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To Nanny Cam, Or Not to Nanny Cam

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Sittercity.com founder Genevieve Thiers gives us her advice.

A babysitter was arrested in Jacksonville, Fla., last week after a nanny cam caught her being violent with a child. Should you nanny cam YOUR childcare provider?

jeannine campbell

Sittercity.com's Genevieve Thiers shares with us the three-step monitoring process that she recommends to help parents ensure that they've made a truly great childcare 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.


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6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous March 22, 2010, 3:45 PM

she ugly and mean looking

Courtney March 22, 2010, 8:49 PM

Its so sad that this happened! I think this article gives good advice, even if you use a daycare center. Especially the part about showing up unannounced. As a childcare coordinator for an aupair agency, I can understand and appreciate the need to make the right match with your caregiver. Going with your gut is key - if you sense something is wrong, act swiftly! Its crucial to interview a potential caregiver extensively to ensure you’ve matched with the best possible person for the sake of your children.

Just A Thought... March 22, 2010, 9:31 PM

I don’t know. I agree with the second comment, it is really one of the most important decisions you make in your child’s life, choosing a provider. I don’t use daycare and am fortunate to have my mom in the event of needing a babysitter, and only one friend that I truly am comfortable with… However the nanny cam does make me a little uncomfortable… It to me would feel like an invasion of privacy. I would consider having one, BUT letting babysitter know that one is installed. That way, if they feel it’s an invasion, they can look elsewhere, or they might even be on better behavior! I would rather my agreeing nanny know and try extra hard to not do anything questionable… Why wait to watch her strike yur child when just letting her know there are eyes might prevent it in the first place!! I always was an exceptional babysitter, but I sure would like to know if I’m being watched before I pick a wedgie outside the bathroom!!!

Hidden Nanny Camera March 23, 2010, 4:02 PM

with all the technology in todays world anyone who does not take every step to protect your most valuable asset(your children OBV) is absolutely insane

Darla Siereveld March 24, 2010, 10:51 PM

Yes, I think in this day and age you do need a nanny cam.Someone can fool you so easy. I worked for a day care in Tx. I quit, as I didnt like what I was seeing.
Too many childern to 1 teacher, sick kids still coming to school. I had an 11th month old in my infant 2 class.
I dont think that after working in , with , and for a daycare that I would want to put my child in one and I would have a nanny cam in my home

Michaele Mcgarrah July 25, 2010, 10:22 PM

@John I totally agree with that point


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