Today I’m going to tell you something about respect: it’s important! Even respect for people you employ. I know this because my parents taught me to treat people like humans, but also because I have worked as a maid, a nanny, and a lot of other service jobs, and I enjoy being treated like a human.
This PSA on respect is directed at all those families with nannies. I know there are some scary situations out there and that you are trusting the most precious part of your life with someone who isn’t you. That’s got to be hard. And yet, those people are people too.
So here are some “Do”s and “Don’t”s to avoid making your nanny feel disrespected, and are directed at no one in particular, especially not my employer who may or may not participate in some or every single one of these behaviors:
1. Do tell them your plans. It’s a small thing, really, but if you know that you aren’t going to be home until one in the morning and you know that your nanny has to work another job early the next day, it’s nice to give them a heads up as to how long you intend to be out.
2. Don’t expect them to be free at all times. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to work at the last minute, but try not to get upset if they can’t. Especially if you know they have another job and you’re asking them to take time off from said job in order to work for you. Once you give someone a schedule, they might make other plans because, oddly, they too have lives.
3. Don’t complain about how you have to pay them if they have a conflict. If you’ve ignored #2 and chosen to get upset that they are not free at your every whim, don’t complain about the “good money” you pay for “an open schedule.” Especially don’t do this if having an “open schedule” has never, ever been discussed or requested in the past. Especially, especially don’t do this if you pay them well below industry standard.
4. Don’t tell them you don’t trust them to “discipline” your kids. Perhaps you did walk in on another babysitter yelling at your children and now you’re “terrified of leaving them alone.” Maybe you’re worried that other people are raising your children by telling them no. But telling a nanny who has never crossed any lines that she is not allowed to discipline your children, including time-out or taking things away from them, is like telling a bus driver that they are not allowed to use the brakes, and must creatively find a way to stop the bus (your children) from passing the school (shoving each other off of stools onto your concrete flooring). It is a sign that despite how much you claim you and the children adore her, you do not respect her enough to give her the authority to do the job you pay her (good money!) to do.
5. If you’ve asked your nanny to alert you any time there is a behavior problem in lieu of “discipline,” pick up the phone/leave your room. If you have decided on the aforementioned discipline ban, and have explained that in a time of disobedience you should be contacted to fix the situation, you should answer your phone as promised. This also applies to when you are on the computer or about to hang out with your friends. Doing what you say you will do is a respectful act, but this is even more important now that you’ve made your nanny an authority-less tattletale.
6. Don’t chastise your nanny for not giving in to temper tantrums. If you see your daughter rolling on the floor screaming because she wants three treats instead of the mutually agreed upon one, don’t tell your nanny that she shouldn’t “discipline” your child by not giving her three. Not only does this make your nanny feel disrespected, but also teaches your child to not respect her. It will also probably result in your hypothetical child immediately demanding seven treats… which she did as soon as she had her three.
7. If your daughter punches your nanny in the eye encourage her to apologize. If you ask her to apologize and she says “no” and starts screaming, don’t shrug and ask your nanny what she wants you to do before walking away. Look at your nanny and think, she is a human and I am a human. Would I want to be punched in the eye? If I were punched in the eye, how would I, as a human, like to be treated? Then pretend that you are a parent and that you are raising a child to have respect for other humans. Remember that going to bed without a book is not abuse, nor is the word “no.” Discipline (without quotations) your child until she does apologize. Be appropriately embarrassed by this situation and then apologize for her. While you’re at it, apologize for the many times you have watched your children hit, kick and spit on your nanny without saying a thing and apologize for that as well. Tell your nanny that you are sorry that you have been so condescending and passive aggressive about her failure to magic your children into quiet, clean, obedient kids. Then turn to your children and tell them how sorry you are that you are raising them without any consistent behavioral rules. Tell them that you understand that they break toys and bedroom windows because they are desperate for boundaries. Tell them you understand that by taking away all authority from the adult in charge of them, you have, in fact, put their lives in danger. Apologize for teaching them to be mean, violent brats, instead of the beautiful, sweet, smart kids they have the potential to be.
Then give your nanny gobs of money to make up for all of this and call it a day!
So there you have it! Respect isn’t hard but may take some practice if you are new to it. Use these universal, non-family-specific tips the next time you find yourself employing a nanny or babysitter to ensure a pleasant experience for all parties involved. Happy child rearing!
Photo by Kate Elizabeth