Tuesday

Two-Year-Old Runs the House!

Received Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN Here's my problem - I work full time for an amazing 2 year old girl. She is an angel. I couldn't ask for a better situation. I get along very well with both parents, and the little girl "Emma" is perfect. I mean it! Perfect. Yes, she has her moments, but we have so much fun together. Here's where it gets tricky. When mom is around, Emma turns into the child from...well, you know. Awful. Not just whiny and crying, terrible. Screaming, kicking, hitting, spitting, the whole works. She has no patience when mom is there, and needs immediate gratification. With me, I can say to her, "I'll help you in a minute" and she accepts it every time. The thing is, mom spends a good amount of time with Emma. She is a great mom. And I know Emma loves me (not to pat myself on the back, but she runs to me when I get there in the morning, initiates cuddles, etc.). When mom is around, neither one of us has a BIT of control. It started out as something that was merely annoying, but now it is unbearable. As soon as mom leaves the room, Emma returns to her charming little self, it is crazy! She clearly wants mom attention, but I honestly feel mom gives her a lot of attention. Emma is miserable, and so are mom and me. I've been with the family for a year now, and really want to make this situation work because I'd hate for this to make me want to look for another family. Has anyone (nanny or mom) gone through something similar? We really need your help!

34 comments:

Not sure but maybe said...

I wonder if part of the problem at those times is that it's not clear which of you is in charge. When everybody's in charge, nobody's in charge, that kind of thing. (How does she behave when she's with the mom and you're not there?) What if you established that when you are there, you are the one in charge, period. Mom can of course come in and play with the child, give hugs, etc but you are the one who "helps" her with whatever she needs and sets the boundaries (If she asks mom for something, mom could say, "Ask nanny"). She will probably continue to scream for a while, but if she consistently knows who to turn to at these times when both her caregivers are present, she may reduce this behavior. Good luck

Emily said...

This may just be a terrible twos thing. Kids go through phases, even angelic kids whom you love will go through horribly annoying periods of their lives. You & Mom are the grown ups, you have to just roll with it, stay consistent and enjoy having your angel back when she gets out of this stage.

Nanny Sarah said...

Also sounds like parent- separation anxiety. Shes two- this is the right age. When nanny gets ready to come into the home- have mom gives advanced warning to "Emma" - nanny ? is coming- can you find a good book to share with her- have her get an activity for them to share. Something that is an easy distraction. Also, you may want to try- (if mom, leaves asap after nanny leaves) have nanny arrive 5-10 mins early. Have nanny start an activity with mom there- after Emma is starting get involve- mom can slip away.
This is a great way- for Emma to understand mom is there- but its time to have fun with nanny. Good luck

lolola said...

I agree with not sure... one person needs to be "in charge". she is pushing buttons to see who is on control when you are both around. Sit down with mom and see what you guys can work out. Basically if you and mom are both there one person calls the shots and the other person supports it. It doesnt matter who is in charge as long as you are both on the same page. It may take some time for her to get it but as long as you guys are consistent she will get better. Good luck, 2 year olds are fun to work with but challenging.

MinuteMuggle said...

I agree with "not sure but maybe". It sounds as if the child is confused as to who is laying down the law.

Also, she is two years old, and her mother works full time. If you work full time, how often is mom away? Be honest: if she works full time, she really can't be spending that much time with a two year old: a two year old goes to bed pretty early. Or am I mistaken and she's a stay at home mom?

The child is probably just starting to realize that mom is away from her for most of the day. It is sometimes a hard pill for a child to swallow, as wonderful as the nanny may be. Of course a child always prefers their mother. Don't take it personally.

Midwest Nanny said...

I absolutely agree with 'not sure but maybe.'

I could elaborate further, but the child I used to nanny for used to press buttons and pull all kinds of shenanigans at those times when it wasn't clear who was in charge.

mom said...

Not sure makes a great point. Ask mom how the girl is when they are alone. I like her suggestion of making sure one of you is the clear person in charge at all times...no matter who it is.

I had this problem with my mom and my oldest son. She was always wanting to assert her power and authority over him and so she overrode my discipline...really overrode everything I said, period. Once, for example, my son started climbing up on the back of her sofa and jumping off. We had taught him that it was not OK to treat furniture like that...particularly at somebody else's house. I told him to stop. Instaed of listening to me, he turned and looked at her, waiting for her to tell me to leave him alone and that he could jump if he wanted to (which was her response to pretty much everything I ever said to him.) I pointed this out to her and she just smirked, satisfied.

Eventually she lost all ability to control his behavior because she literally had set zero boundaries...and, in fact, ecouraged all bad behaviors that I tried to discourage.

Then one day at a large picnic that she had arranged with several of her friends' families, he started throwing food at the picnic table while she was trying to set up. People were looking at her trying to stop him and he was just out of control ignoring her, laughing, and throwing things. I had tried to step in as soon as I saw it, but my husband stopped me and said, "No. She's lost all ability to control him. Now let her live with what she's done. That's what she's earned." So I watched (very embarrassed) as she pleaded with him in whiny, exhasperated tones to stop, and he ignored her. People were looking and, I'm sure, wondering what kind of a brat I was raising. Finally, my mom looked at me and whined "Make him stoooooop." With my husband's nod, I said, as calmly and nonchalantly as I could muster, in just a normal tone of voice, "Johnny, don't do that." He stopped INSTANTLY and turned into the behaved boy he was with us...because he knew we meant business when we spoke to him. No need to whine, cajole, beg or bargain with him to behave. My mom looked striken with embarrassment at how he instantly listened to me. I resisted the urge to tell her that that is why we bother to have discipline and rules, and instead opted for simply a pointed nod of the head.
To stop this in our family, I had to resort to very strictly limiting our time together, because, even after the picnic incident, she refused to stop undermining us and we realized it was not going to be good for our son to live with two sets of authjority figures who constantly disagreed on what rules and limits he should have. Hopefully this mom, if you speak with her, will realize that it is in her daughter's best interest in the long run for you two to figure something out. The child may truly simply be confused as to who is in charge and might be testing to see.

nannyinmanhattan said...

