Is it a Game... or is Nanny Hurting Child?

Thursday, April 2, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN Ok.. not sure where to start.We have a nanny for 3 kids, 2 preschool (A and T), one toddler (M). She's been with us for over 2 years. Previous to her, her sister nannied for us for over a year, then went back to school. Their mom has become a part of our family as well...she loves our kids, treats them like grandkids. All and all it's been the best situation anyone could ask for. Until today. My oldest casually mentioned "When M doesn't walk to his bedroom to get his diaper changed, Nanny bonks him." So my husband and I start casually asking her what she meant. Trying not to be alarmed (which was hard for Finally after having her demonstrate a few times and getting her to discuss it a bit more, it comes out that our nanny swoops M up, and bonks his head or legs into the wall of the hallway while walking down the hall. How hard?? Not sure. Is it a game??? Maybe..maybe not. Has he had bruises or scratches lately???? Yes, but what crazy toddler boy who is a daredevil DOESN'T have a bruise every now and then from jumping off a coffee table or body slamming into his sisters or whatever......I'm numb. I'm absolutely numb. I need to talk to the nanny about it...get her side of the story, but I don't even know what to say, how to start. Do I believe what she says? Why would my daughter make it up? I also want to ask my other pre-schooler seperately what she has seen or noticed...she is quiet and such a "follower" of her big sister that I need to talk with her away from her sister so she isn't distracted, right???

Until today, I have NEVER doubted that my kids had the best care ever. NEVER...and now I do. I feel like my world has been turned upside down because I don't want to believe this. I can't believe this....but my oldest made it pretty clear that she "bonks" his head. This is unacceptable right? Does anyone know of an explanation that would make this ok??? What else can I do?? I know that the consensus on here is no nanny cam without informing the nanny, but I don't understand how that will help...if I tell her I'm going to start watching her. And then I start thinking about if I do fire her how devastating this will be for the kids....I mean this is someone who has been with our family for as long as my kids can remember practically. I mean if I fire her and she disappears forever, what will my kids think and how will that affect them. It would be the same as a divorce, practically......what do I do??? No flames please. Thanks


Nanny Sarah said...

Do you ever consider a Nanny cam? So there is no sparks between you and what seems to be your wonderful nanny. If you have doubts, you should set up the camera. Maybe, a surprise visit home would be necessary also. Go with your heart, if it tells you somethings wrong- you have to act on it. Good Luck and wish you the best for all concern.

Lady said...

I played a lot of games with my little brother that taking out of context could sound horrable. My friend's dad used to play "the mailbox game" w/ their dog. The dog would stick its head out the window in the car and the dad would see how close he could get to a mailbox before the dog pulled its head in. But he NEVER hurt the dog or let it get hit but if you told that story the wrong way it would sound like abuse.

The way your daughter described it I would picture the nanny running over, picking him up, twirling around, and letting his dangling body parts "hit" the wall...softly... She used "bonk" not slam, hit, etc.

I do agree you need to investigate more and this might be a good one time nanny cam situation. Set it up for that hallway and watch it until you see a "bonking" and then you know.

Your gut says your nanny wouldn't abuse your child. This way you can make sure without accusing her.

AML said...

I used to be a nanny for a 3 year old and a 9 year old. One day the mom took me aside and told me that her children told them I was pulling on their noses as a form of actuality I was playing "got your nose with them" and they would laugh hysterically. I had been working with them as a live in for over a year so I would have never done anything to hurt them. Luckily the mom took my word for it and we didn't have another issue. The kids would ask for me to take their nose but I stopped playing it entirely. Talk to your nanny and listen to her without your emotions getting the best of you. I was so hurt that the kids I treated as my own accused me of something I would never even think of doing that I actually started to cry.

If you still have your doubts after that install a nanny cam but tell her about it.

mom said...

These are your kids. And the baby being bonked doesn't sound old enough to even speak up for himself.

