A few weeks ago I wrote about the relationship dynamics of a nanny job, particularly the connection of employer/employee within the job. Today
I am going to continue that discussion and talk about partnering with the parents of the children in your care.
When you are a partner to someone, you work in collaboration with them. Co-parenting with people who are also your employers can get really complex. To make this union really thrive all parties involved need to understand and embrace it.
How many of us have seen or experienced this scenario:
Mom and dad are both home. Julie, the 7 year old girl goes into the kitchen to ask her dad if she can play at a friend’s house. Dad reminds her that she was expected to finish cleaning up the mess she made the night before in the living room before she was able to go do other things. Julie then leaves the kitchen and finds her mom in the office. She then asks mom the exact same question hoping for a different answer. What mom does in this instance is crucial. Will she come up with her own answer, perhaps even forgetting the arrangement they made with Julie to clean up? Will she remember it but decide on her own to make some subtle adjustments? Or will she stick to what was decided and even guess that she has already been to dad to ask the same question and send Julie back to the living room to finish cleaning up?
This type of scenario happens all the time with nannies and parents. Children are very good at sensing when people are not quite on the same page. As nannies we should always strive to uphold whatever discipline, correction or reward the parents of those in our care put forward, even when we disagree with it. But you already knew that.
The question then becomes, how can I get the parents to follow through on the discipline, correction and rewards I start when I am around and more often than not follow through on the stuff that they started themselves. My answer may not be the “magic bullet” most people would want but it has the best chance of working. You have to be the very best partner you can be, backing up the parents at every step of the way. This may take time and there will most likely be moments that you disagree with a reward or punishment that you are following through on. You must NEVER let on to the children that you are questioning this choice of action. You can see the above scenario to see what WILL happen if you do.
You have to, in a sense, become the “submissive” partner. Through this strong reinforcing the parents will see that you are a team player. This is much harder than it seems because we all have our own ideas of what is right when it comes to parenting. The next step however, might be more difficult for some nannies. You need to have a frank conversation with the parents regarding what is and what is not working when it comes to discipline and rewards. Regular discussions should be happening on a regular basis, but part of that regular conversation should be about how you can better back each other up. If it is an issue let them know that in a kind and empathetic way.
“I have noticed that when I tell Aaron he cannot go to a friend’s house because he has not finished his homework, that will often change when I leave. I respect your decision to treat your child in any way you want but I am hoping you will understand that things like that weaken my ability to care well for him when you are gone and they make him think he does not need to follow my directions. Pehaps you do not like the rule I have given him that he must finish homework before playing. Could we discuss finding a better rule that everyone is okay with?”
I am not going to lie; it is not an easy conversation to have and it may not be as effective as you hope. The conversation should NEVER happen with the children around. But the only way to effectively partner with the parents is to clearly communicate what you are experiencing with them.
You want to be sure to state the problem without accusing them of bad parenting. Then you move on to how you see it affecting the care you can give their children. Lastly you need to show that you are open to changing how you do things. This will show that you are not saying “my way is the right way.” There is very little that will cause a partnership to fall apart more than telling someone they are wrong especially when that “partner” is also an employer.
This type of communication is vital to the relationship you have with your employers. Without finding a way to partner with them, you are likely to feel alone, angry and the job will not last long.
Check back next time for one last dynamic of the parent/nanny relationship.