How to Create A Positive Nanny/Family Relationship

Having the same caregiver throughout the years is one of the biggest draws of nanny care. Not only do kids benefit when they have consistent care, but it makes parents lives much easier too. The cornerstone to keeping your nanny for years is creating and maintaining a positive nanny/family relationship. Here are some tips for creating that bond.

It starts and ends with good communication. The nanny/parent relationship is like no other relationship. It’s both personal and professional and the boundaries between the two are fluid depending on the situation. Make honest, respectful communication a priority from the beginning. Set up a way to quickly check in with each other at the end of each day and set aside time each month to have a real conversation about how things are going. Clear, regular communication will help you avoid many of the problems that often come up between employers and nannies.

Clearly outline your unique expectations. Every nanny job has typical responsibilities, like preparing meals for the child and keeping up with the child’s laundry. However, every parent is different and has unique expectations regarding how tasks are done. One mother may want her child to eat only organic, fresh fruit and another mother may regularly give her child sugar infused fruit cups. One mother may want all the laundry done on Wednesdays when the housekeeper isn’t there and another mother may want the laundry done on Fridays so everything is clean for the weekend. It’s impossible for a nanny to fulfill a parent’s expectations unless she knows what they are. Take the time to outline the things that are important to you and give your nanny clear instructions on what you want. Even the best caregiver needs direction on your personal preferences.

Create and stick to a nanny contract. One of the best ways to make sure you’re both on the same page is to create a comprehensive nanny contract or agreement, and then stick to the agreements in it! A good contract will outline your expectations of your nanny and her expectations of you. It will also outline all the details of the many employment issues you’ll face so there’s no confusion about what a term means and there aren’t any incorrect assumptions being made.

Set and maintain professional boundaries. Although the nanny/parent relationship is an employment relationship, it happens in a very informal and intimate setting. That makes setting and keeping appropriate boundaries a challenge. Take the time to think about what boundaries are necessary for you and your nanny to work best together. How much of your personal life do you want to share with your nanny? How much of her personal life do you really want to know about? It’s easy for casual conversations to slip into the sharing of personal stories, but think about how that will affect the relationship long-term. Talking about the fight you had with your husband over the weekend puts your nanny is a tough spot because she works for both of you. Hearing about the great party your nanny attended last night might make you question if she’s fully present today at work.

Respect and appreciate your nanny. Respect and appreciation are two of the fundamental elements of a successful nanny/parent relationship. Nannies are childcare professionals and having their work valued and respected by their employers is one of the top ingredients of a good work environment. Of course, the better your relationship, the more your nanny will bring to the job each and every day and the longer she’ll stay with your family.

Saying “thank you” at the end of the day, valuing her input into behavior challenges, and noticing the small yet important things she does to keep your household running smoothly are all ways to let your nanny know you respect and appreciate her.

Have regular performance reviews. Nobody’s perfect, including your nanny. Letting her know the great things she’s doing as well as the ways she can improve her performance is part of being a good employer. When delivered in a respectful and helpful way, most nannies welcome constructive criticism. They want to do the best job possible.

Having a positive nanny/family relationship does take some work. It’s easy to start off on the right foot and then to let communication, family meetings and the all-important thank you fall victim to our busy lives. It’s easy to let things slide when they’re good. But like all relationships, the best way to keep this relatonship strong is to invest in it on a regular basis and to address small problems before they become big ones.

How Nannies Can Write an Effective Online Profile

Online nanny job sites can be an effective way of finding a nanny job, if you know how to make yourself stand out from the crowd. There are a lot of nannies out there who will have the same idea, so it’s critical that you create a profile that immediately grabs the parent’s attention and makes her want to read your profile. Your profile also needs to give her all the key information she needs to decide if you’re a nanny she want to connect with. Here are some tips for making that happen.

Start with a catchy headline. Your headline is the first thing a potential employer will read. Read what other nannies are writing and make sure your profile stands out from the rest. This is a great place to showcase your creativity, sense of humor or what you can offer that others don’t.