I'd get a nanny cam...a few actually...and not tell her. You have to be SURE. You don't want to fire nanny unnecessarily, but you don't want your child injured either physically or psychologically either! You don't want your older daughter to grow up thinking this is how you treat kids when they don't do what you want them to...especially a baby.

If it turns out you must let nanny go because she really is hurting the baby, that will be very sad at first, yes. However, it will be a better lesson for them to know that you will protect them no matter what and that it was not OK with you for nanny to hurt baby, or any of matter how nice she might otherwise seem. And frankly, if she turns out to be actually hurting the baby, she's probably less of a picnic to be around in your absence than you realize anyway. And remember that even though the kids may seem to love who are severaly abused seem to love their abusing parents too...and want to be with them no matter what.

I'm not saying this nanny is hurting your kids. It may well turn out to be an innocent game. But you HAVE to find out.

My kids took piano lessons for several years from a woman who seemed, in front of me, to oompletely adore them. Then one day my son casually mentioned how he didn't like that she would shove his fingers really hard into the keys, hurting him, when he made mistakes. I was shocked and casually asked my daughter, out of my son's presence, if anything bad ever happened to her at piano. Yup. Same thing. I have no idea why they endured it without telling me. But I took them both out immediately and told them it was never OK for anybody to hurt them, no matter what. It was also a good opportunity to have some serious discussions with them about being sure to tell me any time anybody did anything to them that felt bad.

We also used just three main babysitters over their entire childhood. There would be one extreme favorite at a time and that was who would be in their lives for that period of time. Two of them moved away after college and they had to say goodbye and get used to somebody new...which was hard....especially the first time. But they came to love the second sitter just as much as they had the first, so it was a little less scary for them the second time. It is part of life.

OP said...

This is the OP. I talked with my husband about it for awhile last night (and then didn't get any sleep). He also is having a hard time believing that she could be hurting our youngest. He also brought up that there are times when M is being extremely stubborn if you pick him up, M throws himself back, and at 30 lbs, it takes a lot to hold onto I wonder if something like that didn't happen? I know its happened to me where he's thrown himself back and into a wall.
I also had a chance this morning to talk to my middle daughter privately and she could not confirm anything the oldest said. She did repeat the part she heard our oldest say "nanny bonks M." but when I asked her to elaborate, she said that the nanny bonks M with her hand...I am really having a hard time believing that and think she just repeated what her big sis said and interpretting in her own way.
Anyways, I'm just going to ask more questions of my oldest the next couple of days. My mom is off work next week and agreed to do some pop-ins, unannounced to see what she notices, if anything. I really hope I just overreacted to what my oldest interpretted.

d said...

I definately agree that you should get a nanny cam. However, I agree that out of context, games can sound absurd or horrifying. I once worked for a family that had marble floors in some rooms. After a bad tumble, I invented a game. I told the kids we had to walk slowly through those rooms so we didn't wake up the "floor sharks", and would dramatically tiptoe through the room.

They tried to play with Grandma and she threw a fit, thinking I was psychologically abusing the kids and keeping them in line by threatening to throw them to the sharks. Luckily Mom boss knew about the game and had seen us in action.

mom said...

Yeah, you really just can't know about what kids say sometimes without proof one way or the other.

However, I'd still get a nanny cam, even if only temporarily. Are there companies that will come set up the equipment and let you rent it for just a month or so?

She's not going to bonk the baby in front of grandma...that's for sure. And she won't do it in front of a camera either, if you tell her its there.

Just ask said...

Did you think to ask if the child was laughing or crying or anything while this was going on? If he's laughing, then she must be "teasing" him and they are having fun. If the child is crying, then OBVIOUSLY she is hurting him. Ask both children seperately what this child's reaction is when the nanny does this, and see if their stories match. Do NOT show any concern in your voice when you ask them, that way you will get the truth.

OP said...

OP again. I did ask if M is crying and both siblings said he is. However, again, that may not mean anything because if he is being stubborn (He's nearly 2 and totally stubborn and temper tantrum-y at times), he could be crying before she picks him up and it ++could++ be a game to get him to stop crying? You know, acting silly? Now I feel like I'm making excuses for her.
I'll be looking into a nanny cam tonight. I know exactly where to put it that I'll be able to see the play area and hallway they walk down.

