Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can Boys Baby Sit Your Daughter?

: This post goes to a dark place…

Months ago my friend Elke and I purchased tickets to a modern dance series at a local theater.

I was excited because, like me, Elke likes modern dance (unlike K who, when forced to attend, fidgets.)

K agreed to be in charge of the short and loud people on the show nights, but after things were all set K was invited to a surprise 40th birthday party for his best friend. It was to be held in New York on the night of the first performance in my dance series.

Because K and I are of the mind that in life and friendship it is important to show up for the big stuff, we decided that he would go to New York and I would get a babysitter for the night.

At the last minute, my babysitter cancelled leaving me twenty four hours to find a replacement or miss my show.

I frantically called around and left messages with all my sitters.

[I have never been rejected so much in a single day!]

Then, miraculously, a friend suggested her son.

I don’t know her son well, but I have met him and he seems like a very personable and responsible kid.

I was a little nervous because he is fairly young, but I kept reassuring myself by thinking of how young I was when I started babysitting. Besides, my friend/his mother assured me that he baby sits her younger son and daughter regularly and takes the job very seriously.

My friend lives in my neighborhood and went as far as to offer to stay home so that her son could call her if anything went wrong.

I trust this friend. Everything was going to be fine.

I was going to go out! Hurrah!

And then… The Mayor threw up all night long the night before the event.

On the morning of the show I called my friend and cancelled her son’s baby sitting services.

“If The Mayor starts throwing up again you'll get stuck dealing with it and I don’t want to do that to you.”

I resigned myself (albeit grumpily) to missing the performance.

Late in the afternoon, after a vomit-free day, a teen aged girl that lives behind us called, apologized for returning my call so late and said that if I still needed a baby sitter she was available.

"Oh, what the hell," I thought and
accepted her offer.

Later, after listening to me drone on about the mundane ups and downs of finding a baby sitter, a male friend said,

“Aren’t you worried about a boy babysitting your daughter?”

“What?” I said. “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”

He was talking about the potential abuse of my daughter.

See my innocence smashed to bits there on the floor?

Honestly, nothing like that had occurred to me.

Nothing that disgusting had even crossed my mind.

In fact, my biggest concern was that my friend's son might not know how to work our stove to make a frozen pizza.

I was immediately enraged and then depressed and despondent.

I think it is important to be clear that the person who questioned trusting male baby sitters with little girls has never met my friend's son. The comment was in no way meant as a personal attack.

But still.

Is it a reasonable fear?

Can teen-aged boys babysit my daughter?

I HATE the idea of living my life bought into a manufactured “culture of fear.”

I want to be someone who says,

“How the hell are young boys supposed to learn to be caring and nurturing if you suspect them of being child abusers before they’ve even reached puberty?!!”

I want to believe in the best possible version of everyone I meet.

And, at the same time, of course, of course, of course, I want to protect my daughter.




Slow Panic said...

We always have to be on the lookout for any kind of danger from any where. That said, we have to be trusting and use our judgement and trust our instincts. This is a tough one.

T. said...

It's hard. I struggle with boys being able to babysit my sons - for the same reasons. And yet, if someone wouldn't want my sons to babysit their children b/c of fear, I would be hurt.

There are no good answers.

PG said...

Personally, I think your friend's fears seem a bit over the top. I don't know of any stats out there that would support the assertion that some meaningful percentage of teenage boy babysitters are child molesters just waiting for any opportunity. You know the family, and trust the family I would say no problem. Hell, who's to say that a teenage girl couldn't do something horrible. Seems a bit chicken little-ish to me. And a pretty bleak outlook on life.

Miz UV said...

I wouldn't do it unless he was a kid I knew really, really well, such as a cousin I knew for years and years. Then again, I didn't much like teen girls babysitting my kids either and had a bad experience there. Actually I also had a bad experience with a grown woman I got from a service and paid top dollar for. Nothing beats Grandma, unfortunately. No wonder we never went out, sheesh!

Kelly said...

I had the same reaction as you when my husband announced that he didn't want boy teens babysitting our kids. When I asked why he said, "Boys go weird when the hormones start racing through their bodies. They do weird things." But then he wouldn't expand and all sorts of perverted, crazy things started flowing through my mind. Now I couldn't hire a boy even if I thought he was the most wholesome sweetheart in the world. Da Husband has ruined it for me.

WILLIAM said...

I grew up babysitting from the time I was 12 until I was about 17. I sat girls and boys, mostly my cousins but still. Of course you should worry about ANYONE babysitting but not just becAUSe it is a boy. Your worries should be about the house burning down or one of the kids getting hurt.

Would you trust your girl with a adult man? One of your friends husbands?

MamaCarter said...

1) You posted K's real name. Not sure if you want to edit...
2) The culture of fear is pervasive. Yet I would let a young man that I trusted watch my daughter. You have to trust your gut instincts or else you'll never leave your home for fear of the what ifs....

Mayberry said...

I have hired a boy babysitter before. (In fact, he was the son of a friend I met through blogging.) As with ANY babysitter, there is a slight element of risk; and as with ANY babysitter, you need to know and trust the person.

Mayberry said...

PS I forgot to mention that I do have a daughter, and a son.

I agree with William -- a grown man might be scarier. This past weekend I allowed my daughter to go to a movie with one of her friends and that friend's grandfather. I found out afterward that he let the girls ride in the front seat of the car, UNBELTED. Needless to say -- she'll never go anywhere with that man again. I was horrified and ashamed of myself.

JoeInVegas said...

Yes, what does it matter if a boy or girl or adult? Anyone can be a good sitter, and anyone can be a bad one. How the hell are young boys supposed to learn to be caring and nurturing if you suspect them of being child abusers before they’ve even reached puberty?!!

furiousBall said...

I'm old school, but I wouldn't have a problem with a boy watching my kids.

liv said...

J, I have had my friend's sons sit for me any number of times. No, the two of them are not their older sister who is our right hand woman, but they are loving and able bodied. They treat Peep like a little sister, and absolutely dote on her. I have never had one moment of fear. If anything, I fear some of the lazy girls that I've hired in the past who leave me with nothing but a mess to clean up behind them.

the mama bird diaries said...

This one is tough.

I have two girls. Would I leave them with a male babysitter? Probably not.

Is there a good reason for that? Probably not.

My girlfriend, who prosecuted child sex crimes in new york city, said she would never leave her daughter with a male b/c in practically every case she prosecuted, the abuser was a male.

But it seems unfair because there are, of course, many, many incredibly caring, loving amazing young men out there. It seems completely unfair to discriminate against them.

My father actually struggles with the same thing. He is incredibly gifted with children. Just amazing. And as he ends a 35 year career as a social worker, he would love to open up a small childcare center on Cape Cod.

But what parent would leave their kid with a 65-year-old man? It raises eyebrows.

Thanks for the very interesting, thought provoking post.

Chilihead said...

I have heard this concern from other parents, but it's not something I would have immediately considered. Although most of my sitters were female, I had the odd male here and there. My brother also babysat occasionally. Having a male sitter brings new ideas to the table, but maybe not in the way that your friend thinks. Male sitters just play differently, nurture differently, etc. It's not bad, just different. And, frankly, if you have a son I think the male sitter is a treat because that sitter is more likely to play the things they want to play.

I think it's like anything: you make sure you have references and you look into a little bit. You wouldn't leave your child with a stranger. And this particular boy was your friend's son. There's a certain amount of trust in that.

I hope this all makes sense. I think it's great for kids to have a sitter of both genders.

Anonymous said...

What matters is that you know/trust this person. It matters that the person you are trusting has the type of experience you need to feel comfortable. It matters what kind of experiences YOU have had.

For example, in your situation with a sick child, would a boy or a girl be better dealing with clean up? Who knows? My mother would have done a better job than my father. My mother in law would have done a better job than my father in law. I would do a better job than my husband. Guess if i had to leave my sick kid with a boy or a girl, I'd go with the girl.

Are males more likely to be sexual predators? Yes.

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one for me, having two girls. I was abused by the son of my babysitter for years, and obviously it has made me hypersensitive about who cares for my kids.

I generally don't use male babysitters, and even hesitate when there's a male caregiver at the gym's kids club. I recognize that I can't let my fears overtake my kids' enjoyment of their childhood, but still.

It's hard. There's no easy answer to this one besides using your own judgment, and taking reasonable precautions.

