Thursday, March 1, 2012

Are Nannies Like a Third Parent?

It's Hard Enough for Two Parents to Raise a Child, But Adding a Nanny Makes it More Complicated

It would be impossible for any two parents to agree 100 percent of the time on how to raise a child. But, it gets even more complicated when you throw another person (a nanny) into the mix.

Each and every day each parent and nanny is called upon to make decisions regarding the raising of children. Not only may two parents have different parenting styles, different hot buttons, and different expectations than their spouse, when they hire a nanny there's a third personality that has been raised by different parents and taught different values and discipline methods that helped shape who they are.

Each parent and nanny have different formal education and training that influences how they raise children as well. For example, if one of the parents or the nanny earned a degree in Psychology or Early Childhood Education it's not fair for that person to assume the other two have read the same childcare books, taken the same child development courses, or even agreed to the same child-rearing philosophies as the others.

Then, there's the issue of the nanny being another person for the kids to play against one another!

So how can the THREE adults be consistent in discipline styles and respect one another? How can THREE adults show a united front when it's necessary, give each other the support that they need, prevent the child from playing the adults against one another, and never disrespect one another?

When a nanny has different child-rearing techniques than a parent, nannies should consider the following:

1. Have Regular Discussions About the Kids Without the Kids Present
Most nanny industry experts suggest the parents and the nanny have a weekly meeting. In my experience this just isn't possible. When parents come home tired from a hard day of work, they are bombarded by their kids who miss them and need their parents' undivided attention. Instead, simply have open lines of communication when needed. The meetings need not be in-person. Nannies and parents should determine what is the most effective way to communicate. Some may find texting works fine, or emailing might be most convenient, and daily logs are always a great way for nannies to communicate with the parents.

2. Support Each Other Publicly in Front of the Kids
Adults must present a united front so children can't divide and conquer. It also undermines the parental authority if one parent or the nanny doesn't support the other.

3. Check With the Parents to See What They Have Decided
Many children will use the one-liner, "Dad said that I could" to get what they want. There are few discipline decisions that can't wait for a few minutes. The nanny should ask the source. The nanny should always call or text the parent and confirm if what the child is saying is true. Plus, the parents may have other discipline ideas for the nanny to consider. Again, this demonstrates to the children that the parents and nanny support each other. There is always more than one way to do discipline , potty train, and raise children properly.

4. Respect the Parents No Matter What
It doesn't matter if the nanny disagrees with the choices made by the parents, or if she is mad at them for unrelated issues, she must never speak harshly about the parents in front of the children. Nannies should always discuss their concerns respectfully with the parents, but also listen to their opinions and try to incorporate the parents' choices and decisions when it comes to raising their children.

5. Parents Trump All
No matter how strongly a nanny feels about her style of child-rearing, she is not the parent. Parents make the major decisions in raising their children. Nannies are hired to support the parents' wishes.

6. All Parents are Doing the Best They Can 

I've never met a parent that doesn't love their children. And, all parents are doing the best they can (and of course hopefully the nanny is too). Each child is an individual and no child-rearing technique works the same way every day for every child. It takes a lot of work and creativity to raise children, with new challenges popping up daily. Parents don't deserve to be scrutinized under a microscope, but neither do nannies.

In conclusion, raising kids is never easy. But, no matter hard it gets, parents and nannies must work hard, be creative, communicate openly, and support one another so that children in their care develop to their best potential.


Candi said...

Many working parents with nannies are supervisors at their jobs. As supervisors, they know that they need to specify expectations for their employees . . . and when those expectations are not met, they know that they need to provide clear and consistent redirection (and progressive discipline, where appropriate).

However, for many parents, those workplace skills are difficult to apply when the workplace is their home. The parents may not feel that they have the time to communicate “every last little detail” to the nanny. They may feel guilt, intimidation, or jealousy for having the nanny care for their children: these emotions may provide a barrier to open communication between the parents and the nanny. They may fear that the nanny may be upset by having her behavior redirected, and she may take it out on the children or she may resign. Or, they may feel awkward about redirecting the behavior of someone that they feel is more a member of the family than an employee. advocates these tips in ensuring good communication between parents and nanny:

Parents: During the nanny interviews, provide all candidates with a written job description so that it is clear from the outset what job duties are to be performed by the nanny.
Parents: At the time of hire, provide the new nanny with an employment contract and a copy of the job description that she first viewed during her interview. Require that the new nanny signs both the employment contract and the job description as a condition of employment.
Parents: Communicate expectations explicitly. Don’t expect facial expressions, body language, or other subtleties to create clear communication
Parents: Provide details. For example, if you want the dishwasher loaded in a certain way, specify what that way is.
Parents: If performing the job task is mandatory, don’t “soften” the directive by making it sound optional. For example, if you want your nanny to be responsible for the children’s laundry, don’t tell them to do it “if you have time”.
Parents: Your nanny is your employee. You may love her as if she were a member of your family, but she is an employee and is deserving of the same courtesies that you show your employees in your workplace. Those courtesies include an adequate flow of information.
Parents and Nanny: Communicate in writing where possible. For example, many families and nannies use a daily log book in which both parties record information (parental instructions and nanny observations) to keep each other apprised.
Parents and Nanny: Meet once weekly at a designated day and time to review the past week’s activities and discuss the coming week’s activities. Children should not be present for these meetings. While any warranted redirection should be provided to the nanny as soon as the parents observe the behavior that elicits the redirection, weekly meetings are wonderful ways for both parties to follow up, ask questions, or share concerns.
Nanny: If you are unclear about what is expected of you, ask. You may think that you will appear unintelligent or that you may annoy the parents, but your questions will likely be appreciated because they will prevent problems in the future.
By following these simple tips, parents and nannies can ensure that they are communicating well for the benefit of the children in their care.

Fiona Littleton said...

We all do things differently and that's a benefit of having an experienced nanny! Parents and nannies can all learn from one another. Not enough parents can have such wonderful caring opinions and influence on their kids. Parents are lucky when they can afford to hire a caregiver that loves their children enough to have other opinions and share that with them.

Anonymous said...

Such good points. THX