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What is the best way to tell a baby-sitter what you expect—your rules and regulations?

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DAWN [a guest on the program]: No matter who your baby-sitter is, I think it's important to have written rules so she knows what to expect, or at least sit down and talk with her. I prefer leaving a written checklist which I post on the refrigerator. Whenever I try to just tell the sitter what I want, it seems as if it's going in one ear and out the other. Sometimes things don't get done or they're done wrong.

KEVIN [Dr. Kevin Leman]: What are your rules like, Dawn? Read a few of them for us.

DAWN: My first rule is that if the sitter has any problems or questions, she is to call whatever number I leave where I can be reached. If we're going to a movie, then I give her a backup number of friends who will be home that evening. I also leave emergency numbers, such as 911, plus our own address and phone number and directions to our house if she needs to give these to police or firemen.

In addition, I want the sitter to be sure all doors and sliders are locked and to draw all the drapes at night. I don't want someone looking in, watching my children and the sitter and realizing they're home alone. Also, she should be sure the garage door is closed. If any food is taken out, it should be returned to the refrigerator in the proper container. One time I had a next-door neighbor sitting and I had laid out the luncheon meat that I wanted her to use for sandwiches. I came home and found the remains of a giant bowl of chocolate pudding, which is all the kids had that day. The meat was still sitting there on the counter wrapped.

KEVIN: It would have never lasted on our counter because Cuddles, our ravenous cockapoo, would have devoured it.

DAWN: Some other points on my list are being sure the kids' dirty clothes are put in the laundry hamper, and that all the damp towels and wet washcloths are hung up to dry. And another one I really like is to check to make sure the kids haven't taken the receiver off the hook. Sometimes parents try to call home and the line is busy, and when they ask about it later, the sitter tells them, “Oh, the kids must have left the receiver off the hook.” But if you leave them strict instructions to be sure this hasn't happened, then you can pretty well know why the line is busy if you try to call - it's the sitter talking to a boyfriend or girlfriend, or whoever.

Author: excerpt from Parent Talk by Dr. Kevin Leman and Randy Carlson of Family Life Communications

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