Sorry to post as anonymous, but it's still a sensitive topic for me. I read your blog often and enjoy your humor and insight.

jakelliesmom said...

I don't know that I have any new or different insights, especially because we've never had anyone outside of our family (and schools) watch our kids.

We said we'd want to wait until the kids were verbal(so they could tell on the sitter if need be), but what if their words were to tell of something awful?

I think it's more a trust issue than a gender issue for me.

we_be_toys said...

My sister had a boy babysitter for years and they loved him. Granted, she had little boys, as opposed to little girls, but if you know the family and know the kid, why not?

I can personally attest that girls aren't any better as care-givers, and if they bring along their boyfriend (and how will you know, until the kids tell you?), what's the difference, other than an unidentified boyfriend has less accountability than a boy babysitter that you hired, and hopefully, screened.

Mary Alice said...

I realize that most sexual molesters are male….but that said, many males, in fact MOST males, are not molesters. It seems a sad thing to be suspected automatically just because you are a male. It seems as bad –to me- as disliking someone for the color of their skin.

There are unethical monsters out there that do things to children which they have no right to do each and every day. It happens unfortunately and sometimes those monsters are even GASP women.

Think of all the female teachers that have been found to be “having sex” with middle school aged boys. And why do the newspapers refer to that as “having sex’ when the perpetrator is a female….but if it were a male teacher and a sixth grade female student they would call it what it is. Molestation.

I think our society has some soul searching to do.

Loralee Choate said...

This is a tough one for me because for one, I am a walking example of "Bad things DO happen". So, I tend to be a bit pessimistic and freaked about the safety of my kids.

AND. I have been on both sides of this story with people I love and care about. The 14-year-old teenage offender? I knew from infancy and thought I knew him very well.

I also know quite a few people who have had young boys google and access porn on their computers while babysitting.

I have two boys and I love them and would trust them to watch any baby sister that I'll hopefully have, but I really do not think that I would allow them to babysit outside our home.

I just wouldn't do it. The risk and fall out just aren't worth it.

Karly said...

I once read a blog post about a mom who took her kids to the gym day care and left them with a girl and when she picked them up it was a guy who had been watching the kids. She was upset. (I think it was Daring Young Mom, but I might be wrong?) I, at first, thought that was so dumb and wrong. And then I thought about it. And I remembered my older male cousin who used to babysit regularly for a family and was accused of molesting them. The children all said he did it, the parents said it had to be him, the high school he attended all knew about it, it was horrible. And it turned out that it had been the DAD of the kids who was doing it. Not him. And you know, I will never allow my son to babysit anyone other than his sister. I don't want to put him in that position. And I won't allow a male to babysit my kids either. Statistics show that its more likely for a male to molest than a female. I should also mention that no one other than family has ever babysit my kids, but thats just because its FREE and the family offers.

Jan said...

This is a tough one. Abusers can be male or female. Abusers are in the minority. I think you've gotta trust your instincts.

DD said...

My paranoia actually swings both ways b/c the news talks more and more about young girls becoming the abusers. While still rare, it freaks me out.

I have considered a 12 yr old to babysit my son but only b/c my son is now 6 and the 12 yr old is someone I've known for a long time.

It sucks to be afraid of the "what ifs" and your innocence was indeed smashed just as suredly if you had been 7 and you were told there was no Santa.

Maddy said...

A couple of decades ago my 'baby brother' [her uncle then a teenager] baby sat my daughter. I was more concerned with the practicalities as he's not the most practical person. Such thoughts would never have crossed my mind.

These days with the current generation, we had a male respite worker who baby sat regularly - he was fabulous especially with the boys who responded far better to him [authority?] than other people.

I was well impressed.

'It' never occurred to me either, maybe because he was sort of 'sanctioned' by the local county.

Best wishes

Julie Pippert said...

There are girls I won't let sit with my girls.

So that means for me it's a case-by-case basis. My friend's son? No, he doesn't care for kids much so it wouldn't even come up.

As a teen, I co-babysat sometimes with a male sitter and he was better at it than I was! He played around, was creative, really took good care of them and was fun. I was responsible and he was fun---together we were perfect.

So again, as with any sitter, male or female, I need to know them and have a good trust.

But I don't rule out males based on maleness.

I think the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do is arm our kids well, teach them to protect themselves. We have to respect their dominion over their bodies, and then they will.

Sister Honey Bunch said...

I have a son and wouldn't be comfortable with a boy babysitting him.

M said...

Trust the boy, trust his parents. Talk to your kids about their bodies. All will be fine.

There was an excellent article in Vogue last year about a woman who hired a male nanny for her two children (one boy, one girl), he was the best possible nanny. If Vogue can not buy into this culture of fear, you can avoid it too.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I think it depends on the individual, not his/her sex. If I know a boy who is kind and reliable and has helped take care of his little brothers and sisters for years, of course he can babysit. Like you said, boys are not raised to be nurturing, so I would need to know that this boy had been trained differently.

If my kids are in diapers and he has never seen a baby girl's naked butt, then I would say no, mostly out of fear that he might be too weirded out to reliably change her diaper. But if he has been helping change his own sister's diaper for the last year, then I wouldn't worry.

In other words, I would measure his fitness to care for my children by his character and his experience, the same way I would girls.

Arwen said...

The only baby-sitter abuse I have ever known about personally was at the hands of a teenage boy sitter but he molested my friend David, not me. I would be hesitant unless I knew the kid really well.

Emily N said...

Nope. No boy babysitters. I'm not sure we'll even do sleepaway camp. Too many freaks out there, and you don't find out until it's too late. How many times have you read in the paper about a molester being caught and everyone around them saying "I never would have guessed it of them... he seemed like such a nice guy..." As I've gotten older more and more of my friends have told me about being molested when they were young, so much that to me it seems like an epidemic. And the scary thing is you may not find out for a long time, bc they tell your kid "Don't tell mommy or else I will come back and kill you" and so of course the kid doesn't tell.

3carnations said...

Honestly, I don't think that fear needs to be limited to boys. Teenage girls can abuse, too. Trusting someone with your child is terrifying. Other than daycare, we have left our son with someone 3 times in his entire 3 and a half years. Once with my mother, once with a friend, and once with his friend's family.

3carnations said...

Oh, and also - there are male caregivers at my son's daycare. For what it's worth.

Hol&J said...

I grew up having different babysitters. I remember a high school/college age young man watching my sister and I. He had younger and older brothers and sisters, went to our church, and there were never any problems. I think sometimes knowing a person well can eliminate some of the fears.

When I was about 10 to 17, I babysat girls and boys. Again, most of the people were from our church. The parents knew me and my family well, so I'm sure that helped.

I agree about having references from friends and family. They usually say a lot about someone. Also about speaking to your kids about a sitter, and what is right and wrong for them to do.

Wendy said...

I think when hiring a babysitter, one should choose one that is known well and can trust, no matter what the sex of the babysitter might be.

Janet said...

I hate to admit it but, yes, I would think twice about a teenage boy babysitting my kids. Want to know why? In the summer my toddler developed a weird looking bump on her bum. I took her to the dr. who thought it looked awfully like a wart. Yep. A wart on her bottom. That raised a huge red flag for abuse. The first question she asked was who had been alone with my kids. The second question was whether my babysitter was a male.

In the end it turned out NOT to be a wart, just some strange extension of her eczema that cleared up with strong cortisone cream. But we kind of went through hell getting to that conclusion, with much hand wringing and wondering. If our teenaged babysitter was male, I think he would have been placed under a bright spotlight that he neither wanted, nor deserved.

QT said...

There are just as many crap female babysitters out there.

I think knowing the family is important.

I also think teaching your kids from a very young age that certain types of behavior are not be tolerated, even coming from an authority figure, is important.

My mother always told me that if anyone ever touched me or did something to me that I thought was wrong, she should be the FIRST person to know, and no matter who it was - a teacher, someone from school, EVEN MY DAD - I would not get in trouble.

I think the aura of invinciblity that gave me warded off any potential molesters...:)

Jennifer said...

Trust your instincts about people--how many times have you been wrong? Throughout their lives, you will trusting your children with a number of people whom you will have no control over--school teachers, scout leaders, etc. Have faith in the basic goodness of people and teach your kids what is and is not acceptable.

Robin said...

I don't think you have any more to fear from teenage boys babysitting your kids than you do from teenage girls. (And I work with them daily.)

That said, I don't think it ever hurts to be extremely discriminating in who you allow to babysit your kids.

