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Resolving Conflicts with a Caregiver

When an employee is performing poorly, a smart manager puts that person on notice. But when that employee is your caregiver, and that job is the well-being of the most precious thing in your life, you need to approach her in a nonthreatening, constructive way. "You certainly don't want to alienate the person who is spending 40-plus hours a week with your child," says Carrie Wingate, Ph.D., a psychologist with the Dependent Care Connection, in Westport, CT, a nationwide childcare-counseling firm.

SOME TACTFUL TIPS:

  • "Start with the assumption that your caregiver loves the kids and wants to do a good job," emphasizes Abbey Griffin, of Zero to Three. "You want to convey that you respect her and that you're here to work with her." You could say, for example: "I'm concerned about how much TV Joey is watching, and I thought you might know some ways to get him interested in other activities. Do you have any suggestions that we could try together?"

  • Try to back up your request with supporting evidence, advises Wingate: "My pediatrician recommended we do this" or "I saw an interesting article about TV viewing and made a copy for you too."

  • Follow up the discussion with a written request. Ann Douglas, author of The Unofficial Guide to Childcare, suggests a box of cookies or some other little treat, accompanied by a thank-you note along the lines of: "It means a lot to know that you care so much about Joey, and will work with us to keep his TV watching down to an hour a day." You're reiterating your point, but in an appreciative way.

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