Nanny 101 will bring basic information as a help to new nannies and a refresher for seasoned nannies. The lessons shared can in no way be the whole-all of the subject, so please use it as a starting point for your study. Links are shared for more personal research and homework assignments are available for the nannies that really feel they can benefit from making changes! So… let’s all take a seat, please listen carefully. There may be a pop quiz!
Nanny 101 – Communication
A professional nanny should strive to have open and direct communication with their employer. A nanny-family relationship is not the typical employee-employer relationship. Working in a home and falling in love with children can ease a nanny into a close-knit relationship with a family as a whole. It is definitely a challenge for a first time nanny to navigate the balance of a caring friend and a professional employee. A great nanny can do it. It is essential for a nanny to regularly focus on effective communication in their position. Here are some brief lessons to review.
Lesson 1 – Start off on the right foot
As you began with a new family, it is important to set the foundation for the position you are accepting. Families and nannies should be honest about their child-rearing philosophies, financial expectancies, housekeeping, routines, discipline methods, etc. Nannies must take responsibility to share openly – who they are, their strengths, what they expect at this time and in the future. They should ask detailed questions up front and get everything in writing. A contract or work agreement is a solid document of communication and will clarify to all parties what has been set up. Over time it is easy to forget expectations, but having this tool for reference is great!
Nanny Shirley has been working in a new job for 6 months. As the holidays approach, her family informs her that they will be vacationing in Colorado for 3 weeks and her services will not be needed. Nanny Shirley and her family have not set up an agreement in writing. While she assumed that she will be paid while they travel, as it was in her last position, she comes to find out that the family has no intention to pay her for this time off. She finds this out after purchasing and giving holiday presents to friends and family.
To avoid this kind of problem, outline vacation time clearly in a work agreement. How many days does a nanny have off each year? How much notice should she give? What happens if family takes a vacation? While this is only one example, you can see the possibilities are endless for the “I thought this, and you thought that” scenario.
While laying out a work agreement, a nanny should feel that she has a voice. It is so much easier to speak up early on about situations that she is not willing to compromise on. I once heard that a nanny said respectively to a family interviewing her, “I am a professional. I plan to work 52 weeks a year – with paid vacation, just as you expect at your professional job.” Nannies should be upfront about what they feel they deserve.
For the new nanny, you may want to make a list of expectations that you can reference as you are looking through a proposed work agreement. If you are unsure where to start when developing a work agreement, check out these links:
Lesson 2 – Discipline yourself to keep scheduled communication
A nanny should seek out the best methods of communication with the family members. Daily conversations, written nanny log, and regularly scheduled meetings are a few ways to keep yourself disciplined.
You may ask the family how, when ,and by what method it is best to contact them:
- Do they appreciate a text rather than a call in the middle of the day?
- Does a family prefer to be only contacted in a medical emergency?
- Does a family like to be sent silly pictures and quotes or is this distracting to the work they need to do?
It would be best for nanny and family to have regular scheduled meetings as a preventative measure. As issues and questions arise, it is very hard to have uninterrupted quality conversation as the nanny’s day begins and ends. It is likely that children are around, vying for attention from nanny, parent, or both. Sometimes relief walks in just in time for nanny to leave. Weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly meetings may be acceptable depending on each circumstance. The importance is to make sure the nanny and family are on the same page as the children’s needs change rapidly. If a nanny sees an issue (in her position, the children, with the parents, etc), she should request a meeting with parents, rather then wait until the situation is out of control. Having an agenda and printed notes can keep each meeting efficient.
At the end of each year (or more often) a nanny should receive a performance review. While this may seem uncomfortable it is a great way to understand if you are performing how the family expects. Does your performance need to change? Do their expectations nee to change? The evaluation will give way to this healthy conversation. If it is not set up in your work agreement, a nanny can request this to be added. Here are some resources:
The daily nanny log is meant to give the basic and important details between parents and nanny. It can be simple had written notes or a form that is checked and filled in. A few minutes a day can certainly enhance open communication.