Barb said...

It's a scary world we live in. I think all these comments are valid and wise. I especially liked hearing that children should be armed in the knowledge that they need to protect their bodies and never be afraid to tell.

Biddy said...

maybe i'm naive, but i say, if you trust your friend, then trust her son. if you feel more comfortable with girls babysitting, call them first. use your friend's son as a last resort. encourage him to bring his younger siblings with him to play with the mayor and the rooster. having tattling siblings there will likely deter him from doing anything he shouldn't, but really, you probably don't have anything to worry about with him. take some time and get to know him. it would be different if it was one of your girl babysitters saying "oh a guy friend of mine babysits, here's his number." but i would take comfort in knowing this guys family.

or just stick to female babysitters.

this world sucks

~JJ! said...

Great debate.

I am on the side of no boys babysitting. But then again, you need to be cautionary with girls too. And I have had some experiences that leads me to believe this...I'm jaded.

But I am overprotective. To a fault.

I haven't had a babysitter that isn't family yet.

I am very pessimistic.

nell said...

One of my favorite babysitters when I was a kid was our male neighbor, we had so much fun with him. But I remember him being frustrated that he couldn't get more babysitting jobs, he really enjoyed it.

I'm of the go-with-who-you-know school of thought. The scary part is that there is no sure-fire way to protect your children from terrible things or people, more often than not when something like that happens, no one saw it coming, and yet here we are, still trying to make sure it never does. I feel like I'm not making sense, but the best I can do is to say follow your gut, even when it's not making sense.

Jenifer said...

Geez. I don't know. I would like to think that if I knew the boy well there would be no issue.

Velma said...

Our non-family babysitters have all been women, but that's because all our babysitters have extensive childcare experience. Statistically, those well-qualified people are more likely to be women, and because of my son's special needs, that is who we have used.
I honestly think I would be fine with a male babysitter who had the same qualifications and experience.

For us, the age of the sitter has been more important than the gender. We've always had adult caregivers, because we've found them through daycares and preschools, and I think I would be more of a wreck handing over care of my kids to a 12 year old of either sex than to an experienced adult male.

Family Adventure said...

I think your friend overreacted. Everyone's said it already - what matters is who the person is, how comfortable you feel with them. There are bad sitters out there - male and female. And there are excellent sitters out there - male and female.

I think it would be unfair to reject male sitter simply because of his gender, if you otherwise like and trust him.


Rebecca said...

I completely understand. I am paranoid about any strange man being alone with my daughter. I too want to believe the best of people but I don't want to be naive either.

What to do????

teresa said...

I agree with so many of the other comments, it's such a tricky subject. I hate the idea of labeling all boys as potential pedophiles. It seems to wrong to do that. But the truth is, I don't think I would ever leave my daughter with a boy babysitter.

mamatulip said...

I think, when it comes to leaving your children with someone else, you have to trust in the person, not the gender. You have to go with your gut feeling and I think knowing the sitter and the sitter's family is important. I think following your instinct is good too, because usually a mother's instinct is bang on.

Blog Antagonist said...

I am the Mom of boys. I can say without a doubt, that one of my boys would make an excellent babysitter. The other one, not so much. It has nothing to do with gender, but personality and the ability to accept responsibility, as well as anticipate the needs of another person.

Our next door neighbor of many years had teenaged boys when my boys were small, and I approached her about having them babysit. They were nice boys, from a loving, stable family and I trusted them. They often played with my boys, and you could just tell that they had that knack.

I know it's different because it's a boy/boy issue, but really as others have stated, sexual abuse can occur regardless of gender.

When I was a kid, we had a girl babysitter for the summer. She was terrible. All she wanted to do was play her flute and write poems. She could scarcely remember to feed us.

Her *boyfriend* was the one who fixed us grilled cheese sandwiches, took us to the park, and did stuff like playing play-doh and hide and seek with us.

If you find a boy that you think is trustworthy, give him a chance.

jen said...

I had a boy babysitter as a kid, it was fine (ahem, he just watched TV the whole time). it seems that with anyone who cares for our children, we need to make evaluations, but hopefully not on the basis of gender alone (which isn't what you are doing, I know)

kittenpie said...

I can see both sides on that one, but I think it would come down, to me, to the fact that you know this kid and his mother and that mostly, mothers have some instincts. A male I didn't know well and feel definitely comfortable with, no. Even some of our neighbours, no. But it sounds like you would trust this kid, not blindly, but because he is a known quantity.

Not to say that known quantities are always safe, but I think often you have some sense of whether someone is a bit odd or not, you know? if their attention is a bit creepy?

Damselfly said...

I don't know; this is tough. I don't think I would let any person (age or sex) watch my child unless I knew that person really well. Someone in my family was molested as a child at church, so I guess I'm paranoid about these things.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

I have a problem with boy babysitters and I feel terrible for admitting it but there it is.

Then again, I have a problem with anyone but my mom babysitting my kid. Which is why I never leave the house.

Seriously, I have NEVER hired a single babysitter for Hailey. That's ridiculous but true.

Anonymous said...

Boys don't care and nurture. Never been what we're programmed to do. Your friends daughter probably goes to school with some idiots whose parents are half wits.


Jozet at Halushki said...

I don't think that one gender makes for a more nurturing or responsible babysitter than another.

However, as Gavin De Becker will warn, the statistics point toward molesters who are female being more rare - not unheard of, but rare.

So it's on my radar as a fact, but not as a fact about any particular child.

I don't live in fear of the fact, nor do I ignore it because it might be uncomfortable.

ImpostorMom said...

I would have to say that the gender of the babysitter shouldn't play in to the decision. The decision for someone to keep my kid is more about my trust in the person as a whole regardless of gender.

I think the idea that a teenage boy is generally less trustworthy than a teenage girl would be a false assumption simply based on gender.

That being said, I don't have a daughter and I've never hired a teenager or a male to babysit my son so what do I know?

Feener said...

this was a conversation on the View once. Rosie asked about having Manny, she said NO WAY.
I hate to say I agree with Rosie, but I do. I am just not comfy with a male babysitter no matter the age. I don't care if that is sexist.

Ali said...

i have zero experience with this because my nanny usually ends up babysitting for me...

i would definitely think it's a gut thing more than anything else, though :)

Two Kids and a Husband said...

Ya I would say that you have to look at the kid... is he responsible, well rounded, how does he interact with your kids normally... I would not suspect anything without having something to suspect...I would also say your children are old enough to tell you if something is wrong. I would not, NOT let a boy babysit for fear of what "Could happen" those same things "COULD happen" with a girl babysitter to... as parents we keep our eyes and ears open and do our best...

So my long winded answer is YES I would let a boy babysit my girl.

Anonymous said...

I dated a guy who told me about a female babysitter who let him feel her up when he was about 6 years old. As a mother, this would be every bit as reprehensible to me as a male babysitter doing it to my daughter.
If he is a son of a trusted friend, then you have the right to trust that this kid is probably OK. But as a mother, you also have a right to make sure your kids know that if ANYONE touches them, they should tell you right away.

SciFi Dad said...

When you said the post went to a dark place, I thought you were referring to the modern dance performance.

In all seriousness, I think that it's a case by case situation, as with a lot of things in life. Gender is irrelevant; what matters is your instinct about the sitter.

Magpie said...

It all depends on the boy. We had a least one boy babysitter when I was a kid. And I'd hire a boy to babysit my daughter, depending on the boy. But then, I'd only hire a girl depending on the girl.

Anonymous said...

I think that if you start suspecting every boy of something bad you're going to instill a fear in your daughter that you don't want her to have. While I don't suggest getting ANY babysitter that you don't know at all, you know this family and you trust them. This is chance you've got to take (and a very small one at that) so that you teach your daughter how to be a trusting person.

Amelia said...

Our regular babysitter for our 20-month-old son is a young guy who is a college sophomore. We checked his references diligently and watched how he cared for and engaged our son, and it has worked out great. I think our son really enjoys that male energy. That said, leaving your child with ANYONE can be a bit fraught, but you do the best you can to protect them while also exposing them to the world and all the interesting people in it.

a beaverhausen said...

