Be specific with the sitter


July 26, 1992|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

Your children loved Lisa when you hired her to be your summer sitter. She was enthusiastic, articulate, cheerful, warm, and at ease.

She did look decidedly uninterested when you mentioned the importance of keeping the house clean, but you didn't care. Your children were content; what could possibly go wrong in three short months?

"Everything! I don't come home to two children and one sitter, anymore; I come home to a worse mess than my kids would have made with no supervision," said a frustrated mother during a recent seminar.

"She's not giving my children the kind of food I want them to have, either. Her idea of lunch seems to be potato chips and a candy bar. I've dropped plenty of hints about not being able to get through, but she ignores them," she added.

We do neither our sitters nor ourselves a favor when we're less than honest with them. If your dream summer sitter is turning into a nightmare, it's time to ask yourself these questions:

* Did I make my wishes and expectations absolutely clear when I hired this young person? Did I explain in detail that I wanted her/him to clean up every evening, for example?

* Was I clear about the house rules? Did I write them down? Did I discuss in detail limits on non-emergency use of the telephone, television time, what kind of food the children would be allowed to eat?

* Have I given this young person some positive input each week? Have I praised her when she's made an extra effort? Have I praised her when she did make an effort to clean up the house?

Because most summer sitters are young and inexperienced, they're likely to be unsure about what's expected of them in any job. They're also likely to need more input from you than an adult employee would.

Find time alone with her -- never do this in front of your children -- then start by telling her what she's doing right. If she's always punctual, for example, mention how much you appreciate this.

Then explain to her that there are changes she must make -- and be excruciatingly specific.

Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed to Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.

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