- That she is engaged and interested in your child
- That she is devoted to selflessly caring for all of your child’s physical, emotional and social needs
- That she respects your wishes and rules
- That she behaves professionally while on the job and does not bring negative energy to work
In my work with clients, I encounter two extremes with parents. The first are the type of parents who tiptoe around the nanny and are afraid to ask her to do things, even though she is their employee and it’s her job. These are usually the first-time parents who didn’t grow up with a nanny and are hesitant about their role as employers. Even if they manage an entire team at work, the personal-professional nature of the nanny relationship may throw them for a loop. They could end up deferring to the nanny rather than directing her. Alternatively, the parents may be sensitive to cultural or class differences, and feel uncomfortable asserting their authority. I meet parents all the time who are fearful of the nanny and refuse to hold her accountable, despite the fact that they pay her a good salary and do not receive what they need
At the other end of the spectrum are the parents who ask too much of the nanny and don’t understand why what they’re asking for is inappropriate. These are the parents who expect their nanny to be up all night with a baby, chase after two older children during the day, cook all meals from scratch, and scrub the toilets in her spare time—all for $500 a week. To them a nanny is not a person; she’s a machine.
Your goal as a successful nanny employer is to find the middle ground. As the employer, you are in charge.Your nanny is obligated to respect your wishes and fulfill the responsibilities that you outlined when you hired her. On the flipside, your nanny is more than just a household employee; she is the person devoting herself to loving, teaching, and caring for your precious little one, and there is no job in the world that’s more important. Your expectations for your nanny should not only be centered around the tasks that she performs, but also around the manner in which she cares for your child. The following lists will help you to gain a deeper understanding of what you should, and SHOULD NOT expect of your nanny.
Your Nanny Is…
A Professional. Being a nanny is a job—a REAL job–just like any other. For many nannies it is their life’s work and chosen career, and they take great pride in their ability to do it well. While it may not require a PhD, any seasoned parent knows that there is no substitute for experience when it comes to raising children. The ability to love and nurture a child is not something that can be learned in a classroom. Still, it requires knowledge, skill, and a tremendous amount of hard work.
Nannies are service professionals who,just like doctors or lawyers,know their worth and want to be compensated fairly for their work. They also want to be respected by their employers. Nannies have the right to ask for salaries commensurate with experience and job requirements, and to make requests and voice their opinions. They can draw the line if they are treated unfairly or asked to do something unreasonable or unsafe.
Unfortunately, nannies often don’t get the respect that they deserve. There are plenty of parents (such as those depicted in the bestselling novel, The Nanny Diaries), who view their nannies as the lowest member of their household,and treat them accordingly. I’ve also seen countless, otherwise-normal parents become offended and accuse the nanny of being greedy when she asks for a higher salary than they were hoping to pay, or if she asks for a raise when her job parameters change—for example, when the family has a second child.
I always tell my clients that a big part of a successful nanny-parent relationship is the ability to see things through your nanny’s eyes. Even if you come from entirely different backgrounds, you need to remember that your nanny is a professional, just like you, and afford her the same consideration and respect that you would expect to get from your own boss. The better you treat your nanny, the more she will give back to your child.
A Caregiver. Good nannies do the job because they truly love children, so in most cases, assume that your nanny’s primary focus will be your child. From a practical standpoint, this means your nanny should manage everything that has to do with your child and his/her daily needs. With an infant, the nanny will do feedings, sing songs, play, and put the child down for naps. She may also do light, baby-related housekeeping (i.e. folding the child’s laundry, or sterilizing bottles) while the baby sleeps. With toddlers and older children, the nanny’s duties expand to outings, playdates, meal preparation, school transportation, sports/ activities, and homework. Her job is to care for the child and meet their needs whenever the parents aren’t around.
Still, caregiving in the truest sense of the word is about far more than just a nanny’s physical duties and responsibilities. Being a good caregiver also means caring for a child’s emotional needs. Nannies must nurture the child through positive loving interactions and relate to him or her affectionately. . Many parents tend think that a nanny is adequate as long as their child is fed and safe, but if the emotional piece of the care is missing, your child won’t be getting what he/she needs. There are many potentially good nannies who commit what I call “Benign Neglect,” they do the physical aspects of the job, such as feeding and dressing, but neglect the emotional ones. Considering the fact that children learn through every exchange they have with their caregivers (including cuddling, rocking, smiling, laughing), this can have long-lasting impacts.. These simple exchanges seem innocuous to us, but actually stimulate crucial activity in the child’s brain and can fill them with joy. Studies have shown that children who lack these types of caregiver interactions have smaller brains and fewer neuronal pathways for learning.