Include a head shot. Your picture helps parents connect with you on a personal level. That personal connection is important when you’re trying to get your portfolio to stand out from the crowd. Use a clear picture that is cropped to spotlight your head and shoulders. Make sure it’s appropriate for a job search and not something you’d use for a dating site. You want to send the right message to parents.

Tell them about your experience. Parents want to know what kind of experience a candidate has. Make sure to include not only how many years you’ve worked with children, but also how long you’ve worked as a nanny and in other childcare settings. Also list how much experience you have with each age group and if you’ve worked in unique care giving situations, such as with multiples or with children who have special needs.

Spotlight your education and training. This is becoming more and more important in nanny care. If you’re a college graduate, list your degree even if it’s not directly related to childcare. If you have a nanny or childcare certification, make sure to highlight that in your profile. You should also list some of the recent continuing education classes you’ve taken. Parents are often looking for nannies who show they have a real commitment to ongoing learning.

Let them know why you love working as a nanny. This is a standard interview question and is the perfect way to introduce yourself to prospective employers. Share how you became a nanny and what you enjoy most about it. Parents are looking for nannies that truly have a genuine love for children, so make sure your passion for the job comes across in your profile.

Outline your discipline approach. This is an important piece of information parents need to know so they can decide if you’re going to be a good match to their parenting style. Give specific examples of your approach. If you’re interested in working with a specific age, gear your information to the discipline issues that often come up with that age group.

Give a description of yourself. Let readers know what your personality is like, what you do in your off time, and what your hobbies and interests are. Remember parents hire nannies they connect with, so make sure to give them a glimpse of you outside of your role as nanny.

List the responsibilities you’re willing to take on. Every family has different needs and every nanny job description is different. By including what you’re willing to do in a job, you help the family know if you’re a good match to their needs. If you offer a lot of flexibility in your schedule or if you’re happy to work with a stay at home or work from home parent, make sure to include those details too. The more willing you are to consider different situations, the more job possibilities you’ll have.

Include what you’re looking for in a family. Detail what ages you’d like to work with if you have a preference, the location you’re interested in, the type of family that you’d get along best with, and any other details that will help parents know if they’d be a good match for you.

Give enough information, but don’t overwhelm the reader. Offer enough information that potential employers will get a real sense of who you are, but don’t write a novel. Your online profile should be a snapshot of your personality, your qualifications, and what you’re looking for in a job. Once the family is interested, you can answer any additional questions they may have. Putting too many details in a profile makes it hard to spotlight the important pieces and can be too time consuming for parents to read through.

Make sure you check your spelling and grammar. It’s easy to get used to writing in shorthand on the internet. However, first impressions count and parents will judge you based on your online profile. Having spelling and grammar mistakes sends the wrong message and could make a parent dismiss you as a possibility based only on your writing.

By writing an effective profile, you greatly increase your chances of connecting with the type of families you’re interested in and getting a job you’re happy with.

6 Things Live-In Nannies Should Respect

When it comes to living in a family’s private home, the boundaries of the employer and nanny relationship can be tricky to define. Live-in nannies not only function as primary caregiver for their employer’s children, but they function as housemates for the entire family. For this reason, the personal and professional boundaries for a live-in nanny and her employers are naturally blurred.

According to Gael Ann Dow, a live-in nanny with 26 years of experience and a graduate from the National Academy of Nannies, Inc., live-in nannies can help keep personal and professional lines from crossing by being respectful of 6 key things.

Dow advises live-in nannies to be respectful of the family’s:

1. Time with their children. When you’re off duty, it’s important to allow the children and the parents to spend time together, without you present. While young children can have a hard time understanding why they can’t come into your room when you are off duty or why you can’t accompany them on a family picnic, allowing the family to function as a unit without you is essential to both the nanny and the family’s emotional health. Dow advises nannies to plan to eat dinner with the family some nights when they are off duty, but not every night.

2. Time as a couple. For live-in nannies, knowing how to blend into the background is essential. As the third adult in the home, it may often feel natural for everyone to include you in grown up conversation and activities. While it’s fine to enjoy an occasional take-out dinner with your bosses after the kids go to bed, be sure you’re respectful of the time they have together and allow the parents time to enjoy each other’s company alone. 

