Top Ten Ways to Create a Successful Nanny / Family Relationship

Pretty much everyone in the nanny world talks about how important it is to create a great nanny / family relationship. I repeat that advice often. Then someone last week asked me “How exactly do you do that?” What a great question. Here are my top ten strategies.

1. Start with a fair and balanced contract.
Yes, yes, I know. I always suggest a nanny contract. But there’s a good reason for that. At its core, the nanny / family relationship is an employment relationship so before you try and build anything else, the smart move is to make sure the fundamentals like wages, benefits, responsibilities, and work environment are fully defined. Once you have clear expectations on all the work-related issues, the rest falls into place pretty easily.

2. See the other party as a person, not just a nanny or employer.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of just seeing the other person as “the nanny” or “the employer”. When we narrowly define them by their role, we lose sight of the truth that they’re human with all the normal human limitations, frailties, emotional baggage, and shortcomings. By seeing the other person as a full being, we recognize our similarities, not just our differences, and we’re able to connect and communication in much more supportive and effective ways.

3. Follow the Golden Rule.
This one’s really simple, treat the other person like you’d want to be treated. Generously give respect, appreciation, consideration, kindness, loyalty, and the benefit of the doubt.

4. Make communication a priority.
Like every relationship, regular and effective communication is essential in the nanny / family relationship. Each party is responsible for sharing their needs, wants, concerns, and possible solutions to problems that come up. Of course regular family meetings are the industry’s recommended practice but in the real world, that often doesn’t happen. Busy schedules and other things (like work and sleep!) take priority. Find a way to stay connected to and communicating with each other. That could be a call during the evening commute, a Saturday night dinner every other month at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, or even a daily journal. There is no right or wrong here. Whatever works for you is the right choice.

5. Ask questions.
Rather than make assumptions, jump to conclusions, suffer in silence, or do any of the other things we do to sabotage clear communication in a relationship, stop, take a deep breath, and ask a few questions. By staying present and taking a genuine interest in the other person’s perspective, we’re much more likely to handle challenges like the adults we want to be.

6. Fulfill your role’s responsibilities.
When a caregiver and parents enter into a nanny / family relationship, both sides are agreeing to do certain things. The nanny’s responsibilities center around providing quality care to the kids and support to the parents. The parents’ responsibilities center around providing a fair wage and benefit package, a reasonable job description, and a safe and comfortable work environment. When both sides make consistently fulfilling those responsibilities a priority, a good relationship automatically happens. When either side slacks on their responsibilities, things begin to fall apart.

7. Understand your nanny’s or family’s love language.
Love language may seem like an odd phrase to use when talking about the nanny / family relationship but it’s surprisingly spot on. Every nanny and parent has a nanny love language, the way they express and experience caring, respect, appreciation, and support. By understanding the other person’s love language, you’re able to connect with them in a way they can truly feel in their bones. And by sharing your love language, you allow them to connect with you in the same way. It’s a powerful thing.

8. Participate in a written performance review.
Even for the most informal relationships, it’s important for both sides to know how things are going. Remember, at its core this is an employment relationship. I always recommend a written performance review because having a framework and an expectation of feedback gives people the freedom to more easily express what’s working and what’s not. Too many simply use a quick “Things are good on my end. They’re good on your end too, right?”” which makes it really difficult to step up and disagree.

9. Take the long view.
Study after study has shown that having a long term, quality caregiver is key to a child’s healthy attachment and development. So investing in the nanny / family relationship is really investing in your child or charge. Like every other relationship, it’s often harder to stay and make it work than it is to walk away. But unless there’s a real flaw that makes the relationship unhealthy or unworkable, it’s a good investment of your time and energy. The kids will thank you for it.

10. Remember this is like no other relationship you’ll ever have.
The nanny / family relationship is a unique hybrid of personal and professional, and the line that divides the two is always shifting. The rules that apply to other relationships often don’t apply here. This is both a blessing and curse. It means you often feel like you’re figuring it out on your own and as you go. But it also means that you’re free to plot your own course and find a path that works for you.

Hope these ideas help you create a great nanny / family relationship. And I’d love to hear what’s on your list!

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