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How a Nanny Can Determine a Family’s Needs

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A large part of a nanny’s success – or a major contributing factor to her lack thereof – is dependent upon her ability to understand the individual needs of the family she works for. Just as no two children are alike, neither are the households they live in. Learning to navigate the particular landscape of family dynamics and scheduling in a new post is essential for the nanny who wishes to maintain her post for years to come.

Even a childcare provider who’s particularly adept at reading situations should  take certain steps to ensure that those observations are accurate and in accordance with the needs of her employers, as depending solely on instinct can often lead to misunderstandings and even serious disputes. In the interest of performing to the best of your abilities and providing the family that employs you with top-notch service, here are a few tips for determining their needs so that you can make your best effort to meet them.

  • Ask Questions at the Interview – All too often, nannies see an in-person interview as more of a one-sided interrogation than a dialogue between both parties; as a result, questions go unasked and needs ultimately go unmet. Rather than answering all of a prospective employer’s questions without asking any of your own, make an effort to discuss the intricacies of the position and ask any applicable questions. In addition to making it easier for you to figure out what the position will entail, this simple action can save both you and a prospective employer a considerable amount of time and wasted effort by revealing a personality clash, fundamental disagreement, or any other potentially problematic aspect of a post. Asking courteous and polite questions will help you to determine exactly what a family is looking for, what they aren’t yet aware that they need, and give you a brief but informative glimpse of the inner workings of the household.
  • Work With Your Employers to Create a Checklist of Responsibilities – Putting the responsibilities that your employers will be expecting you to fulfill in writing by working together to draft a checklist provides a great opportunity to discuss their individual needs and the ideal qualities they’d like their nanny to have. Though nannies typically only provide services that are directly related to the care of children, perhaps your employers are in need of light housekeeping or full household management. Working together to build a definitive list of responsibilities and expected tasks will allow you to best determine where their needs fall and how you can best meet them.
  • Contact Their Last Nanny, If Possible – If your new employers and their previous nanny parted on good terms they will probably be willing to provide you with an email address or another form of contact information so that you can discuss her duties and what tasks she was regularly charged with. Be warned, however, that a family whose last nanny left under difficult circumstances or as a result of a serious dispute may not be willing to disclose any of that information. In that case, it might be wise to ask them what they did and did not like about her methods, in order to get a basic idea of what their expectations are.
  • Document and Summarize Your Findings – Taking the time to summarize all of the information that you’ve collected regarding the needs and expectations of your new or prospective employers and presenting them for review is a great way of making sure that you’re all on the same page, and that your initial observations are correct. Should you be off base in some area or another, it also allows them the chance to dispel any misconceptions that you may be laboring under and better explain those needs.

During the process of drafting the written work agreement that will include a detailed summary of the expectations and responsibilities of both you and your new employer, you should be provided with an even clearer picture of how the household runs, where assistance is required, and what you should or should not contribute. Because a good contract should be so thorough that it could be considered exhaustive, you should have few, if any, questions about what will be expected of you. During the first few weeks of your new engagement, make sure that you’re as observant as possible; this adjustment period can be very informative, revealing needs that your new employers might not even realize that they have.

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10 Ice Breaking Nanny Interview Questions

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You know you are going to ask some hard hitting, serious questions during this interview, so you want to start with some easy “getting to know you” questions to break the ice. Setting a comfortable tone to begin with will put the candidates at ease, and hopefully, make the interview less threatening and more open both in what is said and in body language. Some ice breaking questions to get your started are listed below.

