Communication and Feedback
Good communication between parents and their nanny is the key to a successful, healthy relationship. This is a relationship that will have a profound impact on your family and children, so having an open line of honest communication is the best way to strengthen the long-term relationship. Practicing, and not just encouraging, communication and feedback with your nanny will help establish and maintain a healthy sustainable relationship and create the best environment for your child to learn and grow. Below are tips on how to be a good nanny employer.
Establish a Culture of Communication
Establishing a culture of communication begins as early as the first meeting and the interview process. However, if you are in an established nanny/family relationship that has not established a culture of communication, it is never too late and now is a great time to start. Address communication and describe why it is important to you as a parent or childcare provider. Cadence, methods, and preferences should all be clearly stated by both parties to set expectations and avoid future misunderstandings. By discussing communication early in the relationship, it becomes established as an important component moving forward. A culture of communication should always be empathetic and respectful. Key steps in establishing this culture include:
1. Listen, respectfully
2. Create transparency and share as much information as possible
3. Establish a team mentality with accountability to the team
4. Collaborate to solve problems
5. Find a regular cadence and modality to communicate in real time
Establish Methods of Communication
Finding a mutually preferred communication method and communication frequency is important to allow reliable and timely communication in real-time. This will help you to know what to expect from a Nanny. There is no right answer here. While some may prefer to receive a phone call around lunch time to hear how the days been going, others love getting silly photos hourly of their child playing at the park or at gymnastics class. On the other hand, only being contacted in case of an emergency may be a better fit. Everyone has their own preferences based on work environment and this should be communicated to your nanny so that you both feel good about the mode and frequency of communication throughout the day. Given modern-day communication includes the use of screens and smart-phones, a phone or screen policy should be discussed with the care provider to they know what is appropriate use of their phone, computer or tablet, and what is not permissible during work hours.
Create Consistent Check-ins
Good communication hygiene requires regularity, and the more real-time, the better to allow things to be addressed in the immediate aftermath. Daily check-ins have worked well for many families, usually during transition times such as morning and evening. Another common method of daily communication is the nanny log. This is one of the easiest and most effective methods of ensuring communication between you and your nanny, as transitions in the morning and evening can be busy. The nanny log offers a designated space for your nanny to write down the daily activities and behavior of your child. This can include what they ate throughout the day, times they took naps and for how long, if they had any behavior issues, the possibilities are endless. The daily log can be customized to the ages of your child(ren) and allows for a relatively detailed outline of the day to make sure everything is going smoothly. Keeping a nanny log also creates a central repository of information and leaves less room for any concerns to fall through the cracks. It allows for some record-keeping as well, in case the care team needs to review past sleep, nutrition, or behavior patterns.
Allowing transition time in the mornings and evenings are also essential to having open communication with your nanny. Mornings can be hectic, but taking just five minutes before leaving for work to check in and discuss any concerns or just general expectations of the day can make all the difference. The same goes for transition time in the evenings to allow a quick face to face conversation about how the day went.
Schedule Annual Evaluations
Annual performance reviews can also be beneficial for both parties. This isn’t something everyone is comfortable with, but your nanny is your employee, and having positive and constructive feedback will only grow your relationship and make sure your child is getting the best care possible. Annual evaluations can happen at any time during the year, whether around the time of hire, the holidays, or summer vacation. They could be coupled with a fun family dinner or maybe get a separate babysitter and get out of the house to have some one-on-one adult time. Annual evaluations should address what’s gone well and what could be improved. There are many things that can be discussed during evaluations. One of these is contract renewal. This is the time to discuss if your nanny will stay with you for another year, if they are going to be getting a raise, a bonus, and if their responsibilities will change. This is also a time to discuss if your expectations are being met. These topics can include tardiness, safety, and cleanliness. Let your nanny know where they have exceeded expectations and if there are any areas that need improvement. Any changes to family life and routine should be addressed as well. Whether this be another child being added to the family, moving houses, or your child starting school your nanny needs to know how they are expected to handle the situation and what their role will be. Finding solutions to problems and coming to a conclusion on how to implement new changes are all great benefits of annual evaluations.
