Babysitting and Telephone Etiquette

My daughters just finished a really wonderful babysitting “unit” in their  Achievement Days group.

The unit was called “The Babysitters Club” and the girls spent a handful of hours learning about babysitting, discussing scenarios that may occur during babysitting; how to deal with them, and then they got to put their knowledge to the test.  The girls found children to babysit, made a schedule with the parents, put together a babysitting bag and were then required to follow through with a phone call for confirmation of the arrangement.

As I listened to my girls make their phone calls to the parents of the children they would be in charge of caring for,  I realized that telephone etiquette is going by the wayside.  It seems that everyone has their own phone these days and so children are not taught the telephone “niceties” that so many of us “old folks” were.  I’m just as guilty of this as the next person.  We don’t have a home telephone, and since my cell phone is usually near me, there are rarely instances where my children answer the phone.  In fact, I don’t allow them to answer the phone unless it’s a close family member where the conversation is casual.  They literally don’t have the opportunity to practice telephone skills, and it shows.

As the girls stuttered and um’d their way through the conversation (it was scripted with specific points to be made/discussed) it became clear to me that I haven’t done my job as a responsible parent to teach them the proper way to address others on the telephone.  I’m working on rectifying the situation, and while I’m at it, I’ve been thinking about babysitters’ these days and how even that has changed.

When I was a babysitter, I spent my time watching the children, but also cleaning.  If I fed the children a meal, I always cleaned it up and did the dishes.  If the carpet needed vacuuming, whether or not the mess was made on my watch, I vacuumed.  If the bathroom needed scrubbing, I did that, too.  I thought it was part of the job.  Speaking for my experience alone, it seems like kids now-a-days are not taught to even do the basic household chore.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve returned home after a date out and found the paper plates (for ease of clean up for the babysitter) with the half eaten food that I prepared before I left STILL on the kitchen table.  With crumbs on my living room floor (food is not even allowed in my living room) and the house in an overall disarray.

Now, if I had left my house in disarray, I wouldn’t feel annoyed to return home to find it in the same condition, but I DO get annoyed when I leave and come home to a mess.  Because of my experience with babysitters that have not always lived up to my expectations, I was super glad to hear that my girls were taught that babysitting IS a job and there are certain things that are required of them.  I have to thank their teacher for the time and effort she put into teaching them the basics, and sending them home with resources that will help them when they start babysitting.

Aren’t these resources great?

(Game Ideas and Things to Bring Babysitting)

(Simple Snacks and Treat Ideas & Crafts)

(Children’s Songs)

Now, I need your input.  What are your thoughts?

  1. Do parents need to teach their children polite telephone etiquette?
  2. Do you expect babysitters to clean up the messes that are made while they are babysitting?
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About Angie

Angie is a CRAFT dabbling, recipe making, WORD loving, sunshine hording, book DEVOURING, Mama to a lot! She's kind of in love with Instagram right now, so if you want her attention, go find here there. {smiling}


  1. Yes, parents need to teach their kids phone etiquette. Especially since cell phone use is so far OUT OF CONTROL!! There’s a time and a place for it….of course, a few adults could learn that too. Nothing like getting out of the house for a meal so I get a break from cooking and having to listen to the person next to me on the phone!! Other than that, kids should know how to act on the phone. My daughter got so wrapped up in her own little tween world for awhile, that the was watching tv instead of talking to my parents or doing her thing and totally ignoring them. So we went over the lesson once again how to treat people, especially on the phone when they can’t see you. Proper things to say….or not say, and so on.

    Most definitely a babysitter should clean any messes made while there. I always cleaned up while I was babysitting and got paid extra to help clean up whatever they left. But the babysitter is in charge, so they’re responsible for anything while they’re there. Before the kids move onto the next toy….put away what you just had. If the babysitter is really babysitting, they’re playing with the kids, doing art….just keeping them entertained…..NOT watching tv or texting to their friends!!

  2. When I babysat I always fixed dinner and cleaned it up, and then ran the dishwasher and wiped down the kitchen counters. At minimum. And I certainly cleaned up any mess made on my watch.

    As for phone manners – oh my, don’t even get me started! My biggest pet peeve is when people don’t identify themselves on the phone. And that’s not a generational thing! When I’m at work I’d say about 30% of people who call my office launch right into their complaint/question/issue/etc and I have to interrupt them and ask who they are. Nine out of ten of those calls aren’t even for me, so then I have to transfer them. It’s not the waste of time that annoys me so much as the lack of manners. When you call a business and someone answers the phone you’re supposed to say “Hello, this is so-and-so”. You’re not supposed to just launch right into “I need blah blah blah” without so much as a hello.