  1. Did you have any trouble finding our home? – This question let’s your candidate know that you care about whether or not your directions were sufficient. The answer also lets you know how good they are about following driving directions (provided you gave them good directions to begin with!)
  2. Would you like some….? – Offering the candidates’ tea, coffee, water or whatever is a nice way to put them at ease and give them something to drink should their mouth become dry during the interview.
  3. Tell us about yourself. – It’s pretty well established that many people like talking about themselves and your candidates are no exception. Listening to what the candidate says and how it’s said can be a window into what this person is really like. Are they stiff? Are they animated? Do they smile a lot? Are they comfortable sharing with you? Listen with your ears and eyes to what’s being said and possibly to what’s not being said.
  4. What’s the best time you’ve ever had with kids? – This question will give you a little insight as to what kinds of things the applicant enjoys doing with children.
  5. Do you have any hobbies? – People who have hobbies love talking about them. They love sharing their experiences and their expertise. Your future nanny’s special interests very well may become hobbies for your children. Creative activities help round out a person.
  6. What foods do you enjoy? – Your candidates’ culinary tastes can reveal something about them. Do they like junk food? Are they vegan? Do they enjoy ethnic foods? This will give you a chance to find out what types of foods your kids may be exposed to when you are not around. It also clues you in as to what special adjustments you may have to make to accommodate the nanny’s tastes.
  7. What types of music do you enjoy? – The musical tastes of the candidates will enlighten you as to what your children may be listening to in your absence.
  8. Describe the perfect childhood. – This gives the candidate an opportunity to relay to you their idea of how kids should be raised in an ideal world. Of course it is just an imaginary situation, but it can reveal a lot about the person’s values and aspirations for children.
  9. What’s your favorite story about one of your former charges? – For the most part nannies love the kids they care for and thoroughly enjoy sharing stories about them. This question affords you an opportunity to glimpse into the candidates’ relationship with kids.
  10. Who is your inspiration? – This questions should produce a light in the candidate’s eyes. It will also give you an idea of what the person’s aspirations are. Since this applicant will be someone your kids are going to look up to as a role model, it is only fitting that you know who they see as their role model.

Ice breaker questions can be about more than the weather. They don’t have to be probing or invasive; they can be fun and informative. As you put your applicants at ease, they will open up more to you and you will learn more about them. Then when you ask the tough questions the answers may flow a little easier.

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How Busy is Too Busy for Your Kids?

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Many moms feel like they become a personal chauffer at a certain point, carting their kids from one activity to another throughout the week. From soccer practice to singing lessons, ballet to ballroom dance, parents are under enormous pressure to get and keep their kids involved with extracurricular activities.

Parents usually start feeling pressure to put their kids into an activity when they are around the age of 3.  Other parents may ask what sport a child is into or what classes they are taking, and that’s often enough for a parent to reevaluate her choices of activities.  Children learn best through play, but too often parents feel pressured to enroll their children into academically challenging preschools and sign them up for various team sports like soccer, even though they’re barely running, so that they don’t forfeit his chance to go pro.

According to the chair of ISA (Independent Schools Association) Graham Gorton, “Children like their own company.  They lose the capability to amuse themselves if everything is put in front of them in an organized, structured, club type way.”  Gorton also comments that if kids aren’t allowed to just go out and play they will fail to develop imaginative and inquiring minds.

Many parents worry that if they don’t enroll their children early enough, they’ll never become good enough. These concerns are often without merit.  In 10th grade Charles Barkley, retired NBA star, didn’t make his high school varsity basketball team.  He shot baskets in his neighborhood and jumped back and forth over a 4 foot high fence all the time, telling his mom that he was going to be in the NBA someday.  Barkley did not play in organized basketball teams from a young age. He was raised by his mom and grandma and they didn’t have any money to enroll him. This is just one example of many that shows that children can become successful at an activity at any age, and don’t need to start playing or practicing as toddlers to ensure success.

As a result of this pressure, many children are overscheduled. How can you tell if your child is doing too much?  Ask yourself if your child seems tired or lacks enthusiasm for things that he used to love. Does he complain about aches and pains that you never remember having when you were a kid?  Are his grades dropping?  Does he complain of headaches or bellyaches before heading to an activity?  If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your child might be too busy.

The solution to an overly busy child can be as easy as cutting out one activity a week.  Create some down time in your family.  If, after you drop one thing, you don’t see enough of a change, then drop something else.  Consider creating an activity free day or two per week or insisting that certain times be free for family, school work, and good old fashioned, unscheduled fun.

