Category Archives: Posts

May 16th, 2017

So Long Time Out

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Looks as though we are putting Time Out into a permanent Time Out. Time Out was the fashionable and widely accepted method for dealing with non-compliant or badly behaved children.  Even Nanny 911 told us so with her very best British, no-nonsense delivery.

We started to hear from clients that they didn’t want their nannies to use Time Out when dealing with disciplining their children. I have to admit that we immediately thought- another family who doesn’t want their children’s behavior corrected. We stand corrected.

The trainings we have for our nannies always provide solid tips. Our last series of talks for National Nanny Training Day was entitled “Getting to Yes” which followed up on a previous lecture on “Positive Discipline.” What we learned and now share with all our nannies is that to discipline means to teach. Putting a child in the corner, on a step, or in a naughty chair is not teaching him or her anything. If we think that the banished child is cogitating on his rotten behavior, think again. He’s probably thinking about how mean the person is who isolated him. The punishment is unlikely to change future behavior or build skills.

Instead of the corner, try talking to the offender. Get down on his or her level. Ask questions. Give choices. Have a “time in” with your offender.

Daniel J. Siegel, MD  and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D in their book No –Drama Discipline: The Whole –Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind is worth a read.  According to Dr. Siegel:

Misbehavior is often a cry for help calming down and a bid for connection. When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet.

The books goes on to make the point that brain imaging shows that relationship pain caused by the time-out rejection looks like  physical pain in the terms of brain activity. That bit of science is thought provoking.

Time out has had its day. Time to move on.

April 25th, 2017

Writing A Beautiful Letter of Reference You Don’t Really Mean

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We love when nannies come armed to their interview with glowing letters of reference. We know those letters take time to write, and we appreciate the effort that goes into crafting them. But parents, please do not write a glowing letter of reference for your nanny if you don’t mean what you write. The next parents who hire your employee will believe what you penned. And unlike White House Nannies, they may not bother to call you to follow up for verification. They liked what you had to say. It was what they wanted to hear. It validated their impressions. They counted on the accuracy of your letter when making their hiring decision.

I get the problem. If your departing nanny asks for a letter of reference, it may be hard to decline the request. What should you do? Write the truth. How long did she work for you?  Her dates of employment. Was she reliable? Always on time? Not really. Then leave that out.   Did she love your children? Treated them like her own?  Say that. List activities she did. Responsibilities she had. If you have mixed emotions, make it clear that there is a longer conversation to be had and offer to speak live.

For us it is always shocking to speak live with an employer whose verbal assessment is a complete disconnect from the reference letter they have provided. What prompted this blog was a beautiful two page ringing endorsement of a nanny that turned into a complete diatribe on the reference call. What?

The flip side is sometimes we are presented with a very short, uninspiring letter about a nanny who has worked a decade for a family.  Ten years and fewer than ten sentences? Much to our relief, when we reach that long term employer, we get a much more complete and favorable assessment. In that case, the letter-rather than being a help to the nanny-is a disservice to her and any prospective future employer.

Please, keep those honest insightful letters coming. And if you have nothing nice to say, remember what your mother told you.

April 18th, 2017

You Lie, You Lose

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Should my children read this blog, there will be smiles and groans. This title phrase was the watchword of their youth.

May I just say how much those four words still hold true in my professional world. Don’t lie. Own your mistakes. Tell the truth. Your cover-up is or may be worse than the crime.

Resume: The embellishment of resumes is nothing new in DC.  We all know a few people have  gotten jobs and then lost those positions when the truth of their experience was revealed. How about those students in Kansas who outed their incoming principal?

College Degree: Don’t say you have one if you don’t. Even if you are really, really close—like a course or two away from that diploma. You can’t say you have a degree if you technically don’t.  Education checks are easy to do. For nanny positions, actual degrees while valued, are not required in most cases.

Previous work history: If you didn’t work full time at a job, don’t say that you did. Occasional babysitting is not a full time nanny job. It is what it is. Valuable and related but not the same.

Fake references: Seriously. Do not EVER do this. Do not use your friend who has no children for a childcare reference. Do not use your boyfriend who is living at his parents house and has no children (but lots of guns on his Facebook page) as your most recent reference.

I’ve always felt we are very good detectives when vetting our candidates. We definitely want to find out any falsehoods before our clients do and certainly before anyone is on a job.

