Making a career out of nannying can be incredibly rewarding. After all, you are entrusted with the care and well-being of a small human or two who will bond with and love you, and you are appreciated and compensated accordingly by their grateful parents. However, it can also be quite trying, with long hours, high expectations and numerous personalities to manage (the most challenging often being those in charge of the paycheck).
It is definitely not a job for everyone. There are some personality traits that lend themselves to not only making a good nanny, but also making a nanny happy to make this unique position a long-term career.
Here are 10 to look for:
A Love of Children
This seems obvious, but some enter the field for the convenience of the hours, the opportunity to earn a decent wage without extensive schooling or a formal degree, a chance to travel abroad or as a side job to take while raising their own children (a small percentage of homes will allow nannies to bring along their kids). Without a genuine love for children and a love for caring for them, most nannies would not last long in the position, much less make it their career.
Nannies who have a strong sense of consistency find the art of discipline natural, not to mention fairly easy as expectations are clear for the kids and they typically respond quickly. With behavior in check, the work atmosphere is greatly improved and the kids are often happier, leading to great recommendations for future positions and the ability to career climb into higher paid and more desirable gigs.
Some might argue that having and exhibiting patience with parents is as important as showing it to their little ones, but anyone who is spending their entire day around kids (and possibly their off-work hours as well, as many nannies are parents themselves) must have a natural sense of patience or they’d go mad.
Parents rely on the dependability and loyalty of their nannies for both day-to-day household success and their ability to maintain their own careers without worrying that a child might be forgotten at band practice or that a last minute sick-call will leave them without anyone to care for their little ones.
Whether it is adapting to new families and kid-quirks from job to job or adapting to changing expectations in the field and the latest experts’ advice, a nanny who wants to make a long-term career in the industry must be able to accept and adapt to new things.
A nanny must display great objectivity in accepting and honoring their new employees’ values without judgment, and it’s not unusual to have to exercise the ability to settle disputes and problems among the kids in multi-sibling households.
By welcoming a nanny into their home, parents not only trust the most precious thing in their life to the nanny’s care, but also the family’s own sense of privacy and reputation. Word travels quickly, and loyalty is a necessary element if a nanny is to be recommended for future positions.
Ability to Multi-Task
Even in single child homes, the wealth of tasks and responsibilities a nanny takes on requires that she be able to multi-task effectively. Juggling school and activity schedules, preparing meals, tending to the emotions of sensitive little people and occasionally taking on household duties is no easy feat. If this is not a natural trait, the job would quickly become overwhelming.
It is one thing to send your own child to school with two different colored socks, or with three tubes of yogurt and an apple because you forgot to pick up more bread – but when you are being paid to hold down the fort for another family, a child missing a field trip because the permission slip is stuck to the shopping list in his nanny’s purse will not lead to future – or even current – employment.
A nanny who wishes to make a successful career must be educated to attract the best positions, either by coming in with a degree, or being willing to continue her education. Attending a traditional college while earning an advanced masters degree or other diploma, taking part in nanny related trainings or even staying current with technology, foreign languages, emergency medical training, arts or music through specialty classes are all ways a nanny can continue to improve her skills and increase her value.
Children can be defiant at any age when frustrated, but a defiant toddler is less likely to have the verbal skills to express his needs and wants in a calm, rational manner than an elementary-aged child. Although you want your child to be independent and strong, disciplining a defiant, strong-willed toddler can pose challenges, especially when a tantrum or meltdown occurs.
“Tiny kiddos do not have the coping skills to know how to self regulate when they are tired, overwhelmed or frustrated and don’t have the language skills or patience to try to explain that to their adults,” says Tara Kennedy-Kline, certified family parenting expert and author of “Stop Raising Einstein.”
Recognizing the need for independence while redirecting defiance in your toddler can help your little one develop into a well-adjusted, assertive, yet cooperative individual.
Set Firm Limits
Children learn at an early age how to get what they want. According to Christina Steinorth, California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards For Life, it takes consistency and effort to parent a defiant toddler.
Steinorth suggests setting firm limits and following through with consequences. “For the most part, children will do what they can get away with,” she says. “If you give in to your child’s meltdowns, he or she will soon learn that if they want to control a situation that all they will have to do is have a meltdown to get and/or do what they want.”
Even though your toddler may not want to sit quietly or eat at a scheduled meal time, it’s important for parents to be consistent and enforce consequences. “Have a consequence such as a time out for bad behavior and remind yourself that while it may be easier to give into meltdowns or defiant behavior, that ultimately you will save yourself a lot of frustration if you teach your child that there’s nothing to be gained from having them,” says Steinorth.
In fact, according to Steinorth, if you shape your child’s behavior through strict limits and consequences on a consistent basis, in time, your child will have fewer meltdowns.
Nip Behaviors in the Bud
“Giving in even once will open the door for bigger and more defiant behavior,” says Kennedy-Kline. If you know your child’s signs and signals, you can nip certain behaviors in the bud, she says. For example, if your child gets whiney when she is hungry and refuses to eat, you can prevent tantrums and obstinate behavior by having snacks on hand or consistently scheduled meals during the day. If your child sucks his thumb when he is tired, get him ready for nap time versus venturing out to the store or the playground. Timing is everything when it comes to parenting a defiant child.