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Are Nannies Entitled to Minimum Wage?

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At first glance, it may appear that the Department of Labor excludes household employers from paying their household employees minimum wage, but for those who keep reading, it becomes clear that nannies are indeed, subject to minimum wage laws.

In fact, domestic service workers, including nannies, cooks, housekeepers and full-time babysitters are all covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if they work a total of more than 8 hours per week for one or more employers OR if they earn more than the calendar year threshold which is adjusted by the Social Security Administration each year. For 2012, that threshold was set at $1800.

The Fair Labor Standards Act is the federal law that establishes minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping and youth employment standards. Since nannies are covered under the FLSA, these standards apply to them and the parents who employ them.

With regards to minimum wage, nannies are entitled to earning at least minimum wage for every hour worked. Since state and federal minimum wage laws vary, the highest minimum wage rate applies. But a discrepancy in minimum wage rates can even be found within states. For instance, some municipalities like San Francisco have higher wage rates than California. In this case, the highest wage rate applies, according to Tom Breedlove of Breedlove & Associates. Whenever there are two or more minimum wage rates, the highest wage rate always prevails.  “So domestic workers in Georgia, Arkansas, Wyoming and Minnesota are still entitled to the higher federal rate of $7.25 and an employee in Los Angeles is entitled to the higher California rate of $8.00,” according to Breedlove.

Another part of the Fair Labor Standards Act law that directly impacts a nanny’s salary is the overtime standard. Live-out nannies who work more than 40 hours per 7-day period are entitled to overtime pay at the rate of 1.5 times their base hourly wage rate. In some states, including New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Maine, live-in nannies are also entitled to overtime pay, however when the overtime differential kicks in can vary from state to state.

Since nannies are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are also required to keep accurate time records that indicate all hours worked by an employee. Some families require their nanny to keep a daily log to satisfy this requirement, while others provide a sign in/sign out card for their employee’s to sign upon starting and finishing their work day.

For some nannies and families, determining a weekly salary makes payroll easier, but for the salary to be compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the salary must be translated into hourly wage rates. The first 40 hours of work in the 7-day period must be paid at the wage rate equal to or greater than the prevailing minimum wage rate and for any hours over 40, the overtime wage rate must be paid at 1.5 times that hourly rate (view a sample calculation courtesy of Breedlove & Associates here). It is important that household employers are complaint and uphold FLSA standards with regards to overtime pay because there is no statute of limitations placed on when an employee can file a wage dispute claim.

For nannies and parents concerned about FLSA compliance, they should consult the US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division or a household payroll and tax expert firm like Breedlove & Associates. Having a household tax and payroll expert handle your household employee’s payroll and taxes can ensure you are FLSA compliant and following all applicable local, state and federal labor wage laws.

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Keeping Your Job When the Kids Go Off to School

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If you think about it, nannies are one of the very few types of workers that enter into a position where the ultimate promotion is that they are no longer needed because the children no longer require nanny care.

While many nannies make a one year commitment, it’s not unusual for a nanny who started with a child when he was a baby to work as his nanny until he goes off to school. When a nanny is happy with her job and the family is happy with the nanny’s performance, the working relationship could go on for several years.

For nannies who have been with a family for several years, when her charge is ready to begin school it is a time of mixed emotions. A nanny may be filled with pride and joy seeing her charge through to this major milestone, but she may also be filled with sadness and grief knowing that her place within the family will soon be coming to an end.

But the end doesn’t have to be so near.

For many families, keeping their nanny on well after their child has started school is becoming a reality. When parents begin to consider the pros and cons of letting their nanny go, they’re often surprised to discover that keeping their nanny on may not only be more convenient, it can also be cost effective.

Nannies who keep their job after their charges enter school typically transition into the position of nanny/household manager. Nanny/household managers serve as a nanny when the children are home, but when the children are in school they take on other household-related tasks and otherwise manage the employer’s home. While these tasks may vary from family to family, they typically include running errands, coordinating, managing and supervising contractors and repair personnel, doing administrative tasks, maintaining the family calendar, and may even include organizing the home, paying bills, or other various housekeeping tasks.

