Digging Deeper Into The Nanny Hiring Process: How To Interview References

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Because I’ve had a lot of experience with my own nannies for my children as well as helping other families find and evaluate their nannies, I’ve seen some extreme situations. I’ve seen everything from nannies who it seemed could do Read more

Is Your Nanny Emotionally Fit For The Job?

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a nanny/ housekeeper to help me for two days a week.

I met a friend who is a psychologist and I asked if she was happy with her nanny. She said she was happy with her, but the nanny was looking for more hours and she only needed her for three days. I asked if she wanted to share her nanny and she said she thought that was a great idea.

She added as a side note that her nanny was a little sensitive but otherwise wonderful.

I met with her nanny and was very impressed. She seemed kind and warm and had a great resume and strong references. I ran a background check and also conducted an online search. I met her husband who worked at a local Jewish school. I even called the school to ask about him to make sure he was a good person (might sound crazy but after having a nanny who had an alcoholic boyfriend who was following her I learned to be very thorough).

Overall, I was very happy with the nanny. I’ll call her Vivian. She was smart, well-spoken, kind and loved my girls. Since I have worked as a nanny and with nannies and families for over 20 years, I knew how important it was to have a trial period. It can be two weeks or one month.

For me, it was four weeks.

My 6-year-old was always so happy and excited to see her. My older two, ages 9 and 12, liked her but they are very independent and need less of her attention.

A week after Vivian started she started telling me how unhappy she is with her other job. She knew that her other boss was also my friend and now she was putting me in an uncomfortable situation.

She started saying things like, “The older boy is a bully. He throws things at me and treats me badly. I can’t do this job anymore. I love the younger sister and the parents, but he is just horrible. He has some problems… And he takes medication but it’s too much for me…”

That day, I had to run to work and couldn’t talk, nor did I want to talk to her about my friend’s son and his behavior. And then… Out of nowhere, she started crying. It was 3:30 pm, and I had an appointment at 4. I told Vivian that she should talk to the parents about it and have them talk to their son. Vivian then told me that she was looking for another job and asked that I don’t tell my friend.

I couldn’t believe that she actually asked that. But then I realized that it might have been a cultural thing as Vivian moved here from the Philippines a year ago and she might not have been aware of how important communication and giving families notice is. I encouraged her to tell the parents how she felt because if she wasn’t happy, it wasn’t a good situation for everyone involved.

Vivian said she would tell the parents that she was looking for a job and in fact had an offer pending.

I called my friend and told her about the situation. She then told me that indeed her son  hates her and hates everything she makes him to eat. I didn’t want to get involved or get in the middle of it but I somehow got sucked into a very challenging situation.

Is this nanny emotionally fit to be a nanny? To take care of my girls? Any kids?

She was excellent in organizing and cleaning, which is mainly what I needed her for. She was a very pleasant person and very kind. But, when a nanny starts crying on a job and starts talking about another family that way and speaks in such an immature manner, there is no way she is fit to be a full-time nanny. Now,

Now, personally, I had no problem with Vivian. She was very good. But her judgment and sensitivity made me feel uncomfortable, and I told her that while she was excellent in many ways, she wasn’t the nanny that I was looking for. In fact, I told her that I thought that being a nanny wasn’t something that fit her. I said it in a kind yet serious way and I tried to explain the rationale behind what I was saying.

She said she also thought that it was too much for her and that’s why she decided to take the other job taking care of an older woman with Alzheimers.

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There Is No Compensation For Time Spent With Your Kids

Something we as parents often feel guilty about is not spending enough time with our kids, or sometimes, not spending enough time with one of our children when we have multiple. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of compensating your kids in other ways to ease your guilt. We know we shouldn’t, but it makes us feel better to say, “Since I’m not there to go to the park with you, I’ll let you pick out anything you want in the candy store with the nanny,” or, “I’ll bring home a special treat.”

The problem is when we do this, we are teaching our kids several things that will stick with them. First off, we aren’t teaching them that disappoint is a fact of life and as a parent, it is impossible to be there every second. We’re also teaching them that they will get presents when things don’t go their way. They will start to expect extra things or place higher value on things like money. The truth is a candy bar or even something like a later bedtime can’t make up for you – the parent – being there, so there is no sense in teaching your children that those things are on the same playing field.

