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What To Do When There’s A Conflict With Your Nanny: Best Practices For Communicating

All relationships – even the best ones – will involve conflict at some point or another. Conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it can be a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and another person and really grow your relationship.

As parents, it’s important to model good communication practices for our children because they see and mimic everything we do. One relationship that I often see get overlooked when it comes to good communication skills and handling conflict is the parent-nanny relationship.

Here are some best practices to employ when resolving conflict with your nanny, but they can also be used in a more general sense with all your relationships, whether that be with your spouse, friends, teachers and even your children.

Soften the Startup. This means that you approach the conflict with a level head, not in a heated moment. Don’t come at the person with a list of accusations. You want to make it clear that this is a conversation and there will be time for both parties to talk. It’s always good to start on a positive note, so perhaps you point out something that is going well before getting to what your feel is problematic.

Take Breaks. Sometimes it’s necessary to take breaks. It’s important to initiate these breaks as well as be receptive of them. In other words, if you are trying to resolve something and the other person says they need time to process, this is a fair request. This doesn’t mean the conflict needs to get dragged out over multiple days, but if someone needs a minute to think or gather themself, taking a time out will only help in the long run. Also, if you feel like you aren’t communicating effectively and also need time to formulate a response or process new information, don’t feel like you can’t ask for a pause.

Use “I” statements. It’s always important to use “I feel” statements rather than “You” accusatory statements. Let the other person know how you interpreted their actions and how they made you feel.

Take turns speaking and listening. This one can be difficult, especially in situations when you are employing a person to look after your child. While you may be the boss, all good employers take the time to listen to their employees. If you are trying to resolve a conflict, it can’t feel like a lecture. Make sure you are practicing good listening skills – like making good eye contact, avoiding aggressive body language and refraining from interrupting.

Paraphrase. This is a technique that goes a long way to prevent hurt feelings. After someone has explained their side of things, it’s a good idea to paraphrase what you heard. You don’t need to repeat back to them word for word what they said, and you should avoid using the accusatory “You said…” Instead, try something like, “I hear that you felt this way, when I said this…” Putting words in other people’s mouths is the easiest way to escalate an argument. You want to make sure the other person is also interpreting what you are saying the way it was intended to be understood. Listening back to someone paraphrasing will help you know you did a good job in effectively communicating your point.

Conflicts are a normal part of all healthy relationships and it’s important to remember that the nanny-parent relationship will be no different. Effectively communicating and working through issues will help you both to grow and the relationship to last.

Remember to never handle conflicts with your nanny in front of the child. Also, if your child has a specific complaint about the nanny, you’ll want to do your due diligence to verify the complaint before becoming accusatory. If there is something seriously wrong, I always recommend a third party for mediation.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page  or contact us today.

7 Actions That Will Scare Off Your Nanny

I’ve worked as a nanny, worked with families, hired a nanny myself and monitored nannies so I’m very familiar with the conflicts and issues that can arise when someone else comes into your home and plays such an integral role in care-giving.

It’s not easy as parents to hand over control and it’s not easy as a nanny to completely meld into your family. I often blog about red flags when hiring nannies and ways to help train and properly communicate, but sometimes it’s good to look at your own actions and what you may be doing as a parent that sends red flags up to your nanny.

We all know it’s good for our children to have consistency, so if you are constantly finding yourself with nannies who quit or seem unhappy, it’s a good idea to make sure you are doing everything in your power to give your nanny a reason to stay.

Here are some parent actions that drive nannies off:

  1. Unrealistic expectations. It’s fine to have a schedule and outline what you want your nanny to do with your kids when it comes to enriching activities, healthy eating and a bedtime. It’s not OK, however, to expect that the schedule never need to be adjusted.
  2. Failure to communicate. So many times I talk to parents who have grown annoyed with their nannies and started to resent them, but they have never communicated with their nannies about the behaviors that bothered them. For example, if your nanny does little things like leave the kitchen messy after mealtime or load the dishwasher a certain way you don’t like you have to communicate this. These are small things that can be fixed but if you let them build up and start resenting her without communicating what you want and how you want it, it’s a recipe for disaster.
  3. Changing the plan. Continually making last minute changes or always coming home later than you say you will are two really easy ways to drive your nanny off. Try to set out a consistent schedule at least a week in advance and always apologize and ask – not assume – if your nanny can handle last minute changes.
  4. Never letting your nanny be “off the clock.” I know a lot of people keep weird hours and sometimes think about things they want to tell their nannies at all hours of the night. It’s best to establish a set time when you communicate with her, however. A nanny shouldn’t feel like she has to respond to your calls and texts all night and weekend long in her time off.
  5. Money issues. Not paying your nanny in a timely manner is also hugely off-putting. Other smaller things, though, you may not think about. For example, you may tell your nanny that you will reimburse her for expenses like cab fare and things like getting your kids a snack at the park. It’s really best to leave cash for her ahead of time, though, because those expenses can rack up. Nannies who are continually shelling out their own money on your kids will get resentful very quickly. It’s also uncomfortable for a nanny to have to remind you to pay her.
  6. Bad-mouthing your nanny to your friends. This can – and will – often get back to your nanny. Be careful how you speak about your nanny when she’s around and when she’s not. Also be careful when your kids are around because they will pick up on things that could get back to her. If you have an issue, you should address it with her face to face.
  7. Undermining your nanny in front of your children. There might be times when you walk into a situation and want to save the day, but if you go against what your nanny has already told your children prior to your arrival, you are completely stripping her of all her authority.

It can be really difficult to recognize behaviors in ourselves and it’s always easier to throw blame on someone you are paying to look after your children, but like in all relationships when conflict arises, it’s good to look at your own actions first.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page.

5 Tips For Helping Your Children Overcome Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is something all kids face at one point or another. We know the statistics – our kids are more likely to bully, act out, experiment with things like drugs and alcohol and indulge in self-harm behaviors like eating disorders because of the influence of classmates and peers. The older your child gets, the more dangerous peer pressure becomes. At the same time, it often seems like we have less and less power as parents to protect our kids from other kids. We want to raise strong kids who will arise above that pressure, but how can we really ensure that will happen? How do we teach our kids to be leaders and not followers? To turn to us for guidance instead of getting swayed by the lure of popularity and social standing?

Here are five tips for helping your children overcome peer pressure:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open.

The more you talk to your child, the more you’ll understand what pressures he or she is facing and what is going on at school and outside the home. If our children feel they can turn to us in times of need, they are less likely to turn to other sources. Encourage your child to talk about his or her day on a regular basis. You don’t need to know everything, particularly as your child gets older, but assert yourself as someone willing to listen without judgment. Talk through situations that may not involve your child specifically and point out ways to avoid situations where temptations will be more difficult to avoid.

  1. Teach your child self-confidence.

This is huge and begins from an extremely early age. Instilling confidence in your child will set him or her up for the rest of life. How do you do this? First, make sure you are emphasizing positive body image. This means not criticizing your child’s eating habits or making comments about weight. This also means not making comments about your own weight or emphasizing appearances over what is really important. Compliments and praise should be handed out frequently – when the situation warrants it, of course. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness in every way. Show your pride and teach your child to feel pride for accomplishments and a job well done.

  1. Reinforce positive values.

Make sure your children know where you stand on important issues. Point out instances of honesty, standing up for someone getting picked on and choosing the path less taken. As parents, it’s our job to model the type of behavior we expect. Set clear and strict rules when it comes to things like drugs and alcohol, and most importantly, explain your reasoning for those rules.

  1. Monitor your child’s friends.

This doesn’t mean spy on your children or take away all their privacy, but you should feel comfortable around your children’s friends and their parents. Encourage socializing at your house. Leave them alone to have their time, but also keep a watchful eye on the types of behavior and language that is used. Don’t tear your children’s peers down, but if you see behavior you don’t like, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your children in a non-threatening way. If the behavior is truly harmful, then of course, you can take the necessary precautions to limit your child’s interaction with that person.

  1. Encourage your child to get involved.

This goes back to self-confidence, but the more involved and part of the community someone is, the less that person will feel the need to take extra steps to fit in. Don’t force your child to engage in clubs and sports if he or she isn’t interested, but stress the importance of being involved in something or finding a hobby that is fulfilling and then being proud of that activity or hobby. Being a part of a team can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem. A sense of belonging truly helps children overcome peer pressure from other sources.