When the children are not in school, the nanny resumes her traditional nanny role and provides customized and personalized child care. For working parents, knowing that they have prearranged childcare for when the child is mildly ill, when the school is closed, and during vacations often makes keeping their nanny worth doing. Finding backup care, short-term care and temporary care can be time consuming and costly.

Another added value that a nanny brings to the school aged child is that she is available to provide gap coverage. Gap coverage is the childcare a family needs during the time between when the parents need to be at work and when the child needs to be at school, and the time between when the child gets out from school and the parents return home. Having a consistent care plan in place for the children eliminates the need for piecemeal childcare and transportation arrangements, which could end up costing more than it would to continue employing their nanny.

When parents consider the value of keeping their nanny on after their child starts school, they are often surprised to learn that many of the things that they currently outsource around the home are things their nanny would be willing to do, especially if it meant keeping her job. For example, a nanny who enjoys cleaning may be willing to take on the housekeeping duties. A nanny who is skilled in the kitchen may be willing to prepare family meals. A nanny who loves animals may be willing to walk the dog.

If you’re in a position where your charges will be going off to school soon and you are interested in staying in your position, now is the time to talk to your employers about the possibility of transitioning to a nanny/household manager.

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5 Summer Backyard Dangers for Toddlers and Preschoolers

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Summer brings a lot of opportunities for outdoor play, but with that it also brings opportunities for a lot of injuries. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each summer 2.3 million children visit the emergency room due to accidents around the grill, pool, and play set. As parents and caregivers plan to spend time outdoors with toddlers and preschoolers, they should be aware of these 5 summer backyard dangers.

1. Wading pools. While some parents and nannies may think less water means less danger, according to research from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the United States every five days a child drowns from being submerged in a portable pool during the summer months. In addition to closely supervising children when they are in a portable pool, parents and caregivers must be vigilant about avoiding distractions, like answering the phone or socializing with neighbors, when the children are playing in and around wading pools. Most of the children who drowned were under the age of five.

2. The sun. To avoid sunburn or too much sun exposure, be sure to apply sunscreen to the children anytime they are playing outdoors. While it can be tempting to only put on sunscreen when the children are at the beach, in the pool, or only on sunny days, make putting sunscreen on a priority anytime the children are playing outdoors. Waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be applied before heading outdoors and reapplied every 90 minutes for the best coverage.  Dressing children in hats, swim suits, and clothes that offer UPF protection can also prevent sunburn. Preventing sunburns is the key to preventing skin cancer.

3. Play structures. Backyard play structures can pose many hazards, especially if they aren’t age-appropriate for the children who are playing on them. Be sure that the play structures are designed for the ages of the children using them. Parents and caregivers should also regularly inspect the equipment for dangers, including loose or protruding bolts, broken parts, and any stability issues. Many home play structures are placed directly on the grass, rather than on an impact-absorbing surface like shredded rubber or wood chips. Parents should opt for proper ground surface covering when installing new play structures.

4. Bug bites and bee stings.  For young children, getting a bug bite or a bee sting can be a traumatic experience. Unlike adults, toddlers and preschoolers don’t have the self-control needed to not itch or touch the damaged and irritated skin. As a result, infections can occur. When outside, consider applying insect repellent on children to prevent bug bites. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that DEET based repellents (with no more than 30% DEET) be applied to children aged 2 months and over once per day.  Avoid putting repellent on the children’s hands and close to their eyes, ears, and mouths.  Insect repellent should also only be used on exposed skin and it should be washed off with soap and water once indoors.

5. Garden hoses. Many garden hoses, especially older ones or ones with brass fittings can contain high levels of lead. Lead in any amount is unsafe for children. Lead ingestion can lead to brain damage and developmental problems. Avoid allowing children to drink from hoses that say “do not drink” on them. Since children often drink the water in kiddie pools, it’s a good idea for parents and caregivers to only use water from hoses that are safe to drink out of to fill them.