Give Constructive Feedback
Setting a standard of criteria for constructive feedback and positive results is very important in having communication with your nanny. Try taking the time to understand the situation before trying to offer a solution. If your nanny comes to you with a concern or an issue and is wanting help to solve the problem, make sure to put yourself in her shoes first. Your nanny is the person who is experiencing the problem first hand. Try not to jump to conclusions and allow for their point of view to be seen to better provide a solution. Give feedback in a timely manner to help keep communication open. If there is a concern, make sure you tell your nanny at the earliest convenience. Be honest and to the point and your nanny will likely return the favor. It is also important to be respectful when providing feedback. Therelationship a parent has with their nanny is normally a lot closer than the typical employee-employer relationship. For this reason, both sides need to haveempathy, respect, and honesty. The family and nanny are on the same childcare team. Criticism should be offered in a supportive and constructive manner. This can be done by pairing negative feedback with positive solutions. By offering a positive solution the chances of any feelings getting hurt are decreased and a solution can be implemented right away to avoid the same issue arising in the near future.
Topics to Communicate Regularly
Caring for your children involves important considerations around the “how,” including how to discipline, feed, bathe, clothe, sleep train, and a host of other topics. There are several that should be discussed early on and regularly in the nanny/family relationship.
Role and responsibilities
The role and requirements of a nanny’s responsibilities is different for each family. Some nannies strictly care for the children. Some also cook and clean. Some act as family assistants, organizing social gatherings and trips. A lot depends on the situation of the family; how many children, what ages, and how critical these other tasks can be to the function of the household.
Discussing the role of a nanny as a member of the childcare team, even down to the last detail, is important to set expectations and avoid disappointment. Even small tasks such as doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, feeding the dogs, making sure supplies are ordered, going to the grocery store, organizing toys, etc… should be communicated early. During this communication, it is important to consider to capabilities of the care provider and their thoughts and feelings in how much can be accomplished during their time.
It doesn’t go without saying that hours, wages, vacation time and benefits should be established at the time of hire to avoid confusion. This includes pay for possible overtime or travel. Also how they should pay for expenses such as gas for errands or paying for groceries and other things as necessary. Also, at time of hire, it is prudent to review an agreed upon process for considering vacation time. Is it only when the family is on vacation or would the nanny and family need to find alternative childcare while he/she is out? Will they receive paid vacation time during holidays? Is there potential for an annual bonus? See the Nanny Contract for a comprehensive guide to launching your nanny relationship
What is the general temperament of your child(ren)? What are their triggers? What makes them happy, sad, fearful, stressed? Are there age-specific milestones they have missed or excelledpast? Knowing these individual traits ahead of time can help childcare providers reduce the child(ren)s stress in different situations. When there is ever a change in particular behaviors or new situations are experienced, the childcare team should communicate about those openly and regularly. As the child(ren) grow and develop, behavioral nuances will emerge creating the need for modifications in childcare. Discussing these behaviors in advance will help prepare everyone for situations that may arise.
Do you parent more permissively and rely heavily on the nurture role? Do you parent more assertively and hold firm while still listening to your child’s thoughts and opinions? Do you prefer to coach your children through tough spots? Would you prefer timeouts, distraction techniques, or waiting when the child enacts certain behaviors such as not listening or hitting. How have situations been handled in the past? Addressing these items in as much detail as possible ensures consistency for the child, which is critical in child development. If there are parenting resources and handbooks you rely on as a guide, share those with your care provider team so everyone is on the same page.
Nutrition, including nursing or formula, is an important part of early childhood development. How often and how much is something that should be continually reviewed. Some families rely heavily on homemade food, which the nanny can help with. Other families relay on premade purees or hand held finger-foods. There may be preferences to avoid sugar and processed food. This may include juices, and other items. Also, there will likely be strong preference for or against particular foods (broccoli!) with certain children. These are important details to communicate and determine if nutrition is optimized and the feeding process is on track.
Sleep routines and schedules are critical to ensure good sleep hygiene in children. These change as the child(ren) mature. A childcare provider should have experience and visibility into different techniques to encourage healthy sleep. Communication about the use of black-out shades, sound machines, lovies, temperature settings, nursing, and other key factors are critical to maintaining a good sleep schedule. Lack of communication about sleep can lead to frustrating nights and weekends as the child(ren) may be out of sorts if their routine changes from one care provider to another. It is helpful to communicate about sleep through the daily log.