3. Time with their guests and visitors. When an employer has guests and visitors over, the situation can seem a bit awkward. When invited to join the guests, it can be hard to tell if the invitation was issued because of obligation or sincerity. Asking her employer’s for guidance on the issue prior to the guests arriving can often make the nanny and her employers feel more at east. Dow suggests that having a place to visit, like a friend or sister’s house, can provide an opportunity to retreat and recharge when guests are visiting.

4. Their property and possessions. When working as a live-in nanny, it is essential to utilize your employer’s property and possessions with care. Live-in nannies should keep their areas neat and clean and should ensure that the follow any house rules set forth by the employer with regards to having visitors, using certain house areas and any special care instructions.  If you accidently break something, report it and offer to replace it.

5. Their private space. Typically the employer’s bedroom and office space is assumed to be off limits to live-in nannies.  If you’re asked to enter these private areas for a specific reason, it’s important to do so and to avoid any temptation to snoop.

6. The family’s private matters. Live-in nannies are often privy to private and sensitive information, according to Dow. Respecting your employer’s confidentiality is paramount to building a trusting, lasting relationship.

Adjusting to both a new nanny position and new living arrangements takes some getting used to.  Having a written work agreement, asking questions and dealing with issues as they come up can help live-in nannies build lasting employment relationships.

When Nannies Host Playdates

Providing their charges with frequent opportunities to socialize with other children is a high priority for most professional nannies. Whether it’s visiting parks and playgrounds or attending library story hour, professional nannies make a conscious effort to provide rich social experiences for the children in their care.

One of the most common social experiences that nannies introduce their charges to is playdates. By getting together with other parents or caregivers and children of similar ages, the children learn to master social skills, like sharing, interacting with peers and problem solving. But hosting a successful playdate takes a little planning and preparation.

These 5 playtime principles can help nannies plan a practically perfect playdate every time.

1. Schedule the playdate carefully. When planning a playdate, it’s essential to schedule it during a child’s peak time, which is typically after a morning nap and snack for young children. This is because well-rested and well-fed children naturally make better playmates. When these two basic needs are met, children are able to focus their energy on playtime and invest their internal resources in emotionally managing the social experience. Since young children physically and emotionally wear out easily, playdates should be limited to no longer than two hours.

2. Provide age-appropriate activities. Having age-appropriate activities available during the playdate will reduce frustration and provide opportunities for both parallel and interactive play.  Having a playdate theme, like “the farm,” and choosing books, crafts, toys, and music that reflect the theme can ensure that there are a variety of related activities to participate in. Toys like Little People, blocks, and other items that encourage several children to play work best for playdates.

3. Have a snack ready. As soon as blood sugar levels sink, bad behavior shortly follows. Having a healthy snack, like fresh fruit and string cheese, on standby can assure that you are prepared if your charges or guests become hungry. Snack time can also provide for a much needed break from activity, should the playdate turn chaotic.

4. Have house rules. One of the best ways to set the children up for success is to clearly communicate the house rules. The house rules are basic rules that are typically universally accepted by all parents. “We use our kind words and hands” could be included in the house rules for the younger set. For young children who can’t yet understand or always follow the rules, blocking off areas that aren’t for play, removing items that are breakable or dangerous, and distracting children before trouble occurs can help set the children up for success. For older children who may play a bit more unsupervised, keeping doors open, staying off of the computer, and not using swear words could be appropriate house rules.

5. Encourage the kids to work it out. Playdates provide an opportunity for children to practice playing with others, getting along, and resolving conflict. When children are having trouble sharing, try to avoid intervening, unless someone is at risk for getting hurt. If you have to intervene, modeling problem solving by helping each child take turns communicating their feelings can be effective in helping young children learn how to solve problems. For younger children, distraction or removing a trouble causing toy can be most effective.

Often times, nannies wonder if it is appropriate to discipline someone else’s child. If the child is in your care during a playdate, without the parent or caregiver present, disciplining the child is typically appropriate. Asking the parent or caregiver what techniques they use prior to caring for the child can ensure that you follow the parents or caregivers wishes when it comes to discipline. When in doubt, redirection and offering general correction to all children, like “Let’s remember, we must share the toys” can be effective. Asking the offending child to help you solve the problem, for example, “Ben, can you show me how to share the truck” can also work well.

