Doesn't Engage in Conversation with Parent
It's not too much to expect for a sitter to greet parents, smile and engage in some small talk. He/she should ask about the kids, wish you a good time, and converse long enough to make you feel comfortable.
Doesn't Seem to Care or Focus on Instructions Provided
A good sitter should note instructions you're providing and acknowledge a thorough understanding. If you're telling the sitter that kids must have a bath and be in bed at a certain time, and she is going "yeah, right, whatever" or doesn't seem to be paying attention to anything you're saying, you should worry about any follow-through occurring.
Arrives Late or is Frequently Unreliable
Family emergencies or the unavoidable can certainly happen, but a chronically late or consistently canceling babysitter can create a huge hardship on parents and destroy best-laid plans. If your sitter doesn't care enough about the job to arrive on time and be sensitive of your plans, then find one who will!
Child Wail About Being Left Alone with Her (or Him)
It's not unusual for kids to not want to be apart from mom or dad. But if a kid becomes an emotional wreck over being left with a particular sitter, then parents should have second-thoughts about using that person. It could be nothing more than separation anxiety or the kid being told "no" and holding it against the sitter; or it could signify something more.
Child Shows A Change of Behavior While Awake or Change in Sleep Pattern
If a normally outgoing and independent child suddenly becomes clingy and withdrawn, or begins waking up throughout the night with terrors or other sleep issues, and the change can be attributed to timing with a sitter, then parents should be concerned.
Children Seem to Have Frequent Accidents
A cut or scrape or two is a normal occurrence with healthy and active kids, and should present no cause for alarm with parents. Still, a good babysitter will be quick to offer an explanation (i.e. a trip to the park resulted in a spill from the slide). But frequent accidents that result in injuries beyond that could signify either a lack of supervision or worse, physical abuse.
Invites Someone Else Over (Without Your Permission)
Sitters sometimes gain the confidence of families, and then with time feel "entitled" to invite a friend or even date over during the evening. While parents sometimes even offer this to help relieve nerves of being in a home alone with kids, it's out of line for a sitter to assume this action is okay.
Seems Lethargic, Exhausted
You've hired a babysitter to watch your children while you're out having a good time (or at least kid-free time), so the least of your worries should be whether your kids are entertained and having safe fun in your absence. A sitter who arrives seemingly exhausted or without energy is not going to provide quality care. Parents should worry about lack of supervision, or a sitter who simply plants tots in front of the TV and gives orders for not being disturbed.
Thoroughly screened candidates and background checks aside, how to know if your sitter isn't all she claims to be? Yes, there are nanny cameras; but the best thing is to have the nanny observed by a friend, family member or neighbor unknown to her. If you are a friend, family member or neighbor of someone with a nanny or sitter that seems to be lacking, what you see is relevant. Please find a way to let the parents know what you have observed. Our site is one such way. You can email Jane directly or submit an anonymous sighting to MPP using meebo, (in the side bar).