Just ask said...

Thank you for clearing that up, OP. I didn't even think that the child could be already crying/upset, and the nanny could just be doing this to make him laugh or something.
Let's just hope she's not hurting him. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, and go get that nannycam tonite!

just ask said...

Oh, and make sure it's a good one and you angle it properly! It COULD be innocent but the angle and speed of the film COULD make it look like she's doing it harder than she actually is!

SF said...

OP, it sounds like your mom popping in is a good plan, and I'm glad that you value your nanny enough to jump to conclusions. I also used to play games with my brother that would sound super abusive out of context, but he would be squealing with laughter and no one ever got hurt. As we all know, preschoolers can sometimes take things out of context, so I think you should go with your gut, have your mom pop in, and hopefully things will be fine.

Holz said...

OP, I just want to say that I think you're handling this superbly. I can't even imagine how upsetting it might be to even think your nanny could be hurting your child, but you're managing to both validate your preschooler's claims and at the same time realize that children can exaggerate the truth or misrepresent things, and giving your nanny the benefit of the doubt.

I hope this gets resolved quickly for you... no advice that hasn't already been offered.

Jacqueline said...

Just a thought, and you won't know unless you either talk to her or put in a nanny cam, though it may not have a good enough view to determine the truth.

My first thought when I read your post about the nanny "bonking" his head into the wall was that she was trying to cheer him up since he is crying and she swoops him up and as she heads toward the room to change him she bounces off the wall (meaning her shoulder or arm) and it looks like she is hitting his head off the wall to make him laugh.

Kind of like when you hold a toddler and act like they're slipping but you have control the whole time to make them giggle and laugh?

This would look like she is really hitting him in the wall to your daughter but its just a game and he is not ever touching the wall only the nanny is.

Just a thought.

Lady said...

Please keep us posted!

Pipi said...

I am a nanny and know that I play some games with the youngest child, almost 5, that may not always be seen in the best light. But they are all in good fun and even when I pretend I am "spanking" her she laughs and laughs.

You need to look at the language your child used. Bonk is a non threatening word. She didnt say hit or slams or smashed or smacked. All these have a negative aspect to them.

The best thing to do is talk to your other child alone and find out how she sees it.

Does the toddler laugh, or cry or seem afraid when you try to change his diaper?

Another thing to think about it that pre-school children tell lies. Often times they will make up stories so real that it is hard to believe that could be anything but truth. Sometimes they may view this as a trick or a joke and find it so funny that they are secretly getting over on you. Ask her multiple times at different times to tell you what happened. Have her act it out. Look for slips in the story.

meme said...

I think this is something that could very easily be harmless. I could see myself or my partner doing this with my toddler son. Its a silly way to get a kid to go somewhere they don't wanna go, scoop 'em up and say 'woops. we bumped into the wall, woops we're gonna fall," you know that kinda thing. If you trust her in every other way, and you have had nothing but good experiences, im willing to bet thats probably all it is.
and i would ask your child.

Beezle said...

You have every right to be concerned, but just so that you don't react in a regretful manner, discuss it honestly with your nanny. If she is guilty of "bonking" your child, then she may employ a CYA policy. As honest as kids are, they don't get context very well (or at all) and your daughter's report may have been mangled. Not saying that that's necessarily the case, but it is a legitimate possibility.

Get the other side of the story,and if you feel that the nanny isn't telling the truth (and since there is a very valid cause for concern and this is an exceptional situation), maybe temporarily use a nanny cam to monitor any suspicious behavior.

I'm not a mother yet, but I understand how hearing something like this could be overwhelmingly alarming and upsetting. Your child's safety and well-being comes first.

NannyJ said...

