Sticky Situation with Many "Gray" Areas....

Received Thursday, February 12, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN I feel as if I'm in a sticky situation, a place with many "gray" areas. This is long but please continue to read, I need serious advice please. I'm a nanny for this family, but let me give a little background. I work for a family who is very well off, both parents working with great jobs.

Their children are in a private "high end" school and are always in multiple after school activities…neither of these children are even in grade school yet. 90% of their day is someone telling them exactly how and when to do something. Stressful in itself, the parents have high standards for them, especially for their age. They are smart and sharp as a knife. Although they suffer from speech delays and wetting problem sometimes, day and night time. They are wonderful kids, truly. But I have never met such short tempered and emotional children at the most trivial of issues. I know young kids get upset at little things, but I'm talking about they'll just start breaking down and crying if someone is looking at them, or not enough milk in cereal, a full blown wailing crying, not even angry sounding, just distraught. One of the parents is a "powerhouse" and very "business-like" in all aspects of the word. He will lose it quickly with the kids and really let go on them verbally, I'm mean nothing too horrible, and I have never witnessed anything ph ysical. He will slam down whatever he has and stomp over to them quickly, almost running and get right up in their face and just let go. But I have witnessed enough to know the children are scared during these outbursts, they are enough to make me shake b/c I don't know what to do or how to intervene. Then just like the flick of a switch (30 secs after blowing up) he'll be nice as can be and loving. It just leaves me shell-shocked not knowing what to expect, leaves me walking on eggshells all day. It's made for a terrible work environment. What's worse, is I'm terribly worried about the kids and the lasting effects it could have on them from being controlled all day and evening by some instructor telling them what to do, then coming home tired as can be and the parents have ZERO tolerance for anything at all they do. Let me say these kids are very picky and have everything catered to them, maybe b/c the parents DO feel bad for not spending enough QUALITY time with them, so they hand them everything without question, either way it's NOT in the best interest of the children. And I'm just worried on what is considered to be…see….. I don't even want to use the word abuse, but I honestly don't really think it is, but there is definitely something wrong that they are sooo emotionally distraught, speech issue, and the wetting issue . I don't know if it's the extreme short temper from parent or overwhelmed with academics and activities, or a combo of=2 0both I'm sure. Keeping in mind neither child is even in grade school yet. I'm just looking for some insight here, of whatever kind. I'm just lost and feel helpless, they really are GOOD parents and their kids have everything they could want and they treat me decent enough, I just have a bad feeling don't feel right for some reason.

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Melissa said...

Well, unfortunately, I hate to tell you this, but it IS abuse. It's 100% emotional abuse when the father gets in their faces and goes bananas on them like you described. The wetting problems and the constant breakdowns stem directly from the children's constant feeling of anxiety over what will happen to them if they mess up, and their need to feel perfect. I also feel like the children probably have some sort of attachment problems due to the difference in emotions they receive from at least the father... and I imagine the mother as well. You need to do something NOW. This is only going to get worse as they continue in school and enter into more difficult academic realms. I suggest trying to locate some information on emotional abuse and agencies to contact in your area for information and advice. Also, perhaps (if you have a good relationship with the parents) try looking for information on authoritative parenting style, and offer the information to them.

As for the children, if you choose to stay in your position, lighten up a bit. Don't discipline them for small things, and use a lot of nurturing and warmth when you have to correct a behavior. Make them understand that they have nothing to be afraid of when they "mess up", and explain to them that it is okay to make mistakes. Be open to talking about feelings and emotions with them, and make sure they know they can come to you and talk to you about anything. Good luck, and if things continue with the parenting being abusive, you are required, as a nanny and mandated reporter, to report them to CPS. I highly suggest you do. (And let's hope your area's CPS has the budget left to follow up on all calls... ).

oh well said...

It is indeed a sticky situation. You say they go to school. Maybe you could get a word in with the teachers, ask if they find them overly emotional as well. Do you take them to doctors' visits? Their pediatrician might be a good person to talk to especially if you are worried about speech and wetting issues.
Of course the best solution would be to sit down with the parents and have an open conversation with them. "A and B are amazing children, and
they seem to display the extreme sensitivity which comes with great capacities. How would you like me to deal with this?" From what you said it sounds like at least one the parents has a self-esteem problem.

Nanny Taxi said...

These kids need time to be kids. Can the parents call off a few of the structured activities and sign them up for a tumble time class? They need to run and blow off some of that nervous steam, or maybe a daily trip to the park to run, climb and jump. I think they cry at a drop of a hat due to their father. My Dad was the same way, if I so much as dropped a fork he'd be in my face "correcting" me, it made me a nervous wreck around my father that lasted into adult hood. I think it is verbal abuse

Nanny Sarah said...

