I had a major personality flaw. I was way too considerate. I cared way too much about what other people thought. These seemingly pleasant personality traits put my kids at risk. When interviewing for a babysitter, they caused me to not ask the right questions. I didn’t want to be rude. I didn’t want to be presumptuous.


I will never make that mistake again.


I share some of my story to not highlight my parental inadequacies (although it is a risk). But rather to help other parents learn from my mistakes.


We entrust them with our children. But how well do you really know your babysitter. I thought I knew mine. I wish I had asked these tough questions. Don't make my mistake.

We spent over $500 at a nanny placement agency. I know that sounds crazy, but I was willing to spend any amount to ensure my children’s safety. The agency was supposed to complete a full background check, check all references and ensure the applicant had enough expertise to care for our children. I trusted them. Mistake #1.


We got to interview the applicant they sent over. Our guard was down – as we felt she had already been properly screened. After all – we had forked over $500 for that very purpose. Mistake #2.


We never asked her the hard questions. I have always been was overly polite. I never liked to step on anyone’s toes. I have replayed that interview over and over again in my head. What if I had asked her better questions? What if my guard had been up? Would I have seen things – warning signs?


We had our sitter for over a year before any hint of a problem showed up. What had I missed before then? She was always friendly. My son always went to her – he never cried in her presence. She had children of her own. She was dependable. She was nice. She was a nightmare.


Trust me – this could happen to anyone. As a therapist, I read people for a living. I get people. I used to go into daycare facilities to observe their staff. I missed this because I was looking in the wrong direction. Asking the wrong questions.


Parents do this all the time. I hear similar horror stories in my child therapy practice. They thought they could trust their sitter. They thought they knew their sitter well. They thought because it was a relative they were safe. They thought wrong.


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If you are searching for a babysitter, save yourself the guilt (trust me it’s not fun) and ask the sitter these tough questions. It is not important what sitters say to these questions (because frankly, if they have a problem, they aren’t going to admit it)), but watch how they say it.


Have you ever had any problems with drugs or alcohol? Did any previous employer have these suspicions?


The last part of the question is meant to make applicants second guess themselves. Did you hear something from one of their references that indicated an issue? Either they will adamantly deny an issue – or will stammer and try to defend themselves. 


Do you have to take any prescription medications that make you drowsy or impair your thinking?


You don’t want babysitters sleeping all day. Some prescriptions can make people extremely lethargic. You have a right to know what their mental state will be when they are watching your children.


If I had known the real answer to this question – it might have made me second guess putting my children in her care. It might have made me second guess her story about how my child got ant bites all over his body because he was playing in the backyard for just a “minute” while she was on the phone.


Do you have a history of anxiety or depression? If so, what normally makes you feel anxious?


I have absolutely nothing against anyone who suffers from anxiety or depression – after all those are the people I try to help at work. But, I do want to know if those issues will interfere with their ability to keep calm under stress.


I knew our sitter had anxiety, but I did not realize that it made her sleep all day or that it made her go into such a panic that she didn’t know what to do when minor situations popped up.


Will you ever need to bring anyone else to come with you when babysitting? If so – do they have issues with drugs, alcohol or mood instability?


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Even if applicants insist they will never have to bring someone with them – probe further. Ask them, “But if you did, who would it be?”


I doubt my sitter would have been honest if I had asked – but it would have been worth asking.


Instead I had to find out the hard way – with the discovery of little liquor bottles hidden all around our house and a browser full of visited porn sites that had been viewed while she was watching our kids.


It turned out that our sitter had a pretty disturbed 20-something son. Apparently she would drop him off a block from our house and call him to come over when we left.


Was he safe to be around kids? Did he have a criminal history? I will never know. I do know, however, that he felt free to drink and view porn in a stranger’s home.


What’s the worst scenario you have had to deal with while babysitting?


Stop asking the happy questions – and focus on the hard ones. Did the applicant have an example? Did the applicant handle the situation well?


Who would you call in case of an emergency?


