What to Do When Your Babysitter Won’t Follow Your Routine

What you can do as a parent when your babysitter won’t follow your routine. Get tips for how to respond and adjust your expectations.

Children with a babysitter

I often get questions about what to do about a babysitter who won’t follow your outline when watching your kids and what to do about it.

Parents stress out because the person watching their child does not follow the routine. They worry it will ruin their child forever and wonder what they can do.

Let’s talk about it.

When You Pay the Babysitter

First, if it is a babysitter you are paying regularly, I think they need to do their best to comply with what you ask.

Do make sure, however, that you are asking things that are within reason for the circumstances.

I say that for the benefit of your child.

If, for example, you are in the middle of CIO, you don’t want to put a babysitter in charge of monitoring it.

As much experience as I have with CIO, I would be a bit stressed if someone brought their baby to me and asked me to have her CIO and then left. I would do my best, but I would most definitely err on the side of caution, not knowing the baby and not being the mom.

I use CIO as a simple example, but that same idea can be applied to a lot of situations.

If the child, however, is adept at falling asleep on her own, you can ask that the babysitter put your baby to bed awake rather than rock her to sleep.

Now, let’s say this is a babysitter you are paying but it isn’t a regular occurrence. In other words, you are a stay-at-home mom who wants a babysitter either for running errands or for going out on a date with your husband.

In this case, I would not stress about things and simply find a different babysitter next time.

If it is a babysitter you are paying but it is regular, this is something that would need to be addressed.

In other words, you are a working mom who has your child in childcare while you are at work.

I would talk with the babysitter (daycare provider, nanny, etc) about what needs to change.

Again, you are paying the person so you have the absolute right to ask certain things be done, I think. This person needs to be an extension of you.

Sure, he/she can’t be exactly like you and she shouldn’t try. But she can do her best to follow your rules to her ability.

If she can’t, I would find another child care provider. If that isn’t an option, I would say the only option left is to change your expectations.

Some daycares have policies that will not change. In that case, you might want to find a different daycare.

When You Do Not Pay the Babysitter

This question from a reader brings up a complicated issue:

1. My question is, do your parents follow BW? Both my In-Laws and my parents don’t really agree with having a routine for my LO. 

Here is where things get tricky and not all people agree.

It is relatively easy to understand that when you pay someone to do something, it is reasonable for you to dictate to a certain extent how that is done.

If you hired a cleaning service, you would not keep them around if they didn’t do as good of a job as you wanted.

Nor would you (most of you) go back to a hairstylist who repeatedly gave you a bad haircut.

But when you move into the free babysitter and the babysitter who is family, things become more complicated.

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

If your mom came and cleaned your house for free, you might not love everything she did, but you couldn’t really tell her how to do it differently.

You would either accept it as it is or decline her offer to do it.

Perhaps you could make requests like “Just leave the bathroom. I will clean it myself” but you couldn’t say, “You aren’t getting the bathrooms as clean as I like–especially the floor. Can you please improve on that?”

If you got a free haircut that turned out to be bad, you just wouldn’t ask/accept another free haircut, right?

You could try again, at a risk, and ask that she really only take one inch off, but if she messed up again, you can’t really complain about it.

The same principles can easily be applied to babysitting children.

If your free babysitters don’t follow your requests/instructions, find a different free babysitter.

Of course, we are dealing with humans all around, so it can’t really be that simple.

Family will want to see your child. Your child will want to see the family. You want your child to see family.

So simply cutting off the interaction isn’t necessarily a  good or right thing to do.

But you are also talking about your child–the person YOU are responsible for.

You and your spouse are responsible for raising this child in the best way for that child, so there might be times you feel like you need to “pull visitation rights”–or at least only do them with supervision.

If there is a moral issue at hand, you absolutely do not need to be flexible. But on issues like sleep and food, I think it is a time to find a common ground.

>>>Read: 5 Tips for Using Family as Babysitters

Let’s mull over some points on this topic. None of it is black and white, but we can get some basic gists here.

If you have a free babysitter who watches your child on occasion, I think this is a time to be flexible.

Do they keep your child up late? Do they feed him food you don’t want him eating (assuming it is food that is age-appropriate)? Do they hold your baby for nap time?

These are things you need to weigh and decide if the free childcare is worth it or not. In most cases, I would say that your child being held through a nap every so often isn’t going to cause a major problem.

There are things that you can do. You can try talking to the person about it–let them know what you do and what you prefer.

If the person doesn’t follow your wishes, then you have the choice of whether or not the free childcare is worth it.

I am not saying cutting off ties–just if you will leave your child alone with that person or not anymore.

Again, I don’t think you can demand a person follow your every desire if you are not paying them.

So your child might get more TV and snacks and less sleep than you would prefer.

Some people will encounter issues more serious than a package of fruit snacks. In these cases, again, I think start with a conversation, and if things don’t change, you find other childcare options.