I would like to think that, had I been the mother of a daughter, I could have located an honest and compassionate male to take care of her (and her brothers). However.
Babysitting was, at least in my day, a fairly low-paying job and one that boys did not gravitate to. Girls did. Oh...geez I'm not even sure what I'm saying here. I know there are abusive female sitters out there and, if not abusive, there are certainly females who think that taking care of kids means nothing more than keeping them alive while they eat your food and watch cable. Stuff like changing diapers and being following multiple sets of directions isn't something we expect of boys because...well...they don't want to do it and then we don't make them. I mean...who really enjoys a vomity kid with a poopy diaper? Anyone? Anyone? But we're left with it. We do it because no one else will do it and will instead pretend they don't smell anything. The guys won't do it because they know we will.

SAHDad's get extra extra credit for doing what we've been doing for centuries, yet when a guy shows an exclusive interest in kids (other than his own) or their upkeep, we assume the worst.

I dunno...it's a shitty problem with no real solution.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me, and I would be interested in statistics here, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that just as many girls as boys are doing rotten things to kids.

Wow. I guess that doesn't make it any better, huh?

I just wonder... since when does being female make you any more trustworthy? Maybe a tiny bit more mature, but I doubt it. I think that if you trust your friend, and she trusts her son, that should be enough.

We had male babysitters sometimes, and it was never a problem.

Just A Girl said...

I don't trust anyone with my daughter. I am a freal of nature though so I wouldn't trust my opinion.

Ewokmama said...

If you know the person, if you do your best to make sure they are a good provider, you are doing the best you can. It's not as simple as saying boys can't watch girls or girls because unfortunately many of the people who abuse kids do not stick to one gender. The male to female abuse is just more reported.

The best you can do is to teach your children what is and isn't appropriate, and keep lines of communication open so that they tell you if something inappropriate occurs.

jeanie said...

I think it is very much a case by case basis. If you know and trust this boy, then I would chose him over a girl I didn't.

My daughter has had male carers during childcare and after school care, and I have never had cause for concern.

However, unfortunately these days we have to be so certain and play so safe that often fear locks us away.

Anonymous said...

Many people have already said what I have to say as far as "it just depends on the person" as to whether or not I'd let someone babysit my kids. That goes for gender and age requirements. To reassure you, I have had two different boys babysit for my kids (2 girls, one boy), and we've had good experiences with both of them. I ended up using them for the first time when I made a general "I need a sitter!" remark to my Bunco group and a neighbor volunteered her sons. We knew the family; I knew the boys from school. I felt as comfortable leaving the kids with them as I have with female teen sitters. It's a case of just having to trust your parenting instincts to make the best call.

Jenny Ryan said...

That happened to me when I was 10. My mom got the boy across the street, who was 13, to watch me and my brother. It was awful.

Thankfully my mom believed me when I told her what happened and she kept him away from me after that.

However, both of his brothers, who were like 16 and 18, babysat us, and nothing like that ever happened with them. So, who know.

Just based on my own experience, it was not a good idea to have a boy at the beginning of puberty watching a girl who was just starting to develop her, um, womanly traits without any parents around.

Honeybell said...

The horror stories I've heard involving abusive babysitters have been female sitters. I consider myself an equal opportunity worrier.

Last year was the first time we've ever had a sitter other than grandparents. EVER. Our boys are 12, 9, 6 &2. She's pretty much the only person I trust with them even now.

Anonymous said...

Jessica- Look at the statistics. The statistics alone would discourage you from ever having a teenage boy babysit your child. In our neighborhood alone, 2 teenage boys have been convicted of molesting the children they babysat for. Ask any cop you know. Your typical teenage boy has ZERO interest in babysitting and not a nurturing bone in his body. So you gotta ask yourself. WHY would this one want to be babysitting? And it's not just Rooster they'd be after. My friend's SON was molested by one of the male babysitters. It doesn't matter how much you trust your friend, her son is a completely different person.

I go with statistics. 95% of child molestors are male. You should read the Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. He also has a book on keeping children safe. It's worth the read. And I personally would NEVER leave my children in the care of a male babysitter. EVER. For jobs with kids I've had over the years, I've been trained through special programs set up by the FBI and police in detecting abuse. I have a friend who for years worked sex crimes for Child Protective Services. And with all the things I know and the stories I've heard, I can tell you, I would never leave my children with a male babysitter. EVER. Doesn't matter who it is or how close I am to the family. I'm not even fully comfortable with male teachers. I had a pedophile begin grooming my oldest child while he was working at his school. I insured his quick termination. Talk to the professionals. They'll tell you the same thing. This is not something you want to be naive about. Get yourself educated onthis subject. Good Luck!

Worker Mommy said...

Babysitters I don't know well scare me anyway which is the reason the twins have only been cared for by family. But I know the day will come when I will need to hire someone.
Provided I'd poured through the persons life with a fine tooth comb I wouldn't have a problem with a male.

Hairline Fracture said...

One of my friends was molested by a teenage boy--the son of her parents' best friends, whom they trusted and had no suspicions about. And she didn't tell her parents for YEARS.

So. My opinion is, better safe than sorry.

Heather said...

Some boy I don't know? No. But our DCP's 18 yo son babysits for us pretty frequently and has since he was 16. He's been sitting for other families longer than that - if there had been problems, they'd have shown up by now. Freyja has lots of fun with him. I'd much rather have Chad babysit than some girl I don't know - I know he's responsible, knows CPR/first aid, and isn't going to burn down my house, spend the whole time on the internet or the phone, or do other things I don't approve of.

There are people who think I'm asking for trouble allowing that. I don't agree. I wouldn't hire a girl I don't know to watch my daughter, either.

Jamie said...

(shiver) The things I have to think about as my boy gets older! We have yet to hire a babysitter other than my sister, so I haven't given much thought until now...

I guess the way I look at it is there are perverted women out there as well as men. I'd treat things on a case by case basis and not sigle anyone out based on their sex.

suchsimplepleasures said...

once upon a time, there was a couple of young girls who were being left with a babysitter...a boy babysitter, so that the parents of the 16 y/o boy sitter and the girls parents, could go out to dinner together, for a few hours.
well, it started out fine. they played pong (it was a long time ago) and watched m.a.s.h. then, the boy sitter had an idea, that they were going to play house. the oldest girl child would be the mother and the youngest girl child would be the daughter. and...the sitter would be the father.
so, after the mother and the father put the daughter to bed, the boy sitter, playing the father, said to the 6 year old girl...the mother, let's go and do what parents do...
so, you know where this is going!!!
and, the boy sitter, years later, became a pediatrician! no...he didn't rape the girl, he merely molested her. don't worry about her though...she was fine. strong character, that one. but...that girl...she never, ever will have a boy babysitter for her children. and, it's her advice to you...no matter how well you know the parents of that boy...don't have a boy babysitter when you have daughters. period!
maybe i'm a cynic but...no! don't do it! not worth the worry!!

Avitable said...

I know you've probably gotten enough input and I'm not going to read through all the comments to see if this sentiment has already been echoed, but your friend's retarded.

I babysat from the age of 11 until I was 16, and I watched every type of child from infants to kids only a year or two beneath me.

If the boy is responsible and you trust him or his parents, you shouldn't let your friend worry you with paranoia.

Girls who babysit can have boyfriends over who could also do something bad. It's a risk whenever you have anyone babysit.

Avitable said...

Now I've read through all the comments, imhelendt is delusional. Teenage boys can nurture and care just as well as women. That type of attitude is just paranoid man-hating at its finest.

Lawyer Mama said...

Well, I'm kind of freak about anyone babysitting my kids because they're so young. It's getting to the point where we don't have to worry about them ratting on the sitter, so I won't be as paranoid. But honestly it never occurred to me to worry about teenage boys babysitting. Not that we know any who would anyway....

Anonymous said...

Jess, since this is all about gender politics, I want to point out that a teenaged boy who babysits in hopes of molesting children is just as likely to target your daughter as your son.

So would you chose a female babysitter you barely knew over a male babysitter whom you did know? Knowing the person well should be the first criteria for being unsupervised around your child.

I was a horrible babysitter. My brother was brilliant and he'd often get a whole bunch of offers for jobs, but be already booked and so suggest me. There were few takers. Because I was horrible: flighty, and sharp tongued and NOT good in a crisis. It wasn't about gender. I was because I was HORRIBLE. Still am quite frankly, but don't tell my husband.

Are you willing to outright dismiss all males in favour of females, just on principle? Would you be less offended by a male babysitter sexually molesting your child than by a female babysitter beating your daughter? Or your son? OF COURSE NOT!