If the caregiver or parent is present, it’s always best to allow them to discipline the child. If the parent seems unresponsive to bad behavior, however, asking for the child’s cooperation (Sara, could you move away from the slide so Lyla doesn’t hurt you coming down) can be effective. If that fails, asking the parent or caregiver directly to intervene should curb the behavior.

Learning to get along with others is a key life skill. Nannies can help children develop the social skills necessary to play with others well by regularly hosting playdates.

Separating Fact from Fiction: 10 Common Myths About Nannies

Whether it’s due to modern day reality shows like Beverly Hills Nannies, old school movies like Mary Poppins, or the perception the media shares with the public, when it comes to nannies, there’s definitely a mix of both fact and fiction.

Here are 10 of the most popular myths people believe about nannies.

1. Nannies are only for the wealthy. While nannies may out earn daycare workers, for dual income families, parents who demand extended and flexible coverage, and families with more than one child, nanny care may actually be a cost-effective childcare option. With a nanny you’re the boss, you pay per family rather than per slot, you make the hours, and you don’t have to pay by the minute if you’re running a few minutes late.

2. Kids cared for by nannies aren’t socialized. Professional and career nannies assume the responsibility of providing rich social opportunities to the children in their care. In fact, nannies have more freedom to socialize children than daycare teachers. In addition to national networks of nanny groups that connect nannies and facilitate play dates, nannies take their charges to mommy and me type classes, story hour at the local library, and on other age-appropriate outings to mix, mingle, and form friendships with other kids.

3. People are nannies because they can’t do anything else. Most career nannies will tell you that they can’t imagine doing anything else. While nannies have diverse backgrounds as educators, psychologists, nurses, chemists, moms, and more, there’s one thing professional, career nannies have in common: they do the work because they love it, not because they can’t find work doing something else.

4. Nannies have to be certified, like teachers. While many private colleges, career schools, and even online learning centers offer certifications for nannies, there are no across the board certifications or licensure for nannies. Nannies don’t have to be licensed or certified to accept work. 

5. Nannies only live with the families. While years ago most nannies may have lived with their work families, that’s no longer the case. Most nannies live in their own homes and commute to their employer’s home each day.

6. Nannies are independent contractors. Even those in government can’t seem to always get this one right. Nannies are not independent contractors. They are the employees of the families for whom they work. As such, both nannies and employers have legal and tax obligations. While there are some exceptions, such as if a nanny earns less than $1800 in a calendar year, 99.9% of nannies are employees. 

7. Nannies are from other countries. Many people believe that nannies are not from the United States and that a nanny and an Au pair are one and the same. This simply isn’t true. Au pairs enter the United States through the U.S. Department of State Travel and Tourism Bureau Cultural Exchange Program. In exchange for living with a family and experiencing American life, they provide limited childcare. For nannies who wish to enter the United States and work as a nanny, the process isn’t a short, inexpensive, or easy one. Nannies must be able to legally accept employment in the United States to secure a post. So contrary to popular belief, many nannies are born and bred in the USA.       

8. Anyone can be a nanny. While anyone may think they can be a nanny, it takes a special skill set and personality to be an in-home childcare provider. Nannies must have a general knowledge of children and childcare principles, have a genuine love for children, and be able to work without close supervision. Nannies must also be reliable, dependable, and trustworthy.

9. Nannies are just babysitters. Hearing this myth stops a career nanny dead in her tracks because it couldn’t be further from the truth. Babysitters provide supervisory care and are responsible for keeping the children safe while their parents are away. Nannies provide coordinated care and are hired to partner with the parents in raising their children. As such, they are concerned with the children’s social, emotional, and physical growth and development.

10. Nannies cook and clean for the families.  Nannies are generally responsible for undertaking all tasks related to the care of the children. While this typically includes doing the children’s laundry, picking up after themselves and the children, and keeping the children’s areas neat and clean, unless specified and agreed upon, nannies don’t prepare meals for the parents, do the parents laundry, or clean the family’s home.