This may seem obvious, but when our infant son had over 100 ant bites from head to toe – our sitter called her teen daughter for help. Not us. Not poison control. Not the doctor. Her teenage daughter.


Have you ever hit or come close to hitting a child?


They won’t be truthful, but if you are able to read people – this would be a good question to ask.


Have you ever had any issues with the law or has your license ever been suspended?


Let them know that you will do a background check – that you do it for all applicants. Once they know this they might be forthcoming.


Describe the most annoying kid you’ve ever babysat.


Get a window into what bothers them the most. Does their example show some impatience? Is the answer sugar coated?


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Describe the most annoying parents you’ve ever had to work with.


Are they describing you? Are they more annoyed by involved, caring parents or indifferent, uninvolved parents?


If you had to discipline our kids, how would you do it?


Such an important question to ask. Don’t assume they won’t hit your child or punish them in another way you might find unacceptable.


How were you disciplined growing up?


If you want a better peek into the last answer – ask them this one. What do they describe? If they experienced harsh discipline do they support it or talk about how they would do things differently?

Trust your gut!

When I look back – there were many times my gut told me something was not right.


When she told me she took him to the store, but something told me she went to her home.


When I told her not to take him out anymore, but when I forgot my bag they were no where to be found.


The warming signs goes on and on. But with each warning sign I had a rational explanation to dial back my concerns and she had good excuses.


I will always trust my gut from now on. I will not care if other people think I am paranoid or overreacting. I will not worry about hurting other people’s feelings. I will react. I will protect.


I am one of the lucky ones. I dodged a major bullet. My kids are okay. Four years later and my kids don’t even remember her name. But, I do. And I will never forget the lessons she taught me. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Because sometimes the cover is nice, but the story is ugly.


Have you had a similar experience with a babysitter? Do you have any other good questions we should ask sitters? Leave a comment and help us all do a good job screening the people we are entrusting to care for our kids.


Do you know other people who need to ask babysitters these tougher questions? Share this article and protect their kids.


24 responses to “12 Questions you Should Ask Every Babysitter – But Don’t!”

  1. Ashley R. says:

    I really wish my parents would have asked these questions when hiring a nanny to care for me and my siblings. The woman they hired did nothing…literally nothing. She sat on her behind, drinking lemonade, and reading magazines all day. She never once cooked us a meal. I was seven years old and started watching my mother cook certain things when she was home so that my siblings and I would have food when she was gone. My five year old brother got into everything. My two year old sister would run out the neighborhood naked or only in a diaper. What must the neighbors have thought? Was anyone concerned for our safety or did they just see us as a nuisance? I can’t remember if we actually told our parents about what was going on, but when she finally was fired, my siblings and I rejoiced. To this day my mother will not talk about that time in our lives…I can only imagine how guilty she feels for not being more vigilant. I have yet to hire a sitter at all to care for my two year old. I only go with family members and trusted friends. But when I do go down that road, I’ll be glad I saw this article!

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Hi Ashley – sorry to hear about your experience! Thanks for sharing your story. Hopefully it can help other parents.

      • Haylie says:

        I would ask if the sitter has any kind of weapons that they keep on their person. I babysit and once sat for a family that had another woman come in for tutoring while I was there. One day the youngest boy (three) walked up to me holding a pistol. Luckily nothing happened and I was able to get it from him no problem but she never even told them or me that she was packing and it could have been so much worse.
        I’d also ask sitters about cooking. I replaced a girl once that had almost burned their home down because she didn’t know not to put water on a grease fire. The kitchen was still black when I showed up. If your sitter hasn’t been taught to cook you’ll want to make sure there are cook free options for food like sandwiches or bagel bites. Not knowing how to cook or kitchen safety can be very dangerous especially when you’re watching multiple kids.

        I’d also cover basic common sense safety like don’t let anyone in the house while we’re gone, don’t leave the kids outside alone, etc. Some people are never taught those things and have no common sense. I personally have a packet I bring to interviews with parents. I go over allergies, fears, bed routines, diet, favorites, location of emergency items, where weapons are kept if any, contact info, pets names, home information like address and number. I also have a section where I ask about discipline process, typical problems that arise, medication and dosage, location of car seats in case of emergency, where the circuit box and water cut offs are, fire safety plan, etc. Pretty much anything I might need to know while working. Parents usually get irritated with all of the paper and questions but I’d rather be prepared and not need it than need it and not be prepared.