In addition, nipping unacceptable behaviors or explosive tantrums in the bud teaches your child that these actions yield consequences. If your child refuses to listen or share while at the park, promptly put her in the car and leave. If she throws a fit in the grocery store, hand your cart to the cashier and head for home, says Kennedy-Kline. Although it may seem like you are sacrificing your time and accomplishing less when you have to pick up and leave, it teaches your toddler that you will not tolerate defiance.
In addition, explain your actions to show your toddler that the fun activities cease when she misbehaves or displays defiant behavior. “Toddlers understand language even before they can speak it,” says Kennedy-Kline. “They can nod their head or point to what they want. We just need to ‘listen’ to their language, whether it is verbal or physical, and stay consistent.”
As a parent of a defiant toddler, it’s important to recognize that toddlers need limits and consequences, but toddlers do not need punishment, according to Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child.
“They needs lots of supervision, guidance and learning to calm themselves when they get filled with powerful feelings,” says Walfish. When your toddler is defiant or acts out with others by hitting, guide and redirect the behavior.
For example, offer empathetic verbal clarification of why you think she hit and what she was wanting and feeling, but explain that hitting will not be tolerated. If a tantrum results, hold her in your arms until her rage settles, says Walfish, but immediately praise her for learning to calm herself down when the storm settles.
Distraction and redirection requires constant supervision and guidance with a toddler, but with patience and determination, know that you are shaping your toddler into a cooperative human being, even in the midst of temper tantrums. “It’s a hit or miss deal at times,” says Kennedy-Kline, “but the sooner you can distract or change the mood when you see the temperature rising, the more likely you are to halt the tantrum, as well as teach your child that you are paying attention and they don’t have to completely lose it to get what they want.”
When you’re looking for a nanny job, it’s easy to focus a lot of energy on one big question: “How much will I make?” That’s normal, but it can also distract you from asking the better question: “How much am I worth?” Instead of thinking about salary as a hard number, think of it as a measure of your skill and experience. Numbers can feel static, but measurements can change over time. When you think about salary that way, it’s a lot easier to approach certain situations and know when it’s appropriate to ask for a raise. No matter how long you’ve been working, these are the major milestones you should keep in mind when it comes to compensation adjustments:
When It’s Time for Your Review
Your employer will probably schedule annual reviews around the anniversary of your hire date (though they can set it whenever they want). This is the best time to discuss salary increases because it’s when you and your employer will sit down and discuss your performance during the past year as well as any goals either of you have for the year to come. Charting your performance across specific areas — how well you worked with the kids, how well you met specific educational or childcare milestones, etc. — is an ideal way to show to your employer that you’re succeeding and, therefore, worth more money.
Annual salary increases can vary based on the employer and your performance, but standard practice is to grant a raise between 3% and 6%. Part of this is tied to cost of living: about 2% is just so your salary can keep up with general inflation and market demands. The remaining few percent is linked to your employer’s satisfaction with your work. So, if you had a good year and are given a nice break when it comes to cost of living, it’s not uncommon to receive an increase in the 5%-6% range. If that number isn’t on the table, or if your employer offers something lower, talk with them about your performance and how you’d like to continue to grow in the role.
When You Feel You Might Merit One
Now, everybody — nanny or otherwise — feels they should be making more money, no matter their experience or performance. So don’t think that this category is the same as “because you want a bigger paycheck.” If you’re doing outstanding work, though, and have expanded your duties while becoming someone the family relies on more and more, it could be worth asking for a raise as official recognition of all you’re doing. If this is your situation, you should prepare your case and know exactly what you want to say to your employer. Draw up a list of ways you go above and beyond your normal duties, and be ready to walk through the list with them. Don’t ambush them, though. No employer wants to be blindsided with a demand for more money. Instead, ask them if they have time in the immediate future to talk about your position and your thoughts on your work. Very likely, they’ll be more than happy to meet and hear you out if they can schedule it in advance and know what’s happening before they go into the meeting.
When a New Baby Arrives
This is a big one for nannies, and it’s a pretty common occurrence. When a new baby arrives, it isn’t just an adjustment for the parents; it’s a total recalibration of your duties as a childcare provider. Housework, education, care and everything you already provide to the existing children still goes on, and added to that will be infant care and feedings. A common raise in this situation is $1-$3 per hour, though that can vary based on employer, location, duties added, and so on. Talk with the parents before the new baby arrives about how your job will change and what you can expect to earn after the birth.
When Your General Duties Increase
You were hired to do a specific set of nanny duties that you and your employers established during the interview and hiring process. However, it’s not uncommon for those duties to change over time as the family’s needs change. For instance, some nannies are hired without having any real cooking duties (aside from basic food or snack prep for the kids), but later on the parents want to add those duties. If you’re willing to take them on, great, but know that you have every right to ask for a raise when you do. Expanded duties mean that you’re worth more. An extra dollar or two per hour is a standard range, but talk with your employers about what they want and how your role will change.
Remember: you are working hard, and you are worth the money. Be honest with your employers about your goals and everyone will come away happy.