If your are going to follow the suggestion of another poster and read a deBecker book, I suggest Protecting The Gift. It's about knowing where the danger truly lies, dismissing the myths of fear and teaching your children the skills that will make them strong and safe. Maybe suggest it to your ignorant friend, the sexist fear mongerer.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Is it any different than hiring a girl who might sneak her boyfriend into your house while she's babysitting?

I hate that we have to think about things like this. I understand that as parents we have to be cautious but if you trust the kid i don't see what gender has to do with anything.

kschendel said...

There is way, way too much mis-directed fear in the world. I'd suggest that you spend your energy finding a responsible sitter, rather than a properly gendered one.

We had boys sitting our daughters when they were little, although it was unusual; the regular sitter was a girl. That was more about availability than girl vs boy.

It's true that most abusers are male. That means only that if you are unfortunate enough to get a scumbag female, she will screw your kids up in some different way. (e.g. letting the house burn down or something.) It does NOT mean that girls are intrinsically safer sitters.

Karen said...

Wow.... 15 years ago we had our neighbor "Peter" watch our 2 kids... My daughter and son adored him. What a shame that our world has changed so drastically. Go with your gut, Mrs. Joy.

Ponygirl said...

What a debate. There are good points from many sides, and I just spent 30 minutes of my work day looking for statistics. I found My first reaction was to question, could you actually talk to your neighbor friend and tell her how another friend cast dispersions on the male babysitting? It's such a sensitive subject and she could be offended if she feels accused but I know you've got amazing skills in bringing up tough subjects. She might be surprised to hear how many people feel fear around it, and she might make her son aware of the issue too. Having a chance to get it out in the open might make you feel better, and may actually make you more likely to trust the boy as a result.

I'm most shocked by the comments from people who have never put their kids in the care of a babysitter. To me, that position seems so fearful and uncharitable. Are we trading freedom for fear in yet another part of our lives? People aren't leaving their homes for fear of the unknown. I can't imagine living such a sheltered life. Where's the flavor in that?

When I was a very little girl I had a teenage cousin who exposed himself to me and encouraged me to "touch it." I ran away but I didn't tell my parents. Encouraging children to tell you about weird stuff is a must. That's one big step in the way we help our kids.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

Our only non-family babysitter is a teenaged boy. He is wonderful. My kids love him.

ewe are here said...

I keep reading that we're also supposed to teach our children to reach out to women, preferably women with children, if they ever get lost/need help etc... not men.

Yes, we're teaching generations of children to be afraid of men without cause. IT's very depressing, especially because I'm raising boys. What am I supposed to tell them? The world is afraid of you?

Beck said...

Okay, seriously? Unless I have known the kid from birth, he's not babysitting my kids. I know TWO - TWO! - separate kids molested by their teenaged male babysitters. So I totally agree with your husband. There's ideals and then there's my kids.

Natsthename said...

This is why you meet the sitter before-hand. You have them do a "help-out" thing while you're at home once or twice. You notice the interactions.

I don't know these days! Why would a boy sitting a girl be much worse than a girl sitting a boy? Because most sex offenders are males? Even if that is true, it does not mean that all males are sex offenders.

But, yeah, my son had a male sitter, the son of a good friend, and his worst offense was allowing my kid to watch "Beavis & Butthead" with him when my son was 9.

When my neice sat our other son recently, she spent the entire time on her cell phone.

Now my brother and I trade sitting for each other's kids.

It's a tough thing these days.

notfearingchange said...

Umm...I think your friend's thoughts are a bit nuts!

motherbumper said...

Very interesting. I'd like to think that I judge each baby sitter on their personality and demonstration of responsible behaviour. Honestly I don't think gender of the sitter would be a huge factor. I base my picks on references and vibe.

Meegan said...

I totally struggle with this. A young man from my gym's "Kid's Klub" offered (after hearing me gripe about how hard it is to find a sitter) to babysit my daughter. I acted interested but never called him. I never called him because he's not a girl. I despise the fact that this is a fear that resides in my brain but, of course, I would NEVER do anything to put my daughter in harm's way. But why do I even think this? I seriously don't have an answer to that.

Tracey said...

Go with your gut.

Anonymous said...

When I was 9 a neighbor boy who was 16 babysat my sister (who was 7) and me. We'd known him for years. My parents trusted him. He exposed himself to us and molested me. I told no one until I was in therapy in my 20s. My therapist surmised that the incident caused many (if not all) of my self-esteem issues and issues with food.

Will I trust a boy to babysit my daughter? Probably not. But then again I'd scrutinize anyone with whom I'd consider leaving my kids. You just never know.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I think it would depend on the boy. I'd have to know him & his family really, really well. Which means, it could only be one kid who lives next door to us. Other than that, no.

Mrs. T said...

Here's a flip side of the situation- my daughter will be old enough to babysit and I am a bit wary of the parents she'll encounter. How many times do we hear of daddy boffing the babysitter?
I hate to rule by absolutes- you've got to go with your instincts and do what you feel is right based on the individual- NOT solely on their gender. We married men, didn't we? Were they molesting kids when they were young? Were we molested by EVERY guy we encountered?
It's like saying don't go in the ocean because there are sharks. Don't go to church because people got abused by priests. Don't ski down a mountain because you might break your leg. Don't get in a car because you might get in an accident.
You've got to live. Be smart, be cautious, be informed, but LIVE.

Sugarplum's Mom said...

If you trust the friend, and her son, there isn't a problem. There is no reason to think that a boy is more likely to abuse small children simply because he's a boy. It's akin to saying homosexual men can't be boy scout leaders because they will sexually abuse the boys. It is so intolerant, stupid, and downright hateful to decide that homosexual men are all pedophiles.

Angella said...


I have no time to read the other comments, but here is my two bits.

I read a book once, about boys (I have two) that talks about boys and hormones and how sometimes the hormones can override rational thinking.

That said, my 18-year-old brother lives with us (works for a friend of ours), and he watches all three kids (Two boys and a GIRL) on a weekly basis so that we can get out of the house.

I do not worry in the least.

If the kid is someone you know and trust, then don't sweat it.

But if not, then we all need to be careful.

I really wish it was not the case...

Jenni said...

We have already discussed this as a couple, and our answer is a resounding no. My sister was abused by a boy completely trusted by my parents (who were super protective), and I was in a "weird" situation one time. Not abuse, but something I would never want my daughter or sons to experience.

I know of at least one child pyschologist, Dr. Dobson, who recommends never letting boys babysit for the simple fact that their hormones are so overwhelming.

On the other hand, I babysat for a "perfect" family who had a ton of porn EVERYWHERE! I will definitely be casing the families my daughter wants to babysit for.

It's so sad it has to be like this...

tulipmom said...

This has always been a sensitive topic for us. Before we even HAD children D. decided we would NEVER use male sitters. In general I agree it's terrible to make blanket assumptions or blanket decisions like that. Unfortunately, he has reason to feel this way and I can't blame him for being uncomfortable with the idea.

Fast forward six years and he recently agreed to let our speech therapist's 13 year old son babysit our son. Only because we know the mom from speech and the boy's sister has been sitting for us for years.

The 13 year old boy who lives on our street who has expressed an interest in sitting but we don't really know the parents/they seem a little "off" .... not in a million years would D. agree to let this boy sit. And again, I can't blame him.

Shannon said...

I was watching Oprah years ago when a crime expert was on the show. He gave tips on how to keep safe like never get into a car with a man who is forcing you to leave the first scene of the crime...etc etc.

One of the pieces of advice he gave is to never hire a male babysitter no matter how old, young, experienced, because men are statistically more likely to molest children. It's extremely rare for women to molest children.

He also said, ALWAYS trust your gut...your first instinct. Never go against it. It's there for a reason.

My parents once hired 2 male teens to both come together to babysit my brother and I when we were very young. My brother was still in diapers.

The only thing I remember is that the one boy had a horrible time changing my brother's cloth diapers. They never agreed to babysit again. That's my only experience with a male babysitter.

Omaha Mama said...

Hot topic!

I'm super suspicious of boys. It's a sexist double standard. But I won't have boys babysit my daughter. There would perhaps be exceptions, like if I had a friend with a trustworthy son, like your situation. But would be nervous about it, probably.

I was going to have my nephew bunk with my daughter when we were all at my folks recently. My sister wouldn't allow it. Boys are pervy, she said. She didn't want anything to happen, even if it was just "playing doctor". The thought had never entered my fool head.

Now it does.
Innocence gone.

