Maintaining a Good Relationship with Childcare Providers
No matter if you have outside or in-home childcare, one of the best things you can do for your child is to keep up a good association with the childcare provider. The most crucial element of a good relationship is communication. It goes without saying that you should feel comfortable bringing any of your concerns relating to your child's care to the day care provider. Remember, however, that it is just as important that the caregiver be at ease bringing up her childcare-related issues to you.
The best way to make your childcare provider comfortable with you is to treat her with respect. Always speak politely to her, not only for her benefit, but for your child's as well. You are the example that your child is most likely to follow as he or she grows up. Similarly, you should not condescend the caregiver. Even a nannywho is technically an employee of yoursshould be treated as an important helper in your job of raising your child.
You also should show a great deal of interest in your child's progress in the day care setting. If the day care center or family day care provider does not give you a regular, written report on your child's day or week in the facility, ask for one.
One advantage of an outside caregiver over a nanny is that you will not have to worry about the caregiver leaving for another family. Still, when you leave your child with someone else for a large part of the day, you do want to be sure that you have a good rapport with her. Your child's interests are best served when all of those who have responsibility for his or her well-being can speak freely about his or her care and development.
Day care center staff are typically overworked and underpaid. Like many teachers, early childhood workers often purchase supplies for their classrooms out of their own pockets. Family day care is almost always a small-budget operation. Donating gently used toys or other items that your family no longer needs and that can be used in your child's day care is a great way to earn you the appreciation of the caregiver. If you do not have the means to donate anything, see if you can spend some time volunteering in the facility. Perhaps you can offer to lead a craft or play a game with some of the children. If the only time you have available is at the end of the day when you come to pick up your own child, offer to help straighten up your child's classroom. Taking some of the work off the hands of the caregivers is likely to win you undying gratitude. Even if you have no extra time to spend in the room, you could ask if they have any work that you can bring home to help out, such as typing up the day care center's newsletter or repairing broken toys.
It may be necessary to treat the in-home caregiver more delicately than it would be for the day care center or family day care staff. If the nanny or au pair becomes unhappy with her situation as the childcare provider in your home, she may simply leave. A good nanny or au pair is tough to find. If you have a good one, you will want to do all you can to hang on to her.
Some childcare experts suggest that a weekly or other regular parent/nanny conference be held from the beginning of the employment or au pair relationship, so that it is a habit right away rather than something you do not bother with until there is an actual problem.
Do not look at these conferences as merely a way for you to air your grievances or correct what you may see as flaws in your nanny's handling of various situations. They are also an invaluable way for you to get another perspective on your child's development. Not only might your nanny have good parenting ideas that you may not have thought of, but she just might observe things about your child that either you have never noticed or your child has never shown you. For example, your nanny might bring out a talent or interest in your child that you would not have otherwise ever discovered. Weekly conferences should serve as a dialogue that assists you in your parenting duties by giving you a fresh perspective of your child.
In the same way that many out-of-home caregivers provide written reports on the progress of the children in their care, the nanny should be willing to give you a summary of your child's day or week while you were at work. One nanny organization recommends having the nanny keep a journal of your child's activities for you to review. It does not have to be lengthyjust a short journal entry each day or so to keep you up-to-date on what your child is doing. This would be a good topic to discuss with potential nannies during the hiring process, so they are not taken by surprise when you add this task to their duties after they have been hired.
Sticking to the terms of your employment contract with the nanny is one of the best ways to avoid disagreements with her as time goes on. If you have an agreement to employ the nanny for 45 hours of childcare per week, with overtime on an as-needed basis, do not take advantage of the nanny by regularly asking her to work overtime (unless she asked for additional work hours). Even if you are paying her time-and-a-half for the extra work, at some point her time will be worth more to her than the additional pay. She may become resentful if you repeatedly come in later than expected.
Another point of difficulty can be raised when the nanny gives you a bad report about your child's behavior. If you do not follow through by giving your child a consequence for the misbehavior, your child may come to understand that the nanny's reports to you have no undesirable result for him or her. Not only will this teach your child that he or she can act as he or she pleases when in the nanny's care, it will undermine the nanny's position in your household. This may offend the nanny as well as render her ineffectual.
If you are not certain that your nanny's version of events is accurate, by all means, investigate further. However, if you simply fail to follow up on her report with a repercussion for your child, you may be sowing the seeds for a failed relationship with your nanny.
Using common sense in dealing with your nanny will go a long way toward keeping you both happy with the caregiver relationship. There are bound to be differences of opinion with her from time to time. It is not crucial that you are in agreement at all times. What is most important for the stability of your childcare arrangement over the long term is the manner in which you deal with potential conflicts when they arise. Your tone and the attitude that you take when discussing problems with your nanny will be what determines how your family's relationship with her continues in the future.
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Copyright © 2005 by Linda H. Connell. Excerpted from The Childcare Answer Book with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.
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