Do you have any other tips? I’d love to hear!

Transitioning: Your Kids Are Getting Older And You Don’t Need Your Nanny For As Many Hours…Now What?

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This is a struggle many parents, including me, have struggled with. I’ve talked to numerous friends with the same problem: What should we do now that we don’t need our nanny full-time? If you really love your nanny and your kids are used to her, but you don’t need her all the time because your kids are in school, how do you keep her around while scaling back her hours?

Many people have asked if it’s okay to ask their nannies to replace their housekeepers, and instead of watching the kids full-time, replace those hours with some light housework/errands. To answer that question, let me tell you a little bit about my own experience…

When my little one got into pre- school and I didn’t need my nanny full-time, I made the mistake of helping her find another part-time job. Of course it was very kind of me to do that, and it helped both of us. It saved me money and I was able to keep my nanny. However, I also asked my nanny to walk our dog who was old and without asking her, she also cleaned up after the dog who wasn’t able to hold her urine/poop. She did it all with love and care. And, then, she approached me one day and said that she was willing to clean for us but she didn’t want to babysit anymore.

As it turned out, my friend who I shared her with gave her name to her neighbor who was looking for someone to clean and offered her $20 hour. I was paying her $17 at the time.

Why am I writing this? I think that in hindsight I should’ve had the conversation with my nanny and asked her how she felt about doing other responsibilities instead of watching my kids. She needed the money, so she agreed to do whatever I asked even though it wasn’t what she really wanted to do. Then, when she had an opportunity to work with a different family who offered her more money she immediately took that opportunity, ultimately leaving me without someone to watch my kids part-time, which was what I was afraid of losing in the first place.

Last week, I met with a client who was very frustrated because her nanny got really angry with her. When I asked what happened, my client Susie said that when she no longer needed her nanny for 50 hours a week, Susie asked her how much money she needed in order to keep her job. The nanny told her she needed 30 hours a week, and Susie agreed that would work. In addition, Susie asked her to do some more light housekeeping and also clean after the cats and keep up with the cat litter. While her nanny agreed to do it, she quickly became very resentful and wasn’t really doing a good job with the cleaning and was not respectful to Susie.

When Susi confronted her nanny and asked her why she wasn’t really cleaning, her nanny got angry and asked to leave. The next day her nanny came and left a note saying she wasn’t coming back to work. Luckily Susie came home early that day because the nanny had left at 12 PM and her two girls had to be picked up at 2:30 PM. Susie was most devastated because her nanny left after four years without saying goodbye to the kids.

So here are my takeaways from these stories. In my opinion, when and if you need to cut your nanny’s hours then you need to have a serious conversation with her and figure out if that works best for both your family and her. If this is not the case, then as hard as it is to see someone you care about go and as challenging as it can be to acclimate to a new person, you have to make the decision that it is time to find a different kind of nanny who doesn’t rely on a full-time job with benefits. Another important thing to consider is that the person you had caring for your kids when they were babies and toddlers might not be the nanny who your kids need now or the nanny who suits your family as they get older.

It is therefore very important to think about what your family needs and what your nanny needs and wants. If you cannot pay your nanny full-time, sometimes it is better not to come up with different responsibilities for her to do that she might not like to do or might feel are not what she originally signed on for. A better option might be to share your nanny with another family and supplement hours that way, always being mindful that when you open it up to other families, it can become easy for your nanny to just pick the best pay/job responsibilities. Another option is to increase her pay while you are transitioning and help her find a different job. Ultimately, the most important thing is to be honest with yourself and with your nanny from the outset and keep the lines of communication open. If your nanny feels like one day she will no longer be needed or one day she will be a full-time housekeeper when what she wanted was to look after children, she’ll most likely turn to looking for other jobs or become resentful of the relationship that was once so healthy.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.

Preventing Obesity In Our Children With Mindfulness

As an eating disorder specialist, and someone who battled an eating disorder for many years myself, this is a topic very close to my heart. Food has become such an obsession in our culture – and body image issues, as a result.

