In most cases, a nanny and her employer establish ground rules and expectations before they embark on a bonding relationship that is beneficial for the entire family. However, it is inevitable that you will encounter a difficult boss who is hard to please and even harder to work for on a daily basis from time to time.
The entire family suffers when working with parents who are inconsistent or unclear about expectations, and as a nanny, you are unable to create a loving home environment. Learn how to handle a difficult boss so you can focus on what’s most important – providing the best care for the children.
Clarify Parenting Strategies
When parents don’t have an intentional approach to their parenting and mutually agreed upon parenting strategies, it’s easy for them to flip-flop between a permissive and authoritarian parenting style, says Vicki Hoefle, Vermont-based parent educator and founder of Duct Tape Parenting, a proactive parenting strategy.
“When this happens, the nanny is left to guess which style the parent wants to be employed in any given situation,” she says. “As a result, the nanny may opt for lenience and give children what they want in order to make them happy, only to discover that is the moment the parent decides he or she wants to lay down the law.”
According to Hoefle, both the nanny and the children suffer when parents flip-flop and exercise inconsistency. As a result, your boss may become even more difficult to work with on the job.
The key to dealing with an inconsistent parent and boss is to identify the parent’s approach to parenting ahead of time. Discuss how the parents want to maintain and support their approach, recommends Hoefle.
A difficult boss may also undermine the nanny’s authority, thus making the work environment challenging. “When parents let the nanny begin to handle a difficult situation with their children, but then step in and take all authority away from the nanny, the nanny loses all credibility with the children, allowing them to take advantage of the nanny, which only increases the power struggle between the two,” says Hoefle.
In order to satisfy both the parents and gain credibility with the children, Hoefle recommends that the nanny ask the parents to model how they would like her to handle difficult situations.
“The nanny can say ‘I will watch how you handle this situation, so that I can implement the same strategies next time.’ This will often get the parents to reconsider whether they really want to step in, especially if they know the nanny is watching in an attempt to learn how to parent the child correctly according to the parent’s wishes,” says Hoefle. “Often times, parents will relinquish control and return it to the nanny until they have had time to talk about it.”
When trouble or difficult situations arise with the children, Hoefle also recommends nannies ask parents about their goals in child rearing. Using phrases such as “Can you help me understand your goal in this situation?” prompt everyone to think. “This will help everyone refocus and may just point out to the difficult parents that they don’t know what their goal is,” says Hoefle. “This causes everyone to stop and think and allows the nanny and parents to work more cooperatively and collaboratively.”
Set Rules and Boundaries
When parents are not clear on boundaries and rules and leave the decision making up to the nanny, it can open a can of worms with a difficult boss. “It’s not unusual for the parents to later disagree with the nanny’s rules and begin to question them,” says Hoefle.
To avoid a difficult encounter with your boss, Hoefle recommends clarifying rules from the start and clarifying again if the parent decides to change them.
“The more specific the nanny can be in finding out what the boundaries and rules are in the beginning, the better luck he or she will have when establishing a respectful and consistent relationship,” says Hoefle.
If your difficult boss begins to question the rules you are enforcing, remind him or her of the prior discussion you had and ask if they would like to change the rules formally to avoid any confusion.
Explain to your boss that it is important for you to establish consistency with the children in order to gain credibility and build a healthy, trusting relationship with them. “If the child learns to trust, then the nanny can weather future interruptions by the parents,” says Hoefle.