All the "excuses" you are making for your nanny seem valid... and I really want to believe that she IS NOT hurting him... but as a nanny, I just cannot imagine purposefully bumping a toddler's head against the wall. Legs...maybe...not something I would do, but MAYBE. But head? No, never!
If it was an accident-okay, good. Seems likely.
No matter how honest and truthful you think your oldest daughter is...she might be lying or exaggerating. I remember when I was a little kid I liked to lie a ton...for no particular reason, I think I just wanted to see if people would believe me.
Once in the mall when I was a baby my older brother was resisting getting into the stroller and struggling, he then started yelling something like "Mommy is breaking my arm!" or something like that...he had never or has never been abused in his life. My mom was approached by mall cops about it. It is something our family now jokes about...of course then it was not funny.
Did your daughter say that it is something that happens often? or was it just once. How does your son act when you or your husband take him to get his diaper changed? If it actually is abuse and happens often, he will probably exhibit fear at the thought of going to get his diaper changed.
Nanny cam time, I vote.

NVMom said...

I've got to go so I don't have time to read other posts, but hitting his head can do damage. Ask your daughter what his response is and this is really imporant. If the nanny knows it upsets your son and does it anyway, I'd fire her. Just because someone presents themselves well doesn't mean they don't have a mean streak, esp. if that's how they were raised.

Nanny Sandy said...

OP, the one and ONLY WAY you will ever know for sure is to get a nanny cam. And if she is abusing your kids, sure it will be tough, but their safety is number one!! In time, they will recover I am sure. It's amazing how children can bounce back. And if she is not abusing your kids, then I would be grateful for having a wonderful nanny and count my blessings!

Nanny Taxi said...

Get a nanny cam. After what happened to poor Natasha Richardson, I am terrified of any bump on the head!

Vanessa said...

I playfully spank my charges on the bottom and they laugh, because it obviously doesn't hurt and I'm just joking around, but the little girl said to his dad "She hit me" while his dad saw me playfully spank her. He's always trusted me and knows I'd never hurt his kids. I'd say you talk to her directly about it and ask her what the boinking means. I think you're taking it way too seriously. But talk to her, be honest about your feelings. If she's a good person she'll understand why you're alarmed. It's only a natural thing.

Wicker Park Nanny said...

If you have previously had to reason to distrust this nanny ... and your child doesn't have any bruises in the area of the "bonking" ... then I would trust what the nanny tells you when you confront her.

I've mentioned this on this blog before, but my 3 year old once told her mom that I pushed her down the stairs, when actually she had fallen. Another time her cousin was visiting and told her mom that I had hit her, which later it came out to mean I had forced her to take a nap. So beware that things do get exaggerated or misrepresented. It sound like your child was able to accurately describe this to you, but maybe there is a reasonable explanation.

I've also had grown adults "tattle on me." Ok, only one neighbor specifically. She told my employers that I put my charge in a dangerous situation ... which was her PERCEPTION, but my hand never left that child's body.

Confront the nanny, then assess the situation. You really don't have anything else to go on at this point, so don't stress about the maybe's just yet.

ChiNanny said...

I say get the nanny cam, but you could also give your older daughter a doll and ask her to show you what the nanny does with M.

I know that some of the games I play with my charges could sound abusive if described the wrong way. Like others have said, the word bonked makes me think it's more of a game. Or maybe he slammed his head once in the midst of a tantrum and the nanny tried to calm him by saying something like, "oops, you bonked your head, you're okay." and your daughter misunderstood.

I hope this is a misunderstanding and your instincts about this nanny are right. Let us know what happens!

Anonymous said...

Ok I'm confused. You don't need to tell her about the nannycam. Just put it in. Observe. And get the truth. It's not like she'll tell you if she's been up to no good.

And what is more devastating? Allowing your children to be hurt by keeping her; and letting them believe that is OK? Or, telling them she has to go because she was physically inappropriate? They'll get over it. I'd go with the first.

MNanny said...

