I babysit in my home. My friend and my Mom also babysit and I have another friend who runs an in-home daycare. Between the four of us, we put up with an awful lot. Not from the kids, but from the parents.
Let me just say that I really love the families that I babysit for. I look at them as friends and I hope they view me the same. The issues below are not from one particular incident, but from many tiny things that I've discussed with several sitters I know. I just want to throw them out there as food for thought.
1. Pay your sitter regularly. Make sure you are sticking to your agreement with your sitter. The sitter is there when you expect her to be, make sure you pay when you say you will. You expect your boss to pay you on payday; a sitter is no different. Everyone forgets once in a while, but make sure that if you do forget that you bring her pay the very next time your child(ren) will be there if not before.
2. Call your sitter whenever you will be late. If you leave work late, call the sitter before you leave work or from your cell phone as soon as you get in your car. If you aren't sure your spouse has called about a change, make the call yourself. The sitter would rather get a call from each parent than none at all.
3. Call your sitter when someone else will be picking your child(ren) up. I have a policy that I will not let the child(ren) leave my house with anyone unless I have spoken with one of the parents. This is not only for safety reasons, but if a Grandparent picks up and a parent has other plans, I don't want to be responsible for any missed appointments or for making them late for another engagement.
4. Call your sitter whenever your child will not be coming on a scheduled day. As soon as you know of a holiday, vacation day, cancellation, etc. inform your sitter. I have planned my errands around schedules only to have a parent call me after a child was supposed to be here and tell me the child won't be coming. It makes the sitter feel like their time is not valued.
6. Look at your sitter as another parent to your child. They should be informed of any changes in the child(ren)s life. In the case of a divorce, a sitter may be the only stable fixture in a child's life.
7. If there is a behavior issue a the sitter's house, make sure you take care of it at home. It is hard for sitters to tell a parent when a child has misbehaved or when they've had to be punished. Make sure your sitter knows it is okay for them to tell you if your child(ren) is misbehaving. Also, if the sitter mentions behavior problems, take it seriously.
8. Go over your expectations with your sitter. If you expect your child(ren) to begin homework before you pick them up, if you expect your child to eat his/her after school snack before a certain time so as not to spoil a meal, let the sitter know.
9. Make sure your sitter is aware of your plans for school closings or holidays. Will you have a relative take the child for the day or will they be coming to the sitter? Make these plans ahead of time, but also make sure to call the sitter as the occasion arises just to clarify. I have a parent that calls on school-closing days and holidays just to be sure I know her children are coming. I know her plans are for them to come here, but it is nice to know she is thinking of me anyway.
10. Do not bring a sick child to the sitter. There are special times when it is okay, but make sure you call and discuss the situation with the sitter. Be prepared with an alternate plan BEFORE you call the sitter so she doesn't feel obligated to keep the child. Make sure the sitter knows its okay if she says, "No."
11. Have a back-up sitter for times when your sitter or her children may be ill. It happens to all of us.
***UPDATES TO ADD***
12. Don't assume your sitter will feed your child(ren). Discuss with your sitter ahead of time if you are to bring food for your children or if food is included in their rate. A sitter may be okay with using their own milk for cereal for one child, but if you have more than one child and they are eating breakfast several times a week, offer money for milk or bring some yourself. I prefer money for milk rather than having 3 or 4 different gallons opened in my fridge at once. Also make sure whether or not you need to send an after school snack for your child(ren). These things can make a big difference when there are many children coming to one sitter's house after school.
13. Never assume anything when it comes to your sitter. The sitter has their own family to think about, too. A sitter with only small children may not think about homework, a sitter with older children may not think about cabinet locks anymore. She is not a mind-reader and should not be expected to go far above and beyond what you have discussed with her about your child(ren)'s care.
I didn't think I'd have so many items on this list when I started it. I'm really not trying to complain about babysitting. I love it. It allows me to stay home with my own children. I just want people to be considerate of the people who are caring for their children.
I view the children I watch as my own while they are here. It works much better when the parents and sitter are on the same page in every aspect of the children's care.