Setting Boundaries With Your Nanny

Relationships between families and nannies are often complex. Here are some tips for how to set boundaries with your nanny and proceed in tricky situations.

Naturally, when you and your children spend so much time with your nanny, they can become an integrated and important extended member of the family. Children and parents alike can become incredibly emotionally attached. However, such situations can be complex, therefore setting some basic boundaries with your nanny is a good idea.

What’s at Stake?

One day, employers may find themselves being asked a favour they feel they can’t refuse, or a nanny may have to listen — uncomfortably — to deeply personal details of their boss’ life. It’s enough to make you wonder, how close is too close a relationship?

A nanny and her employers need one another, and a healthy, drama-free relationship benefits everyone, especially the children. Experts suggest setting firm boundaries and clear expectations so that neither side feels taken advantage of or resentful, which could lead to the demise of the relationship.

Get tips on creating a good relationship with a nanny


Too Much Information

Although a nanny may be privy to personal details of their boss’ life — like marital discord or financial problems — that doesn’t mean a nanny should be the employer’s go-to person for help. It’s important to know the nanny is not your therapist and vice versa. This doesn’t mean you can’t support one another, but it might be an idea to first ask yourself “Would I discuss such an issue with a regular co-worker?” before you spill juicy details.

It’s the employer who should set the example for what’s acceptable to share. If you’re going to be inappropriate, that’s going to send a message to the nanny that the same is okay for them too.

It’s true, too, that most nannies don’t want to hear about their employer’s problems. They will likely be happy to hear about what happened on a family weekend away – but if the couple was fighting, that’s too much information. Remember, unless it directly affects their job, they don’t need to know

Moreover, when it comes to a nanny’s personal life, while family should be aware of their big life issues, like a divorce, they shouldn’t be actively involved. The separation between your nanny’s job and personal life needs to be preserved.


Money Matters

Just as an employer shouldn’t rely on a nanny to be their personal agony aunt, a nanny shouldn’t view her employer as a bank. Some nannies have the tendency to ask for money for things such as car payments, student loans or credit card debt. Some nannies feel entitled to the money and don’t pay it back, putting employers in an awkward position.

If an employer does want to help financially, experts recommend putting everything in writing to increase the chances that the agreement will be followed.

An outright gift is one thing. But employers who loan their nannies money should be prepared for the possibility that they won’t get it back. Even if an employer sued a nanny and won, a judgment may be hard to collect.

Employers learn how to “say ‘no’ with options.” That means turning down a request but offering to help in another way. For instance:

  • Car trouble. Your nanny’s car needs $2000 of repair or they can’t get to work. If you have a no-loan policy, offer extra hours or a salary raise. Alternatively you could offer to split a car service or bus pass for on a temporary basis.
  • Home issues. Your nanny is fighting with their partner and thinks they should move out of their home, what should an employer do? It’s usually not necessary for a family to open its doors, but such an arrangement could be okay if a family really loves its nanny. That being said, many nannies have deep connections to friends and relatives, and it is usually better for both parties if a nanny follows their own support first. You could say, “I’m so sorry to hear that. Do you have good people you can stay with during this tough time?’
  • Personal favour. You have a great job and your nanny asks if their child could work as your intern for a while. You should never recommend someone you don’t know, even if your love your nanny. At the same time, you shouldn’t hesitate to help if you know your nanny’s child and know that they are competent. They might not have to be your intern, but perhaps there’s a department you can forward their details to if you think they are capable.

Remember: Close is Okay

Over time, a nanny may start to feel like one of the family, and that’s not a bad thing. However, as an employer, you can’t get too close or your sense of authority may be lost. You can love this person but all relationships require healthy boundaries.



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