I would talk to your nanny about it. Mention that the kids had said something and you were curious what it meant.
I nanny for a 4 y.o and an almost 2 y.o. I "bonk" them into the wall as part of a game. I hold them and bump there their shoulders, feets, whatever into the wall-in a fun and completely harmless way.
It cheers them up and gets their minds off of the dreaded diaper change.
Talk to her first in an open, nonconfrontational way.

do something said...

Okay. First thing to consider is that kids do not always tell the truth about things, especially if you lay out answers for them. such as,

"did nanny hit the child hard?" or "did she do this" (as you demonstrate with a doll or something)

because kids will fly with their imaginations that way. I hope you questioned them in a manner of "can you show me with this doll what she does" or "explain what you mean by bonk". Because if you plant ideas in children's minds they are likely to get carried away.

I recommend you first talk with your nanny. Its only respectful, in case nothing is going on. If you suspect she is lying, get a nanny cam. Use it for six months, because the nanny could suspect you doing just that if she is doing something wrong.

I'd say DO MORE then take preschoolers and toddlers words for it.

Nanny in SD said...

I don't like the idea of nanny cams in general, but if a parent does suspect any kind of abuse, I don't see an issue with it, and I'd use one myself. Keep it up until you see what "bonking" is and then take it down. That way you can have your answer and be able to sleep at night.

Anonymous said...
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Mascha said...

Definitely talk to her immediately, let her know you're concerned. If she decides to leave: ok, better than worry about your kids' safety. If she stays, let her know you need to know you're on the same page when it comes to handling the children when they're disobedient.

You have to know! said...

just get the nanny cam..what choice do you have? YOU HAVE TO KNOW AND NOW. isn't it just as simple as that? i'm totally feeling for you on this one. don't overthink it. get your evidence and proceed accordingly.

OP said...

Ok...I chatted with my oldest again last night. I asked "Did nanny bonk M today at all?" and she said "nope. Not at all." so I asked "so the other day when she bonked him, do you think she was being mean and mad at him? Or do you think she was being silly and teasing him with a game?" She said "playing a game, but it wasn't very nice!" So I'm starting to feel better about it. I think it was probably playful and M was tantruming and he doesn't like playful and screams louder if you get goofy with him when he is mad.
Also--I remembered a story my oldest told a few weeks ago...."nanny wouldn't let me take a nap." At first I was like "huh? Why not?" and she kept saying. "I don't know, but she wouldn't and she got mad at me for trying to nap." So finally after asking a million questions, it came out that shortly before lunch my oldest got sent to her room for hitting her sister. When nanny came back to get her and talk to her about hitting, my oldest was under her covers and said "I'm just trying to sleep, leave me alone." Nanny told her she had to get up, it was lunch time and she needed to eat before taking a nap. And my daughters feelings were hurt by this. So she cried that "Nanny wouldn't let me nap." SOOOOOO--I'm totally thinking she's at an age where she exagerates and tattle tales.
My husband and I are talking to nanny about it tonight and still going to get a nanny cam this weekend...but I am feeling MUCH better.

Thanks EVERYONE for all the support and good advice. I totally appreciate it and I'm glad I totally didn't get flamed. I was afraid that I'd hear "if you think you need a nanny cam you should have fired her yesterday." or something.

Momma Lynn said...

OP, I'm with you. It's nice once in awhile to see everyone lend support and advice and not just rip you a new one.

I'm glad you talked more in depth with your child and are starting to feel better about the situation. Sometimes it takes discussing it with them a few times over the course of a couple days to get the real story!

SandM said...

I think getting a nanny cam is a VERY bad and ridiculous idea. Just ask her! You trust her with your children, you should definitely be able to approach and talk to her about this! A nanny cam will only make you constantly suspicious. If you have had no reason to believe she was not a good nanny until this thing, then just ask her!

Personally, the first thing I thought was "scooping up the field mice and bopping them on the heads" from a nursery song. It is probably her way of playing with him through a temper tantrum, distracting him, or otherwise being an adult where a child is losing their control over himself.

If you get a nanny cam, you are asking for trouble. And by that I mean, starting a chain of assuming the worst, looking for the worst, and not trusting the person who is helping you raise your kids.

