Communication with Parents

From the minute you accept a job you have a professional responsibility to ensure clear and open communication with your employers. Honesty is important for both parties. You need to trust each other. If you are unclear about anything that your employers have said, or left unsaid, then ask them to be clearer about what they mean. This will avoid misunderstandings.

Negotiating contracts

The way you handle contract negotiations sets the tone for the relationship between nanny and employer. You will probably have clauses that are non-negotiable and other things that you are prepared to be flexible about. Do not be aggressive in your negotiating style. You need to work with your employers and you don't want to get off on the wrong foot. However, you do need to be clear about what is and isn't included, for example in the job description, and establish a two-way relationship. A lack of communication at this stage can store up problems for later.

For more information about what is included in a standard nanny contract and points you may want to negotiate see here.

Sharing information

Daily communication is vital for sharing important information with your employers. You should always build in time for a morning and evening hand-over to ensure that you are up to date on your charges' wellbeing and that the parents get a full account of the day. A daily diary is a useful communication tool as long as it is used by both parties. If your employers don't systematically look at the diary remind them to do so when you note down anything important. You may also want to send or confirm important information in writing as a reminder text or email.

Some parents like to be kept up to date throughout the day via text, e-mail, whatsapp or similar. You should be guided by your employer on how much communication they expect during the day. It's nice to send a little surprise from time to time even if they aren't bothered unless they specifically say they aren't to be disturbed.

As the contact person between your charges' school/nursery you are also responsible for ensuring that any messages get passed on and that your employer reacts if they need to. You are also responsible for transmitting any information from medical or paramedical professionals that you take your charge to see.

Resolving disagreements

There will be times that you find yourself in a situation where you disagree with your employer. This may be something related to the way they parent their children or it may be their attitude as an employer towards you. You need to remain calm and professional when discussing disagreements, even if your feelings are very hurt. It is okay to say that you feel hurt but make sure that you phrase it as 'I feel hurt that you don't trust me' or 'I feel like you didn't take how important this day off is for me into account'. Avoid statements such as 'you don't trust me' or 'you don't care about how important this is'.

Your contract should always be the first thing that you check. If you feel that you are being treated unfairly then you need to be aware of what your legal rights are and what has been agreed between you. If you have unintentionally breached the contract, perhaps by not informing your employer of an outing or a playdate when you are contractually bound to do so, then you need to take responsibility for your mistake and try to negotiate a better solution going forwards.

Many disagreements centre around working hours, overtime, payment and holiday. The first step is always to sit down with your employer, ideally without the children to distract you, and set out the situation and what is not working for you. Be proactive and offer solutions. If your employer is consistently 10 minutes later suggest extending your contracted hours to cover that time. It will simplify things for you if you plan to finish at the later time, and your employer will not need to adjust your payslip to account for the overtime payments due because your salary will be increased to reflect your new hours. If your employer denies a holiday request because they cannot take time off work themselves then suggest alternative care possibilities, such as nanny friends who know your children on the understanding that you will be able to return the favour at some point.

Managing conflict can be one of the most challenging part of being a nanny, and you can find more about handling conflict in the workplace as a nanny here.

Sometimes a conflict cannot be resolved and you may feel that you cannot continue working for your employers. In this case you would need to hand in your notice.

Offering advice

Sometimes parents can benefit from the professional advice you can offer, but you should avoid giving unwanted advice. If parents ask for your opinion then it's easy to respond with suggestions. Should parents frequently mention a specific problem or situation you can ask if they would like you to give them some ideas to manage it. If you see a problem that might benefit from some input, however, you will need to approach it carefully. The parents may not perceive it as a problem, or it may be something which makes your life harder but their life easier. In this case talk to them about what you have observed and point out the possible consequences of not tackling the issue. From this you will be able to gauge whether your employers are likely to be receptive to your advice.

When giving parents advice or strategies keep their parenting style and family dynamic in mind. Even if you are convinced that a particular method or strategy is best for children your employers need to be on board with what you say if they are going to carry it through, and they will feel that you are meeting their needs as parents.

You may also be asked for advice by other parents and if you want to help then you should feel free to share your professional opinion. Remember to respect them as parents and avoid getting a reputation as a busybody who gives unwanted advice.

Remember when you give advice to first state what the current guidelines are, no matter what you have always done in the past or would do with your own children. You can suggest that there are other alternatives which are not currently recommended, and say that you have found the methods effective, but you have a professional responsibility to ensure that anyone you advise is aware of what the guidelines say and why before they can make an informed decision about what they want to do.

Declining requests

Occasionally (or frequently) you may be asked to work overtime or do additional babysitting. Unless you are contractually obliged to do a certain amount of babysitting or overtime through the week or year, as some live in nannies are, then you have the right to say no. Often it is convenient to do a little overtime in the form of babysitting, however if you have a prior commitment then make it clear to your employers that you are either unable to oblige or that you will need to rearrange your diary to accommodate their request.

Some employers make heavy additional demands on their nanny. If you feel that you are being taken advantage of or that fulfilling these extra requests has a negative effect on you then you need to not only say no to any requests for additional overtime but also have a discussion with your employers about how much they are asking of you. Nannies work long hours in a physically and emotionally draining environment, and need time off to recharge.