Whenever you feel yourself starting to give your child what you might deem as a “reward,” stop and ask whether you are actually rewarding your child for something that is deserving of praise or a special treat or are making up for something you feel you owe. If it’s the latter, try taking the approach of having a sensible conversation and explaining why you can’t be there. Can you spend extra quality time with your child in the near future? Make sure you explain that time together is of the utmost importance to you, and then take steps to show you mean it.

If you use money, food and other incentives to “make up” for your time, you are essentially sending the message that material things hold significance. Awareness is key, and nothing can make up for quality time.

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The Best Interview Questions To Ask A Potential Nanny

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I’ve done a few posts about qualities I look for in a potential nanny. However, if you’re interviewing a nanny for the first time, it can’t be daunting to know where to start and what you should ask to elicit the best responses. Below I’ve listed out some of my favorite questions to ask potential candidates. Remember to try to keep the conversation flowing and ask for clarification on any points you don’t understand. Also, be sure to look out for this list of red flags, as those should immediately be of concern. Do other parents have any other questions they think are good to ask? Share with me in the comments!

  • How did you become a nanny? What made you decide to want to be one and how did you get started?
  • Why do you think you’re right for our family?
  • What do you like about being a nanny?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What is your family like? What is your living situation like?
  • How do you think past employers would describe you?
  • What are your safety and first aid qualifications?
  • What would you do in case of an emergency?
  • What age children are you most comfortable working with? What are your experiences with different ages and multiple children at a time?
  • How do you like to communicate throughout the day? Are you open to recording simple notes in a daily log?
  • How would you describe your style of working with kids? Are you hands on? More authoritative?
  • What is your general childcare philosophy?
  • What are your thoughts and strategies on discipline?
  • How would you handle _______ situation? (Ask them to guide you through a few scenarios. For example, how would you handle a temper tantrum in the middle of a crowded store?)
  • What are your expectations for this job as compared to your last one?
  • What do you know about the area? Do you know people in the area? Do you feel comfortable getting around the neighborhood and could find activities throughout the day for children?
  • Can you tell me the best child you ever took care of and then one whose behavior wasn’t so great?
  • Have there been certain parenting styles you feel you can’t work well with?
  • What have been your specific duties at previous jobs? What have you done in terms of errands and housework? Do you feel comfortable making playdates for the kids? Are there things you have been asked to do previously that you don’t feel comfortable with?
  • What are you looking for in a potential employer?
  • If you were hiring a nanny for your child, what would be the most important things you would look for?
  • What is your availability like? How flexible is your schedule? Are you OK with travel?
  • How will you handle transportation to and from work? Are you someone who can consistently be on time? Do you have any special circumstances or illnesses or ongoing family issues that you feel I should know about?
  • How do you feel about spending the night occasionally? How would you feel about switching the occasional night for other days off?
  • Would you sign a confidentiality agreement?
  • How have you typically been paid – on or off the books – and how would you prefer to be paid?
  • What are you salary expectations and what are you comfortable with in terms of hours per week and weeks per year?
  • Why do you want this job? (This is a good last question)

7 Ways To Keep Your Nanny Around For A Long Time

Young woman standing near refrigerator filled with products

Finding a good nanny can be such a relief. So, what do you do when you have finally found that person who you can depend on and who you and your kids both get along with? How can you ensure the nanny will stick around?

I’ve come up with a list of  7 suggestions that can make a huge difference to your nanny and will help guarantee the relationship continues to prosper like you need it to.

Do you have any to add? Comment below!