Your nanny’s daily interactions with your child, therefore, will lay the foundation for other emotional and social bonds throughout his life. If your nanny continuously responds and loves your child; if she snuggles/plays, laughs with him; if she speaks with interest to him; if she comforts him, then your child will feel cherished and secure, and he will thrive. Alternatively, if a nanny disengages, stares off into space during feedings, abstains from conversing, lacks facial expression(what we call in therapy, “flat affect”), then it is like putting the child in a darkened room. Nannies who go through the motions but don’t connect with the child can bring upon detrimental repercussions for the child.
Good nannies put the “care” in caregiving by nurturing the whole child(mind, body, and spirit) and do not just tend to his basic needs. Good nannies may not realize that they are stimulating a child emotionally and socially by reading books, playing games, and talking endlessly to your child throughout the day, but they are. It’s important to look for someone who is selfless and loving, generous with their affections, and eager to engage and play. You will also want to pay close attention to how the nanny interacts with your child, during in-home trials and after you hire her. If the crucial, emotional piece of the caregiving isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how efficient, flexible, or inexpensive she is: this nanny is not fit for the job.
A Teacher. Childhood is an amazing journey, filled with great leaps and important milestones. In the first few years of your child’s life, he or she will learn learning to walk, talk, feed himself, dress himself, use the potty independently, make friends, learn letters and numbers, play games, climb a jungle gym, and understand basic safety rules (such as holding a grown-up’s hand while crossing the street). As he gets older, your child will begin to tackle bigger things, such as learning responsibility (for example, making his own bed), getting along with others and navigating different social situations, managing schoolwork, and perhaps becoming a big brother or sister. At every stage, he will look to those who are closest to him to guide him—and while that will certainly be you, it will be your nanny too.
The truth is that, depending on the hours that you work, your nanny may very well be present for many or even most of your child’s “teachable moments,” big accomplishments, and “firsts.” And even if she isn’t physically there when your one-year-old says his first word, or finally fits the octagon into the shape-sorter, she will have been there for all the previous attempts, laying the foundation for his success and guiding him along the way. Each day is packed with learning moments and your nanny will be on deck to demonstrate, explain, and be your child’s personal cheerleader. It won’t matter if the accomplishment is shoving a fistful of Cheerios into his mouth, or writing his name on paper. Your nanny will be along for the ride.
Young children’s brains develop at a remarkably rapid rate and it is the caregiver’s job actively foster cognitive and educational growth. A 2008 study showed that children who are ignored when they begin to babble do not develop language skills at the normal rate. Other studies have shown that activities like play stimulate brain cell activity and can actually increase your child’s IQ. In your search, it is therefore essential to look for candidates who are not only affectionate and reliable, but who are also eager, encouraging, and instructive in positive ways. I always tell my clients that they should give their nannies just as much respect as they would a teacher at their child’s school. Nannies do more to shape the minds and hearts of the children in their care than most people give them credit for.
A Role Model. In addition to teaching finger-feeding and ABCs, good nannies also nurture the children the care for by modeling positive emotional and social behaviors, such as kindness, love, patience, enthusiasm, and polite, appropriate interactions with others. All children learn by watching, listening, imitating, and taking cues from their primary caregivers. If you have even a part-time nanny, she will , be one of your child’s most important role models. If your nanny is impatient, or operates in a gruff manner, your child will almost certainly model this behavior. Similarly, if a nanny is timid or anxious due to critical parents the child may exude anxiety and fear.. I. Because your nanny is constantly around your child, it is essential that she leads by (positive) example.
Some parents tend to get hung up on superficial elements about the nanny that they don’t want their children to emulate. This could be as ancillary asas speaking with an accent or dressing in a certain way. In all of my years of experience, I have never once encountered a child who began dressing like the nanny or spoke with a faux accent for the long term.. Children tend not to pay attention to those things, but are hardwired from birth to model social behaviors. Finding a nanny who can be a role model in terms of her character, demeanor, and approach to life is far more important than finding one who is dresses just like you.