Parents, Please Tell Your Babysitting Teens to Clean Up Their Act


babysittingHow many times have you come home after a fun, relaxing date night to find a dirty dining table and the sink full of dishes? Mac n’ cheese still stuck to the pot on the stove? Toys littering the living room? Or worst of all, the kids still awake??

When I used to babysit at the ripe old age of 12, I would always clean up after the kids were in bed. My mom advised me, always leave the home cleaner than when you arrived.

I have not seen this mentality among our babysitters. They are competent, engaged and loving to our kids, but they seem to have ZERO insight into cleanliness. I know safety is first and foremost, but once the kids are down, I don’t think it’s asking too much to tidy up. When we are gone for five hours, and the kids are asleep for three of them, you can’t tell me you didn’t have 20 minutes to clean up the dishes and toys before you watch TV on the couch.

And right or wrong, I’m blaming their parents.

Yes, you heard me. Moms (and dads), the way your teenage children behave when they are outside of the house reflect the values with which they were raised. So please, I beg of you, teach them how to clean up after themselves. Infuse them with the confidence to do their job well and to take pride in their hard work. And I promise you if I come home from date night a little tipsy and I see a clean kitchen and living room, you better believe I’m leaving a big tip.  

Here’s a list of tasks that your babysitting teen should know is EXPECTED from them as part of the job once the kids are asleep (and makes us much more likely to round their pay UP at the end of the night):

  1. Clean up the dinner dishes. If they don’t feel comfortable putting dishes in the dishwasher, at LEAST leave it in the sink, preferably rinsed out. Clean and dry the pots and pans that were used.
  2. Wipe down the counters and the dining table.
  3. Put refrigerated items back in the refrigerator (I feel absolutely ridiculous having to put this in writing but we have come home to milk and ice cream left out on the table. Le sigh.)
  4. Do a quick sweep through the playroom or living area where the kids played. If you don’t know where the toys go, at least pick them up and pile them neatly out of the way.
  5. Clean up towels, toothbrushes and the bathroom counter. Nothing major, just don’t leave wet towels on the floor.
  6. Put the kids to sleep close to their bedtime. A little leeway is expected, but there’s nothing worse than coming home to kids wide awake late at night. It totally kills the vibe from the night out, because we know this means our children will be monsters in the morning.
  7. If they aren’t sure what’s expected, just ask. We are entrusting your child to take care of our kids, and we want them to feel comfortable asking questions or raising concerns. Having open communication with the parents is key.

What am I missing? What tasks do you expect from your babysitter?


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Meredith is a transplant to the Bay Area and has fallen in love with the weather, gorgeous scenery, and plethora of local wineries. A wife and mother of two, she works part-time as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. She hails from Texas, where she attended the University of Texas and will always bleed orange. She then moved to Washington DC to attend Georgetown's School of Medicine, where she fell in love with her future husband, a fellow student, and has been happily married for almost a decade. She and her husband lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for several years for their medical training and found it the perfect place to start a family. She relocated to the Bay Area a few years ago and has quickly adapted to West Coast living. Meredith enjoys the balance of part-time working and full-time parenting and loves to write about this ongoing struggle. In her persistent drive to find more "me time", she actively pursues her interests in reading, running, soccer, baking, and wine tasting.


  1. I agree that parents should help teach their teens these values, but I also don’t think it’s too much to ask for you as the employer to clearly state your expectations before hiring someone. Go over with them the list you’ve typed for this blog, and you should be pretty well set – and no one is expected to mind read.

    • Alli, thanks for your comment. I agree, setting expectations upfront is the best way. I guess it’s just wishful thinking that kids would inherently clean up!

  2. I have hired a “mature” babysitter. It is frustrating as well when they are late, and saunter in with an iced coffee in hand and make no apologies about it. I find it really is important to discuss expectations beyond the watching of the kids. Even when I do this though—I am always so surprised at how unkept and untidy everything is…even with the kids now in bed. The problem is, everyone has a different perception as to what clean is and how to clean it. I would expect at minimum that dishes to be washed with soap and rinsed…but even that seems a stretch when I have to rewash dishes because it is evident they are still very dirty. When I looked after kids, I was fastidious and took great pride in earning every penny.

    • Arden, thanks for responding! I agree, it’s never going to be exactly the way we want it, but you’re suggestion of discussing all expectations up front is a way to start on the right foot.

  3. I’ve always made sure the house is in great shape before the sitter gets here, then as I talk about things like bedtime, etc I also say things like, “You can help the kids put their toys away here,” or, “Dirty dishes can go in the dishwasher. We don’t expect you to bother hand washing them!” I feel like people are much more willing to clean if the space is clean to begin with and they know where everything goes.
    We’ve also been lucky enough over the years to know some pretty amazing teenagers, so maybe it’s just them more than anything I’m doing. 🙂


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