10 Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter (& How to Fire Them)

a babysitter watching a kid as they bake cookies

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It is a sad truth that not all babysitters are good caregivers. They may not be equipped to offer childcare.

They might be irresponsible. They may simply be a bad fit. It is important to recognize the signs of a bad babysitter early so you can quickly move on.

*FYI some of the links in this article about warning signs of a bad babysitter and how to fire them may be affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase we may get a commission (at no extra cost to you). For more info please see our disclaimer.

Warning Signs of a Bad Babysitter

Babysitting isn’t a typical job. Babysitters don’t have bosses or specific training they need to get started.

They only need to state they want to try watching children, and then they’re ready to work. Unfortunately, many parents, won’t know someone is a bad babysitter until they find out for themselves.

The following signs are ones that you should look for so you and your kids aren’t stuck with a bad babysitter.

1. They Have No Experience

You shouldn’t necessarily avoid a babysitter who doesn’t have a great deal of (or any) experience. All babysitters have to start somewhere. You might decide to roll the dice on a new sitter and end up with the perfect caregiver.

However, the lack of experience should cause you to pay more attention to their behavior. You will need to ask more follow-up questions and even offer some advice to a sitter who is just learning.

An inexperienced babysitter is a fine choice for older children who have few behavioral issues. On the other hand, it is unwise to expect a young babysitter with no experience to watch after a newborn or a child who has a history of acting out.

Speaking from personal experience, my first babysitting gig was for a newborn. I was 13 and I had never so much as changed a diaper. While I did get him home in one piece, it wasn’t without much struggle and a massive amount of tears (both mine and his).

Be realistic when hiring an inexperienced babysitter. If you think your child might be too much for a new caregiver, you should look elsewhere.

Find Top-Rated Babysitters in Your Area

If you’re looking for a babysitter, this service can connect you to qualified babysitters who have been pre-vetted.

2. They Show Up Late

A person who shows up late to a job interview is not likely to improve when it comes to the actual job. If punctuality is important to you (and it should), a late-arriving interviewee probably isn’t the best choice.

A babysitter who repeatedly shows up late is not someone who has your child’s needs at the forefront of their mind. They may have a lot going on in their life, which might be the reason they keep showing up late.

Regardless of their reason, the fact that they cannot show up on time doesn’t bode well to the attention they’re paying to your child’s safety and needs.

You don’t have to immediately fire a tardy babysitter. Talk with them first and let them know that you expect them to arrive when asked. Give them the opportunity to rectify the mistake before you look for a new sitter.

Related: 10 Qualities of a Good Babysitter

3. Your Children Don’t Warm Up to Them

During or shortly after the interview process, but before you make a job offer, it is a good idea to introduce your child to the babysitter. Watch how the sitter and your child interact. If your child doesn’t warm up to the babysitter right away, that might be a red flag.

Of course, there are some kids who simply won’t become attached to anyone other than their mom or dad.

My daughter’s best friend is a wonderful child. She is bright, charming, creative, and refuses to cozy up to any adult who isn’t her mom. If your child is attached to you in this way, you may need to skip this red flag.

4. They Use Inappropriate Language Around Children

Not everyone is alarmed by the same type of language. In my family, we don’t use language around our children that wouldn’t be found in a PG-rated film.

Your family may be more lax with your language and that is fine. However, your babysitter should adhere to whatever language standards you have set.

Babysitters should never assume that R-rated language is okay around young children. Likewise, they should not use terms that could be considered racist, homophobic, or otherwise prejudice against certain groups.

You may not hear the language coming directly from the sitter but from your children. If you suddenly hear your kids saying words that you find inappropriate, question where they’re hearing them. They may be coming from the sitter.

5. They Have Uninvited Guests at Your Home

It is never okay for a sitter to have an uninvited guest over at your home. Let them know this from the beginning of the relationship. Some babysitters, especially young ones, may think it is appropriate to invite a friend or family member to help them.

Tell them from day one that every person who is around your children in your absence must be vetted by you.

What if the sitter is watching the children at their own home? Admittedly, you have less control over what happens at a babysitter’s house than what happens in your own.

Simply by allowing your children to be watched elsewhere you are allowing at least a small amount of uncertainty.

The best option is to have the babysitter watch your children at your house. This way, you have control over who is welcome and who isn’t.

Related: Here’s How I Find a Last Minute Babysitter

6. They Ignore Household Rules

Your house, your rules. Regardless of whether or not they agree with your rules, the babysitter must abide by them. As an employee, it is their job to enforce the rules you set forth.

Some rules are small and simple. You may ask that visitors remove their shoes when they enter your house. If the babysitter forgets to do this or forgets to insist the children remove their shoes, a gentle reminder is all that is needed.

Other rules are more serious.

If the sitter is giving your children ice cream for dinner and letting them stay up until midnight watching movies from the Saw franchise while running with scissors and playing catch with your wedding vase, this is more than a red flag.

A blatant disregard for your household rules is cause for dismissal.

Related: The Max Number of Kids a Babysitter Can Watch

7. They Are Dishonest

A babysitter once told me she didn’t smoke. I knew better because she smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. When I pressed her, she admitted that she did smoke but only outside.

That was the end of that relationship for me. I hold no ill will toward smokers. I used to be a smoker myself. I know that it is an addiction that is difficult to kick. I do, however, hold ill will toward someone who would lie about it. I have to wonder what else they are willing to keep from me.

Find Top-Rated Babysitters in Your Area

If you’re looking for a babysitter, this service can connect you to qualified babysitters who have been pre-vetted.