    Sorry, ranting over. 🙂

    • I should have added that when I said it’s not generational – in my experience the older the caller, the worse the manners. Talk about frustrating!

  3. yes and yes
    i think.

  4. Parents absolutely need to teach children phone ettiquette, where else can they learn it?

    As for the babysitters, I’ve given up expecting them to actually clean up any messes they (kids and sitter) have made that evening. Heck, nowadays I’m happy if they just stick the dishes in the sink (heaven forbid they run any water on them) and actually turn off the tv before they leave. I’ve finally chalked it up to cultural (different country) and generational differences. Except for Super Babysitter. We LOVED Super Babysitter. Boy were we devastated when she graduated and left home.

    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  5. The phone thing is something we have been working on here too. #1 actually picked up the phone the other day and didn’t even say hello, just sat there and breathed like some creepy crank caller! And #2, he just screams when he talks, literally SCREAMS like he has to actually talk loud enough for the person to hear him at their house! And the babysitting thingy is funny too. Mine is really good with making meals for the kids, and she will go so far as to put the stuff in the sink, but toys are left out and things are a general mess. Not sure about you cleaning bathrooms when you were in the trenches, Ang, you were a prize babysitter my friend!

  6. Love this post…brought back memories of my own babysitter training.

    Yes, I think kids need to talk on the phone…to their parents’ friends, to telemarketers, to family members…basic etiquette…that’s all we need, right?

    Yes, I expect a babysitter to clean up while they’re at my home. I lay everything out to make her life easier, the least she could do is reciprocate, right? Why do I keep saying “right?” after all my statements? Am I looking for validation???

  7. Oh wow, does this bring back memories of the babysitting class I took back….in…well…let’s just say that was a long time ago!

    I always cleaned up before the parents got home. I usually babysat in the evenings so parents could go to a dinner/movie or military function, so the kids were always tucked into bed before they got home anyways. I always made sure the kitchen was cleaned up, toys put away, etc.

    But I was raised by a clean freak, and now am a clean freak myself, so that might have something to do with it.

  8. We have a fabulous sitter that not only makes my children happy but also cleans and picks up the house beyond anything I ask for. She even washed my windows once during nap time. I just love her, she is a dream. But she has spoiled me. I now expect other sitters to do all this and when they don’t, I get upset. I now hate walking into a mess even if it was there before I left.

    I guess our current sitter can never grow up and move on in her life, she always has to be our sitter. 🙂

  9. Great idea. I’m with you on the whole coming home to a disaster annoyance. I’ve started docking money if I leave it clean and it isn’t upon my return. Come on.

  10. Don’t get me started on the babysitter thing. Seriously???? I have come home to a seriously trashed house on more than one occasion. It really angers me. One time I even left out a container to put the left over Mac and Cheese in (that I had made). I put it right next to the pan and told the sitter to put the rest away when the kids were done. Not only did I come home to dirty dishes still on the counter, but that darn Mac and Cheese was dried up in the pan on the stove with the container just sitting there. REALLY????

    I have been working on phone etiquette with Luke though. Maybe I can get that one figured out before he is actually using the phone!

  11. I agree with the phone thing. I haven’t actually thought about it, but it is definitely a skill that must be taught.

    The babysitting… it doesn’t bother me. As long as she does all the stuff I ask, then I just consider the rest a bonus.

  12. I am starting the very beginnings of this with my children – but what a great resource for young baby sitters!

    I remember doing some of the same things – cleaning up for the parents – I thought it was part of the job too!

    I think phone etiquette should be taught more and cell phones should have an age limit – if I see another 10 year old yapping away I might be sick.

    I wouldn’t hire the babysitter again if they left a mess for me to clean up – I would think that would be included in their pay…but I also think that I would talk to them about what I would expect.

  13. I completely agree. Kids don’t have the phone etiquette that we have. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that most people don’t have home phones anymore, so the kids don’t answer a “household” phone.

    And YES!!! I completely expect my babysitters to clean up the mess that’s made while on their watch. Of course, I also expect them to have the kids clean up their own messes, but when the babysitter makes lunch, they should clean the dishes.

    Last summer we had a sitter for the kids while my hubs and I worked and it drove me NUTS that I would leave with a clean house and come home to a dirty kitchen. But it’s like the thought of cleaning up their mess never crossed her mind.

  14. Susie's Homemade says

    That is REALLY awesome!!

  15. I absolutely agree with you on both issues. I too cleaned as I babysat, and taught my daughter to do the same. Now she is the favorite babysitter of the neighborhood because she actually plays with the kids and cleans up after them. And the phone etiquette thing- we were in the same situation when we added a land line again last year after having only cell phones. My kids just never had the chance to answer the phone, which meant a crash course in phone etiquette. They are getting much better, but we are still working on not just saying “bye” and hanging up when they think the conversation is over.

