The Art of Being Human
Disagreements over how a child is raised are common and they can occur within different types of relationships such as a mother and father, parents and grandparents, friends and occasionally, even a stranger will happily give a parent advice on where they are going wrong. We have all been raised differently and our parenting style is usually modelled on our own parents/caregiver’s style we experienced as a child and no two ways are the same. Human nature dictates that most of us care deeply about children, particularly our own and disagreements are therefore more profound.
It’s no surprise then that the relationship between nanny and parent is at risk of breaking down if good communication practices are not engaged. When a family hires a nanny, they try to find a caregiver that shares similar values to them. If there is a sense that the nanny is not meeting their expectations, whether realistic or not, negativity within the relationship can begin to brew.
Communication is more than just words. It involves body language and tone as well. Research has found four particularly negative styles of communication, often referred to as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” (Gottman, 1999). I
f left unchecked, these styles of interaction can eventually become lethal to relationships. Gottman identified these styles as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Most of us have experienced all of them at some point in our lives.
What we need to remind ourselves is that its normal, it’s going to happen and it’s the art of being human! Many families and nannies who have experienced similar problems have gone on to have long and healthy relationships. The goal of this exercise is to decide if its worth putting the energy into saving the relationship and keeping your nanny or maybe its time to say goodbye.
What to do
Step One – Analyze the problem
You will need to get out a pen and paper first.
1. Write down what you liked about the nanny in the first place.
2. Now comes the time to brainstorm. write a list of everything you like and dislike about the nanny while focusing on their childcare style, dependability, productivity and creativity i.e. what do they bring to the job to help your child/ren develop?
3. Put a star or a check next to everything on the ‘like’ list that is important to you and do the same for the dislike list.
4. Analyze the list. What does it tell you in terms of how you feel about the nanny and if she is the right person to care for your child? Don’t discount your gut feeling. Its more powerful that you realize!
Step Two – Schedule a time to meet with your nanny
This needs to be outside of work time, away from the children and preferably away from the home with no distractions. It may be one of the hardest conversations you have. Dealing with conflict can be painful for many of us but can also be the most rewarding experience if handled properly. The most important piece of advice is to handle conflicts directly, promptly and face-to-face with your nanny. Let the nanny know that the meeting is simply to share thoughts on how you both think the job and relationship is going and that no decisions will be made until both parties have had time to consider options.
1. Ask your nanny to complete a similar exercise to you, making a list of everything she likes and dislikes about her job. Its important you reassure her you will be open to what she has to say and that she can trust you to hear her out and vice versa.
2. Begin by discussing what you like about your nanny’s performance to reassure her/him that its not all bad.
3. As the parent and employer, you will need to take the lead and be assertive but also, a good listener. Imagine you are talking to someone you care about deeply and try to adopt that style in your manner of communication. Show that you care about them and their well-being. Remember, it is not just when you say it, but how you say it. Confront existing issues without being confrontational.
Step Three – Consider your options
This is your opportunity to consider your thoughts and do some homework.
1. Decide if your conversation has changed the way you feel about your nanny.
2. Consider if you now have a better understand of your nanny’s role, challenges, frustrations?
3. Have your thoughts changed about them?
4. Ask yourself if the nanny is a good role model four child.
5. Consider what changes can be made to improve the relationship.
6. Write two three suggestions to improve the working relationship and have your nanny do the same.
Step Four - Resolution
1. Share your suggestions with each other and agree on what changes will be made
2. Add the amendments to work agreement and go over them with your nanny so you both agree.
3. Agree on deadline. Allow two weeks for the changes to take effect and see if things improve.
4. After two weeks, meet again to decide if the changes have made a difference and things have improved.
5. If you have a sense that things have not improved, you probably need to make the decision that the relationship cannot be saved. Better to move on that continue in the hope that things will improve. The person who will suffer the most will be your child.
Hopefully, this exercise will help you move forward. Dealing with conflict and disagreement in a relationship is difficult for anyone but handled calming and in an organized way, can lead to successful resolution. Good luck!