8. Children Dread Their Time with the Sitter

It is natural for a child to want to stay with their parents. Over time, a sitter becomes like another part of the family and most children look forward to the playtime they get with the caregiver. Children feel lucky to get a break from parents in the same way parents feel relieved for some time to themselves.

What if your child never gets to the point where they anticipate a babysitter’s arrival with glee? It could be typical separation anxiety. It could also be something much more troubling. Find out from your child why they would rather not have the babysitter around.

Not all children are old enough or otherwise aware enough to be able to share their troubles. It is worth trying to find out and, if things don’t improve, it may be worth finding a new babysitter.

9. Items Go Missing From Your Home

No one wants to accuse someone else of stealing. Unfortunately, thefts do happen. If items suddenly start disappearing from your home, you may have to question the babysitter.

You can ask the babysitter about any missing items, but you should not expect someone who is stealing from you to come clean. The most you can expect is for the sitter to be aware that you have noticed that the items are gone.

Another option is to use a nanny cam. It is perfectly legal to install a nanny cam in any state in the country as long as that camera is not installed in a private place like a restroom.

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Most people agree that you should make your babysitter aware of the presence of nanny cams in the home. This is best practices for ethical reasons and also may prevent the theft from happening in the first place.

First of all, make sure you know what your local laws are before doing anything because there are some minutiae in all written laws. Secondly here are some good nanny cam options you should consider.

10. Children Have Unexplained Bruises

The worst-case scenario is that a babysitter could potentially be abusing your child. If this is happening, or if you believe it could be, you should immediately dismiss the babysitter and have them investigated.

Signs of abuse might include bruises, burns or other unexplained marks on a child that only appear after time spent with a babysitter. As with stealing, you could rely on a nanny cam to verify any fears, but you should not leave a child alone with a babysitter who may be abusive in any way.

Other types of abuse can occur as well, such as verbal or sexual. These are more difficult to visually detect, but if you see a change in your child’s personality or if your child gives you an indication of any type of abuse, it is best to put your trust in your child rather than the sitter.

This can be hard to detect depending on the age of the child.

Since an older child is better able to verbalize their issues than younger children you should be vigilant to prevent a situation where a childcare provider is abusing your child.

This is the case whenever anyone is watching your kids (daycare, nanny, etc.,) not just babysitting.

How to Get Rid of a Bad Babysitter

adult talking to a teenager

Now that you know which red flags you need to observe, you may wonder how to dismiss the babysitter. There are some important things you need to know before you let the babysitter go.

Babysitting is considered at-will employment. You can fire your babysitter at any time. Assuming you have no contract involved, a babysitter can simply be dismissed with no cause.

You cannot defame the babysitter. If you spread rumors or falsehoods that prevent the sitter from securing future jobs, you can be sued. You can even be sued if you share true statements that cannot be proven.

Unless the sitter is dangerous, it is acceptable to give them as much notice as possible. Let them know as soon as you decide to no longer use their services. This will help them to find employment elsewhere as soon as they know they need it.

If your child has become attached to the babysitter, give them a chance to say goodbye. Explain to them in ways that they can understand for their age what happened to cause the babysitter to be let go. Let the child know it is not their fault in any way.

Likewise, if your relationship was otherwise good with the sitter, you might consider providing them with a tip or bonus to thank them for their time.

Pro Tip You should IMMEDIATELY dismiss a bad or abusive babysitter that’s causing harm to your child.

No questions about that.

With that said there’s no such thing as a “perfect babysitter.” You should take care to not set standards so high that no one (not even you as the parent) can reach it.

Final Thoughts

Hiring someone as a babysitter does not mean they have a permanent position. You can remove them anytime if you find they’re not suited for the job.

Do you have a story about a babysitter that didn’t turn out like you had hoped? Tell us in the comments!


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a bad babysitter?

    A bad babysitter is a caregiver who doesn’t respect the instructions you give them. They fail to watch your child appropriately and show behavior that potentially puts your child at harm.

  2. What should you do if I suspect I’ve got a bad babysitter?

    A bad babysitter should be fired immediately. Failure to fire a bad babysitter could put your child in physically or emotional harm.

  3. What are some warning signs to look for if you suspect your babysitter is hurting your child?

    Some warning signs include bruises, burns or other unexplained marks on a child that only appear after time spent with a babysitter. Also pay attention to emotional changes that happens with your child either before the babysitter comes or after.

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Clarice A.
Clarice A.
5 months ago

When our daughter turned 12,she started her puberty and bedwetting because of it.Wanting to save money and protect the environment,we got her cloth diapers and plastic pants[aka-rubberpants] to wear to bed every night.A half hour before bedtime,she would lay on her bed,i would slide the diapers under her,apply the babypowder,then pin the diapers at the corners.Then i would pull the rubberpants up her legs and over the diapers.We then hired a 16 year old girl,Amber,to babysit the daughter when the husband and i went out sometimes during the week and on friday or saturday nights.She was good at putting the diapers and rubberpants on the daughter! I washed the diapers and rubberpants every two to three days and paid Amber extra money to fold the diapers and rubberpants after the daughter was in bed.Everything went smoothly untill one friday when we went out.Amber came over to babysit the daughter.Later on that evening,i wasnt feeling good so the husband and i came home early.The living room light was on and we peaked thru the gap in the curtains and saw Amber wearing some of the daughters diapers and rubberpants and she was on her knees giving her boyfriend oral sex! We quickly burst in the door and caught her in the act!We sent her boyfriend home,made her take off the diapers and rubberpants,and fired her on the spot!