  2. LaNeshe says:

    I need to come back and read this whole post, but it actually gave me so much anxiety half way through that I have to stop for now seeing your story. We had an issue with our first sitter a few months in and I’m glad we discovered things as soon as we did. It is so hard for working parents and trying to find the best care for your child.

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      LaNeshe I am so sorry that the article caused so much anxiety :-(. I know there are great caregivers out there – in fact – I am sure there are more great ones than bad ones! It is just a matter of asking the right questions, trusting your gut and making surprise visits once in a while.

      • Mathilda says:

        Hi everyone!
        Thank you for this interesting post.
        I have read it as I am very interested in child care and education, having been a sitter myself and planning to have my own baby soon 🙂
        I have been an independent sitter (I’ve started babysitting when I was a teenager) and I have also worked for an agency. Let me tell you something (I am French so I don’t know if it is exactly the same in the us but probably): agencies are not full guarantees. Indeed, I have never met personally anyone from the agency I used to work for. Just a phone interview, where they ask you how you would react in case of emergency, what are the ideal meals for kids of a certain age, etc, and of course an extract of criminal records. That’s it. Parents could perfectly ask these questions themselves, and even ask for the criminal record.
        Now if you want my opinion, there is one essential question that was missing: “why do you do this job?”
        Indeed, babysitting is one of the few jobs people can do with low levels of education. You need to be sure that the applicant does not see it as a simple way to earn money. I have done it as a student because I needed money, of course, but mostly because I have always loved kids. I love being with kids and taking care of them and I have maintained close relationships with most of the families I have worked for. I think the fact that a babysitter loves kids is essential because when you love your job, you do it better. I have always been very conscious of the fact that children are persons and felt in charge of a huge responsibility. So asking them why they do this job is really important, as it is not obvious as it seems. And I also think that when interviewing applicants, you should not only focus on the negative aspects but also on the positive ones (ie “what do you prefer in your job?” “What is your best memory related to it?”). These questions will enable to see if the applicant is really passionate about her/his job. I really don’t think going through an agency is compulsory. If you want to see the experience, ask them if they have younger siblings/cousins/nephews, or ask for references. And listen to your guts ;-). I hope my advice maybe useful to you

        • Natasha Daniels says:

          Mathilda – thanks for your comment. You bring up some great points. I definitely don’t think these should be the only questions you should ask in an interview. These are just the questions people don’t think to ask. I agree that asking why someone wants to babysit is a great question.

  3. Jasmien says:

    Try to never take a babysitter if possible at all costs that’s it if u have to work go for parents if u have them or brother sister even friends I don t trust with my children and when I talk about brother sister I mean if u really know them and are close to them same for your parents never trust anyone ever with your children also not familymembers that s my opinion u can call me paranoid but that s ok at least I know they re safe. Good thing to do is to show up unexpected that one works very well if u have to leave your children somewhere and questions always ask questions…. Anyway may all of our children always be protected..

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Many parents need to use babysitters and that is perfectly okay. It is just a matter of asking the right questions, doing random surprise check-ins and keeping a vigilant eye.

  4. Amie says:

    My boys’ sitters have been almost exclusively their grandmothers, but it was a different story for me when I was little. If your child cries every time you drop them off (especially if that’s out of character) don’t believe your sitter when she says “She’s fine as soon as you leave.”

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      I would suggest popping back an hour later unexpected. I did that and was surprised to find them not there – even though I told the sitter she is not allowed to take him anywhere again.

