Nanny's Tween Trouble

Received Sunday, August 24, 2008 - Perspective & Opinion
We moved to Mexico a year ago and have had a live in nanny since then. We absolutely adore her and so do our children. She is affectionately known as Maria Poppins in our house. She is a single mom with an 11 year old son who was living with his grandparents until this month. We invited him to come live with us as well.

He is a nice young man but has some issues. He treats his mom very disrespectfully. I don't understand all of what is said because he talks to her in Spanish and my Spanish is limited but I can tell and she has confided in me that he is angry with her all of the time and says ugly and mean things to her. I think part of it is his age and part of it is the circumstances under which he's been living the past two years. He's been living with various family members while his
mother was working. So I think he resents her.

She told me that she is embarrassed to reprimand him in front of us. I insisted that she starts doing it right away before things get too out of hand. I'm doubtful that she will. From what I can tell she seems to be somewhat clueless as how to handle the situation. She begs him not to act this way in front of us and threatens him but doesn't have any follow through.

I'm thinking of stepping in and taking over but I wonder if that will cause further problems. Ultimately I think it would be best coming from her but maybe she needs to see an example. I don't know if there are cultural differences that I'm not aware of that are affecting the way she handles his outbursts or if she just doesn't know what do to and could benefit from my example.

He likes to use my computer to check some sort of Mexican Myspace page and I was thinking of telling him no next time he asks me. I could say that I've been watching the way he treats his mother and don't approve. Until he changes his attitude and starts treating her with respect he won't be abel to use my computer. And if it continues I will take away his other privaledges as well.

We really like her and want to try and make the situation work if we can.


minneapolis nanny said...

do it. mom will be appreciative.

UmassSlytherin said...

OP, I wish you lots of luck. You are obviously a very kind person to welcome her son into your home. It sounds as if you are in a very difficult situation: it is impossible for someone who is not the child's parent to "parent" them, however you certainly can enforce house rules. He may, however, resent his mother even more if you do, and resent living in someone else's home where his family does not make the rules.
you are right about how it is completely out of line for him to disrespect his mother, and this of course can be your "house rule" if you have to explain it to him like that: "we do NOT disrespect anyone in this home, especially our parents." As I said, when you welcomed this child into your home, you did a wonderful thing, I just hope it works out for you. Good luck and keep us updated.

kc said...

I think revoking his privileges until he respects his mom is a good idea. I also agree with what Umass said about explaining it to him as respecting everyone, not just his mom. Hopefully she will take a cue from you and try harder to keep him in line.

Me said...

I was raised between the latin american and american culture. Guess it would be better if you talk with the mother before taking his privileges. By the other hand, I think is hard for a kid, of any culture, to accept his mother took care of other kids but him. A kid doesn't understand that it might have been the only way for her to support him. He might be feeling set aside by her. In my humble opinion, since you are all living together and in some way you all are a family now, handle this as a family. Talk to the mother first, assure her that her kid is also a member of the family, not just the nanny's kid living there, and that you all need respect AND love.

Por Favor said...

Put yourself in the kid's shoes. His mother abandons him for two years so she can take care of someone else's children. Then they are finally reunited but it's in someone else's home and he is still a second class citizen simply because he is not part of your family.

He will continue to be angry and hostile until his mother starts putting him first.

An angry and hostile 16 year old is a lot more dangerous than an angry and hostile 11 year old.

I would let her go as it will only continue to get worse until he gets what he wants and NEEDS, his mother's attention that is undivided by other people's children.

Yes, you could tell her to send him away but then you would be directly complicit in the further destruction of his life and you seem like a decent person so I know you wouldn't do that.

She will find another job. Mexico is really not the unemployment hellhole we have all been led to believe. I have lived there too so I know this from experience.

I know this will be an inconvenience for your family but decent people are willing to be inconvenienced for the greater good.

A little boy (yes, 11 is little) needs to be mothered. Please don't stand in the way.

UmassSlytherin said...

por favor,
I can totally see your point: sounds like it has sucked for this kid. But we don't know the family situation. Perhaps this is the best job she can find, we simply don't know the details. I do believe OP has her heart in the right place and I don't think she wants to give up this nanny at this time. I admire OP for welcoming this child into her home.

OP, I say follow your heart. You are doing all you can. I hope it works out for you. And I wish there were more kind people in the world like you. You are a far better person than I am, I can tell you that.

