In a perfect world, children would treat their babysitter with the same level of respect as their parents, and sit quietly reading a book while their mom and dad enjoyed a much needed night out. However, many parents are instead coming home to utter chaos, a disgruntled and exhausted babysitter and kids who threw their mom and dad's rules out the window the minute both walked out the door. Getting your babysitter and the kids on the same page before you leave home helps ensure everyone involved has an enjoyable experience and provides you enough peace of mind to actually enjoy your night out.
Inform your children ahead of time that you're leaving for the evening and that Grandma, Aunt Jane or “Suzy” the babysitter is coming over. Take this opportunity to remind the kids you expect them to remain courteous, responsible and respectful while you're away from home.
Create a “Family Rules Chart” for the kids. Sit down with markers and poster board and map out some easy-to-follow rules for the kids. For instance, schedule dinner at 5:00 p.m., homework at 6:00 p.m. and bedtime at 9:00 p.m. At the chart's bottom, write down some of the basic house rules, such as respect your siblings, pick up after yourself and no television after a certain time. This chart also cuts down on your babysitter's confusion, and provides her with a point of reference if the kids are misbehaving.
Speak to your babysitter about the house rules and point out the chart once she enters your home. Quickly run over your normal routine so she has some idea of what to expect from the kids. Inquire about her comfort level when dealing with punishments. Grandma may be comfortable shutting off the television or sending a child to time-out, but a teenager might not. If this is the case, let the babysitter know you're available to discipline the child over the phone if absolutely necessary.
Inform the sitter about any health issue or special care instructions. For instance, let your sitter know your child is allergic to strawberries or requires a certain medication before dinner or bedtime.
Gather your kids and show them the “Family Rules Chart.” Explain to them that not following the rules and schedule laid out on the chart is punishable by, for example, a missed sleepover or the loss of dessert privileges for one week. Once everyone is aware of the house rules, step back and watch how your child and the babysitter interact. Before you walk out the door, once again let your kids know that the babysitter is in charge.
Take calls from the frustrated babysitter or frightened child. If things get too out of hand, be prepared to cut your evening short and head home. Ask the babysitter to describe which family rule was broken and don't hesitate to punish accordingly.
Provide helpful tips for the babysitter. For instance, let her know that your youngest enjoys a certain bedtime story or that nothing gets your oldest son to listen faster than shutting off his video games.