  5. Kristina says:

    I had a baby sitter watching my one year old son. I just started school full time to become a RN and worked part time over night. My mom agreed to watch my son when she was off of work. When she picked him up he was just sitting on the couch. My son is very playful. She asked the sitter what’s wrong with him and she said he’s fine. When my mom went to pick him up he started crying and screaming in pain. My mom examined him (she is a RN as well) to notice he wasn’t moving his arm and that his hand was red and swollen. Turns out the sitter dislocated his arm. She never called me or my mother about it or even a doctor for that matter. He went all day with an injuried arm. We ended up taking him to the pediatrician and the pediatrician confirms it was dislocated and we had to take him to the ER. Two doctors tried to pop it back in place and couldn’t. They said the longer you wait the harder it is to pop it back in place. The wrapped his arm in a soft cast and said to bring him in tomorrow if it didn’t go into place by itself. We brought him in the next day and again they couldn’t. My son was scheduled for surgery on that following Monday. Thank god his arm got better on its own. i will never hire a sitter again. I only trust my mom and his god mother to watch my son.

  6. T.C says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and warning other parents. Needed to hear these stories because my kids think I’m paranoid with my grandkids.
    When I had my daughter a friend recommended a sitter. A friend she called her. Experienced she said. The second Friday and after she was paid, my daughter had bruises all over her back. Police couldn’t find her. Long story short I check and question my grandkids now.

  7. Anna says:

    I think it is so scary just how many horror stories there are out there of caregivers gone wrong. I am a teenage babysitter and I love being that safe person that parents can trust. I wish I could be there for all children because everyone needs a good babysitter but it seems to be so hard to find one!

  8. I have never thought about the different questions to ask for the babysitting services. I know that you don’t want to get taken advantage of because that can easily happen. I like the questions because it is a more thorough screening that is going on for your benefit.

  9. […] will frequently tell me that they didn’t think this could happen to them. That they never leave their children with strangers. That they always keep their children within their […]

  10. Sal says:

    I have gotten to the point where I just don’t trust anyone to watch the kids at my house. Their house, with a bag of toys, etc and then I know where the person lives & how they are used to living. I’ve purposely forgotten stuff just to be able to swing back by & I usually tell them I’ll be out an hour or two longer then I actually will. That way I can arrive in the middle of “normal operations” before any facade is put up. I’ve caught people smoking, dumping breast milk ( and feeding baby formula they bought – that’s how we discovered allergies), my oldest boy had one that exspected him to never leave the basement rec room( I got off work early and walked in to him crying at bottom of stairs), etc.
    also, at their house you’ll meet the people most likely to interact with your child and can observe them too. I interviewed one lady once I loved but her oldest boy & husband totally creeped me out and most people when baby sitting have those, they are closest to, around after the honeymoon phase at the latest.

    But watching at my house has been far worse…. My animals got abused, jewelry stollen, makeup stolen or ruined, back door busted, fridge door left wide open, medicine cabinet issues, neglected child, space heater almost on fire, my mail gone through and my child wasn’t really being watched so he trashed the house ( and I’m not the best house keeper to begin with).

    Most of the sitters that watched the boys at their house would have special fun activities & other positive things to make it seem more like a special outting to someone’s house then a trip to a sitter. And if the sitter had kids of their own, then they’d wear each other out! Also, I got less behavior complaints when not watching at my house.
    Just my two cents and yes, I can totally see safety concerns. My youngest ones are now watched my the older ones( so far so good except for one night of popcorn wars) but when I do need a sitter I will google them, Google their address, Google their street name, check linked in for them or any possible family/household members, etc like I would someone I was hiring at work.

    Haylie – I so want a copy of your packet! You mentioned some good points I never thought of! 🙂

    • Natasha Daniels says:

      Wow! You’ve had some bad experiences ????. It is nice when you have kids old enough to watch the younger ones. I trust my kids more than I trust adult strangers.

  11. […] 12 THINGS YOU SHOULD ASK EVERY BABYSITTER BUT DON’T | Anxious Toddlers […]

  12. We noticed the sitter kept going outside alone several times a day, caught her on our doorbell camera. Then one night we came home early. She was smoking marijuana on the side of our house. She said she had a medical card so it was prescription for her anxiety. Parents start asking about sitters if they have a medical marijuana card. The sitter had been background checked through a service and didn’t consider herself a “smoker.”

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