Getting the behaviour you and your Nanny would like


“No matter someone’s background – their education level, their socioeconomic resources, their culture, their religion, their language – no matter what their family looks like in a picture – everybody struggles with parenting.”

This is one of the many reassuring things Dr Deborah Gilboa likes to remind parents when she speaks to them (and writes for them).

I met Deborah, who is also known as ‘Doctor G’, at the last INA Conference and thought it would a good idea to share some of her thoughts, particularly on the issue of parent/Nanny relationships.

Pittsburgh-based Doctor G has been a family doctor for 14 years. She is the mother of four sons herself (aged between five and 12) and appears regularly in the American media on the topic of parenting. Her new book, Getting the behaviour you want ... without being the parent you hate, was released on September 10.

Deborah’s advice is built around three ‘R’s which she believes every parent would like to see in their children: respect, responsibility and resilience. 

“I want kids to express themselves respectfully (to know what that means and choose to do it most of the time), have a good work ethic, and handle it when things don’t go their way. With these three Rs they’ll be able to accomplish almost any goal they set for themselves.”

In Deborah’s view, too much parenting advice is premised on a particular philosophy of parenting, whether that be ‘authoritarian parenting’ or ‘attachment parenting’ or ‘evangelical parenting’. She doesn’t believe this is helpful – in practice every parent will be all of these things at different times. It’s more useful to focus on those things – like respect, responsibility and resilience – that are essentially common goals.

Parents who can accept this are able to be more relaxed and flexible in their approach to parenting. Importantly, they have the freedom to draw on the ideas and experiences of a great many others – regardless of background, culture or philosophy.

If parents can bring a similarly open mind to the way they interact with their nannies, all the better. “Nannies are child development specialists and it is a huge advantage for parents to hire a child development specialist to spend a large number of hours a week with their kids in their own home.” However, they also need to be willing to take advantage of this expertise: to accept their Nanny’s feedback as valid rather than seeing it as a criticism.

The best scenario is where parents and Nanny are able to share a goal for a particular child, then work towards that goal cooperatively (see example below). This requires trust and communication, of course, but it also requires the nannies to be willing to see themselves as child development specialists. This, of course, talks to the professionalism that we are constantly trying to promote at Placement Solutions.










Working together to change behaviour


An issue Doctor G has seen many modern parents grapple with is resilience. It’s so easy to do things for our kids these days, but that doesn’t mean that we should. Building resilience often means kids not automatically getting things their own way – and unfortunately when in-home child care is involved, it can be the Nanny who bears the brunt of the push-back when this happens.

“It’s really hard as a caregiver when you agree with the parents that the kids should have a couple of chores to do when they get home from school, and you’re willing to take charge of them doing those things, but then you have the parents arriving home and greeted by a tantrum,” says Deborah. It’s even harder when the parent just wants you to quieten things down, even if that means placating the child – and undoing all your hard work in the process.

Deborah suggests that these are situations for a Nanny to be proactive. First it’s essential to agree on a goal, and on a strategy to get there (e.g. no television until the playroom is tidied up). Then, should things get chaotic, try to meet the parent at the door and say something like, “I’m happy to see you. Remember we agreed to work on Johnny tidying his room? Well, we’ve been working on that and what you’re about to see and hear is Johnny’s reaction to learning that responsibility.”



Getting the behaviour you want ... without being the parent you hate by Deborah Gilboa, MD, is widely available as a paperback via online stores and as an ebook in the Apple iBookstore and Amazon Kindle store amongst others.