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  • Writer's pictureLena Agree JD, PsyD

What is “Warmth," and Why is it So Important for Your Nanny to Express?

Updated: Oct 15, 2023

This is the second article in our 4-part series on How Your Nanny Can Support Your Child's Social-Emotional Development.

Because your nanny/au pair spends so much time with your child, she should be a positive influence on his/her social-emotional development. According to childcare research, exhibiting warmth is one of four behaviors every childcare worker should manifest in order to support children’s social-emotional development at every age.

o Warmth/positive affect/positive regard

o Joint attention

o Responsive routines and limits

What is “Warmth”?

Warmth means expressing positive feelings for the child and touching the child in a nurturing way. The positive feelings are in regards to the child as a person, and do not waiver based on behavior. This means that when a child acts out, the message should be, “You are a wonderful person but this behavior isn’t working.”

This is a vital concept, as it is the foundation of self-esteem. Adults who crave “unconditional love” do so because they didn’t receive this unwavering positive regard as a child. Hence, it is vital that any caregiver unequivocally reinforce your child’s lovability and goodness in spite of difficult behavior.

Of course, it is easier to express positive feelings when things are going well, and it is equally important that caregivers do this. There are many ways to express positive affect towards a child, including:

~ smiling

~ praising

~ encouraging

~ showing interest and enthusiasm

~ using positive words and descriptions regarding the child

~ avoiding negative or blank facial expressions

~ using a pleasing tone of voice

Nurturing touch is also important. It is imperative for infants, who require frequent holding by a loving adult for healthy development. But, for all children, touch communicates care and concern and deepens the sense of engagement. It includes not only physical affection, but also sitting close to the child, touching during greetings and even just a gentle brush in passing.

It is worth noting that children generally do not receive this level of touch in daycare, and this is one good reason to choose a nanny or au pair over a daycare setting for your child.

Please read the next post to learn why your nanny’s joint attention with your child is so important to his/her social-emotional development.

Based on research by:

Atkins-Burnett, Sally, Shannon Monahan, Louisa Tarullo, Yange Xue, Elizabeth Cavadel, Lizabeth Malone, and Lauren Akers (2015). Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions for Infants and Toddlers (Q-CCIIT). OPRE Report 2015-13. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Halle, T., Anderson, R., Blasberg, A., Chrisler, A., & Simkin, S. (2011). Quality of caregiver- child interactions for infants and toddlers (QCCIIT): A Review of the Literature, OPRE 2011- 25. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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