While each family and nanny relationship is different and is tailored to the family’s individual needs and preferences, there are definite standards that separate fact from fiction. While a nanny may work in the family’s private home and outsiders may view her as being there 24/7 with no life of her own, the reality is most nannies are childcare specialists with active private lives of their own.

10 Things Your Nanny Will Never Tell You

Your nanny spends more hours at your home that she does at her own. She spends countless hours with your children. Your relationship seems great and you work hard to communicate effectively. Your nanny tells you everything, right? Wrong.  Even nannies in the best of employment relationships have some things that they won’t share with their employers. Here are ten of them:

1. Respect trumps money.

More than money, your nanny wants to be treated with respect. She wants to know that you trust and value her, and consider her an important part of your children’s lives. Respect your nanny by paying her legally, giving her the appropriate time off, treating her with kindness and letting her know when she’s doing a great job. Avoid minimizing her role, talking down to her and demanding she take on responsibilities that you haven’t agreed to.  

2. Monday mornings stink.

For nannies, there is hardly a thing worse than coming in Monday morning to a child who has totally regressed in potty training, or any other area, over the weekend. If you’ve agreed to potty train, take away the pacifier or move your child to his own sleep space, it’s important for everyone that you follow through.  Oh, and those dirty dishes you left in the sink, your nanny hates those too.

3. Forgetting my paycheck is not okay.

To nannies, asking for a paycheck feels like asking for a favor. The big difference is that your nanny has worked hard to earn her paycheck. Be sure to deliver your nanny’s paycheck promptly each week. Or better yet, consider using a payroll service that supports direct deposit. Doing so will make the business side of employing a nanny easier for everyone.

4. I question your priorities.

When you tell your nanny you can barely afford her salary and then hire a high-end landscape company to install an irrigation system in the lawn, your nanny may wonder what’s more important: quality child care or green grass. When you complain that you miss your children and can’t wait to get home, then call her and tell her you’re going to be late because a friend invited you for dinner, she’s going to wonder what matters most.

5. I hate when you take advantage of me.

Most nannies are more than willing to take on additional tasks from time to time. If your nanny sees that something needs to be done, like that mound of your laundry, she’s even likely to do it without being asked. If these occasional gestures turn into daily expectations, your nanny will feel like you are taking advantage of her and will resent you for it.

6. Disrupting the kids schedule because you feel guilty isn’t right.

You’ve come home late and the kids are asleep. Because you didn’t get to say goodnight, you decide to wake them. They aren’t able to go back to sleep right away, don’t get a good night’s sleep, and the next day your nanny has to deal with the aftermath:  extremely cranky, overtired and unsettled children. Before disrupting your children’s schedule or routine, ask yourself who really benefits. If it’s not your children, consider leaving things alone.

7. I have my own life and family.

Your nanny is not part of your family. She has a life and family outside of yours that she is committed to. When you call her last minute to tell her you’ll be late, chances are that affects her plans and her commitments. When you call her on the weekend to see if she’s free so you can get some shopping done, you’re interrupting her. While most nannies will always do what they can to assist you, it’s often at the expense of their own family and friends.

8. When you don’t back me up it gives your kid permission to treat me like crap.

When your toddler bites your nanny and you tell him it’s okay, or when your 8-year-old screams “She’s not my mother, I don’t need to listen to her” and you do nothing about it, you are sending the message that treating your nanny poorly is acceptable. By backing up your nanny, you send the message that she deserves respect.

9. If you don’t discipline your kids you’ll regret it.

Many parents wonder why their children behave better for the nanny. It’s usually because the nanny has adapted a non-emotional style of discipline and is willing and able to follow through, even when doing so is inconvenient or hard. Working parents often feel guilty about leaving their children, so when they are with them, they overindulge them and refuse to “be the bad guy.” The result is children who walk all over their parents and treat them with no respect. 

10. Money doesn’t buy love.

All those prizes and toys you come home with mean little or nothing if they aren’t backed with real, genuine and unconditional love. Sometimes the kids want to snuggle with more than a teddy bear mom gave them. They want to snuggle with mom herself. Make time for your children. That’s what they want and that’s what they need most.