Parents like this, are really tough. They want very high standards for their kids and they don't realize how it affects their kids. My dad was emotional abusive- very rough time growing up. Best I can tell you is tell the parents how you feel and being there for the kids helps too. Offer to ease the situation in teaching them "a better way" to talk to their kids. Emotionally abuse can hurt worst then anything, it kills the childrens' self-esteem and can have them have lass out. They are looking for attention- but not this way. Best of luck

Been There Done That... said...

I am 40yrs old and lived with abuse for many years that affects me to this day. I agree w/Melissa...IT IS ABUSE! I came from a family of 5 kids and all were bedwetters and I was also a sleepwalker. I wonder what my life would have been like if someone had stood up for me? Believe me, a lot of people knew our situation. Be their voice!

Lindsey said...

Stomping over to a child and getting in their face to scream all sorts of probably degrading things is abuse. Yes we as parents sometimes have our patience run out and we may react to quickly and harshly, but if this is something that goes on on a regular basis, it is not ok, and it is emotional and verbal abuse. If they do it in front of you, imagine what they do when you are not there! These people are oviously not people you can sit down with and have a rational converstaion. The second you bring up something they are doing wrong they will go all ballistic, and probably even fire you. So you have two options, quit because the situation will not get any better or try to talk to them and risk being fired.

I really don't think this is a case for CPS at this point because while yes this isn't good for them and is obviously effecting them, they are cared for, you said they don't get physical (to your knowlege), so I don't think this warrants their kids being taken away.

You really need to make a judgement call here. What's best for you?

Dave said...

If you are walking on eggshells, you are in an abusive relationship too. So are those children. I don't think you will be able to save them. Save yourself.

MissDeeHatesValentine'sDay said...

I don't remember being a bedwetter, however most children outgrow that by at 8-9. I did walk on eggshells around my father and I often wonder if my mother was still alive what my life would be like today? My father was controlling, loving, had bad communication, and labeled me "beautiful and stupid". He made sure my life was easy for me; I didn't have to do much except eat, breathe, sleep and poop. He made sure I didn't do any chores, he made sure I passed my classes at school and I didn't even have to try to achieve. This is the same man who asked me at 17 what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I said I wanted to be a teacher like my mother. He told me to stop dreaming and that I wouldn't amount to much in life. He also said that I could depend on him for whatever I needed.

At 18, he tried to get me SSI, food stamps and government assistance for my epilepsy. I refused his offer. I didn'r want the help, what I wanted was to be treated like a normal kid, rather than the special needs child that he made me out to be. My first job was working with developmentally challenged people because I was placed in that catergory. He took all of my money that I earned, only to give me money, tell me to buy whatever I wanted with it, and yell at me about not having any money left.

Talk about being abusive? I posted on another thread a few days ago about his breaking my guitar when I was younger from not doing my homework. My father was emotionally abusive and cold toward me, his youngest child. I was somewhat like the children OP describes in her post. If these children don't get help now, they may end up like me. Does anyone know the five styles of parenting? Authoritative, Permissive, Authoritarian, Neglectful, and Attachment. I was parented in an authoritarian/permissive household with no structure where I was expected to behave at all times or else. Never was I asked how I felt about anything, when I lost my maternal grandmother who raised me from birth and was the only link to my mother, I was expected to deal with her death and my father on my own. I didn't even get counseling. I was given the cold shoulder from a man who made it possible for me to be here, a man who took a vow with my mother to raise me into a woman and all that bs. He was supposed to teach me, not hurt me, and I had to learn many things the hard way.

I have a car, two jobs, and am going back to school for a degree in Human Development at the University of WI. I am intelligent, creative and have one hell of an arm and a kick. *LOL* How's that for the Daddy's Little Princess who didn't get her father's love? How's that for the curly haired, blue eyed girl from Chicago?

Sorry for the attitude today guys....When I get to talking about my father, I get a bit bitchy....I did start counseling for my past.

Melissa said...

Precisely why I suggested OP look for information on authoritative parenting style and offer it to the parents, Miss Dee. Some people just don't have the knowledge of children and their development, some don't know where to look.

But I have to say, from a Child Development Specialist's point of view, IT IS ABUSE WHAT HE IS DOING TO THESE CHILDREN. And the nanny, for that matter. You should never fear another human being and "walk on eggshells". NEVER.

(Sorry, I'm just very passionate about these issues...) :)

all eyes said...

This is abuse. Plain and simple. You need to get into contact with CPS, you are required to.

Noble Drusus said...

It's ok for a parent to discipline a child. It's ok for that discipline to be harsh sometimes. Lack of discipline can be 100x worse. But discipline should also be purposeful, limited and non-physical. As long as it is balanced with plenty of loving and rewarding behavior, harsh discipline can be beneficial to establish clear guidelines for proper behavior. I am a harsh discipliner but also loving and sweet. Baby Drusus is happy and well behaved, quiet, good mannered and knows what's right and wrong. Go call CPS on the parents of the kids who fight, throw food and scream all day, not on me.

WTF? said...

Screaming in a preschool aged child's face isn't "discipline" ~ It's being an asshole. It most certainly is NOT okay to emotionally abuse a young child for any reason.

