Open communication and mutual consideration create a solid foundation.
Published: February 29, 2020
By: Denise Yearian
Enlisting a nanny to help care for your children can be a fulfilling experience for all parties involved. To get your parent-nanny relationship off to the right start experts suggest it be grounded in open communication and mutual consideration.
“The best way to facilitate communication and avoid problems down the road is to create a written work agreement so both parties know the expectations with regard to tasks, schedules and compensation, as well as family rules and discipline,” says Melissa McIntyre, co-owner of a nanny placement agency.
One thing people fail to thoroughly discuss is what responsibilities they want their nanny to do. Some nannies focus solely on the children’s needs. Others help with domestic chores too.
Charlotte Fagraeus was clear about her nanny’s role. “When I first hired Tiffany (Banfield), I said I wanted her to take care of my daughter exclusively and not to worry about housework or cooking,” she says of her then six-week-old child. “I also explained that because I am a veterinarian and have a lot of evening hours, I needed someone who could accommodate my schedule.”
Scheduling changes are another area where troubled waters rise. But Isabelle Johnson found a way to keep this at bay. “I was upfront with my nanny Amanda and said we needed someone who could be flexible with their time. But I think it’s a two-way street,” says the mother of two preschoolers. “My part is to be considerate in allowing her time to plan. If my schedule changes I give her a week’s notice but always say, ‘If it’s too soon, don’t worry about saying no.’”
Compensation should also receive thorough consideration. Salary can vary based on level of responsibility, live-in or live-out situation, additional benefits offered and qualifications and experience. “I was impressed with the fact that Tiffany has a college education in early childhood development, so I based her pay on the agency’s recommendation and Tiffany’s request,” says Fagraeus. “I said I would pay her for prescheduled days whether I needed her or not and also agreed to cover childcare classes since it is something my daughter can benefit from.”
For Johnson, extensive experience was a prerequisite for her employee. “I have two children both in diapers, so when Amanda told me she had seven years of experience and had cared for twins in her last job that cinched it for me,” she says.
Another point of discussion should be childrearing philosophies, and particular disciplinary measures. “Before employment begins the nanny should have a good grasp on family rules and how parents want her to discipline the children,” says McIntyre. “When problems do occur, parents and nannies should take a unified stance so both authority figures maintain credibility in the kids’ eyes.”
Banfield agrees. “I always ask what measure of discipline the parents prefer I use and then I abide by their rules,” says the 11-year veteran childcare specialist. “One thing I’ve found helpful is to fill out forms so parents know the kind of day their child had. A red day means there were significant problems, a yellow day means we had a small incident and a green day means things went well. If an older child misbehaves, I’ll have him fill out a form stating what he did, why he did it and what he would do next time so parents have in the child’s own words what happened and how it was handled.”
Once preliminary details have been established, communication should continue. Quick briefs at the beginning and end of each day are good for specifics. But to build on those discussions, experts suggest scheduling weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings.
“If there are no pressing issues, talk about how the children are progressing and set some short- and long-range developmental goals,” says McIntyre. “This is also a good time to make sure both parties are content with the situation. Nannies sometimes find it difficult to bring up task, scheduling or compensation concerns so use this opportunity to address those type topics and move on.”
“One of the things Amanda and I have discussed lately is consistency of rules – having the kids say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you,’ putting dishes in the sink and picking up after themselves,” says Johnson. “We’re going to start potty training soon and that’s a strategy we’ll definitely have to work on together.” Nanny journals to record the child’s daily meals, naptimes and demeanor could also be helpful, particularly with infants.
Finally, offer positive feedback. “Let your nanny know she’s doing a good job,” says McIntyre. “It’s a little thing but increases the chance she’ll stick around.”
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.
Questions to ask when considering a nanny
Why a nanny? One may want to consider a nanny over another form of childcare for a variety of reasons: During the first year of a child’s life when he may be more susceptible to illness, when parents work unconventional hours or when they want more one-on-one attention for their child in the home.
Where should I look? Some parents locate nannies on their own by talking with family and friends, placing an ad in the newspaper and making inquiries at local sites. Others work with a nanny placement agency. Though this may be costly, it is often faster and safer because agencies prescreen applicants and most take care of all background and medical checks. Nanny training is not currently required but it is beneficial if she has taken childcare and development classes, has hands-on experience, first aid and CPR.
How do I get off to the right start? During the hiring process prepare a written work agreement that outlines the details of the position including tasks, schedule, pay, vacation and other compensation. Also discuss family rules, childcare philosophy and discipline.
What should her responsibilities be? Nannies care for all of the children’s needs including organization or play activities, intellectual stimulation, language activities, outings, meal planning and preparation and laundry and clothing care. Some may also help with housekeeping and family meal preparation, but this should be discussed from the start and included in a written job description.
How much should a nanny be paid? Salary can vary based on level of responsibility, live-in or live-out situation, additional benefits offered and qualifications and experience. Live-in nannies may also get free room and board. If you cannot afford the nanny you want, consider bartering for childcare. Or try a nanny share. This is a unique situation where two families who live in close proximity and have similar hours agree on one house where the children are cared for and split the nanny’s pay.
What parenting issues do we need to discuss? Compare similarities and differences in childrearing philosophies. The family should prepare a written list of family rules regarding television viewing, mealtime rituals and bedtime routines so there is continuity in the child’s life. Also discuss discipline issues and set guidelines from the start. Emphasize consistency of rules and the importance of presenting a united parent-nanny front. If discipline problems occur, it should be discussed with the parents the same day. For preschool- and elementary-age children consider implementing a sheet stating how the child’s day went. If an older child misbehaves have him fill out a small report stating what he did and what he would do next time so the parents have it written in their child’s own words.
How can we build on the relationship? Quick briefs at the beginning and end of each day are good for specifics, but weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings are important too. If there are no pressing issues, talk about how the children are progressing and set some short- and long-range developmental goals. This is also a good time to make sure both parties are content with the situation.
How to Hire a Nanny by Guy Maddalone.
The Safe Nanny Handbook: Everything You Need To Know To Have Peace Of Mind While Your Child Is In Someone Else’s Care by Peggy Robin.
All About Nanny Care, www.allaboutnannycare.com.
International Nanny Association, www.nanny.org.