With the proper precautions, parents and nannies can reduce the risk of summer backyard injuries. And less summer injuries means more summer fun for everyone.

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5 Things to Do Before Asking Your Nanny to Administer Medication

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Whether your child needs an occasional fever reducer or a daily dose of prescription medication, if you expect your nanny to administer medicine it’s vital she knows how and is comfortable doing so. If your child takes medication on a daily basis or has emergency medicine like an inhaler or an epinephrine pen, consider these 5 things before asking your nanny to administer medication.

  1. Give your nanny written consent. When medicine is given to a child at a daycare center or at a school, the nurse will have you fill out a written consent form.  This consent form is proof that you have authorized your child’s caregiver to medicate your child. Providing your nanny with written consent can serve as the same type of proof of permission to give your child medication.
  2. Write down instructions for your nanny. It’s always best to write down clear and concise instructions for your nanny on how medication is to be administered, and leaving these instructions out for her is a good habit to get into.  Doing so will ensure that the dose and schedule has been clearly communicated and documented. Medications should always be left in their original packaging with instructions from the doctor so that the nanny can refer to them prior to dispensing each dose.
  3. Make a medication log. Print out a simple sheet with 4 columns and several rows. Make one heading for the medication name, one for the date the dose was given, one for the time it was given and one for how much medicine was administered.  The log will allow seamless care of the child and no one will be left wondering when the child was last given medication.  This log may also come in handy for reviewing treatment with the doctor.
  4. Provide proper measuring tools.  No one wants to give a child too much or not enough of a medication that they need.  Going back a generation or two, it was common practice to use a spoon from the silverware drawer to measure medicine.  Today that is not the case.   For oral prescription medications, the pharmacist should provide a syringe or measuring cup. For over the counter children’s oral medications, a measuring device should be included in the packaging.  For pills that need to be cut, be sure the nanny has a pill splitting device.
  5. Ask your nanny if she has any questions. Probably one of the most important steps in directing your nanny to administer medication is making sure that she clearly understands the instructions.   She needs to know where the medicine is kept, whether it needs to be refrigerated or not, how much medicine the child needs and how often.  Some children may need medicine for an ongoing condition, so it’s important that your nanny is aware of all medicines that your child is taking in case she needs to take him for medical treatment.  If your child has severe allergies and may at some point need a shot of epinephrine, you will need to train your nanny how to give the child the shot. Knowing how to give the shot and giving it without hesitation could be the difference between life and death.

Once you are confident that your nanny fully understands how and when she should be administering medication to your child, than she may be ready for the responsibility.

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The Real Families Nannies Work For

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While the media loves to feature nannies who work for celebrity families, the reality is only a small percentage of nannies work for celebrity families. In fact, a majority of nannies work for two parent families in dual income homes.

In fact, in the 2012 International Nanny Association Salary and Benefits Survey, only 3% of nanny respondents reported that they worked for an internationally or nationally known celebrity, while 72% of nannies who responded to the survey reported that they work for a professional couple.

By the numbers,

  • 72% of full-time nannies responded that they work for a professional couple.
  • 11% responded that they work for a couple where one or both parents work from home.
  • 9% responded that they work for a couple where one parent is a professional/and one parent is at home.
  • 2% responded that they work for an internationally known celebrity.
  • 2% responded that they work for an independently wealthy individual or family.
  • 2% responded that they work for a professional single parent.
  • 1% responded that they work for a divorced couple with shared custody.
  • 1% responded that they work for a nationally known celebrity.

While celebrity nanny jobs may pay a small fortune, be filled with excitement and travel, and include time spent rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, these jobs often come with high demands. Celebrity nannies may work long hours, have to travel at the drop of a hat and make personal and social sacrifices to remain employed in a high paying, high profile position. In fact, in a March 2012 interview with The New York Times Magazine, Cliff Greenhouse, president of New York Based Pavillion Agency, was quoted as saying “that kind of commitment is essentially built into the price. Many clients are paying for the privilege of not having to worry about their child’s care, which means never worrying if their nanny has plans. Which, of course, she can’t, pretty much ever.”