If you have a free babysitter who watches your child regularly, I think the same rules apply so far as you first talk to the babysitter, then find other options if you and the babysitter can’t come to a compromise.

However, I do think when things are consistent, the “little things” like not enough sleep, too much TV, and lots of snacks become big things.

Even as often as once a week, these little things aren’t going to cause major problems, but several times a week will cause issues.

My Personal Experience

My parents and my in-laws follow what I ask them to do when they watch our kids. However, I do not ask them to do everything that I do.

If they are watching a baby, I outline eating and sleeping times. What they do for playtime I leave up to them. They are both responsible and I can trust them with that.

If they are watching a toddler, I outline only sleeping times. I figure meal time is pretty self-explanatory–breakfast, lunch, dinner.

A preschooler, I outline bedtime. Nap time I leave open “She can take a nap if she is cranky. If not, you can let her stay up. But if she doesn’t nap, she will most likely need to go to bed early.”

For a child-age range, I give a “latest” acceptable bedtime to me, which is later than the child’s regular bedtime. I know staying up late every so often is okay for older kids at this point.

I don’t ask for things like independent playtime to be followed.

One time, our parents split a week watching Brayden and Kaitlyn while we went to Washington D.C. I wrote down when we usually had IPT and told our parents that it was an option if they needed it, but also told them I didn’t care if it was done or not. It never was. No big deal.

I know that when my kids are with grandparents, they get as many snacky-foods in one afternoon as they would get in a month at our house.

I know naps will be short and bedtime will be late.

I know they might talk grandma into one more show than I would like.

But I also know they will be in good hands. I know they will feel very special. I know they will have lots of fun.

And I know they will come home a bit whiny and cranky and that is the price I pay for a bit of freedom and a break. But I also know they will snap back quickly and will be back to their normal selves by the next day.

And things also vary from grandparent to grandparent. My husband’s mom was a very scheduled mother herself, so she is pretty good at following things to the minute.

My mom was absolutely not a scheduled mother, but has become a believer after watching me with my kids, so she does her best to follow things, and is usually on by a few minutes.

My dad, however, I just know has very little concept of time. I know the demeanor of the girls (AKA crankiness) will ensure they get to bed pretty close to on time, but I also know that Brayden will see hours he has never known while awake before.

We have even come home to find Brayden and my Dad asleep on the couches. And so far, we have all survived just fine.

Main Points Review

There are a few main points I am trying to focus on here:

  1. If you are paying for childcare, you have the right to expect your desires to be followed to the best of that babysitter’s ability
  2. If the babysitting is not a consistent, regular thing, you don’t need to stress out about little things. Your child will bounce back, and your child will soon realize certain people have certain rules
  3. If the childcare is free, you can request things, but you can’t demand them. If your desires are not followed and that is absolutely not okay with you, you can find other childcare options
  4. If the childcare is a consistent thing, free or paid for, the little things can become big problems. In the case of consistent childcare, you need to find someone to watch your child who can do the things you ask
  5. A little spoiling from grandparents (or aunts/uncles/trusted friend) is not going to destroy your child

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4 thoughts on “What to Do When Your Babysitter Won’t Follow Your Routine”

  1. What great guidelines. I have 3 babysitters for my daughter. My mom does 1 day a week, my hubbys mom does 1 day a week and then we pay a nanny to come into our home 3 days a week. Sometimes one of the moms gets the shaft because my husband only works part-time and will get a monday or Friday off.I find that with my mom she does what I want and we have no problems. With my hubbys mom, she does not. One day she gave my daughter cake for breakfast because she didn't want eggs! My daughter is 2 and a half. Though I did talk with her about that, I find that if it isn't really hurting my daughter then I let it slide. I have to remind myself that sometimes its more important to have someone who loves her there. If she was at a daycare they might do what I wanted but they wouldn't love her like her grandma does!!The only problem I have with the nanny is that she leaves my house a mess. I can see every single thing that she and my daughter have touched each day. It doesn't take long for me to pick up, but I have been trying to talk with her about it because my daughter is not allowed to leave huge messes when we are home, so I don't want her to get that bad habbit. Just have to pick you battles I guess!

  2. Oh and I also find that if I don't let the small stuff with my mom in law slide, then I frustrate my husband! So, I try to be sweet to her and remember that she loves my daughter!

  3. I think you are right on about not getting picky when you have free babysitting. We let our parents watch our boys from time to time but for me the freedom didn't outweigh how long it took me to get them back on schedule. I found another BW mom with two boys, just like me, who has the same beliefs and uses the same BW & GKGW fundementals that we use. We swap babysitting twice a month so they can go on a date and we can go on a date. Both of us complained that our parents will watch our kids but only at their house. This is very inconvenient for me to pack up two kids plus everything they'll need for the night and haul them to my parents house only to have to wake them up when we're done with our date to bring them home. This way my boys are loved and wqtched in our home and I can stay out a little later b/c they are already asleep in their own beds when we get home. This might not be possible for all moms but if you can find someone to trade off with then I highly recommend it.


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