We all know that obesity in children is a growing epidemic in our country. However, eating disorders are also a huge problem, so as parents, it’s hard to know how to deal with the issue of eating when it comes to your children and their health.

An interesting study was published earlier this year in the journal Heliyon that found a connection between impulsive thoughts in children’s brains and how much they ate. For the study, scientists at the University of Vanderbilt looked at the brains of 38 children between the ages of 8 and 13. From MRIs, the researchers were able to establish a connection between physiological reactions in the brain and food behaviors. Then they established connections between BMI and the kids’ eating behaviors (they used this questionnaire).

The results aren’t shocking. We know eating disorders aren’t just a mental thing – they are a physical thing. However, the researchers concluded that teaching children mindfulness could go a long way in helping prevent obesity. If we recognize the connection between children’s impulsive behaviors and eating habits, teaching them mindful techniques, to really focus on what it is they are putting into their mouths, could decrease their eating.

Dr. Cowan, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said,”We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.” He went on to say that while mindfulness hasn’t shown much of an effect on adults and eating behavior, perhaps testing the connection in kids could be more beneficial.

Teaching our children mindfulness – being aware, staying in the moment and focusing on tasks at hand – is a skill that will benefit them in more ways than one.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists, contact me or book an appointment with me. I look forward to hearing from you

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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.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.

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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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7 Ways To Keep Your Nanny Around For A Long Time

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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.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today!

Navigating Nannies And Technology: How To Keep Your Nanny Off Her Phone

Things have changed a lot since I was a nanny, and one of the biggest challenges I see today that didn’t exist in generations past is navigating technology and
childcare. Not only is the constant presence of technology – smart phones, iPads, video games, etc. – something we have to monitor with our children, it’s something that needs to be considered when it comes to your nanny.

First and foremost, nannies who are on their phones all the time are putting children in serious dangerous. I actually witnessed a child cross the street by himself while a nanny was texting and she didn’t see the car coming that almost hit the child. I think this is something that parents and babysitters/nannies alike have to be very conscious of in today’s world. I also think it’s a good idea to practice what you preach. If your children see you on the phone all the time, not making eye contact, not paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment, then that is what they are going to model as they grow up. We can’t expect our children – or other who watch our children – to put down the screens when we aren’t willing to do so ourselves.

When it comes to making sure your nanny isn’t texting, tweeting, Snapchatting and Facebooking on the job, here’s what I recommend.

1) A Contract. I advocate all parents have written contracts with their nannies because it establishes ground rules and expectations so that everyone is on
the same page. I definitely recommend putting in a line or two about social media and cell phones in general. If you don’t want your children to be posted about online, you need to explicitly state this in the contract. Oftentimes, nannies will post photos when a child does something cute. Or, maybe they are sending a Snapchat video to a friend. There are so many different outlets where people are documenting their everyday lives in today’s world that there are probably social media channels you don’t even understand or know about. It’s best to outline from the beginning what you are comfortable with and what you don’t want to happen. If you don’t want your children to be posted about, make sure to set a black and white rule from the beginning.

2) Set realistic expectations. It’s not realistic to tell your nanny she should never be on her phone and then expect her to always be in constant contact with you. If you are the type of person who wants to be able to send a text and find out how the kids are or be able to call and give an update about your arrival time, then you are also setting the expectation that your nanny has a phone on her at all times. This is fine as long as you also communicate that your children’s safety is of the utmost importance. Make sure to remind your nanny you want her holding your kids’ hands when you cross the street, are getting in and our of cabs, etc., and that in these situations you’d rather your phone calls be ignored.

3) Monitor. If you happen to be on social networks, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally check to make sure your nanny isn’t posting unwanted photos of your kids. If you are at work or out at night and you see your nanny, who is with your kids, posting status updates constantly, this is a major red flag. Remind your nanny that you prefer she limit her phone time when she is around your children. It’s like any other job in that you want her complete attention on her job – which is keeping your children safe. Also listen for your children’s feedback. If they make comments about the nanny always being on her phone, this is something you should address immediately. As with most things, the more clear and direct you are about rules and expectations, the better things will go. Make sure you convey all of your privacy concerns in a contract and remind your nanny that you prefer to have her off her phone as much as possible for safety reasons.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.