As more parents return to work within a year or two of the birth of the children, and daycare spaces become scarce, many families have turned to employing a nanny.
Like any relationship, the one between parents and their employed nanny can have its ups and downs. Here are my suggestions for creating a positive relationship with your nanny, which will support positive development in your children.
Remember that you have an employee-employer relationship with your nanny.
As much as your nanny might feel like family, particularly if that person lives with you, this is a hired help relationship. As such, create a work agreement that includes things like work hours, job responsibilities (including pet care), house rules, sick/vacation leave, and pay frequency. Make sure your nanny is clear on what you expect of her, and make sure you don’t ask for things beyond the scope of the agreement.
Discuss child-rearing strategies with your nanny.
Speak with your nanny about your parenting philosophy. If you are using positive discipline techniques (which I recommend), provide resources for your nanny to read so her interaction with the children is in line with your beliefs. I suggest getting the books from the series called POSITIVE DISCIPLINE, by Jane Nelsen, PhD.
If you have parenting no-nos, like threats, bribes, coercion, or spanking, list those for your nanny. Talk with her about how to interact with your children when they aren’t following her instructions.
Give your nanny space to build a positive relationship with your child.
Just like the relationship with other parents, grandparents, and caregivers, give your nanny time and space to develop her style of child-rearing. This space will include learning from mistakes, so encourage this valuable learning by not jumping in when things between the nanny and your children are heading south. Give her time to try and find a solution.
Pass the “attachment torch” over to your nanny.
Secure attachment grows through all the primary caregivers that a child has. When all of those caregivers pass the torch to each other, the child feels a sense of calm that he or she is being taken care of by people who are on the same team.
When you leave in the morning, use an attachment bridge with your children so they know when they will see you again, then look at the nanny and say something like, “Okay, it’s your turn to spend time with these great kids.” Ensure that your children see you are calm and confident in leaving them with the nanny.
I suggest finding a nanny who can be with your family long-term, even after the children enter school. I know that some mothers feel threatened by the relationship between their children and the nanny—that they might love her more—and get a new nanny each year. Doing this could actually grow some abandonment core beliefs within the child, so I don’t recommend this approach.
The longer the nanny can be in your child’s life in some respect, the more positive core beliefs will develop from that experience.
Discuss your concerns with the nanny privately.
If you see your nanny interact with your child in a way you don’t like, wait until you can speak with her in private about this. Don’t correct her in front of the children.
When you discuss concerns with her, ask for her perspective and give her an opportunity to think of alternatives first. As with any employer-employee relationship, make the correction a positive experience so the nanny feels capable and that valuable learning took place.
Have regular check-in meetings.
Regular weekly meetings help catch small problems before they become huge and to create game plans. In these meetings, clarify logistical things, like which adult is taking children to activities and who is making supper on a particular day. Also, check in with your nanny to see if she is getting enough rest. Dial her duties up or down depending on what is happening in the household for that week.
Communicate how grateful you are.
It is likely that your nanny is doing a pretty good job of taking care of your children and your house while you are away. Think of all the things you are grateful for that she does, and you no longer need to do. Let her know how much you appreciate her.
Also, communicate your gratitude by not overwhelming her with too many chores, unpaid extra hours, or interacting with her during her time off. Periodically give her some unexpected bonuses, like being able to end work early or offering to buy something she’d like to have.
Show your nanny that you see how capable she is.
In addition to messages of gratitude, people feel more connected when you mention that you see them handling themselves well during a challenge. If your nanny does way more than you expected her to or she handles your child during a tense time, let her know that you saw her doing so.
I’d like to thank the parents in my Facebook community for sharing their nanny expertise with me. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to pop over and post those there.