But the reality is most parents who employ nannies are professionals who work outside of the home. They employ a nanny because it offers the personalized and flexible care that is needed to allow them to do their jobs. For many professional couples, they also opt to hire a nanny because it is the only childcare option that makes financial sense. If a family has two small children who need care, paying a nanny can be less expensive than paying early and late fees at daycare and supplementing that care with a babysitter if their working hours start early in the morning and extend late into the evening.



But just because nanny employers don’t hold celebrity status or pay celebrity nanny wages, doesn’t mean that they don’t occasionally behave like they do. Many times nanny employers forget that their nannies have lives and commitments outside of work and as a result, put unrealistic expectations on their nanny with regards duties, flexibility and hours worked.

And likewise, just because a nanny doesn’t work for the rich and famous, doesn’t mean she occasionally doesn’t act like she does. Sometimes nannies survey their employer’s surroundings and as a result, evaluate their worth based on what they feel the parents should be able to afford paying them, which isn’t necessarily their market value based on their geographical location, experience, education , training and the other components that can help determine a fair nanny salary.

Having a written work agreement that details the nanny’s salary, duties and expectations can help keep the celebrity egos suppressed and ensure that both the nanny and the parents have a clear understanding of their employment arrangement.

So while it’s the celebrities and their nannies who often make the news, it’s the professional couples and their nannies who make up the bulk of nanny and employer relationships.

Nannies and their employers often depend on each other and need each other equally. Most nanny employers can’t afford to pay six-figure nanny salaries and most nannies don’t want to sign their lives away to their employers. To me, it’s clear that there is a middle ground and that’s where most nannies and parents reside. It’s where the ones who have long-term, successful relationships do, for sure.

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5 Reasons Nanny Relationships Fail

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With the nanny’s workplace being the family’s home and the nanny’s job centering on caring for her employer’s most prized possession, it is no secret that the nanny and employer relationship is an intimate one. In fact, it’s for this reason that the nanny and employer relationship is often compared to a marriage.

And like with any good marriage, a good nanny and employer relationship takes work. For the relationship to be successful, both parties must strive to fulfill their commitments to each other, to keep the lines of communication open and to do their best to ensure an open and honest relationship.

When nanny and employer relationships fail, it is usually because of one (or more) of the following five reasons:

1. Lack of communication. For the nanny and employer relationship to be successful, both the nanny and the parents must actively communicate. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential in preventing resentment and hurt feelings from sabotaging the relationship. Setting aside a time for weekly check-in meetings can help ensure communication flows freely between both parties. If an issue comes up, discussing it before negative feelings fester can help facilitate a good relationship. Maintaining a nanny journal to leave notes in, encouraging emails, text messages and phone calls when something comes up, and facilitating a communication friendly environment can help ensure the lines of communication are always open. If you want your nanny to feel free to contact you at anytime, be sure she feels like it is okay to do so.

2. Poor matching. Even the most perfect nanny may not be perfect for every family. If a nanny and her employer do not share similar parenting styles, lifestyle choices or values, or if the type of care the employer wants and the type of care the nanny wishes to provide don’t match up, the relationship may suffer. While some nannies and employers are able to adapt to improve their compatibility, sometimes there is just too much of a gap and the relationship goes south.

3. Lack of respect. When nannies and their employers do not share mutual respect, the relationship can suffer. The nanny who chronically shows up five minutes late leads the employer to believe that the nanny doesn’t value her job. The employer who consistently walks in the door the minute the nanny is scheduled to leave leads the nanny to believe her time isn’t valued. The employer that doesn’t back the nanny in front of the child or expects the live-in nanny to be on call 24/7 conveys that she doesn’t really matter. Be sure your attitude and actions convey a professional level of respect.

4. Mismanagement. Not surprisingly, even the most effective corporate managers can have difficulty managing household employees. The nature of the relationship and the workspace can make nanny management tough. Having a written work agreement, household handbook, weekly meetings and quarterly reviews can set the framework for managing household staff effectively.