Nanny Taxi said...

Getting into the face of a small child to the point that they are losing it over something as simple as milk in a bowl is ABUSE! I am just going to say this and take away what you will. My father passed away on September 27, 2008. It is what? February 13th? I have yet to shed a tear! I am not a cold person, but with the way my father treated me as a child, and as adult left me to build a wall to protect myself from him. He spent the last 5 years of his life living across the parking lot from me and I think I visited him twice. He was very much like this man mentioned in this post. He was bossy, emotionally unavailable, mean and nasty! As a child I hated him when he was home from work, or when he woke from a nap. He made life miserable for all of us. When I cleaned out his apartment there were no "remember when's." It was a chore, something to be done and then move on. 75% of the things he owned went into the dumpster. I have been in counseling for years thanks to him, and whenever I pay a co-pay for meds, or a psych visit I get to fuming. So, please see if you can put a stop to this. No child should go through what I went through and no child should be an adult and still be so angry at their deceased father.

So sad said...

What an awful situation. I believe this is abuse, but we all know CPS is not going to do anything about emotional abuse.

I also agree with the person who said you can't have a rational conversation with the parents.
If you are taking them to school and their activities, maybe you can cut them a break. Like if gymnastics or whatever is stressing them out, allow them to sit with you on the sidelines for the day. Maybe talk to the teacher at school and find out if they can loosen up there.
At home, is there any way you can intervene with the children before the father comes and starts screaming at them? Can you help them to calm down, or when he comes in, say, "It's okay, I can deal with it," in a tone that implies concern for him interrupting his own (very important activities) to have to "discipline" the kids.
You might want to talk to the kids about not crying like that when they are at home. Not ideal, but might be best given the situation.

Above all, though, you have to take care of yourself first. If you feel really anxious/upset in this situation, you should leave.

NannyInCharge said...

Get out while you can!!

I quit a job a few years ago because the Dad would scream and cuss at his 9 month old son for not going right to sleep, or not taking his bottle, or not stop whining, etc.

These parents sound set in who they are and how they run their family. I'm betting there is nothing you can do and talking to them will only cause tension.

Good luck!

truth inside said...

Build resource, give notice.

You deserve better.

Occasional Visitor said...

Dear OP,

You raise a couple of issues that I'd like to address.

First: the kids are clearly overscheduled. Scientific American has an article about this right now. Search online for "The Serious Need for Play" in quotes and you'll see it. You might want to print out this article and give it to the parents. They obviously give a lot of thought to their kids' development, so a persuasive, research-based article about the importance of free play would probably have an impact on their choices.

Second: the Dad's anger issues. I disagree with other posters who demand that you call CPS right now. That's a can of worms you do not want to open on someone unless you think it will really do some good, and if the services in your state are anything like the ones in mine, I doubt it will. Absolutely, if you think these kids are in danger of being PHYSICALLY abused, then you MUST report it, but if these are indeed "good parents" as you say, except for the Dad's verbal outbursts, then I'd say give them a chance to alter their behavior.

Are you willing to risk losing your job? If so, then address the situation. You could start with just giving them the article on free play and see how receptive they are to your concerns on that first point. If they brush you off or become hostile, then you have a better idea of what to expect when you address the issue of the Dad's anger. Your instincts will tell you how to proceed, but you might want to schedule a meeting with both of them to talk about the kids. Approach the parents with compassion. Let them know that you know how seriously they take parenting and how much they love their kids, and you just want to share your observations as a professional who spends a lot of time with their kids. The Dad may become defensive and deny his behavior, in which case you'll want to have a couple of specific examples of his outbursts that you can describe in detail. Stay calm, don't get emotional, and reassure them that you think they're great parents, it's just that parenting is so complicated that an outside point of view is sometimes helpful. And suggest alternative ways that the Dad could vent his frustration away from the kids and/or discipline them in a more positive, age-appropriate way.

If you're not comfortable meeting with them both, then you could try talking to just the Mom about it instead. But be advised that you could lose your job if they take it the wrong way. Good luck, and please post back if you can.

Jacqui said...

Good advice, OccassionalVisitor. On point with everything.

I agree with others that it IS in fact abuse, but it really would be opening a can of worms if you reported it. As OccassionalVisitor mentioned, there are more effective ways to deal with this than to report them to CPS. Physical abuse is a very tangible, cut and dry thing. Emotional abuse presents a lot of grey areas and is very open to interpretation and differing perspectives, especially when it comes to how someone is raising their children. This dad probably has NO idea how his outbursts are effecting his kids. He was most likely dealt with in the same manner by HIS parents. That doesn't make it RIGHT, but it also doesn't make the abuse as premeditated as physical abuse.

Good luck, OP. I dealt with a dad sort of like this guy. His poor kid trembled at the thought of being disciplined by him. And because of his father's irrational anger, the kid exhibited MANY behaviorial problems. It's really sad.