Written by Tina Gelashvilli
How does one deal with conflict situations? More specifically, how does a nanny deal with conflict situations with her employer? Does she apologize and step back to defuse the situation, or does she defend herself and engage emotionally? Moreover, while the conflict escalates, do any of the parties consider how it will affect the children? I often find myself having to answer these questions, even though it is sometimes not easy to do so without taking sides.
The relationship between a nanny and her employers is a very delicate one. While it is a work place for the nanny, the home is the most private and personal space for the parents – the most cherished sanctuary they can retreat to after a long day at work. While most of us are at our best behavior at work, we usually allow ourselves to “unpack” at home, to rid ourselves of all the stress, anger and frustration that might have been part of our day at work. But, what happens when your place of work is also the place you reside? Or, what if you always have to be an employer in your place of residence and relaxation? It is natural for household tensions to arise now and then, especially for Live-In Nanny situations.
But, what are the best ways to deal with these tensions?
Combat Conflict with Communication
The first thing for both parties to remember is that Nannies and the Private Families they work for depend on each other. They share a common goal (the children) and need to communicate with one another in order to make sure that goal is met. Consistent communication such as monthly meetings, however brief, can prolong healthy relationships between parents and nannies. Try discussing issues in a calm and professional manner before things escalate.
Second, timing is (almost) everything. Make sure to begin a conversation with a level-head and at a time when emotions are no longer running high.
Third, it is not just when you say it, but how you say it. Confront existing issues without being confrontational. One live-in nanny confided in me how her employer would come home after a long day at work and invariably shout at her. She would feel terribly upset in her room. She would never confront her employer or engage in argument, because the employer would always apologize. However, the emotional toll it took on her prompted her to seek another position. She asked for advice, which I willingly gave, and she discussed the matter respectfully with both parents and told them how their treatment affected her. She happily followed my advice and the situation improved. But what if the situation does not improve? In fact, the improvement in the above anecdote was only temporary. A few months later, the Nanny walked out of the position when she experienced yet another incident. The Nanny never contacted the family or the agency again.
While there might be extreme or rare instances where leaving a position without notice is justified, Nannies who leave a position without attempting to resolve conflicts and without proper notice might have hard time putting food on the table. Instead, the Nanny mentioned here could have re-addressed her concerns with the family. Together they could determine what is causing the tensions or emotional responses in order to best prevent it. If a solution cannot be found, the Nanny should give proper notice for the family to find a suitable replacement.
Respect and communication are both two-way streets. When a child provider and the family fight, the people who suffer the most are the children. I make it my priority to counsel Career Nanny applicants of mine who find themselves in similar situations. Please contact me if I can help you, whether a Professional Nanny or Private Family looking to resolve your current situation.