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Monday question: Minding the minders

Posted by Robin Abrahams  February 18, 2013 09:37 AM

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Happy Presidents' Day, readers! Here's a question for those of you who are savvy to the ways of the babysitting market:

I pay babysitters, both teenaged and adult, to watch my child. They all seem to think that this means they can do homework or read while they plunk my child in front of the tv, or that they can take my child to THEIR home and do housework, yardwork, cooking or homework while getting paid to watch my son. I worked as a babysitter well into my twenties, and "babysitting" meant playing with the child, paying attention to the child. Am I wrong? I have come right out and said, "I am not paying you to do your homework," but this is met with, "But I have so much to do!" I have told them not to take my child out of the home unless it is to the playground, but it keeps happening.

What's your take? A few things leap out to me: How old is the son? How long/what time of day does the babysitting take place? Where is the LW finding her babysitters, and what kind of conversation is she having with them in advance? "It keeps happening"? Really? I can see a babysitter being a bit lazier than a parent might like, but taking a kid off the property without permission is crossing a huge line.

In my own babysitting days, which were a while ago, it seemed the general norm was to actually play with the kids about half the time. The rest of the time they'd be asleep, playing by themselves or with siblings, or reading or watching TV.

The LW needs to improve her business practices in dealing with babysitters, that's obvious. Parents and childminders, what are your tips for navigating the 21st century babysitting economy?

I'll be chatting this Wednesday at noon, so stop by then--and join me on Facebook!

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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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