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To Nanny Cam, Or Not to Nanny Cam

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Even after you've hired a wonderful child care provider, you may still feel a little anxious about leaving your little one alone with someone other than yourself all day. Monitoring the relationship is a critical part of making sure your sitter is the right fit for your family and making sure you can actually function without all the worry.

babysitter nanny playing with a child

Momlogic Child Care Expert Genevieve Thiers shares with us the three-step monitoring process that she recommends to help parents ensure that they've made a truly great child care match.

STEP 1: ASSESS THE MATCH

Sometimes sitters look great on paper, but that doesn't always mean that they'll be the right fit for YOUR family. As soon as you invite a sitter into your home, pay close attention to her relationship with your child.

Here are a few signs that your sitter might not be the best match:

  • Child doesn't seem very interested in the sitter when she arrives
  • Sitter has a different view on discipline than you do and is reluctant to change
  • Sitter lacks energy or enthusiasm
  • Sitter develops a patronizing attitude toward you or your parenting preferences

On rare occasions, certain warning signs may indicate something more serious than a simple mismatch.

The following signs are major red flags (do NOT keep this sitter!):

  • Sitter blames your child for problems he didn't cause
  • Sitter unreasonably demands perfect behavior from your child
  • Child's behavior changes drastically (he becomes excessively clingy or aggressive)
  • Child consistently cries, screams, and begs you not to leave
  • Child develops unexplained bruises, cuts, or burns
  • Child loses her appetite or has recurrent nightmares

Remember: Your gut reaction is all the evidence you need to make an assessment about the sitter-child relationship! Always trust your parental instincts, as no one knows your child better than you do.

STEP 2: COMMUNICATE

Talk to the Sitter

At the end of each sitting job, take five minutes to run through some quick questions with the sitter regarding the day's events. A few examples:

  • How did the day go? What did you do today?
  • How did my child behave today?
  • Were there any problems today?

In addition to those brief, after-the-job meetings, you should also set aside 15 minutes each month to call your sitter and discuss how everything's been going in general. Consider wide-reaching questions, such as:

  • Do you find yourself running into any obstacles on the job?
  • How has my child's behavior been in general?
  • Do you have any concerns about my child or about the job itself?

Some sitters are unsure how to bring things up to parents, especially any issues they may be having, so setting aside a point in the discussion where the sitter is encouraged to do that can give sitters the opportunity they need to communicate the tough stuff.

Talk to your child

If your child is old enough to speak, go straight to the source and ask him gentle, open-ended questions to help get him talking. Listen with a nonjudgmental attitude and don't try to lead him or talk him out of any feelings. Take any complaints or negative feedback seriously. Some things to ask:

  • Did you and [sitter] play today? What did you play?
  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • Tell me about something silly or funny that happened.
  • Did anything make you worry or make you sad today?


STEP 3: OBSERVE

  • Ask a neighbor to keep an open eye and ear. If the sitter takes your child outside, for example, your neighbor can peek over to make sure things are going well.
  • Come home unannounced, either half an hour earlier than planned or try to stop in for lunch. An unexpected drop-in will put you smack-dab in the middle of the sitter-child relationship and will help keep your sitter on her toes.
  • Install a nanny cam. Some of the most diligent parents use a nanny cam to confirm their suspicions or alleviate their fears. Many nanny cam services have live feeds that you can watch on your computer or cell phone while you work, such as the one available at http://www.sittercity.com.


next: A Tantalizing Toast with a Twist ... Cheers!
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. May 11, 2009, 10:36 AM

I’m tempted to nanny cam my daughters at times to get the Real Story behind some of their arguments. I keep meaning to hunt down one of our old baby monitors but forget to do so.

HeeHee May 11, 2009, 11:16 AM

Go ahead, spy on them.

Chuck May 11, 2009, 10:50 PM

Our kids’ safety is our responsibility. We should utilize any tools at our disposal to accomplish this. Better safe than sorry.

judy May 12, 2009, 4:06 PM

hey i am a nanny i love my job sure any one can have one of them days but i love my three little girls and they only cry when its time for me to go

Carrie May 14, 2009, 2:11 AM

No one has the expectation of total privacy at work. My employer would be well within his rights to read my e-mails or monitor my internet use without my knowledge, why should nannies be the exception?

When I was a live-in nanny, nanny cams were new and my employers and I were watching a news report on them. I didn’t see the problem with the concept, but they did. It was an interesting conversation.

HARaaM June 13, 2009, 10:10 AM

Just remember, a nanny cam broadcasts to everyone in the area. You have no control over who is recording your actions. You have just bugged your own house.

Justine T December 15, 2010, 7:00 AM

Fantastic post! My view has always been that while nanny cams are useful in keeping an eye on the activities between your babysitter and kids, it is not the solution to stopping or preventing abusive behaviors by nannies (no matter it’s physical abuse or neglect). Extensive background and reference checks are a good first line of defence. Being thorough during the interview, or even doing some police background checks could also be considered. While getting a that nanny cam do not stop babysitters from abusive behaviors, it does give parents peace of mind to a certain degree. Exercising good judgement is key. Just my 2 cents.


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