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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Tips for Hiring A Nanny

Thursday, March 19, 2015


My maternity leave is up and I’m going back to work and looking for tips for hiring a nanny. We want to be sure our children are safe and happy. Do we really have to go through an agency? What if it doesn’t work out and I find myself back at work? 

~I.S., LA

Here are tips for hiring a nanny in a smooth and somewhat stress-free manner. First decide how many hours you’ll be needing the nanny. Will she be a live-in or live-out nanny? Will she be on call 24 hours, work week days only, or just part time when you need her. How many hours a day will she be working?

Then write up a list of what qualities and skills you wish for in a nanny — a nursing degree, first aid training, a driver’s license, a perfect driving record (no speeding tickets), can cook vegan, has experience with babycare (getting the baby to sleep through the night) and potty training, can help with homework, is fluent in English and will read to the children, is bilingual, plays a musical instrument, knows how to discipline and has the disposition of a Mary Poppins?

When your children are older, what should the nanny be able to teach your children: table manners, how to read, write, do simple math, swim, ride a bicycle, throw a ball, kick a soccer ball, play the violin or piano, and speak a second language? What are her views on discipline?

Think up specific scenarios ahead of time and ask her how she would handle the situation. In what way would she encourage good manners? By promoting ‘please, thank you and you’re welcome’? Does she have skilled babycare experience and know how to comfort the baby or toddler into sleeping through the night? How would she handle an above normal temperature?

If you travel or live in a different place during the summer and other vacations or holidays, would she be able to accompany your children, or does she have responsibilities that could limit her availability, such as caring for a partner or elderly relative? Likewise, would she be willing to spend the night if you were on a business trip? Should you have a dog, would she be willing to watch over the dog playing with the children?

Then add a list of issues you would NOT want to discover about your nanny — she’s a smoker.  She doesn’t have a clean driving record — including speeding tickets. Does she in fact have a driver’s license? How about her recent job references? Does she have medical or mental health issues, and/or poor personal hygiene? Does she use good grammar and would be helpful with homework? Does she have good manners? Does she smell of tobacco, pot, and/or alcohol? Does her overcoat smell of cigarette smoke? Does she use any medications?

Is she cheerful? Does she have a sunny disposition? Is she smiling while she’s interacting with the children or does she have a dour look on her face?

In the meantime, you should also be putting together a budget, by calculating what expenses should be incorporated: daily expenses (ice cream cones in the park, bus fare), yearly raise, end of the year bonus, vacation time off, taxes, social security. Does she require time and a half for overtime, if you need her to work late or on weekends or holidays?

Find out the going weekly rate in your area as well as what taxes you’ll be responsible for and plan to put money for them aside. Will she be using one of your debit cards or will she have access to petty cash? Will you provide her with a cellphone and pay the monthly charges directly?

Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t be. Once you’ve been through the process and met with success, it will be a breeze should you have to hire another nanny someday.

Create a cheerful and realistic job description that includes household responsibilities and duties, such as laundry, cooking and clean-up after meals, making beds, vacuuming, picking up dry cleaning and food shopping. Any responsibility relating to childcare and the children’s routine, would be appropriate — but not, say, washing the car or mowing the lawn. However, you need to mention the family pet, if you have one.

If any of your children have allergies or medical issues, make it clear from the start that there is a serious ongoing health concern that she will have to be vigilant about at all times.

Network with friends and colleagues to find out the going rate and where to place and find help wanted ads for nannies online and off, such as through your hospital, school, or a reputable childcare employment agency.

The best recommendations are from previous employers. Call every reference to verify dates and responsibilities, and especially the reason why the nanny left or was let go. There might be two different spins on the story, hers and theirs. You may have to weigh the merits.

Ask if there are any red flags to watch out for, such as tardiness, too much time off for an illness, or not being able to control the children. Did the former employer ever catch the nanny in a lie?

There is often a logical explanation when a family moves away or the children are suddenly in school all day long and the nanny’s hours would be shortened if she stayed on.

Meet in a neutral setting, such as a coffee shop, and read the candidates body language, including the ability to make eye contact. Register her social skills. When you’ve narrowed down the candidates to two or three, invite them separately to your house to help them understand how your household is run. It will give you a chance to ask detailed questions about her childcare philosophies and her former employers.

Watch the candidate interacting with your children. Listen to how often she uses the word ‘no’ and other negative words. Did she ask to wash her hands before she held the baby? How did she react to the family pet? How is her grammar? Does she say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘you’re welcome’? Because if she doesn’t, your children won’t.

The background check should include:

  • Confirmation of Identity
  • Social Security Number Verification
  • Criminal Records Check
  • Sex Offender Registry
  • Civil Records Search – to find any judgements placed against the candidate
  • Credit Check
  • Reference Checks
  • Educational and License Verification
  • Social Media Search


You can do the candidate’s background check online at sites such as NannyBackgroundCheck.com, or let an employment agency specializing in nannies find the ideal candidates for you. Tell the agency exactly what your expectations are, and do the final interviews yourself.
When you think you’ve found the right fit and the background check is clean, offer the nanny a two-week trial and notify the runner-up that you think the job has been filled; thank them for their time.

Often employers will compensate a runner-up with a small check or cash in compensation for their time and transportation cost to and from your house. Keep the runner-up’s contact information on file as a backup or to give to a friend. 


Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi."  If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location.


Related Slideshow: 4 Ways to Stay Youthful While Parenting

Here are four ways to stay youthful while parenting. 

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Play with your kid. I don’t mean take them to the park for them to stand awkwardly alone while you watch SNL clips on your Iphone. When I say play with your kid, I mean pull out the dollhouse or Legos or whatever your child likes and get on the floor with them and make believe.  Put away your smart device, step into a cardboard box, and journey with your child to Neverland.

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Pick activities that you both enjoy. For instance, just because you have a toddler doesn’t mean you have to go see terrible films like Rio 2. If you don’t want to see movies like that, trust me, your two or three year old will not hold it against you if you wait to take them to see something a bit more interesting, or with an actual comprehensible plotline at least, like How to Train Your Dragon or Paddington. Picking activities that are actually appealing to both of you might help you becoming better at intentionally engaging with your child.

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Take your son or daughter with you on outings that you would normally go on by yourself. There are some hobbies, like taxidermy and ventriloquism, that you might want to do solo. However, there are also lots of things that adults like to do that can easily be enjoyed by children. Some of these activities might be hiking, traveling, or getting pedicures. When we bring children into our worlds, we let them know that they are important. At the same time, we also let our friends, who might not have kids yet, know “Hey, see this little dude? He aint goin’ nowhere.”

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On the flipside, make time for a guys’ or girls’ night out. Our children are often our main priority, but that doesn’t mean they are our only priority. Making sure that we are in good mental health is just as important as making sure we are in good physical health. Children are incredibly intuitive, and they can sense when we are stressed, happy, or sad. They are also, bless their little hearts, incredibly self centered and often think those emotions directly correlate to who they are and what they’re doing. So, make time for yourself. Make sure you hang out with your friends to laugh, vent, and de-stress. You will be happier and in turn your children will also be happier knowing that Mom or Dad is smiling.


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