Commication is Key - but it doesn't come easily!
Every parent wants their nanny to feel comfortable coming to them with questions or to converse about their child's care. But frequently, parents think that the way to make this happen is simply to tell the nanny when she is hired, "You should always feel free to come to us with anything."
This isn't enough. Keep in mind that you are your nanny's boss - have you always felt comfortable raising questions and concerns with your boss? Probably not! The employer-employee relationship is never an equal one, and the person with less power - in this case, the nanny - will often feel the need to tiptoe around certain topics unless they've been given clear cues that the employer welcomes such conversation. Every nanny has heard horror stories about other nannies getting fired for raising concerns on the job, and even if the stories are just urban legends, they can hold powerful sway. If you want your nanny to be a great communicator, you need to set up a culture of communication.
What is a "Culture of Communication?"
A "culture of communication" simply means that in your household - the nanny's workplace - nanny-parent communication is the norm. It's something that happens habitually, not just because it's encouraged but because it is practiced.
This means that you'll need to work to actively set good communication habits with your nanny. This will, of course, be easiest with a new nanny, because you can establish a routine with her from day one, but don't be afraid to start implementing communication practice with the nanny you already have - it will make the work environment more pleasant for her, which will in turn make the environment better for your child.
What Do I Need to Do?
In my years as a full-time nanny, the best employers I had were great communicators. Here are some of the practices they put into place that made our nanny-parent relationship great.
1) Check in frequently - especially early on. When you hire a new nanny, arrive home a few minutes early every day for at least the first week to spend some time (before her shift is over) processing how things went. Ask her how the day was, if she had trouble finding anything in the house, and what came up that she needs to ask questions about. Make sure you do it during a time while she's still "on the clock" so she won't be in a rush and can really spend the time talking. And don't ask if she has questions, ask what questions she has. Making it clear that you expect any employee to have questions in the first few days of work will make her feel more comfortable asking you. Once she's become more established, make sure to keep up the practice of checking in about once a week - and again, do it while she's working so she doesn't feel rushed.
2) Write it down. As a nanny, one of the most helpful practices I found was keeping a log book of the day's events. Usually a typical day just recorded the date, time I started and ended, and times of the kids' naps and bottles. I'd also write down what we did - went to story hour, gave the kids a bath, etc, so that if mom and dad got home right at the end of my shift and we didn't have time to chat, everything was right there for them. If I thought of things I wanted to ask them throughout the day, I could jot a note in the journal for us to talk about it later, and if they had questions after reading the day's entry, we could address it in the morning. It kept us in the habit of daily communication, even when things were too hectic to sit down and chat.
3) Give her feedback - and ask for hers. Feedback from your boss is essential to doing well at any job, and your nanny's job is no exception. If she's doing something well, tell her! Frequent feedback will not only help her do her job better, but it means she won't be alarmed if you have to give her feedback on what you'd like her to do differently. Similarly, if you ask her for feedback about things, it makes it clear that her opinion is valued, and she'll be more willing to express it.
4) Involve her in decisions that will affect her routine. I'm not saying that you have to consult your nanny on major family decisions, but if you're thinking about making a change that will affect the way she does her job, ask for her input. When one of my employers' twins were transitioning from bassinets to cribs, they asked my thoughts on the best way to arrange the cribs in the room - since I was in charge for most of their naps, they wanted to make sure the arrangement would be workable for me. Similarly, when they bought a new dresser to accommodate the boys' growing wardrobe, they asked my thoughts on the most efficient way to organize their clothes, since I got the kids dressed (and re-dressed!) five days a week.
Overall, always remember that although you are her boss, your nanny is an important part of your team. You're all working toward the same goal - providing a safe, happy, healthy, and loving environment for your child. The more you all stay on the same page, the better you'll be able to work together to make that happen.
Poll: Nanny-Parent Communication
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
rhs8929 on June 08, 2011:
very interesting, keep up the good work!
cate p on June 07, 2011:
Very useful info and really well written. I look forward to more from you, Kate.
Fay Paxton on June 07, 2011:
Very useful information, though a little past due for me. I would have given my left arm for a nanny when I was raising my two. :)
Mary-Alice on June 07, 2011:
I couldn't help but think, as I read this, that it would also be great advise to people who take care of the elderly. All the same ideas would be very helpful.Great insight from the "other" side.
Leptirela from I don't know half the time on June 07, 2011:
usefrul might be comng back to this in a year hehehe fingers crossed....vote up great hub ...
Betsy Wagoner on June 06, 2011:
What a helpful article! I have been on a professional babysitting site for over a year now. I wish I had been better prepared for the employer/babysitter relationship part of the experience. Your article provided helpful insite and useful suggestions for improving my work environment. I look forward to hearing more!
Kate Spenser (author) from Austin, TX on June 06, 2011:
Thanks for the feedback, Anne! I will definitely tackle each of those topics in the near future, so check back in with me soon!
anne on June 06, 2011:
This piece was very helpful to me as I am considering leaving a job I dislike in order to become a full-time nanny, not just as a temporary job but as a career. I would enjoy having the topics of salaries, sick-time policies (for the nanny as well as the children) and vacation time discussed in a future column, Kate.