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How a Nanny Should Discipline Your Kids

Jen Geller
July 24, 2017

You don't want to always be "bad cop." Here are 7 tips for getting your nanny to discipline your kids the same way you do.

What are the kids allowed to do when Mom is out of sight? While it's never easy playing bad cop, establishing guidelines around discipline in your home will not only make life easier for you and your nanny, but also it will provide some consistency for your kids. A united front is the best way to tackle this situation. Here are some tips from parenting expert Dr. Robi Ludwig, Psy.D. on achieving harmony in your household.

  1. Set the Rules
    Before you hire your nanny or sitter, sit down with your partner and lay out clear discipline guidelines. Then discuss these rules with your potential child care provider during the interview process (see nanny interview questions). Gauge his or her reaction. If they don't respect your rules, they won't necessarily enforce them. This can lead to an uncomfortable situation down the road, as well as one confused kid. 

  2. Stick to Them
    Consistency, consistency, consistency. If your nanny lets your child watch TV all afternoon, and you make him turn it off after thirty minutes, he's going to start questioning your authority (and label you the bad guy). Communication between you and your nanny is key in determining the best way to tackle discipline. (You could always post the house rules in your nanny contract.)

  3. Embrace the Gray Areas
    Make firm rules about the basics - no yelling, no spanking -- and then don't sweat the small stuff. Being a stickler of non-consequential details will just make it stressful for you in the end, and could create a revolving door with the care situation in your home. 

  4. Empower Your Nanny
    "You hired your nanny as a professional who clearly has talent when it comes to caring for kids, so be open to hearing about what she thinks is appropriate," advises Ludwig. For example, while you may have a laissez-faire approach to snacks before dinner, she may think it's a terrible idea. Hear her out or try her approach. Maybe you can find a way to compromise between your two policies. Ludwig says empowering your nanny will make your kids respect her more -- and will make your household run more smoothly.

  5. Listen to Her
    Let your nanny know that you are partners in discipline. You want her to be comfortable speaking to you about behavioral issues, since she spends several hours a day with your kid. You can also encourage her to call or text you if your child is throwing a tantrum or hitting his sister, and she's not sure how to proceed.

  6. Don't Gossip About Her
    "Your kids have to know that you have your nanny's back when it comes to discipline. The best way to do that is to speak to her with respect and show that you value your nanny and her insight. If you speak disparagingly about your nanny when she isn't around, the kids will pick up on that," observes Ludwig. If you find yourself grumbling too much about your nanny, maybe it's time to look for a new care provider anyway.

  7. Handle Rule Breaking
    Ludwig advises that you give a stern warning to let her know her method of discipline or punishment was unacceptable. Find a time when you and your partner can sit down with her and express your concern. Remind her of your rules. Still, if you get pushback on issues that in your mind are non-negotiable, or you found her offense particularly egregious, Ludwig then suggests it maybe time for a change. Try to be as clear and as unemotional as possible when explaining the grounds for termination. This is your home and these are your children, but it is also a workplace, and you are in charge. Consider your way of handling the matter as an opportunity to set an example for your kids on how to treat others, even in the worst of times.

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. "It's like any relationship," Ludwig says, "You won't get everything, but some things are non-negotiable. You hired this person not only because she would be a good match to care for your children, but also to help you. If your needs are not being met then you have to consider if this is the right person for your family."

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