Trust is the most important ingredient in a relationship. If you lie, no one will ever trust you. Certainly not with their children.

March 30th, 2017

Feeling Distracted?

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Feeling Distracted? In the  New York Times article, The Guilty Secret of Distracted Parents, the author Dr. Perri Klass seems to want to cut parents some slack on the playground. The pull of technology is strong and so is the tedium of taking care of kids. If you’ve spent any time on a playground recently, you can witness the dynamic first hand. OMG. Did you see that toddler who just waddled in front of the swing? It missed him by less than an inch. Did you see that kid trying to go down while his brother is walking up the slide and they’re fighting over the right of way? I hope you didn’t miss the kid who just fell off the monkey bars and is sobbing in the dirt. Every one of those scenes evokes the same question: Where is that mother? Or worse: Where is that nanny?

I know exactly where she is. She’s talking on her phone or reading her email.

“Your phone can seem to call to you in an especially seductive way when you are a parent on playground duty. And one reason is, let’s face it, that playground duty can get old long before your children do” says Dr. Klass.

“Parenting young children is frazzling to your brain” reports Dr. Jenny Radesky (a developmental behavioral pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics). She was quoted in the New York Times in 2014 and now she’s back being in print being quoted to make the exact same point she made three years ago. Distractions have not abated and taking care of children remains TEDIOUS.

Klass goes on to say, “Enjoy those moments in the playground, and keep an eye on the monkey bars. Safety first. If the kids are old enough and safe enough for you to look away, you may get a few minutes to check in on your adult life,”

I want to go on record as saying that checking in on your adult life at a playground is not the best advice. I have no idea what age is old enough for kids not to be watched.  What I do know is that  kids are capable of getting into trouble in a split second. The author of the article  seems to want to cut parents a break. Hey, parenting is demanding, tedious, and mind-numbing at times. Of course, you can look at your phone. This latitude is not extended to those people being paid to take care of kids. Only their parents. Which probably explains that most bruises and breaks happen on the parents watch not the nannies.

 

March 17th, 2017

Lock Your Door

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This week’s hilarious viral video is a perfect example of why nannies don’t like to work for parents who work from home. Who hasn’t laughed at that very proper dad being interviewed by the BBC when his home office was suddenly invaded by both his children. Let’s get serious. If the person who was watching the children had been the nanny, odds are really good she could have lost her job. Good thing it was the mom! And had it been the nanny who dragged the daughter along the floor to get her out of view, I’m pretty sure there would have been a discussion about potential  bodily harm.

We ask every nanny candidate how she feels about working for parents who work from home. While some are ok with the idea, many say having the parents at home makes it so much harder for them to do their jobs. Kids naturally want to be with their parents and are incapable of distinguishing play time from work time. Nannies have told us they don’t care if cameras are following them as they would do nothing differently. They just need to have their work space separated from the parents – preferably by several metro stops not merely upstairs or downstairs.

Telecommuting for work isn’t going away and will probably only increase. Figuring out how to make that arrangement work is the continuing challenge for nannies and parents alike. One of the suggestions we will now add to our list of best practices is to make sure the home office door is locked!

February 28th, 2017

Talk To Me

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The importance of good communication in any relationship is no secret. It’s the secret sauce for success.. You know you have to talk to your spouse. Of course, you to talk to your baby or children. Then there’s your mother and maybe even your mother-on-law.  (I personally love to be communicated with) And, if you are lucky enough to have a great nanny, believe me when I tell you, you need to talk to her. Regularly.

In the beginning of your relationship, you should have a set time to talk every week. Make sure this time is not when she is about to leave after being in your home for 10 hours. It’s the perfect opportunity to exchange observations. It allows you the chance to say thank you, good job, and would you mind…. whatever it is. It should never be viewed as only a time to deliver negative reviews or news. Many times it will be to discuss upcoming events, schedule changes, family news, etc.  It also gives your nanny a perfect forum to tell you things you need and will want to hear about your children.

Busy working people are often like ships passing in the night with the people who work in their homes. Information does not always get transmitted correctly or in the right tone. We all know about the convenience or texts and emails. Nothing substitutes for these weekly in person intimate sit downs. Invest the time and reap the dividends.

