Like any relationship between an employer and an employee, your relationship with your sitter or nanny isn’t always smooth. There’s a good chance your caregiver is not a psychic and can’t read your mind, which is why communication is key to ensuring a healthy working relationship.

Below are some important things to keep in mind when communicating with your caregiver, as well as tips for navigating four common difficult or awkward situations.

  • Listen first. Listen to your sitter or nanny’s point of view. Even if she went against your house rules, she may have a good reason for why she acted a certain way based on the context of the situation.
  • Keep your cool. No one likes to get yelled at or scolded, so if you need to confront your sitter or nanny about an issue, try your best to talk calmly and not be accusatory.
  • Use your words. Make an effort to talk things out with your sitter or nanny. Effective communication is key to solving any issues you have with your caregiver.

Four tricky situations and how to navigate them:

1. Your sitter isn’t following your discipline strategy

Since this is a biggie, bring it up before you make a hiring decision. Discipline should be a topic you cover when you interview sitters and nannies. You should be clear as day about how you discipline your children and how you expect your caregiver to discipline them. If your caregiver has different views and is unwilling to follow yours, then she is not the right match for your family.

If you run into a situation where you feel your sitter or nanny has gone against your discipline strategy (ex: she is too lax about putting your child in time-out) take the time to review your strategy and expectations with her.

In situations like this, it could also be helpful to do a little role playing. Go over potential disciplinary situations so your caregiver has a better understanding of how to apply your discipline strategy at any given time.

2. Your sitter wants a raise, but you’re not sure she’s earned it

Compensation is another topic that should be addressed before you make a hiring decision. Clearly convey what you are willing to pay and what your promotion and bonus structure is, if any.

You should also develop a performance review for your caregiver that’s tied with her performance and bonus structure. The review should include a list of your caregiver’s duties and expectations as well as a rating system. This will allow both you and your caregiver to monitor and evaluate her performance to see if she’s meeting expectations and deserves a raise.

If your caregiver requests a raise and you don’t feel she’s earned it, you can use her performance review as a guide to discuss where she needs improvement and what she can do in order to achieve a raise.

While we’re on the subject of money, another thing to keep in mind is the actual exchange of funds. Some caregivers find it awkward to be handed a wad of cash. They may feel uncomfortable counting that cash front of you to make sure they were paid the right amount. A quick and easy solution is to pay your sitter using an app that allows online payments. But first, be sure to ask your caregiver her payment preference.

3. Schedule? What schedule?

Dinner at 6. Story by 7. Lights out at 8. We know children thrive on consistency, which is why schedules and routines are important. Schedule-oriented parents work extremely hard to get their kids into a routine, and if the babysitter or nanny doesn’t observe their schedule, that’s a major problem.

If you feel your caregiver is throwing off your child’s schedule, the first thing you need to do is evaluate said schedule. Is it reasonable? Are there factors out of your sitter or nanny’s control that are causing the issues (ex: a teething baby)?

If you feel your requests are reasonable and nothing should be getting in the way, you need to have a chat with your caregiver.

First things first: Make sure you’ve clearly explained the schedule in the first place. There are times when you may have been too vague and your sitter or nanny misunderstood your request.

Once you have explained the schedule, simply tell your caregiver why it’s important. Let them know why consistency matters and your philosophy behind it. Understanding the “why” may be all your caregiver needs to start making a consistent schedule a priority.

4. You have a hard time setting boundaries with your sitter

Because caregivers are such an integral part of our lives, they often feel more like family than an employee. While this is a good thing, it can sometimes lead to complex situations, especially if there are no clear boundaries.

It’s important to be upfront about boundaries with your caregiver. There is such thing as TMI, and both you and your caregiver need to be aware of that. While it’s likely your caregiver knows many details of your life (marital and financial situations being two of the big ones), that doesn’t mean she should be your go-to person when you need to vent or complain.

A good rule of thumb is to only share things with your caregiver that directly affect her job. It’s your responsibility as the parent to set the boundaries your caregiver is expected to follow.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when navigating your relationship with your caregiver is communication. Caregivers may be uncertain of guidelines and unknowingly go against your wishes. To prevent this you need to be as clear as possible when conveying your rules and expectations. You should be speaking with your caregiver regularly and addressing any questions, comments, and concerns either of you have.

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