Hard Way

Updated on August 29, 2017
What a happy family looks like.
What a happy family looks like. | Source

#1 Try your best to be mom and dad's remote-controlled robot.

As a babysitter or nanny, your job is to follow orders exactly as given by the child's parents. The problem is that sometimes they have expectations that they don't verbalize, which causes tension as they mentally question your actions. If you aren't sure what time a kid needs to go to sleep at night, what they should be eating at meals, whether they're allowed snacks, or when they need to be doing homework—it is so much better to ask if the parents have a preference than to do whatever seems best to you.

#2 When in doubt, always ask what's expected of you.

One of the most difficult moments in my nannying career was when a parent had to sit me down and explain all the things I was doing wrong. I was thoroughly mortified. Among their complaints were the following:

#3 Be more interactive. Don't just be a "sitter." Be an educator and a playmate.

A three-month-old baby really can't do much. The little girl in question couldn't crawl, walk, talk, or even emote much at all. I could never make her laugh, and if I tried really hard I could get her to smile for a split second once a week. Even more difficult was getting her attention to make eye contact; I suspected that she couldn't actually tell the difference between my face and the wall. The frustration of being unable to connect with her had eventually led me to become... shall we say, "lazy." I'm not a naturally outgoing person at all, so when I got no feedback from her I thought it was a futile effort... so I started watching the TV more than attempting to play with her.

This was definitely not what her parents wanted.

#4 Find creative ways to reach the child at her own developmental level.

They advised me to talk to her more. When I explained that it was hard for me to think of enough one-sided conversational topics to last hours, days, and weeks (I didn't use those exact words), they said I could read books to her. It would help her develop even if she couldn't understand any of what I said. Even if she really didn't seem to notice I was there, her little baby brain still desperately needed every bit of human interaction available.

Her parents wanted me to use my Spanish skills to help her learn the language while she was young. I had been having trouble with this because... well... she wasn't doing much to hold up her half of the conversation. So after her parents gave me a talking to, I went to the library and picked up some Spanish children's books. This helped a LOT, because I no longer had to constantly pick my brains to find things to ramble about all day. I could just read the books when I was at a loss for words, and when I ran out of books I could just get more for free from the library! Easy.

Newborn babies are cute, but they don't do much.
Newborn babies are cute, but they don't do much. | Source

#5 Always be punctual!

-- even when they don't.

I was told to show up at 8:00 every morning, but usually when I got there, Baby's mom was still breast-feeding her upstairs. I would end up waiting ten minutes or more until they finished up and my job began; this caused me to believe (very mistakenly) that it wasn't that important that I be exceedingly punctual every day.

It was an early-morning job and a half-hour commute, so I frequently showed up a few minutes late. However, Baby's mom and dad made it clear that if I was paid to start at 8:00, then I had better be there at eight or sooner. It wasn't up to me to decide what time they needed me to show up.

#6 Always clean up after yourself.

I was accustomed to cleaning up after myself during evening babysitting jobs after the kids went to sleep. However, during my daytime job, I would sometimes forget to pick up toys and dishes because I was distracted by Baby. It definitely earns points with the parents if you clean up without being asked-- and if you clean up messes that were there before you even arrived, you'll be mom and dad's babysitting superhero.

#7 Cash checks promptly!

This one caught me by surprise. Apparently it really bugs people if you hold onto a check for a week so that you can take two to the bank at once. Is that weird? They said it helps them keep their checkbooks balanced. Maybe someday I'll understand, once I actually start using a checkbook.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great page here love it! I was a nanny for many years. I worked for some great families and some families that had no communication..which is very frustrating. That was my biggest complaint when it came to care giving and have quite a few families over the years because of. However, I have also been let go because I demanded communication at times. Some families set up a caregiver for failure this is the truth. Not many, but they are out there. It is usually because the family is divorced and they play games between the 2 of them...Or one spouse does not agree with the other spouses choice to go back to work or doesn't agree with the choice of caregiver.

      When I first started out about 20 years ago I fell prey to these families once in a while. It is a nightmare because you keep thinking your doing something wrong or your a bad caregiver. Now, the minute I see that coming I am out the door. Parents intentionally not leaving diapers or baby food..not leaving the car seat behind or cancelling after you arrived at the door and say didn't my husband call you? Then there are the kids that can do no wrong ever....the older school aged kids...No matter how hard you try, Johnny always hits his sisters, falls down and hurts himself or breaks things in the house....this always is blamed on the babysitter not doing her job for some parents.

      I do want to say that overall being a nanny is a wonderful experience overall. It has taking me many years to know how to handle situations...many nannys find a wonderful live in nanny right off the bat and have years of wonderful times together. Others have to go through many families to find a good fit. And its the same for the families as well. Not everyone is for everyone.

    • BNadyn profile image


      7 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

      I'm a parent and really loved reading your insights from the sitter's side. It really is best to be verbal and for both sides to have good communication.

    • profile image

      eternal peace 

      8 years ago

      These are some really good tips that I also learned while babysitting. Thanks for sharing them and I hope they help someone.

    • katedonavon profile image


      8 years ago

      Useful tips EVERY babysitter should follow. I like the emphasis on asking the parents if in doubt about something. I tend to be a pretty self-reliant nanny and don't ask for much advice (I have an easy kid to care for) but I think it makes the parents feel good when I occasionally ask how they handle things or what they would suggest.

      And the punctuality bit is pretty important to a lot of people too! Always showing up on time proves that you are a reliable, responsible person.


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