  1. Trust your nanny. Trust is the first step in any healthy relationship, and this pertains to a parent/nanny relationship as well. When you trust your nanny it makes her feel empowered. It makes her feel confident in her choices and not have to second-guess every decision. It also shows your children the nanny is competent enough to take care of them and they should listen to and respect her. If you don’t trust your nanny, how will your kids?
  2. Offer to pay for  transportation. Of course, if your nanny is transporting your kids around, you should be paying for any and all transportation. However, if your nanny stays late it is a really nice gesture to pay for a cab or an uber ride home occasionally as well.
  3. Leave petty cash for your nanny. If your nanny will be out with your kids and buying snacks etc. for them, leave cash ahead of time. This way your nanny doesn’t feel like she is digging into her own pockets. It can be awkward for your nanny to request you pay her back for a $2 bottle of water, but at the same time, she should never have to use her own cash on your kids.
  4. Offer her food, especially if she is there around mealtime. If your nanny is always there around a meal, make sure you offer her food or tell her she can take what she would like from the refrigerator/ pantry. You can also text her beforehand and order her food, or make extra of whatever the kids are having. Keep in mind that if your nanny is constantly having to order takeout to your place, she is going to start seeing this as an added expense of what it costs for her to keep herself fed while she takes care of your kids.
  5. Tell your nanny of any change of plans. If you know you will be away one weekend or your kids’ schedules are changing, give your nanny a heads up. Your nanny sets aside time for you and it is only respectful to give her notice as soon as you know of any changes that may affect her. Don’t announce at the last minute you don’t need her the following week. Give her a chance to plan accordingly.
  6. Be respectful of her time. Similar to the last point, your nanny sets aside a specific amount of time for you each day or week depending on your agreement. It is okay if you are going to be late one day, things happen. But understand your nanny may have other obligations and this should not be an ongoing occurrence. The same way that you want your nanny to be on time getting to you, as parents you should treat your time being home the same way.
  7. Give her time off. Everyone needs a break. Being aware of when your nanny needs time off and offering it to her without her asking may go a long way in your relationship with your nanny. Don’t let your nanny burn out; a short break can recharge someone for a long time. Even if it’s simply asking if she would like an afternoon or a day off. You can make it work for your schedule. If it’s her birthday, try not to make that the day you come home really late. Certain things can’t be avoided, but awareness, respect and communication make all the difference.

New Documentary Explores The Effects Of Screen Time On Children

A new documentary called “Screenagers” takes a close look at the epidemic we as parents are facing when it comes to our children and “screen time.” While I haven’t had the chance to see the film yet, just the trailer alone sparks some great questions and things to think about.

The director, Delaney Ruston, is the leading voice in the film, and she talks through the research she did when her 12-year-old daughter wanted her first smartphone. In the trailer, she says children spend six and a half hours a day looking at screens – not including school and homework time. That’s an incredible amount of time, but it’s a statistic we all probably can relate to.

According to GeekWire, which did a review of the film, Ruston presents a great deal of scientific research and medical opinions in the film while also addressing relevant topics like the role technology plays in bullying at schools, violence in video games and body-image issues.

She also addresses ways we as parents can put guidelines in place for our kids, stressing the importance of talking through rules and really explaining where we’re coming from as parents. Laurance Steinberg, a professor of adolescence at Temple Univerisity, explains, “The mistake that parents often make is that they assert their authority without explaining it in a way that makes sense to their child.” Children will often come back with, “It’s different now. Everyone has a phone.” And, while it’s true that times have changed, many things about the way children learn and grow into healthy adults have stayed the same. Therefore, it’s so necessary to get on the same page with your kids and monitor the digital world in which we all live in.

One of the things that really stood out to me from the trailer is the discussion on multitasking and what it does to children’s brains. I’m sure we’ve all tried to have a conversation with our children – or another adult, for that matter – while they are glued to their phones or video games. The level at which they tune us out or respond without truly listening is frightening. Sometimes, though, people seem to be able to do both (answer e-mails and hold a conversation, play video games while doing homework, etc) with remarkable ease. But, what is really happening when we multitask?

Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics at University of Washington, says, “The young, adolescent brain can oscillate back and forth very very quickly, but it comes at a cost.” Ruston goes on to say, “What’s extraordinary about the studies on multitasking is even though you’re doing worse and worse on everything you’re doing, you feel like you’re doing better.”

I’m eager to watch the entire film and see what other research is cited, as well as the suggestions for dealing with technology. Scilla Andreen, the executive producer of “Screenagers” told GeekWire, “We have to learn our relationship with food, alcohol, other people — same goes for screens. Ultimately would I like people to look up a little bit more? Absolutely.” I think we have to acknowledge that screens have become just as important of a health concern for our kids as things like eating disorders, drugs and alcohol.

Personally, the idea of conscious parenting and the concept of awareness in every day life is something that I believe translates to our children. The more present we are in the moment, the more we are mirroring the behavior we wish to see. We can’t expect our children to look up from their phones when we aren’t willing to do the same. Encouraging genuine conversation, requiring your children to sit at the table without playing video games or watching TV and marking out time for activities like reading, drawing or playing outside are all things we should place a priority on to teach our children about the world outside of the screen.

Has anyone seen the film? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear in the comments section! What kind of rules do you have regarding your kids’ “screen time.”