Talk to your girl. Tell her about how no one should ever touch here there except a dr. or if she needs medicine (if you've not yet had that talk) and then tell her if anyone ever does anything weird, that she's to talk to you immediately. I think every little girl is vunerable, in lots of places. It sucks, but it's real.

Great post, OTJ. Really.

flutter said...

I honestly believe that the potential is there with anyone who isn't you.

It's about knowing who is with your kid

Lara said...

in my opinion (which is admittedly as a nanny and maternal person, not actually as a mom), i think you just have to think of this the way you would anything else. is it okay to trust boys to babysit little girls? who knows? what a huge generalization to make, right? how about asking if it's okay to trust your friend's son to babysit your daughter? that's a very different question. is it okay to trust girls to babysit little girls? who knows? that's just as much a generalization. what about female babysitters with little boys? what about male babysitters with little boys?

it's gotta be about people as individuals, not faceless groups.

(and i apologize if any of this repeated what other folks said, i just really wanted to share my thoughts and i'm unfortunately in a rush right now.)

i hope some of the despondence and depression is gone now. :-/

Childsplayx2 said...

I didn't have the patience to read all the comments but as a boy who was a pretty good babysitter, I'm a little sad that the thread seems to be not to trust boys.

I work for the YMCA and we take sexual abuse very seriously and the truth is that boys are only slightly more likely to do that than a girl.

Also, the fact that a close family member recommended him is a huge plus because it is almost certain that family members know who the one they wouldn't trust with kids is, and would never recommend that he babysit because they would want to protect him.

Bottom line is you should feel comfortable with who is babysitting not matter the gender.

Bri said...

Frankly, that wouldn't have been my first thought...I babysat for several families as a teenager and I remember being somewhat appalled how little these people knew about me before leaving me for hours with their children, and paying me very little. I don't think the gender of your babysitter is something you should worry about. Get references, spend a little time with a new sitter before leaving them to fend for themselves and trust your gut.

One of my friends had male babysitters growing up, a pair of brothers from her neighborhood. Other than allowing her to watch "It" and giving her a lifetime fear of clowns, she turned out ok.

anna said...

I have three boys. If they came to your house, they would know how to make pizza. They would not, however, clean up the kitchen.

There are risks involved in every choice we make. Sometimes the actions we take in the service of being "safe" are the most destructive because they only add to the sum total of prejudice and fear on the planet.

Michelle Dunn said...

My sons are just a tad bit too young to babysit my daughter just yet...but I'm sure that I can trust them to not make a mess and sending her crying to her room after some ghost story anyway in the future :)

Trying To Have a Baby - A Mother's Story

Karen Forest said...

Always proceed with your eyes and ears open....and your mother's intuition turned on.

The Sour Kraut said...

I agree with the idea that we need to believe in the good of people. However, I think that our children's protection trumps everything else.

I kept our son home from a sleepover that he desperately wanted to go to because both parents weren't present, just the dad.

Super B's Mom said...

This IS a tough one. A month ago, I would have been a bit more relaxed about it. But we dealt with a personal situation three weeks ago that completely changed my unsuspecting attitude on things.

I learned through personal experience that you are always safer to be suspicious. Because you NEVER know.

Sadie said...

I honestly never thought about it. I'll be letting MY son babysit...but...well...he's MY kid. I do think that your friend was on the over-reacting side...but given the state of our world currently, I suppose it's not surprising.

I say if you trust the kid, then trust your own gut. Don't let yourself go to that dark place.

CrisisWorker said...

Anyone can be a child sex abuser . . . in fact, I've heard countless stories about women who were sexually abused by female babysitters.

I think you have to screen all babysitters, have reasonable expectations (not leave a 15 year old with a new born 10 hours a day, everyday, etc) and have great communication with your kids.

I know it is frightening to think that anyone . . . from a teacher to a minister to a babysitter to a trusted family friend could abuse your children . . . but doing everything you can to know who you are leaving your children with, checking in, and helping your children know their power in any difficult situation will help minimize risks.

Melisa said...

My almost-16-year-old son has been babysitting for 3 years now. He is fabulous with young kids and is a fabulous human being (other people besides his mother think that, too!). I think that if you know the boy, there is no need to freak out about it any more than you would freak out about a girl babysitting.

In my son's case, I can tell you that (without going to the dark subject, of course) he is a very attentive babysitter, as in he really spends time playing games and interacting with the kids, really paying attention to them. I'm sure that girl babysitters who are good do the same. But you'll have other sitters (both genders) who sit on the phone or the computer or whatever, ignoring the kids. So I think no matter what kind of treatment you're talking about, you should be equally (but not overly, without reason) wary of ANYONE you leave your kids with.

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree with Mrs. T. I have both used a male teenaged babysitter and I have...gasp...a Manny. Both have been phenomenal with my kids - since I have four it requires someone with a huge amount of energy, and frankly the girls I've used haven't been up to the task.

I really think to some degree you have to look at it from both sides - keep your children safe, but also consider what if it was your son that was the babysitter, and how you would feel if someone dismissed him because of his gender, and not because of his trustworthiness. I have 2 girls, 2 boys, and based on their behavior now, my oldest, a girl, will NEVER babysit because she won't be responsible enough - too much of an airhead. My older son, though? He will rock. Trust, or don't trust, the PERSON, not their gender.

jennifer h said...

After 116 other comments, I'm not sure I can add anything.

I think if you are able to trust the boy, and maybe have references from other families, then why not? But I have a feeling my husband wouldn't agree to it.

Miss Britt said...

The last part? About "how the hell are things supposed to be different" (basically)?

Cling to that.

Laura said...

One of my favorite babysitters when growing up was male. He was amazing, fun, kind - perfect.

But, I can see the concern. Sadly.

I was approached by a boy at church who wanted to babysit and a girl, who was a year younger expressed desire to babysit. Funny, I chose the girl...hmmmm.....

thanks for making me think!

ALSO - I really was touched by your post about your letter to your sister-in-law. Would you mind if I link to it from my blog? I would like to reference it in a upcoming post about my sister-in-law and our relationship - and how I long for a day we can communicate like that and clear the air.


Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

I'm sure this has already been said, but why would a boy baby-sitter be any different than a girl baby-sitter? Why could/would a boy be more likely to do something to a child than a girl? It seems to me like a terrible double-standard. I think if the boy is responsible and trust-worthy, he should be viewed no differently than a female baby-sitter. That's my two cents...for what its worth.

Day Dreamer said...

It's crazy and sad that we 'have' to worry about what someone we trust might do to our children when we're not looking. But we do.

My husband and my ex-husband both lost their virginity to a girl babysitter. In my ex-husbands case, she had his brother 'do' things to him while she watched.

Many girls in my family, on both sides, were molested by fathers, uncles, cousins.... close relatives.

Bottom line, it's difficult to 'trust' your children to anyone. In my humble opinion, you have to go with your instincts.

I haven't lost hope for trusting a babysitter if you know your children well, telling them to run to you if anything is possibly wrong. Also, if you know your sitter well, I still believe a male babysitter would do just fine.

IzzyMom said...

I've not had many babysitters for my kids (which explains a lot about my state of mind) but I don't think I'd let any male, boy or adult, watch my children alone. I once let the couple across the street watch our kids for 2 hours but only because the husband and wife were there together. I know it's wrong to prejudge an entire gender but I can't help my fears. I blame the pedophiles and child molesters and every other bad thing you've ever heard or read (way too much, sadly) for ruining it for everyone,

IzzyMom said...

I hesitated adding this to my comment but I think it's important and might be helpful in understanding my strong position..

When I was nine, I was grabbed, groped and nearly abducted at a hotel by a male teenager who at first seemed like a nice, friendly guy who was kind enough to help me when I couldn't get my room key to work. When I ran into him later at an outdoor ice machine, it was a totally different story. I feel lucky to have broken free and gotten away.

It was scary as hell, but what stuck with me most is how he was able to present himself as a nice and very normal guy that seemed completely harmless, which he clearly wasn't.

BOSSY said...

Whether they are boys or girls, select babysitters with younger siblings -- they not only have more experience but are less likely to confuse/abuse the relationship's dynamic.

Bossy's son was a babysitter a wee bit - he was a camp counselor and so greatly loved around the neighborhood by little kids of both genders, but ultimately he didn't like the gig Too whiney.

Cathy said...

Wow. I never thought about this. On the few occasions we've needed a babysitter, my teenage stepdaughter has been there for us.