  16. I need a copy of their little handbook. What a fantastic idea!!! I agree with you a 100%. I actually prefer to not have a teenager babysit, I find another way around a babysitter if I can. friend of the family or family member, to babysit because I hate coming home to a bigger mess than I left. I also become so annoyed when I call someone and their kids are, what I consider, rude on the phone. It is something that I have tried to teach my kids, hasn’t yet taken, but we are working on it.

  17. I need a copy of this handbook too–and this brings back memories to me too and I always cleaned up my messes whether I made them or not. Different generation

    Phone is something new i guess

  18. This Babysitters Club is SOOOOO cute!! Love it! I agree about the phone manners. I always had to answer the phone a certain way growing up and I plan on having my kids do the same. They are still too young to answer the phone but you have made me think about cell phone use, etc..

    Also, my #1 sitter cleans my kitchen, organizes toys, and get this: does the kids laundry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE HER!! He costs more than my other sitters but she does SO MUCH. I agree that you should be doing other things while babysitting, especially once the kids are in bed at night. I think this is great that you are teaching your girls this. And if the mess is created while I am gone and not cleaned up- I am in a TOTAL tizzy!!! Can’t stand that!

    Great post Miss Angie!!

  19. You know I had never even thought about it but in this modern world of ours (we do not have a home phone either) my daughter is not going to get to experience dealing with telephone calls and the correct etiquette and it is an important lesson as despite email, the web and every other communication gadget we have today, sometimes you really do need to actually speak to people to move forward with something. So I think it is a skill that needs to be taught to our children, yes.

    As for babysitting, you used to hoover, clean bathrooms and more? Oh my! We have a baby sitter and all she has to do is sit on the couch and watch TV as our daughter is already in bed when she comes over, but she does clean up her snack plates and cups and that is all I expect of her and as she is super nice and very reliable we are very happy!

  20. Yes and yes.

    When I first saw the post title, I thought you would be address whether it was alright if the sitter used her cell phone while watching the kids.

    And I was a well liked sitter because I left things cleaner than I found them. It never earned me any tips though. I wonder why.

  21. I completely agree with everything you said in this post, and I don’t even have a true babysitter yet! I’m so desperate for one, and I need to find some young women that come highly recommended; therein lies my problem. See, none of my friends have to use babysitters because their parents or in-laws take that responsibility. I, on the other hand, don’t have that luxury. And the few people I know that do use a babysitter, use one that is a friend of the family; and I don’t know those people! But I digress (big time)….
    When I was a babysitter, I always cleaned up after the kids. It was just part of the job. And as far as phone etiquette-when we answered home phones, back in the 1800’s before everyone had their own cell-it was something that was definitely taught by parents. I completely agree that it is much needed now, and it’s a forgotten social grace. Thank you for bringing this up!!

    I’m so glad to be back, and reading your wonderful blog again. It’s great to be back in the company of my “friends” 🙂

  22. Yes – proper phone etiquette is SO important. They’ll have job interviews one day. And the same goes for proper email/writing etiquette. No LOLs on resumes, thank you.

    Yes – sitters need to learn to clean up after themselves. I can’t say I ever cleaned a bathroom (except once but the kid pooped on the floor so yeah), but I did dishes and cleaned tables. I made sure the house was at least the way it was when I came (I sat for cleanly people). I think that those are great resources for girls – I ALWAYS wanted to start a Baby-sitter’s Club.

  23. I LOVE the idea of a class that teachers the babysitter to interact and play with and actually care for the children! I’m with you, I always made sure things were cleaned up, it was a job, I was paid to keep the kids safe, happy and the house picked up after us.

    Now, I am just happy if the children are entertained (ie, read to, play games, etc.) and kept safe, I don’t care if the house is a mess. I have noticed that each of the comments are a lot more lengthy with this post, mommas have a lot to say regarding this issue.

    I don’t get mad too easily, but I was really ticked last month when a babysitter I had spent the whole time on the computer!!!! I paid her to surf the internet and facebook, nice! She lied to her mom about it. I checked the cache and saw most of the sites she saw (didn’t look at all of them, but took me well over an hour to look at the titles that were “questionable”, and there was more that she erased because some social networks that she logged into were erased from the cache. Further more, Stephan was mad, “mommy, she didn’t play with me at all!!!! Not at all!”. She let my little one get her cast wet (which easily happened with me too, but knowing that she was just sitting on her bum not distracted with the other child, darn no excuse ), when we had it changed, I thought there was no charge, but then we got a hefty bill in the mail for re-casting, made the experience even better. Really?

    I make it a point now mention, no computers while we’re gone. (I thought that was obvious, but I learned it is best to always state expectations, then there are no surprises.)