January 31st, 2017

Cute as a Picture

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Baby boy taking selfie with a cell phone camera

During our in person office interviews, one of the questions we ask all our nanny candidates is if they are comfortable texting and sending pictures during the day to their employers. We know that parents want to be part of their kids’ lives even if they can’t be with them during the day. Getting snapshots from the park, pool, or library is a great way of feeling connected.   The question may sound odd or even laughable in these times of total connectivity, but many of our nannies are not millennials and don’t live on their phones. Good news for parents worried about focus.  But what happens to those pictures? Where do they end up- other than with their parents- is worth a discussion. There is a lot of creepiness out there and we want to make sure that none of those adorable pictures make it into the wrong hands. Our advice to parents when they hire a new nanny is to have some ground rules about picture taking and posting. Most of us have Facebook and Instagram accounts no matter what age we are.  It’s worth the time to talk about the sharing of the photos and the settings on our phones. Geotagging, for instance, is most likely oversharing for nannies and their charges. Picture posting is a worthwhile topic to discuss whether you have a new nanny or one who has been working for you for a while. Take a moment to read this post for more helpful info. http://tiphero.com/kids-photo-safety/

January 25th, 2017

Dangerous Food

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I’m all about food. And I even indulge myself with a good hot dog every few years. I fed my children hot dogs not infrequently. I am now changing my mind when it comes to this particular food and kids. It presents an unnecessary risk. What I’m going to share is pretty scary. Last week we had a nanny with a child who choked on a piece of hot dog. She was told to make the hot dog and cut it up into small pieces which she did. Unfortunately, this child who was only one-shoved more than one little piece in his mouth and proceeded to choke. Fortunately, this nanny was CPR trained and knew what to do. It was still a terrifying experience for her. The only time in 20 years of childcare where she actually had to use her CPR training.  So what’s the take away? We have been very busy reading articles on what food to avoid for babies and toddlers. I have linked to a few. Here are my two simple pieces of advice:

1. Make sure your babysitters/nannies have current CPR and First Aid training and know what to do if there is a chocking incident.

2. Avoid hot dogs (and grapes) in young children’s diets.

December 23rd, 2016

Can We Solve This Problem?

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The Washington Post sites huge shortage of childcare options for DC families. May I just say that this is not news for any parents who have looked for childcare in the past decade. Additionally, DC is reported to have the most expensive childcare in the nation. And back to the supply issue. Even people who can afford childcare are not finding it easy to find quality people to care for their babies and young children. Should you need after care for your children outside of what schools provide, good luck finding someone who wants to work those critical 3 or 4 hours a day in your home.

Clearly, we have a problem which is not new and is not going away. We need an intervention. Childcare needs to be credentialed profession. We needed to have a trained workforce that can keep up with demand and also get paid for doing this essential and demanding work. Government is going to have to subsidize some kind of program. I keep hoping someone is going to take this issue on.

 

December 8th, 2016

Notice

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How much notice should a nanny give her employers? There is no clear cut right or wrong answer but there are some norms.  I think we can all agree that two weeks to replace a nanny is too short a window for most parents.  At the other end of the spectrum, expecting the nanny to keep her departure date open ended until a replacement nanny is found is not fair or even viable.  Four weeks notice seems to be a reasonable time frame.  Despite how reasonable that may sound, many families do not respond well when they learn that their childcare arrangements are coming to an end.  After all, this is a working city made of working families who rely on the people hired to tend to their kids. Not having childcare can mean a crisis.

I’ve been mulling over some of the reactions that families have when they get the unwanted or unexpected news.  No one likes change especially when it comes to their childcare arrangements.  We have seen former love fests turn ugly fast perhaps because the impending departure feels like a betrayal. Responses may range from threats of never being allowed to see or talk to the children again to refusing to provide a decent reference for the soon- to-be-departed and formerly loved nanny. There is no relationship quite like the one between a nanny and family.

Why don’t nannies give more notice? Many are afraid to tell families that they are looking for other employment because they live paycheck to paycheck. What happens if the family says: “You’re leaving? You can go now.” That response has happened with enough frequency to be a deterrent to full disclosure. Most nannies can’t afford the nicety of giving a heads up to an employer. It is a scary option for them to be left with no income.

The flip side to this discussion is how much notice a family should give a nanny when they decide to let her go. That’s a whole other blog.