Once, my stepson, also a teenager, was called to duty when neither Hubs nor I could get off work. All went well until that afternoon, when Stepson called to sheepishly admit that toddler daughter had locked herself in our bedroom.

By the time Hubs got there, she had come out, having used my eyeliner to make tiger stripes all over her body.

Anyway —

I understand concerns about sexual abuse. That said, however, there have been plenty of teenage girls accused of physical or sexual abuse as well.

I don't think gender should be the prevalent concern.

Is the sitter someone you trust? Someone who knows what to do in an emergency? Someone willing to call you when things aren't going well?

That's what I look for.

Shauna Loves Chocolate said...

I'm not sure I can add to the 100+ comments that have already been left. But I will still add my 2 cents...

I'm lucky in that we tap into my husband's former students (or current private piano students) for babysitters. So these are teens my husband has known for 1+ years and/or we know the parents of the teen.

Before we let the teen actually babysit, we invite them over for a "playdate" so the kids can meet the sitter and we can see how the teen will interact with the kids. (We stay home but the sitter takes care of the kids.) If we feel all goes well during the playdate, we hire the sitter.

Short story long... Because we are so selective in our sitters, I would totally let the right boy babysit again. (One of Nicholas' favorite sitters is a boy (well, young man now). He would rough and tumble with Nicholas. And now, even though the guy is away at college, he always visits Nicholas whenever he's home and always remembers christmas and birthday gifts. Like I said, he's a great guy.)

♥♥♥ A- Licious ♥♥♥ said...

i think it all depends on how well you know the SITTER and their family.

we had a male sitter for a LONG time - family friend's son.

he was in Junior High and then HS and i was in elementary. he was actually very responsible and very good. granted he always ate all my cheeze puffs my mom would get JUST FOR ME...and eat every thing else for that matter (boys....lol)

i also had a crush on him.

but really, i understand all the FEARS now a days ( i mean good grief there are SO many, so many things OUR parents didn't worry about when we were kids....and the list just seems to be growing...)

again - i think it all comes down to having a relationship of some kind with your sitter and the sitter's family if they are young etc....getting to know them and feeling comfortable...trusting our GUT.

i also think some people are just more paranoid than others....but i can fall into that spectrum myself at times - especially when it comes to my child...


i dunno if that helped or not...

a-licious xoxo

♥♥♥ A- Licious ♥♥♥ said...

another thought....think about the big brother programs etc out there...i know geared more towards big brothers for boys...but STILL.

i don't think we should knock BOYS babysitting - what kind of message does that send?


PunditMom said...

I don't know if it's a "reasonable" fear or not, but I know that my husband has always felt firmly that he did not want a bot to sit for PunditGirl. I'm a little more trusting on these things. But for him, it was not negotiable.

Lisa Milton said...

Late to the party, just stopping by to say I would let a boy babysit, although these days, Lexi is almost to the age of babysitting herself.

My hubby babysat as a kid, and so did I. And I can't help but picture Zack doing a bang-up job someday - he loves his little cousins, little kids at church.

I think references are a good starting point...

Queen Karana said...

Honestly, my first reaction was "NO! I wouldn't!"

But then, I remembered that my younger brother often babysat - usually when I was already booked and one of my regulars desperately needed somebody. He was a FANTASTIC babysitter. He was so great with the kids, kids and adults loved him! He wanted to teach elementary school, started the program in college, and even volunteered regularly in a classroom. Parents started expressing discomfort at having a "male" in the classroom. My brother never did anything, he was never left alone with any of the kids, to be perfectly clear -- there were never any accusations or rumors -- just a parent saying "Gee, is it a good idea to have a man around our children?" My brother was SO upset by this, he quit, changed majors, and left teaching behind. He then went on to join "Big Brothers / Big Sisters" and 'adopted' a little brother who was 6 years old. This little boy suffered from severe depression and was suicidal... yes! At the age of SIX. These two developed the BEST relationship -- and the boy, is now 18, graduating from high school this spring, and is still great friends with my brother.

So... the answer isn't so simple now. I would need to know the boy really, really well. In all likelihood, I would probably use a girl first. But... would I say NO just because he's a boy? No, I don't think I would.

Tough one though.

Denguy said...

I'm a boy, and I've been looking after kids since I was a young teen. I've worked at summer camps where I've had care of young boys and girls for seven-days at a time. I've worked in daycare with 2- and 3-year-old boy and girls. I have a daughter of my own. Not one time--not one single friggin' time have I ever considered molesting any of them. That's just stupid.

"culture of fear" -- of course, you are in the USA.

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for a male sitter. I have two boys and they need a firmer hand and more energy and roughhousing than most teen girls afford...
From another perspective the best babysitters we EVER had growing up were teen guys. i even had a crush on one or two of them. but they were more fun, they played games with us, kept the house neater didnt spend the whole night on the phone w/ their friends...
I think it is a shame that the world has come to worrying about that, and in my neck of the woods it probably isnt as prevalent. we live pretty far out in the country and the need for sitters is few and far between for us and when it is its more likely an overnight type thing and we trade off with another couple.

Kevin Charnas said...

J - this is obviously, sadly very real to be concerned about. And as fair as a person as I'd like to think I am, I wouldn't let a teenage boy watch my children, whether they be girls OR boys. All it takes is ten minutes...that's all it takes. And I know.

Mom of 5 said...

This reminds me of a comment my MIL made. My brother has watched my children before. She questioned my hubby about whether or not he had a girlfriend. He told her he didn't think so. She told him that he should watch our daughters around him, and who knows, maybe she should watch our sons around him too. Talk about judgmental!!!! I almost lost it. I couldn't understand where in the hell she got that idea. There are very few people I trust my children with, and my brother is right at the top of my trustworthy list. I prefer him watching them to HER! At least I know he's not warping their brain with stupidity. (a little inside info, my mother will not allow MIL in her home after that comment)

Sorry. This struck a chord with me. I have the luxury of family members to watch my kids. They've never had a non family member watch them. But if I did, I would probably let a boy watch them. My 2oldest are boys. I think I'd worry about them hitting on a girl teenage sitter! LOL. A boy might be a safer bet with my pre pubescent little tykes. They notice girls. They notice boobies. They'd be giggly and silly around a teenage girl. But they'd probably play with and listen to a teenage boy.

I realize that there are horror stories out there. But there are quite a few untrustworthy female babysitters/nannies. I've heard those stories too. I would question ANYONE the same way regardless of gender.

katy said...

That is a hard decision to make. I know, from raising boys that most are normal happy boys but then last summer in our area two boys, ages 9 and 11 raped a 5 year old girl....These weren't mean boys with no parents...these were what we all thought were normal happy boys. How do kids that old even know.....

Mimi aka pz5wjj said...

I'm a bit late, but feel compelled to answer.

First, that was a sexist thing to say. Do you question if a girl babysits your boy? Same concerns... why is it assumed that a boy babysitter will do harm when a girl babysitter will not? Honestly, you have just as much to be concerned with no matter who babysits your children -- boys/girls -- teens/adults. It's a risk and which is why we don't leave our kids with people who don't come with recommendations or that we know personally. I know there is no guarantee to life's safety, but there is a "reasonable risk" that you need to take.

Second... we had boy babysitters all the time when I was growing up. They were among our favorites. I have a brother and a sister, and the boy babysitters were way more fun -- they played with us!

It is a decision everyone needs to make for themselves, but I don't know why you would TO someone just because they were a boy.

This is just my opinion...

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

I don't have time to read the 6 million comments, but I recently wrote a post about Stranger Danger and it kind of touched on this subject in a roundabout way. It's tough because I would not to discriminate against a boy babysitter but the cold hard facts are that something like 98% of sexual molestation comes from heterosexual males and that fact along makes it something we need to think about, IMO. And the other cold hard fact is that 1 in 4 of us are sexually abused and I would prefer not to play with the odds if I didn't have to. However, the book I talk about in my post is really big on trusting your gut and I believe in that too. So, this is a very roundabout way of saying, that I *would* have a teenage boy babysit Declan (in fact I have) - however, it would need to be someone I know quite well and trust.

Reesie said...

