It's not always easy to know whether your child's caregiver is doing her job. To make sure, you may have to do some sleuthing. Some parents who suspect something's amiss rent nanny surveillance equipment. But it's often possible to tell whether something's wrong without going to that extreme.
You may have trouble on your hands if:
Your child seems afraid of the nanny or babysitter and has become anxious and withdrawn. Many times, kids need an adjustment period to get used to a new caregiver. They may cry, pout, or throw a tantrum at first. That's normal. But if your child seems fearful or continues to be unhappy, it's worth looking into.
A regular caregiver can never replace Mom or Dad, but a child needs to feel comfortable with his nanny or babysitter. Perhaps your child and caregiver haven't bonded, or the nanny or babysitter just isn't providing the kind of warmth and comfort your child needs. As in every human relationship, having the right chemistry is important. (If you suspect something more serious is wrong, educate yourself about the signs of child abuse.)
Your nanny or babysitter seems secretive about the daily routine. How your child and her caregiver spend their time shouldn't be a secret. When you come home, you're probably eager to hear about your child's day. If your caregiver isn't forthcoming about it, either she's not good at communicating with you or she has something to hide. Even a caregiver with limited English should be able to convey the ups and downs of your child's day and will understand why you want to know.
Grandma? Daycare? Real parents discuss finding childcare that works.
Your child has been in one too many easily avoidable accidents. A nanny must keep her eye on your child, and know what he's doing at all times to prevent injury. She may be leaving your child unattended as he plays.
You notice she isn't following your requests. Both of you are working together to care for your child, so a caregiver shouldn't act as if she knows more about raising your child than you do.
She seems critical of your parenting. Again, you're supposed to be a team. And you should welcome constructive suggestions from your child's caregiver, especially if she spends a lot of time with your ever-changing child. But if you get the sense that the two of you just aren't on the same page when it comes to basic issues like nutrition, sleep, and safety, the relationship might not work out in the long run.
Your nanny or babysitter often shows up late. An undependable caregiver will leave you in a lurch time and time again. Find someone who you know is committed to the job and considerate of your needs. Tardiness and unexplained absences may mean she's unreliable in other ways as well.
Your child often looks unusually unkempt and dirty. Kids are going to get messy when they play, but if your child consistently has jelly on his fingers from lunch at the end of the day or always needs changing when you pick him up, that's a problem. If your little one's caregiver can't take care of the basics, it may be a sign that she's not on the ball when it comes to meeting your child's needs.
Her stories don't add up. Never tolerate someone who steals, lies, or deceives you in any way. You have to be able to trust your caregiver for the relationship to work.
Your child is consistently hungry and tired. If your child eats like she hasn't had a bite all day or is so exhausted she can't keep her eyes open, that's a red flag. The caregiver may not be following regular mealtimes or nap times.
You simply get a bad feeling about the caregiver. When in doubt, trust your gut. Your intuition is likely to be on target, so if a caregiver doesn't feel right to you, find another one.