Forging the Nanny-Parent Partnership
Nannies and Parents
Propst points out that quality nanny training programs offer some degree of child development training, so the nanny can be valuable to the parents if she keeps attuned to the growth of the children in her charge. “Parents should take advantage of their nanny’s expertise and encourage feedback on developmental progress,” she says.
When it comes to the early stages of the parent-nanny relationship, few discussions are more crucial than those on the subject of discipline. Guidelines for when and how to discipline your child should be established in the beginning, with the understanding that they may need refining or adjustment later. Consistency in following established rules is a must, as is the need for parents and nannies to present a united front. Explains Propst, “If there is a problem with the way the nanny is disciplining, a parent should discuss it with her in private—never in front of the children.”
In the end, there is no foolproof recipe for a successful parent-nanny relationship. Keeping the lines of communication open, however, is always a great place to start. That means talking to your nanny often, whether by phone, email, or in person. Keep in mind that taking ten minutes to review the day’s events can make all the difference in helping your nanny feel a valued part of your family’s team.
Rachel Hillman, mother of one-year-old Lee, counts on her two-way “nanny journal” to keep up-to-date on everything from diaper changes to what household items need restocking. “Our nanny records information on what Lee eats, how he enjoyed the day’s activities, even his moods,” explains Hillman, who also takes time for the day’s “verbal download” with her caregiver in the evening.
Some more tips from former “Nanny of the Year” Propst:
- Schedule meetings. Plan check-in meetings with your nanny as you would with any employee. Daily check-ins are good for specifics, but meeting out of the house (for dinner or coffee) can facilitate honest discussions in unthreatening, “neutral” territory. Some parents experience success with family meetings, where children, parents, and nannies can review areas like responsibilities and consequences together.
- “Neither the nanny nor the parent should have to be a mind reader,” says Propst, who recommends assertiveness training to any one who has a hard time expressing him or herself. Parent-caregiver relationships flourish when both parties agree to use clear and unambiguous words to express their concerns.
- Get creative! As parent-employers, it’s important to encourage solutions—whether or not they originate with you. Remember, your nanny may bring a dose of realism and plenty of experience to the party. Listen carefully to her ideas for solutions.
- Look for “virtual” support. Online nanny resources include websites like 4everythingnanny.com and webgroups for parents with nannies at http://groups.yahoo.com/. Both give parents ways to read or write about their experiences with having a nanny. These are good places for finding suggestions on how to address common nanny and parent concerns.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T. “I think it’s important for parents to remember that nannies are professionals, working in the field they’ve chosen,” explains Propst. “Everyone performs better when they’re given respect and support in their work.”
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