Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

QUESTION: I noticed a nanny and her young charge (probably 1 year old) in a stroller. The nanny was on her phone, the baby facing her. When I headed home, the nanny was still on the phone. Should I tell the parents?

BBB: This is a tricky one. Had the child been asleep it would be a whole different story. Had it been a quick call, I might have a different reaction. The nanny could have been talking to the parent or making a pertinent call, which would excuse the phone’s use.

Because the phone use went on and on as the baby watched, I am troubled. I fear she might have been using the walk times for her own talk times. No “nanny cams” on the street after all.

Babies of all ages thrive and grow on interactions with the world around them. Stroller walks are a wonderful way to introduce that baby to so many things — not only what she may see, but what she hears and smells and feels.

For our little ones, the narration that accompanies these experiences is critical to development of all kinds, especially language. Watching someone on the phone for a long time doesn’t strike me as useful for a baby.

Before you decide to inform the parent about your observation, you need to consider a few things. Think about your real motive for telling them. Do you know your neighbors for whom the nanny works? Do you have a pleasant relationship with them? Be sure to consider the possibilities of how they might react. Will they think you are a neighbor who is looking out for their child’s well-being or just a “butt-insky?” May it damage your relationship with them?

If you decide to tell your neighbors, be careful of what you say and how you say it. Perhaps try something along the lines of: “I want to share something I observed with your nanny and child I thought you might want to know.”

And do add, “I am telling you because if the tables were turned, I would want to know what my nanny does when I am not there. I thought long and hard before calling because I didn’t want you to think I was butting into your business.”  The parent will be less likely to bite your head off in response.

Of course you know that when one parent gets involved in another’s business it can mean big trouble! Just remember there are many ways to parent. I often remind myself that each parent wants to do her best at that moment.

Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals. She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and many more. Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far.