TEN THINGS YOUR BABY SITTER WON'T TELL

1. Your House Is Gross

Nobody expects a house with kids running around in it to be pristine, but it shouldn't be downright grody. "I once had to give a four-year-old a bath, and the entire area was orange with soap scum and mildew," says a sitter in Chicago.

2. She Bribes Your Kids
Savvy bargaining is one way sitters keep things running smoothly when you're away. One promised the children they could watch a movie of their choosing if they were good all day long. That same sitter has openly threatened to never come back again when the kids are behaving especially badly.

3. You Undermine Her
If your regular sitter establishes a rule for a child (say, he can only bring his Zhu Zhu Pet to taekwondo class), don't reverse it on a whim when she's not around. That just undermines your kids' respect for their part-time caregiver. In the same way a good sitter makes every effort to respect your rules, she wishes you'd trust her judgment and let her establish some of her own.

4. She's Scared To Ask About Money
Many sitters say they have never been offered a raise, even after years of working for the same family, and they usually stop accepting work from a family rather than ask for more money. If you're wondering what's appropriate, rates average $10 to $18 an hour.

5. Don't Cancel At The Last Minute
"If I have a week or even a few days' notice, I can usually come up with alternative income for that time," says a sitter in Alexandria, Virginia. "But there have been a few times when I've had a parent cancel on short notice after I've had to turn down other babysitting opportunities ... a lot of us are college students who rely on this income for more than just 'going out' money."

6. She Disapproves Of Your Parenting
One babysitter refuses to give her two-year-old a bottle -- even though the parents still regularly offer one. "She's perfectly capable of using a cup," says the sitter. Another waters down the sugary juices that the mother encourages her to serve throughout the day.

7. Come Home On Time
Do you think your sitter's time is less important than yours? That's the message you send her when you waltz in late without much of an apology. "I often wonder how they'd feel if I randomly were to show up 10 or 20 minutes late while they were waiting to leave for work," says a sitter in Boston.

8. Forget The To-Do List
It usually means less attention for your kid. Having a sitter do your huge load of laundry after a vacation, for example, is probably not the best use of her time. "I've been asked to take dogs for walks and go through toys and clean and organize them. These aren't appropriate tasks for your babysitter, and if you do go out on a limb and ask these favors, pay accordingly," says a sitter in Charlotte, North Carolina.

9. She's Hungry
Make sure to tell a new sitter that she's welcome to help herself to your snack cabinet once the kids are in bed or to include enough dinner for herself if she'll be preparing one for the kids. Most say they wait for a clear invitation before they crack open your fridge. Until then, they either remember to pack their own food or just let their stomachs growl.

10. Warn Her if Your Kids Are Sick

"I showed up for an evening sitting job and the parents informed me that their daughter had a fever and had thrown up earlier in the day," recalls a sitter from Chicago. "I don't mind taking care of kids if they have a cold or runny nose, but anything more than that warrants a courtesy call to me so I can make a decision."