Wow, the discussion on this one has been interesting and clear as well . . . mud :)

As a kid, I has some winning babysitter experiences.
I was abused as a child (inappropriate touching ) by the boyfriend of a babysitter (the sister of a close family friend). Only AFTER did my mother find out the friend's kids referred to this man as "the creep".
Then there was the teen aged female baby sitter who left a pan burning on the stove and a wet towel on my mom's wood dining room table.
Oh and the other high school sitter who took me for rides with her boyfriend. We did donuts in his car (spins).

The topper was the high school senior girl who took my mother's stomach meds to get high. All she got was her stomach pumped.

Now we are close to family, but when my daughter was an infant and toddler, my 1st choice for a baby sitter was a boy. The son of the woman who provided daycare for her. I never worried when he was in charge.

My nephew has babysat for my kids too. One night I found porn sites on the history of my web browser. I didn't go looking, I found it while I was searching for a site I had visited. I looked at the sites and believe it was pure curiosity, not malicious, that said, my husband talked with him, but he hasn't stayed with the kids since.

My point in relaying all these stories is that frankly it just depends. I don't believe a blanket policy works in this situation. You have to take it on a case by case basis.

As I say most of the time, Grammy & Grandpa stay with the kids, but on those rare occasions when we all want to go out, I have a teenage girl (the oldest of 5 who stays with the kids). Sadly, she leaves for college next September. 2 of her sibs are old enough to baby sit, but there is no way I'd trust them with my kids. It just depends.

Trust your gut on this one. Good luck

MarthaQ said...

I don't usually comment. But I read religiously. My mother trusted at least four different boys to babysit for my little sister while we were growing up.

I am really glad she did.

Jonathan and Matt, in particular, were some of the best baby sitters we ever had.

kevin said...

Teenage boys have a lot of hormones running around in their bodies and many times they aren't quite sure how to deal with them. I babysat at 14 and I like to think I did a fine job. Sure, I snooped and ate stuff from the fridge, but those were my worst infractions. I am not generally one who lives in fear, but I have to admit I wouldn't let a boy babysit my daughter. If I had a son, I wouldn't let him babysit him either.

Emily said...

This is a horrible stereotype that unfortunately in the early childhood arena we have to fight all of the time. Statistically speaking, boys are as likely to be sexually assaulted as girls, but less likely to come forward. People worry about male teachers, male babysitters, anyone male, and yet, in the news we hear about female teachers sleeping with their 8th graders. Yet nobody stops to worry about leaving their sons with a strange female sitter. I had a bad experience when I was 10 with a male close friend of our family, the father of friends of mine, someone whom my parents had known for years. However, I know the importance of stepping back and realizing that this was one man, not all of them, and I would be just as likely to leave my child with a male sitter as a female if I felt they were trustworthy and qualified. That said, I think it's vital to check the references of each and every person you entrust your child to, and to spend time with them and your children before hand. You can also arrange for a friend to stop by during the evening to check on the kids for a minute, and if you're still wary, please remember that a good sitter should have no objection to being under surveillance.

ALM said...

I had a girl babysitter (who I fired after a month). My two sons just told me that she had looked at them when they go to the bathroom.

You just don't ever know & ultimately it's checking references & using your guts (which is why she was fired after a month.)

Deb said...

I don't know if someone else already posted this, but there have been studies on the topic. As I recall, 70% of the sex crimes committed by babysitters are committed by male sitters, but the percent of crimes caused by babysitters is so small (it's less than the percent of crimes committed by strangers) that my faith in a well-screened sitter would be high regardless of their gender. That last part is key: I wouldn't leave my child with ANY sitter that wasn't recommended highly by someone I know and trust.

Redneck Mommy said...

My husband would not allow a boy to babysit our children due to personal experience with a boy sitter when he was younger.

I've respected him on this issue due to his strong feelings, but now that Frac is coming to an age where he could babysit, I bristle at the thought of him being discriminated because he is simply sporting a penis.

I guess the best advice is to only use sitters you trust, regardless of sex and hope the sitter won't take advantage of that trust.

ec said...

i have 2 girls. i wouldn't hire a boy babysitter for them, however, growing up, me and my three older brothers had a boy babysitter.

good luck.

i don't think we mamas trust our intuitions enough...listen to your gut.

Shawna said...

We have very close male friend who stays with us 4 nights a week and who adores our daughter (and she adores her "Unca Bob") and we let him babysit from time-to-time. Even then, I have to quell misgivings, not because I don't trust him, but because of the ridiculous number of friends I had as a teenager who admitted that they'd been abused by male babysitters as children. I don't know what the "stats" are, but just my limited exposure to the issue has suggested that I be very careful.

It might not be fair to the huge number of teenage boys who'd be fine babysitters, but there it is.

bzybead said...

your ability to draw out details and honesty from people astounds me.

Anonymous said...

Im a 20 year old male that has been a sitter and sat my lil brothers and sisters and shoot even cousins growing up. I can see why parents can raise eyebrows at the slightest thought of having an unkown male babysitting. But nowadays its hard to trust anyone in this messed up society so its not shocking even some family members have been able to do the molesting which is sad (speaking from exp...my ex girlfriend who was molested when she was younger by her brother) when its a family member but even then who can you trust now ? You do hear numerous counts of molestors being nice and all and never expecting that from them but now you have to watch your own ass and your childrens asses shoot when I have my own children they will be watched carefully and I will always be on the lookout. I go by a quote by the fictional character Scarface aka tony montana ((( Who do I trust? Me! ThATS WHO! ((can never be too carefull in these end times))

Anonymous said...

I am a 15 year old boy, and babysit a 5 year old. personally, I find that comment hurtful. Sexism works both ways.

Anonymous said...

I think it's no coincidence that it was a male friend that brought this to your attention... Women are often naive about just how dangerous situations like this are (probably because they haven't been around enough bars and frat houses). Speaking as a 24 year old male, I can tell you that men are animals, and I would never trust one to babysit my daughter.

Anonymous said...

I have a male friend (now over 40) who did in fact very mildly abuse the 3 year old little BOY he sat for when he was 15. I tell you, DO NOT USE BOYS to babysit, if they will have ANY opportunity to be alone with a child. The previous posters who mentioned that teenage raging hormones can cause boys to do weird/evil things is right on. That friend of mine is not gay nor was or is he currently anything other than an otherwise model human being. You cannot judge someone's soul, but you count on it that nature will always rule.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

As a male who has been babysitting since I was 10 (newborn baby sister) I am very offended at the bigoted attitude most have about male babysitters.

My family consists of mostly girls; in my son & daughter's generation there were 14 girls and only 2 boys. I babysit most of my nieces and now babysit their daughters (none had boys). One niece left her 6 month old daughter with me for a week when she and her husband took the other 2 older girls on a cruise!

Why is it OK to 'profile' males when looking for child care but not OK to profile based on race when talking about dangerous crimes?

Anonymous said...

Protecting your daughter should be your first priority. The behavior of adolescent males is unpredictable.

jess said...

I can see both sides of this. I know there are too many innocent boys 7 men who are hurt by the fear of sexual predation but the fact is that the stats are something like 1 in 4 kids abused and you just don't usually "know" ahead of time.

Our 9-year-old daughter just told us that her mother left her with her 13-year-old male cousin the last time she visited. This boy is mom's sister's son. He's the oldest of six children, they all have different fathers. Their mother was a drug addict for years and had at least one of her kids removed from her custody at birth. We can only imagine with horror what this kid's life has been like, but given the abuse statistics I think it's more likely than not that he's been a victim himself. And she left him alone with a nine-year-old girl, not to mention her two younger toddlers (our daughter's half-sibs) one of whom is autistic and hard for even her parents to control.

Our kids also mentioned off-handedly that during the same weekend visit the 2 yr old had stuck a fork in the electrical socket and "Mommy had to hit it with a towel to get it out and the house almost caught fire." And that she left all four kids (9,6,3 and 2) in the car with the 13 year old who "yells at us a lot," while she was in Wal-Mart. And of course we'll talk to her about it as non-confrontation-ally as possible but the likely outcome is that she'll get defensive and swear at us and then continue to let this happen. All we can do is arm our kids as well as we're able so they can protect themselves.

Anonymous said...

-There are no more risks with a male sitter then with a female sitter. Have you read the new research? Your not going to like it, " Females are molesting at epidemic levels, it is so bad that law makers and treatment centers for are desperately trying to come up with treatment ideas for females.
\Those old wives tales of females having maternal instincts or better nurturing instincts are in fact just that, old wives tales.
Most of those instincts come after you have a kid.
Your best bet, never let anyone bath your kids!!!!!!!!