5. Lack of professional boundaries. When a nanny employer asks what her nanny did over the weekend, she really doesn’t want to hear the type of details that would make your grandmother blush.  When you are having a conflict with your spouse, your nanny doesn’t want to be your sounding board, although it may appear she is willing to be by her mere presence in your home. While many nannies and their employers come to be like family, the reality is that they’re not. It’s important to keep that line of distinction present.

The nanny and employer relationship can be a healthy one, if both the nanny and the employer work to ensure its success.  If you are prepared to invest yourself in building the relationship, it will thrive. What you are willing to put into the relationship, you will get out of it.

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10 Tips for Parents that Need to Learn Sign Language

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While there has been a trend in recent years of hearing parents learning and teaching their hearing infants to use sign language before they become verbal, there are a surprising number of hearing parents who opt not to learn sign language, even after discovering that their child is deaf or hard of hearing. For parents that have a deaf child, here are ten tips and bits of advice regarding the learning of sign language.

  1. Be Patient – The twin frustrations of learning that your child is deaf and the enormity of learning an entirely new language in order to communicate with her are enough to set anyone on edge. One of the most important things that parents can do, however, is to be patient with themselves, their children, and the flood of unsolicited advice from well-meaning but misguided friends and relatives.
  2. Understand the Benefits – Teachers that work with deaf children agree that children who live in a home with signing parents are more likely to be operating at the appropriate grade level, have better reading comprehension skills, and are more eager to join in activities and lessons than their peers who have non-signing parents.
  3. Understand the Dangers of Choosing Not to Learn – Just as the children of signing parents tend to perform better academically and socially, the children of non-signing parents are more likely to be withdrawn, angry, and exhibit behavioral problems stemming from their frustration at being unable to communicate with their own parents.
  4. Start Small – If you choose American Sign Language, begin with the first hundred signs and work your way up. Whichever signing method or language you decide to learn, understand that learning the simplest, most basic aspects of it will be the foundation upon which the rest of your skills are built.
  5. Look at All of Your Options – The phrase “sign language” most often calls to mind American Sign Language, which is the more popular and widely-used method of sign language in North America. However there are still several other types of sign language in common use, all with various strengths and weaknesses. Carefully consider each before making your decision.
  6. Accept That Your Child Will Communicate Differently Than Their Peers – For some parents, the idea of not learning to communicate freely with their deaf child is unfathomable. However, experts theorize that many opt not to learn any type of sign language because they want their child to learn to speak and sight-read in order to be as “normal” as possible. Still, studies have shown that even proficient sight-readers have difficulty in any conditions that are less than ideal, so it’s important to understand from the outset that your child will always communicate differently than their peers, but that they require the same encouragement and love.
  7. Adapt As You Go – There’s no one-size-fits-all method of parenting for any child. Regardless of how much you plan and prepare for your child’s life and learning methods, it’s important to still be flexible and capable of adapting.
  8. Be Prepared For a Challenge – Another of the common reasons why hearing parents don’t learn sign language is that they mistakenly believe that it will be simple to grasp. When they discover that, just like learning any second language, it comes with challenges and difficulties, they may abandon the idea in favor of options that work better for them but are less effective for their child.
  9. Take Advantage of Every Available Resource – In addition to in-person classes and tutoring, there are also a wealth of free online resources to help you polish your sign language skills. It may also be a good idea to join support groups for hearing parents of deaf children in order to help one another and become more involved in the community.
  10. Make Decisions Based on the Individual Needs of Your Unique Family – In the end, the decisions that you make should be based upon the careful consideration of the needs of your family, rather than advice from outsiders. As long as you’re making a concerted effort to communicate as freely as possible with your child and to support them unwaveringly, you aren’t likely to go wrong.

In addition to helping one another to learn sign language and communication skills, joining a support group for hearing parents of deaf children can be the first interaction that young deaf children have with others who are also deaf. It can also offer parents a much-needed place to vent and share experiences, so it might be a good idea to look into the offerings in your community.

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