Por favor said...

"I do believe OP has her heart in the right place and I don't think she wants to give up this nanny at this time."

Of course she doesn't want to give up the nanny at this time. So what?

A person who truly cares about children is often compelled to do things they may not want to do.

The 11 year old is suffering. It would be nice if someone thought about him for a change.

Nannyyyyyy said...

If you need a new nanny feel free to look me up!

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with letting her go, you obviously care for her and care for her son. It sounds like her son may have had a rough couple of years, but it also sounds like he might just want what he wants, when he wants it. I think you'll be doing your nanny a huge favor, if you take away privileges and teach her by example.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like an awkward situation. I suggest stepping in and doing something about it. This is child in your house who needs discipline. And what sort of role model is this for your children??

My two cents... said...

How about just insisting that the boy follow house rules? If your kids aren't allowed to be disrespectful to the nanny or other adults, he is not allowed to either. If your kids are expected to earn their privelages, such as computer time, by good behavior, so should he.

You aren't his mother, so don't mother him. You also aren't his doormat, so you don't have to allow behavior that you wouldn't allow in others who come into your home.

Allow his mother to make decisions that any parent should make for their child, but enforce the rules that you enforce for your family and guests in your home. Sit down with the mother and explain how his behavior is affecting you and your children (imagine them at this age saying and doing the same things--they are learning by example). Then sit down with the mother and the boy together and discuss the situation at hand.

As for cultural issues, yes, they are there. This boy and his mother come from a culture that is different from yours. Adopt the positive, eschew the negative, and make every attempt to understand and be sensitive. If you work together, you can find balance.

It may take the boy a while to adjust, and may be difficult for a while after the rules are changed. Consistency will help him adjust. That means that every time a behavior occurs, it is met with the same response, regardless of who is on the receiving end. That includes rewarding and praising "good" behavior as well as correcting and punishing "bad" behavior.

Buena suerte!

UmassSlytherin said...

por favor,
perhaps OP did have the boy in mind: it seems as if this is a nice home with stability and kindness. Perhaps she was being kind and wanting the mom and child to be together and offer the boy a good home as well.

raised well said...

As a diplomatic person I can see both sides of this issues. Yers, it must be AWFUL to be away while his mom cares for other kids, but at the end of the day SHE IS HIS ELDER. PERIOD. I agree with revoking privledges. Also, perhaps sit down as a family... you, them, your kids... explain you are equals, create house rules, and from this point on they are to be followed. If they are broken consequences will ensue. If they are followed rewards will be gives. (Nothing fancy, of course... maybe just a movie and popcorn night). Anyhow, OP, you sounds amazing and I thank you for taking her son in. I say do what it takes to get this child to repect his mother (you wouldn't want your kids to pick up poor habits :)) Good Luck!

cali mom said...

Following house rules seems like a good and practical suggestion. 2 cents said it well.

Por Favor, how would having a mother who is unemployed and fired from her job be a benefit to this boy? Do you think for some reason she would decide to switch careers if she were let go from this nanny job? How would she accomplish that? With no source of income and no home?

cali mom said...

And, to the extent that your nanny's job is essentially to treat YOUR children as her own, it makes sense that in this case, since HER son is part of your household, that YOU have some leeway to treat HIM as you would YOUR children, when it comes to discipline.

mom said...

What a hard situation. This kid may be entering adolescence, which is a very difficult time for the child as well as all around him. (And even once easy going, well behaved kids who have been taught respect and manners have trouble keepinng their mouths shut when they should during this time.)
And I can see how the boy might feel abandoned by his mom leaving him to raise other people's kids. He may well be incredibly resentful of you and your kids...which is understandable when you consider that he has an 11 year old mind.

However, it doesn't mean you need to have oyur household turned upside down by somebody else's child etiher.

You might just speak ot your housekeeper and tell her that thisw is unacceptable and it MUST change, os she will be unable to keep living with you. This might be incentive for her to be a little more strict with him. Since you seem interested in the welfare of this child, maybe give the mom some extra time off every couple/few days to go do something special all alone with her boy, so that he will maybe be less resentful and can have some good childhood memories of spending special times with his mom....and not having to always squeeze the time in late at night. Then, if it really does not change after a while, maybe give her a little extra money so that she and her child can afford to get a little place of their own nearby. I agree with everybody that firing her is not going to help anybody...least of all the child. She would then probably be forced to get another job that forces her to abandon him again.

