When the time comes to leave the baby at home and return to work, the experience may be traumatic both for the child and the mother. But what contributes to the child's happiness and the mother's peace of mind is a good nanny who, besides all the "material" chores, will love and care for your child.
This is why when I searched for a nanny for my son I realized that the CV and experience references were not enough to really understand what kind of a person that nanny was, how much can she really get involved and care to practically raise my kid. So, besides the usual questions, I came up with some additional ones just to try and make an impression on her general attitude towards a little person. I expected that she would respect my son as a whole human being and she will not try to manipulate or control him as adults tend to do with children.
Here are 10 nanny interview questions (potential situations) I used when interviewing the nannies. I also explained here in detail the reason why I did so:
Power of choice
Question 1: What do you do when a child wants to play in a pool of water and dirt instead of playing with the children in the sand?
Reason/ expected attitude: The toddler should be allowed to do whatever he desires, as this is the expression of his need to explore, satisfy his curiosity, discover and learn, EXCEPT for the situations which might get him in danger or imperil his physical or emotional integrity. Of course that during and after doing so, he should be catered, cleaned, have the proper equipment for the activity etc...
Question 2: What happens if the child needs your attention while you are doing something else (like: cooking, washing his diapers etc…)
Reason: The toddler is happy when the adults pay attention, hear and understand what he is trying to communicate. He likes to be answered. The toddler, as any human being, needs attention from the people around him.
Comparing to others
Question 3: What do you do when other nannies at the playground narrate how their kids are doing other stuff (using the potty, saying more words, are calmer, sleep longer etc…)
Reason: The toddler is NEVER compared to other children inside or outside the family, not even when one thinks he does not hear.
Labeling the child
Reason: The toddler will not receive LABELS like: “you are lazy, mean, noisy, gluttonous, or non-gluttonous, diligent, good, quite, polite, etc…". Stating the situation is preferred: “I see you feel a little tired”, “I see you are not in the mood to do that”, “when you are that loud I feel a little restless", or "the neighbors might not like it”, “I see you were very hungry, you ate a lot”, “you cleaned your room and this helped me a lot”, “I noticed you spoke politely to the lady and she liked it” etc… The toddler has a disposition to assimilate the labels and live by them. The risk of “positive” labels is that he will understand he is loved and appreciated conditionally and he might fall into the trap of behaving against his desires/ impulses for the purpose of getting the “positive” response from the adult. Also, toddlers don’t understand statements like: “it’s good to...”, “it’s nice to...”, “it’s not nice to…”, “it’s not ok to…”, or the concept of cleaning (of the environment or self cleaning) (eg. when he throws the food on the floor, mommy/ nanny will tell him that it bothers her because she will need to clean after him, not “that’s not nice”, “bad boy”, “you made a mess”)
Question 5: What would you say to a child that climbed a tree?
Reason: The “negative” language should be avoided as much as possible. (eg. instead of “don’t jump in the bed, you might fall” we say “let’s jump on the carpet, is safer” or “the bed is not for jumping, is for sleeping”. Or instead of “if you play with water you’re going to get sick” we say: “the water is for drinking and washing, let’s wash our hands and close the tap” or “we only play with water in the summer when is warm outside, the winter is too cold for water playing”.)
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Allowing focused efforts
Question 6: What do you do when he tries to pour water into his glass and misses by far?
Reason: When he tries to make/ do something and he does not succeed he should be encouraged to try some more and will not be interrupted, or helped, UNLESS he asks for help. The adult should avoid solving the problems in his place. If ultimately needed, when we help him, we reassure him that at some point, after some more trying he will get there, he will succeed. (eg. when he eats alone, tries to get dressed, tries to get his shoes on, but also when he plays and he gets various “strange” ideas he wants to experiment, like coloring with the other hand or with the other end of the pen, trying different ways to use the spoon etc…)
Encouragement & support
Question 7: What do you do when he is fooling around with the pen on the piece of paper?
Reason: The toddler likes to play a lot, listen to music, dance and draw. When he plays with an adult, he should be stimulated and encouraged to express himself through play – eg. if he scribbles (instead of focused drawing, he will be encouraged to explain what he is “drawing”.) This is not the time for being perfect but is the very important period for trial and error.
Watching light screen devices
Question 8: Would you let the child to watch cartoons?
Reason: The toddler should not watch TV, computer, tablets etc… (a half an hour a day is acceptable but NEVER advertising). Anyways, if he watches TV he needs to be guided through the show he watches.
Question 9: What do you do when you need to go to the bathroom?
Reason: The toddler should be permanently looked after in order to avoid risks like chocking (with peanuts, seeds, little pieces of raw carrot, small toys, any other small object), or hurting himself (by pushing small objects up his nose or in his ears, sticking objects in the plugs, falling etc) . He should not be told “don’t put it in your mouth/ nose/ ear” as this is exactly what gives him the idea and he will definitely want to experiment it. Anyways, when the toddler needs to be left alone for several minutes the adult should make sure that there are no potentially dangerous items lying around.
Question 10: Do you think it’s a good idea to promise a kid a candy to go to bed?
Reason: The adult should only make promises he intends to keep. He will not make false promises, just with the intent to manipulate the child. Otherwise the child will not only lose faith in that adult but in all adults' promises. The toddler will always be told the truth (even if sometimes it needs to be embellished so that it would be easier to digest for his age).
In the end, if you like a nanny and chose to work with her, don’t forget to train her and introduce her to your child and to the family rules.
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