Hereinafter known as the screaming brat from hell . . .

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The Independent Online
DO YOU ever feel badly treated by the baby-sitters you use? Or are you a baby-sitter who feels hard done by the parents who use you? Yet it is all so unnecessary (writes a lawyer). All you have to do to ensure smooth and happy relations between parent and baby-sitter is to draw up a simple, legal contract between you and keep a copy each. Here is a skeleton contract which should cover most of the commonly occurring eventualities.

THIS being an agreement between (name of parents) and (name of baby-sitter), whereby the latter agrees to look after the children of the former between the hours of (start time) and (finish time) on the (date) in return for remuneration per hour of (agreed sum). Wherein both parties agree that:

1. The young person (hereinafter known as the sitter) who has come in to look after the children of the parties who are going out (hereinafter known as the parent or parents) shall not arrive more than one hour after the promised time of arrival.

2. Likewise, the parents shall not return more than one hour after their promised return, especially not flushed with drink and saying: 'Is it that late? We should have phoned. Sorry about that, oh dear . . .' If this should happen, the sitter shall say reproachfully that he or she has a mock A-level or other exam the next day, and the parents shall shamefacedly add more money to the evening's tally. Should the baby-sitter by some chance be on time, or even early, the parents should not spend the next half-hour or more getting ready to go out. In which case, the sitter will be entitled to be late next time.

3. The parents shall leave a helpline number and the place at which they can be contacted should anything go wrong.

4. The sitter shall under no circumstances ever ring this number, which is only there for comfort, not for use.

5. On the parents' return the sitter shall not say: 'Oh, there was an urgent phone call from a Mr Armstrong - or was it Whitstable? Something like that . . .' If a sitter cannot remember the call accurately, it should be tacitly forgotten.

6. If the sitter brings round a hulking great boy or blushing girlfriend to 'help them with the baby-sitting' (hereinafter known as the sitter's friend), the sitter shall be responsible for any breakages or depredations whatsoever caused by the friend.

7. The parents shall agree to be friendly to the sitter's friend and still remember the friend's name at the end of the evening.

8. The parents shall indicate to the sitter which items in the fridge are for general consumption and which ones are vital ingredients for a dinner being given the next day. They should also indicate which bottles of wine are household plonk and which are heirlooms that should never, never be drunk, as they are priceless vintage bottles the parents are keeping for some great occasion (although when this occasion comes it shall invariably be found that the wine is long past it and should have been drunk years ago, preferably by a discerning baby-sitter).

9. The parents shall not leave the house until such time as the child or children have stopped weeping and saying: 'I don't want you to go out] I hate Griselda]' (or whatever the sitter's name may be). On the other hand, if the child or children shall say to the parents: 'You can go now - I hate you and I love Griselda better than you]' then the parents may happily leave.

10. The parents may make one phone call during the evening to see if everything is all right, and one phone call only. Or two, if the baby-sitter does not answer the first one.

11. If the parents come back after a five-hour dinner party and find the child or children still running around the house, the sitter shall not say: 'I'm sorry, I couldn't do anything with them and they've been up all evening.' The sitter shall instead say: 'They went to sleep beautifully but your car woke them up just now, so I let them come down to say goodnight.'

12. When the parents return, they shall not make the sitter listen to an account of how good or bad their evening out was.

13. The parents shall give a lift home to the sitter and pay the sitter the due sum in cash. The parent shall pay the whole sum due, except by prior agreement to defer payment, and shall not under any circumstances attempt to borrow money from the baby-sitter.