Not that you asked (because seriously, you didn’t ask), but I thought I’d offer a follow-up to my post on bad nanny interview questions to offer you the questions that I – as a professional nanny – would ask should I interview a nanny for The Whuff (though such a thing would be ridiculously redundant, but whatevs). Anyhow! Onward!
1. What would you do for a fever or other minor medical situation.
Sure, infant/child CPR is important. Any babysitter/nanny is going to be certified, and if s/he’s not, s/he’s not getting an interview. It should be right on your resume and again, if not, I’m not interviewing you in the first place, so asking about it is really irrelevant. Also: while emergency medical skills are handy, the absolute first thing anyone should do in a respiratory emergency is call 911. I should seriously hope that a nanny could figure that out.
What’s more important to me would be how a nanny would handle more minor situations. Y’know, like the ones that occur frequently when dealing with kiddos and their walking germ-factory-ness. How would she handle it if my child developed a fever? Or an allergic reaction? Would s/he know what a food allergy looks like? What about if he wandered in to a patch of poison ivy?
What I would ideally want, and what I’ve done as a nanny, is someone who will consult me first – but isn’t afraid to take initiative. Sure, if she* can get me on the phone, I’d want her to do that. However, if I’m unreachable (and I’m imagining I would be as the times I can think of when I’d have a babysitter would be for choir rehearsals, yoga classes, or swimming), I would want her to take reasonable measures and leave me a voicemail telling me exactly what she did and exactly when she did it. I wouldn’t want someone who would dither about giving a feverish kiddo Tylenol as I don’t want to come home to a miserable kid and have to ask “Well, why didn’t you help him out?” Sure, the parent should be consulted anytime issues of medication comes up, but I absolutely would want a nanny who would use common sense and an appropriate dose of Benadryl should my baby start breaking out in hives.
2. What would your ideal day with a kiddo look like.
The key here, of course, is that the “ideal” day will probably never happen. But it’s good to know what your nanny’s idea of it would be.
My own ideal day would probably include one or two activities that I would never ordinarily get around to. I wouldn’t want to hire a nanny whose “ideal” day was jam-packed with activities as I know that that’s completely unreasonable and would never happen, and if it did, would probably be more overwhelming than ideal. For me, my own ideal day as a nanny would probably look something like this:
- Free Play (probably inside since we’re talking early morning here and even summers in New England aren’t that warm at 8AM)
- Short nap
- Structured Activity (Storytime, Playgroup, Etc.)
- Longer nap
- Outdoor Activity (Free play or perhaps going to a park/playground)
Anything more than that would be really pushing the boundaries of what a kid can handle and let’s face it, a typical day will probably not include both naps and “lunch” will probably be a touch and go kind of situation.
3. What is your behavior modification strategy.
The word “discipline” is more and more frowned upon in Early Childhood Education circles, so I won’t use it here. I personally have always favored positive re-inforcement as a strategy and would want my nanny to do the same. Not only is this more child-friendly, but it just flat out works better. Praising children for doing things correctly is much, much more effective than punishing them for doing things wrong – which just makes sense when you stop and think because if you’re telling them they’re Doing It Rong without ever telling them what Doing It Right *is,* how on earth are they ever going to figure it out?
I don’t find time-outs to be effective and I wouldn’t want a nanny who used them as having wildly divergent strategies can get kiddos pretty confused. If negative re-inforcement has to be given, I prefer natural consequences (i.e. – you throw a toy, the toy goes away). Sometimes the only solution is for the kiddo to be separated from an activity, but I find that phrasing this as “taking a break” or “chilling out” works much, much better than “Time Out” the very mention of which can cause a tantrum in and of itself.
4. If you had access to all of the foods, what would your ideal menu for a kiddo look like?
Meal planning is a huge part of a child’s day and I would absolutely want a nanny who was both oriented towards nutrition and reality. Let’s face it, no matter how good it is for you, your average kiddo will not eat a bowl of assorted greens. I would want a nanny whose ideal meals included a balance of kid friendly foods.
For me, the following have been my go-to snacks: Strawberries – because all kiddos LOVE them (age-appropriately, of course. Children under 1yr should not be given strawberries), Goldfish crackers, dry Cheerios, dried cranberries, graham crackers, Nutrigrain or granola bars, yogurt smoothies
Lunches – some combination of the following: Chicken nuggets with ketchup (can be faux-chicken if parents are vegetarians), plain macaroni with a tiny bit of butter, apple slices (can be served with peanut butter for children over 2 yrs.), low sodium lunch meats on oat or wheat bread, grilled cheese sandwiches (again with oat or wheat bread) – possibly served with a side of sliced tomato
4a. Would you bring food in from home for the children?
Answer: No, no you wouldn’t. No.
I’d be fine with requests for things that I would pick up, but I would absolutely NOT want my nanny to be providing her own snacks for the kiddos. First, it’s a waste of her money if I’m paying her for her to then spend money on food for the kiddos. Second, I would absolutely want to know what my kids had access to during the day.
5. Would you bring in books/movies/etc. from home?
This one I wouldn’t mind. I’d be happy to have my kiddos exposed to different things… to an extent. I would want my nanny to run her media choices by me as I do NOT want certain shows (such as Dora The Explorer, which pains me) in my house because once you get them in, you can never get them out. I don’t mind my kiddos watching a bit of TV – Whuff and I already do a few minutes of Sesame Street here and there when we need a few distracting moments – but I want to know what exactly it is that they’re watching. Mostly because I want to know whether or not it’s something that’s going to annoy ME when I’m inevitably forced to buy the DVDs!
So, there are my Top 5 things I would want to ask my nanny. They do include anyone’s bathroom habits, which I totally don’t need to know about beyond “we used the bathroom.”
* Yeah, I’m going to use feminine pronouns because let’s be honest here. 99% of nannying candidates are ladiez.