Nanny Pat works for 2 doctors, who keep a very busy schedule. Her days are random, not knowing who will be there when she arrives and who is coming home at night. Often times the grandmother will relieve her. In the evening, at a movie with friends, she receives a frantic text by mom employer. “Did the children miss a bottle today? My mother said that the girls were starving and the bottles were still in the fridge!”
I counseled both nanny and family in a similar situation where the nanny was incredibly disappointed that her boss would think she had not fed the children. With a busy household and four adults feeding babies, a simple log and note (“6 oz at lunch” & “I made up your dinner bottles for you, I know it’s a busy day for you”) could have saved this concerned parent and offended nanny.
Don’t wait for a family to suggest the nanny log, simply start it on your own. All will grow to love this! Here are some examples and links for further study:
Lesson 3 – Stay positive
When nannies go out of their way to stay connected with her employers it certainly will be valued. Communication over the daily activities and moments can connect and nanny with her employers; this is an area you share. Take cute pictures, write down memorable moments or times where a child exceeded expectation or responsibility. While you are a professional, not every moment of communication has to be business.
Stay light-hearted, positive and respectful. Have an open attitude.
While many times bumps, bruises and bad behavior must be explained, don’t let the talk all reflect the seemingly negative. Let children hear you praise them for accomplishments, manner, and acts of service. Choose your words carefully.
As mom walks in the door, Nanny Christie quietly goes about her kitchen clean-up. Mom asks “How was your day?” Nanny Christie replies, “(exhale) Well, Brian has been throwing temper tantrums all afternoon and has barely eaten anything! But we are alive, right? (sarcastic laugh)”.
While this example may be very true, the tone, attitude and nature are not a professional response. Instead try something like…“Our day has been productive. I have been working with Brian on using his words, when he’s very frustrated. Also, he seemed to not have much of an appetite at lunch, so he may be extra hungry for dinner. How was your day?”
Though you may be exhausted after a challenging day, parents want to feel that the day was filled with positive responses to difficult moments. After all, it is your job to deal with the challenges and react in an appropriate manner.
Lesson 4 – Be your best advocate
Only you can stand up for your rights. If there is something that is not working for you in your position, decide on a way to make in known in a respectful way. When appropriate send an email after carefully thinking of your words. But, understand that very important situations are best saved for face to face meetings without children present.
Nanny Ashley has been working many extra hours of overtime recently. When she accepted the position, the family vocally said that she will not be asked to work more than 40 hours a week. While she hasn’t minded helping out, the pay is her normal hourly rate, rather than the legal time and a half. She is not feeling OK about the legal issue.
This is a sticky-situation, dealing with money and no contract. Nanny Ashley may choose to send an email to the parents requesting 15 minutes with them at their convenience: “I’d like to set up a time to talk with you, would Thursday or Friday at 5:00 p.m. work?” Nanny Ashley could type up her hopes and expectations that she would be paid time and a half for all overtime, beginning Monday of next week. Stapled to her request, she could attach some quotes from online resources about legal pay. As they sit down for a meeting, she can give the papers prepared to each parent, and explain her thoughts in a respectful manor. While the family may say “No”, she then can respectfully say “No” to the regular-pay overtime offered in the future. Whatever is decided, it can be documented in writing. If not part of a work agreement, it can be written in a formal email confirmation from nanny to family.
Open and effective communication can be difficult as a nanny. Overall, our desire is to bring peace and ease to a family. By setting up some preventative strategies you will benefit all involved in this professional relationship.
Glenda shared a great post on communication awhile back: Great Communication Benefits Everyone.
1. Review or develop a work agreement that includes all of your desired expectations. Star items that you will not compromise on.
2. Decide on a few methods of self-disciplined communication in your position.
3. Think of a time where you responded to an employer in exhaustion or frustration. What would have been a better response?
4. What is an area that you are not comfortable with, that you have not yet communicated to your employers? Devise a plan to be your own advocate.
Oh, you will get extra credit if you actually post your homework response as a comment!