DEAR ABBY: I am responding to “Concerned Mom in New Jersey” (11/4), who feels her daughter, “Dayna,” should be paid more for baby-sitting because the other girl in the neighborhood receives a higher rate. I think your advice was a little off-base.

I have baby-sat since I was 13. At 14, I started my own baby-sitting business. By the time I was 17, I was baby-sitting for more than 20 families. I was the primary baby sitter for more than five families and earning considerably more than my friends because I worked harder.

I am now 25 and still work as a care provider/baby sitter. I do the cooking, cleaning and laundry while playing with and attending to the children and their miscellaneous needs. Also, when driving is required, I have a reliable vehicle and a clean driving record. Parents take all this into consideration when hiring and deciding on reasonable rates.

I am sure that if Dayna did half the work the other sitter attends to, then perhaps she’d be making more money. But it also comes down to one thing: The other girl is the primary baby sitter and she SHOULD be making more money. She is paid that wage to ensure that she will make herself available to baby-sit. Only when she cannot would they rely on the other girl in the neighborhood. – MS. RELIABLE IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.

You are right. When I answered that letter, I assumed that both baby sitters were providing equal – or at least similar – services. Since that letter appeared, I have received an education from parents of small children. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Has it occurred to you that the girl who is being paid more might be a “value-added” sitter? Does Dayna do the dishes while she baby-sits, or does she leave dishes in the sink for the parents to come home to? Does she read to the kids, or even interact with them at all – or does she take her job description literally and just sit? Perhaps she’s paid less because the kids groan when told she’s their sitter because she ignores them and watches TV.

I’d suggest Dayna ask her friend to describe what she does when she baby-sits and try to match – or exceed – these efforts the next time she’s asked to take care of the kids. I’ll bet that would add to her value, and she’ll be able to name her price the next time she’s hired to baby-sit. – JOHN IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR ABBY: In your reply to “Concerned Mom,” you pointed out that baby-sitting is a business. True!

As a business person, the first thing I’d want to know is why this customer thinks another supplier of the same service is worth more than I am. There must be some difference.

Before demanding a rate increase, I would ask my customer, “You have hired me several times; how can I improve my baby-sitting service to you?”

The insight that girl gets could be far more valuable than a few more dollars per hour. And of course, if she improves in her customer’s eyes, getting more money will be easy. – ALAN (A CONSULTANT) IN DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: Dayna could benefit from taking a “Safe Sitter” course. My daughter took one at age 11, and I cannot praise it enough. She learned signs of illness, rescue breathing and more. She also learned how to manage her “sitting business,” set fees up front and collect them. What she learned was invaluable. – JACQUELINE IN NEW YORK

Thank you for the tip. Readers, you can learn more about Safe Sitter at 1-800-255-4089 or

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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