Meet our panel of experts:
- Cheryl Bahneman, owner of two Primrose Schools near Atlanta
- Lora Brawley, a Seattle nanny with more than 20 years of experience
- Mary Braxton, incoming president of the Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Associations, in Richmond
- Amy Flack, a former teacher at a child-care center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
- Janet Howell, a teacher at Hobbit Hill Preschool, in Beaufort, South Carolina
- Carolyn Kavanaugh, codirector of Northwest Nannies Institute, in Lake Oswego, Oregon
- MaryAnn X. Meddish, a nanny from Bend, Oregon, who works all over the country, and a past International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year winner
- Genevieve Thiers, founder of SitterCity.com, who's also logged 2,500 jobs as a sitter
- R. Thomas, an early-child-care teacher in North Carolina
- Denise Whetzel, a licensed family- child-care provider in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Do you mind if I just drop by to observe your classroom or watch you play with the kids?
"I don't mind, but observe means observe -- please just sit back and watch! And keep in mind that children behave differently when there's a parent around." -- Amy Flack
"I have an open door policy -- and, to be honest, I love to be observed. I use it as a tool to grow and enhance my skills as a provider. I have nothing to hide." -- DeShonda Jennings
"I don't mind at all. I only ask that parents are mindful of my schedule and keep it brief." -- Mary Braxton -- Marie Mosby, a family child-care provider in Arlington, Virginia
Why are certain parents your favorites?
"They say 'thank you' and realize that I work hard to make sure their child is learning and having fun." -- Denise Whetzel
"The very best families remember that this is my career, not a hobby, and treat me accordingly. While my workplace is their home and it's an informal environment, parents should interact with me in a friendly yet professional way." -- Lora Brawley
"I love the parents who ask for my advice. It shows that they realize I'm more than a babysitter and that I have real expertise." -- R. Thomas
What is the most frustrating thing that parents do?
"It doesn't help anyone when a parent undermines a caregiver's authority in front of the children. Be on the same team." -- Carolyn Kavanaugh
"They don't tell me about changes at home that might affect their child's behavior. If a child is cranky, it would help me to know that she went to bed two hours late the night before!" -- Amy Flack
"Hanging around at drop-off time because they don't want to say goodbye and then running out the door the moment their child starts crying." -- R. Thomas
"I see lots of parents who reward their kids' misbehavior to make it stop. When you bribe children to get them to stop doing something wrong, they learn that negative behavior gets them what they want and they just do it more often." -- MaryAnn X. Meddish
How much does it annoy you when I'm running late?
"I understand that things happen, but I absolutely think less of the parents who are consistently late." -- Janet Howell
"If you think you're going to run behind, just let me know as soon as possible." -- Lora Brawley
"Pay overtime if you're more than an hour late, and try to call. Consider negotiating for one late night each week so you can do what you need." -- Genevieve Thiers
If I have a concern about the way you're caring for my child, what's the best way to bring it up?
"There is nothing worse than finding out that a parent has been unhappy with their child's care and realizing that I could have made a change to correct it before it snowballed into a bigger issue. If something is bothering you, don't hold back! Remember: If you don't advocate for your child, no one else will." -- Cheryl Bahneman
"Be direct when you're unsatisfied with something I've done, but also acknowledge what I'm doing right. I recognize that I'm caring for your child and I should be doing things your way, but I'm attached to your child too. It helps if you show me you understand that I want the best for her." -- Lora Brawley
How much should you pay?
To determine average babysitting rates where you live, check out Sittercity.com's Rate Calculator at babysitters.sittercity.com/rate_calculator.html.
What are you thinking when my kid has a tantrum at drop-off?
"Please don't spoil your child. Just drop him off; tell him you love him and will see him later." -- Denise Whetzel
"The quicker you leave, the faster your kid will calm down. Ease the transition by creating a special goodbye ritual, like a secret handshake or an 'I love you' song." -- Genevieve Thiers
"I'm wishing you'd go and let me take over. If you don't allow me to console your child, you're not letting me gain her trust." -- Janet Howell
What's better: Giving you detailed instructions or just letting you do your job without any interference?
"One of our nannies once received a five-page list of instructions explaining how to do the laundry. That's a little much, but in general we would rather parents go overboard. The more thorough they are, the less room there is for misunderstandings. Parents should outline their expectations by defining the job description in writing at the time of hire too." -- Carolyn Kavanaugh
"I don?t want instructions, but I do like a summary of your child's behaviors, fears, likes and dislikes, and feeding schedules. It lets me know what's normal for your child, plus it helps me ease him into the day-care routine. I share my schedule with parents so they know what to expect as well." -- Mary Braxton
How much do you snoop around my house while I'm gone?
"I would never do it. But I'm friends with a wonderful nanny who snoops all the time and she's by no means the first one I've heard of." -- Lora Brawley
"I already have too much info! I learn way more than I need to know (your cleaning habits, for example) just by being your nanny." -- MaryAnn X. Meddish
What's the one thing you'd never be willing to say to my face?
"Your nanny notices when you have enough money to buy a new car but not enough to give her a raise." -- Carolyn Kavanaugh
How can I find out what you did all day without sounding like I'm worried -- or questioning your judgment?
"Create a built-in communication tool that we agree upon. It could be a daily journal in which I jot down a cute story from the day or a calendar where I note nap times and feedings." -- MaryAnn X. Meddish
"Just ask. It's hard to have that conversation at drop-off and pickup time, though, since other parents are coming in and I'm still caring for children. I'll reply to texts or e-mails throughout the day." -- Mary Braxton
Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Parents magazine.