SandM said...

Just saw OPs update! That's great!
I would still approach your nanny and just let her know that YOU konw your dd is prone to exaggeration, and that if there are disciplinary things that happen during the day time, or things like wild tantrums, to write them down or let you know. Then you have the other half of the story before you have time to panic or worry about what happened. When I was a nanny, I kept a journal about our day, because I know it isn't always possible to sit and talk to the parents at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...
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no moniker, no excuse said...

I am a nanny and sometimes kids get me crazy around (like the 2y old who doesn't sleep until her parents come -even if it's midnight) but I don't see ANY excuse to bonk a child's head in the wall.
Put a nanny cam and after what you see, talk to her about it,having proof of what she does.

Can't be too careful said...

Nanny Cam definately! It's probably harmless, but you never know... just think about all the previous posts where caregivers do little hidden things to punish kids...pinches, or discreet smacks... you can't be too careful!!!!!!!!!! How do you know she's not upset that the child won't go to the diaper chaning area on their own and is taking frustration out on the child?

Anonymous said...
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stillneedamoniker said...

don't let her know you're onto her. she'll start acting on her best behavior. ask your daughter about where it happens then set up a nanny cam. Please let us know what happens.

fox in socks said...

OP, I'm glad you reposted with an update. Thanks. However, I still think you can't be too sure. If one child thinks that the nanny is doing something that "isn't very nice" with your other child, this is a huge red flag. It's an enormous tip off. I would not take it lightly myself.

I would never think it's a good idea to say to your nanny that you know your child is prone to exaggeration, the way SandM suggests. This is just fodder for children not being believed when it is important to take seriously what they are saying.

I highly doubt, OP, that your child was mistaken when reporting to you that what the nanny did wasn't very nice.

It's too easy for all of us to remain comfortable with our child care arrangements and it's hard for us to accept that it may be less than perfect, because we've invested in the person, we've trusted them, and it's hard for us to accept that there could be another side to things.

If you ask me, if your children are raising red flags, you'd better well pay close attention.

Children may not be able to explain things as perfectly as adults, but they are raising a concern, and this should be addressed.

Personally I wasn't too comforted hearing the story of "nanny wouldn't let me take a nap" either. I personally wouldn't dismiss this story as "my daughter's feelings were hurt" and assume she is just "at an age where she exaggerates" and tells tales. Instead, my reading of this story is that she was feeling humiliated because she did something wrong. She didn't want to come out of her room and probably did just want to nap. What I see this story as telling us is: nanny didn't handle this well, and your daughter felt humiliated.

OP, I would take your children's comments very seriously. They are trying to tell you something. Please don't dismiss it or find ways of explaining it away.

Late Comment said...

I'm a nanny who is really paranoid about nanny cams, not because I ever do anything bad but because the thought of being watched gives me the heebie jeebies; that said, a nanny cam sounds like the best idea here. Nanny's "bonking" may not be an issue in terms of your baby's immediate health, but a game in which your nanny even pretends to harm your child as punishment isn't cool. Regardless of whether she is physically harming your child or not, a game built around corporal punishment can be psychologically damaging.

jazzmine said...

well, i'm a little surprised and sad by this post. i'm not sure why op is avoiding a confrontation...? i have a zero tolerance policy regarding my children's safety... what are you waiting for? just odd, is all.

fox in socks said...

So how about an update, OP? What else is going on?

zoe said...

I want to mention the game of little rabbit foo foo, the only use of the verb to bonk that a child would know. I am a mother of 3 now 15,18,20 yrs old and the only bonking i can remember was in fun

Mary said...

I am a teacher whose position was cut, so I am nannying for this school year. I think you should install a nannycam. As a nanny, I would not be offended by this and as a parent with concerns, you certainly have that right. It may be innocent and she uses the word "bonk" when your toddler falls down and bumps himself, but you can't be certain. If the people I work for had concerns I would rather them install a nannycam and see that I am not doing anything to cause harm to their children then be accused of doing so. Hope this helps!