OP, would require you going above and beyond what you might normally be required to do. But I am thinking that since you invited her to bring her boy to live in your house, you might just be the kind of person who is willing to go the extra mile with charitable kindness and giving. If you decide to give her abit of a raise and ask her to live out, tell her it is because you think her son needs to feel like they are a he/she won't feel they are kicked out because of him, but instead for his benefit.

Controlling much?? said...

I'm sorry, but you all are nuts if you think you can dictate how someone raises their own kids.

OP you cannot demand that he treats his mother with respect, you may talk to him on the importance of respecting elders, but not demand. As well, you do have the right to talk to your nanny and let her know that either she gets control of HER child or he/they can no longer stay at your house.

simple enough.

You do annoy me though, "I'm thinking of stepping in and taking over". controlling and invasive much? you do know this is not your child, only your house.

Phoenix said...

This is a cultural thing that won't stop. My step-sons mother treats her kid the same way. A mexican boy is king in their culture and they gt anything they want.
For example : my step-son had childhood tooth rot because his moms family always left the bottle in his mouth. Why? because they couldn't stand him crying.
My step-sons younger brother is 4 now and still has a binkie... so he won't cry.
When my step-son goes on vacation with his mom he gets to have what ever he wants. Like ice-cream for breakfast. if he doens't get it he throws a tantrum.
I see this in most Mexican housholds. Not so much with other hispanic families. They treat the boys different than the girls. They don't do anything. The boys get what ever they want.
This is hard because when my step-son comes back to my house he has chores and i don't tollerate stupid behavior.
His mother is from Mexico she doesn't understand how to say NO and the child feeds off this and runs the show.

can't hold back this time said...


I really do not wish to hurt your feelings, but with all that you have said about your stepson and his mother it is clear that they cannot win with you and that you will never accept the child into your family. I fear for your relationship with your husband because you seem to have so much anger in your heart regarding this union.

I also disagree that it is a cultural thing. The Mexican male may be "king" of the household, but I do know several Mexican families that I have worked with and have visited them at their home and the boys are very respectful and affectionate even with their mothers and grandmothers and even the older boys hold their grandmothers' hands when walking outside the home. Perhaps this boy (OP's nanny's son) is torn between his culture's views of males providing for their families and his father having left them. To be honest, Phoenix you sound like a very prejudicial person who should never have married a man with kids.

I am sorry to lay it all out there for you, but I just could not hold back this time.

Phoenix said...

Okay first of all... I was giving examples of all the mexican - mexican families. Not the ones that are americanized. he is respectful to his grandmother and aunts. His mom's mother is truelly a sweetheart and so are his moms sisters. She is not...
It is hard to explain an entire life in one section of typing.
I do thank you for your opinion, everybody has to have one.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
op said...

Thanks for all of the good advice everyone. What a great service.

I'm really torn. The rather harsh advice to fire her would probably be easiest for me to avoid all of the household disruption and to get her and her son reunited. However she just spent two months wages getting him here and settled and enrolled into a private school. I think it would be very tough for both of them to be sent back to where they came from and they have no family near by to assist them here.
She made my transition to a new country a wonderful culturally rewarding experience and I'd like to help her to have a better life for her and her son in return. I think she's made some bad decisions along the way (we invited her son to come with us 1 year ago when we moved here and she opted to have him complete the school year back in their hometown with his grandparents). Now she and I are suffering the consequences with her angry and resentful son. But we've all come this far and I want to try and help them out if it doesn't totally turn my house upside down.
So back to the discipline issue. Tonight we had a family meeting and went over the house rules. We wrote them down on a poster board and the kids decorated it. They were all very excited actually. Now I just hope his mom follows through. If not I'll be back for more advice.
Thanks again.

11:46 PM

Re-posted for OP.

Suzie said...


You are commenting based on stereotypes. I am from a "mexican-mexican" family and believe me, the boys around my family (both immediate and extended) better act with respect towards women and men equally. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about and are just giving an opinion out of your ignorant behind. In fact, I have found Mexican/Hispanic boys to be sometimes MORE respectful of their mothers than American boys, if only because they were raised with better manners and they weren't allowed to disagree with or disobey their elders. So shut up.