    Hooray for your girls, may they bring smiles wherever they go. I know they will!

    I would love a copy of their binder, could their Activity Day leader e-mail it?

  24. we’re losing a LOT of etiquette and manners in general due to technology changes, and some days it feels like it’s all slipping away! there’s no replacement for manners and a good telephone manner.

  25. That binder looks like it’s a fabulous resource for new babysitters! Do you remember the Babysitter’s Club series? The characters in those books has something similar, if I’m remembering right (am I a dork for remembering this?!?)

    When I babysat, I knew to clean up after myself and the children I was caring for. If I made the children lunch, I cleaned it up afterwards. If the kids and I made a mess during the day, we cleaned it up. Doing household chores — folding laundry or what have you — wouldn’t have been my responsibility, but keeping the family’s home in the condition it was when I arrived was.

    Parent absolutely should be teaching their children phone etiquette…but then again, a huge portion of the adult population needs a refresher course in this as well!

  26. My biggest pet peeve is when sitters leave a mess– teens or not, it makes me crazy!! It amazes me that Lily is a few short years away from babysitting— I feel like that was me, just yesterday.

  27. Noexcuses says

    We worked on telephone etiquette once in a badge the girls were earning in scouts. We had them sit at table with two phones, and role play. We also had them make 911 calls so they wouldn’t freeze up the first time they called. Community Education and local hospitals offer babysitting classes, and I highly recommend them.

    If babysitters leave a mess, I didn’t get too upset. I was just grateful to get away and have someone play with my kids. I always asked my kids what they thought of the sitter, and what they did. If I felt the sitter wasn’t doing her/his job, I just wouldn’t call them again. I agree with your commenters that if a mess is made while the sitter is there, yes, clean it up!

    Excellent post, lady!

  28. Most definitely! I think that telephone etiquette spills over into general etiquette, so you’re preparing kids for the “civility” of the world, or at least trying to maintain that. In a culture where holding doors open for people and dressing nicely have gone by the wayside, it’s good to teach kids etiquette in any situation.

    I love those babysitter resources. They would have been great for me when I was a teen. I think they make the whole experience feel more professional and responsible for teenagers. And yes, they should clean up their messes! I can’t imagine not doing that at someone’s house. Though I don’t think I’d be cleaning toilets! Maybe I should hire you :).

  29. The other day, a little boy called the house 5 times IN. A. ROW.
    We didn’t answer because we were eating dinner, and though my son wanted to answer, I didn’t let him.

    That night we had a long talk about telephone etiquette.


  30. Don’t even get me started on the LOUSY babysitters out there. I guess kids aren’t required to clean their OWN homes, and therefore have no idea that they need to clean up while on the job. I had one lady that would save up all her dishes ALL day for me to do after I put the kids to bed! Sheesh! Now a days, you’re lucky if the babysitter does anything more than put in a video for the kids before getting on their cell phone. I’m done w/ babysitters. Luke and Tess both started babysitting for me when they were 8. I like to think it has made them much more responsible kids. Tess can handle just about any situation. It’s FABULOUS! I never go shopping w/ kids. Never.
    As far phone skills, you don’t have a home phone? What do you do if you leave a kid home alone? Ohhhhhh, you don’t do that do you? Well, as Grace gets older and can babysit for you, you may need another phone. And yeah, phone skills need to be taught. If you don’t do it, they’ll pick it up from their friends…. and it won’t be pretty.

  31. I love the babysitting materials. And yes …. telephone etiquette should be taught and I would expect basic clean-up … at least dishes in the sink and wiping of the table/counter!!!

  32. I do think that telephone etiquette is important that so many lack because of technology. Kids don’t even talk on the phone anymore, they text and maybe email. Heck, I don’t even let my kids answer my phone unless it is my parents # on the caller ID so I guess I am extremely guilty in not teaching the etiquette!

    I have stopped using a babysitter because when I would come home my house was in total disarray. It didn’t matter what it looked like when I left, it always looked like a tornado had gone through when I got home. The kids like her, she would always bring a bag of activities along to entertain them, but I just couldn’t handle the chaos anymore. I’m not asking anyone to clean up any mess that was already here, but if you want to show me responsibility then you can at least clean up after the mess you and the kids made in my absence.

  33. Yes I do believe telephone etiquette should def. be taught. Everything from pizza places to job interviews are on the phone and are all very important.

    Now about the babysitting I do also believe that it should be cleaned. I have been a babysitter since I was 11 and the house will be the same or better when I leave. I never have left a mess and I know some babysitters who just left everything everywhere when I come over.

  34. I do think telephone etiquete needs to be taught. And I would just mostly expect some tidying up. No bathroom scrubbing, but at least wipe the table down if the kids ate. That kind of thing.