She'll outgrow it, don't worry, she's just having "not too sure who's the authority" issues and she is two, and no two year old is perfect. Don't leave,, give her some time and get yourself some vitamin B pills...they help. Hee hee.
I went through something similar, my little missy who is now three and is no where near what she was in the couple years prior.
I used to be miserable and dread the days mom was home, where missy would rant and rave, scream, bawl, cry, kick herself into a frenzy on the high chair,wouldn't eat and soon as mom left, total angel.
Now she is better, and everyday gets better.
Trust me, it will get better.
"not sure but maybe" has a good idea also.
I wish I'd thought of that when I was going through my semester of bad behavior.

Momkat said...

That first advice is interesting; having mom say the nanny is in charge. There was a segment that aired on a TV network a while back, where a mom who worked at home had a live-in nanny; and told her daughter that during the day the nanny was in charge. If the child asked mommy for something, she said to ask the nanny. The trouble is the little girl became so attached to the nanny that she screamed and yelled for the nanny when the nanny wasn't there. An expert who was also on the news segment said he didn't agree with doing that. The little girl needed to know that the mom was in charge, and the nanny worked for mom.

Personally, I think this is just part of being a 2 year old. The little girl has figured out that "nanny" won't succomb to tantrums, etc. so she shapes up. But she throws tantrums for mom because she knows mom on some level will put up with that behavior--and she wants as much of her mommy's attention as she can get. Mom needs to take her lead from the nanny and let her daughter know that the rules are consistent...no matter who is in the room with her.

Anyways, that's my humble opinion =) And I think that no matter what you do, or don't do, she'll grow out of this phase. For everyone's sake...hopefully quickly! Three year olds tend to be much more reasonable (most of the time).

happy helper said...

the kids I nanny for are kind of like that around their parents, or were, when we were all there. Their dad finally sat his sons down and told them that I am in charge when I am here even if dad or mom are home. It helped a lot.

OP said...

Op here- thanks for all of the great advice! I should have also added this: Emma is a terror when it is just she and mom too. It's not only when I'm around. Apparently, she is bossy and hits mom all the time. I know some of this part of being 2, but it has gotten to the point that mom somewhat dreads spending time with Emma, and that is no good. So the bottom line is this: Emma is perfect for me (nanny), unbearable with me AND mom, and very difficult for just mom. Again, I am very familiar with the "terrible twos" but this is the worst I've seen in 15 yrs of being a nanny. And yes, mom truly does spend a lot of time with Emma. She does work full time, but they keep her up late to play with her and are very active when they are with her. I think mom is in a bit of denial too, like, "Oh this is a phase," but this phase has lasted 4 months. Any gentle way I can approach her and say, Maybe we need to re-evaluate our behaviour? Like they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. At this point, mom's tactics simply aren't working! Thanks again everyone for your help, it means a lot! :)

DenverNanny said...

I agree with most of the comments: Kids do this with parents too-- just pushing boundaries and testing limits of authority. If Nanny's here, Nanny's in charge... that's why she's there!

My favorite experience with authority issues was when a 6 year old charge didn't want to clean her room-- she looked at me and said "My mommy pays you so you have to do what I say and I say you clean it!" I made her do it anyway and then mommy had a nice talk with her when she got home...

Wicker Park Nanny said...

This exact situation happened with me as well. The girl was about 2.5-3 years old. Most of it had to do with wanting attention from her mom and the mom not knowing how to handle it properly. Some children no matter how much time they spend with their parents will still go through a separation anxiety phase. I think it would be wise for you and the mom to read up on how to handle anxiety. If the goodbyes and transitions are better then maybe some of the outbursts would be cured as well? It would also be good for you and mom to be on the same page in the area of discipline. Letting this little girl know that this behavior is unacceptable with EITHER of you is key. Some of the separation anxiety books will give you tips on how to handle discipline during this time.

Good luck to you! Unfortunately I was not experienced enough during this time to handle my situation properly, the only thing that mellowed the girl out was mommy getting pregnant and learning how to be careful around mommy's belly. Hopefully you can find a more appropriate solution.

mom said...

Phases typically last 6 months, so since it's been four already, you'll have some indication in a couple of months as the whether this is a phase of being two years old, or a more concrete issue.

Black Orchid said...

I was in a situation like this with my last family, but the boy was a little older. In my situation, I think the boy acted out for his parents because they weren't consistent and didn't follow through with what they said. For instance: When I said, "If you throw that toy at your sister, I will take the toy away," he knew I meant it and I would indeed take the toy away. His parents, on the other hand, would say the same thing, but they would say it ten more times before anything actually happened. Kids learn fast what they can get away with and they feel more secure when they know their boundaries. Maybe she is a happier child with you because you are more consistent than the mom? If the mom is open, maybe you can give her some parenting tips. If she is not, then just be glad the kid is an angel for you and the situation is not reversed.

Caiden27 said...

I deal with the exact same situation everyday. In fact, I was just going to write a rant about it. However, in my situation, I know exactly why it happens-because the Mom spoils the hell out of the kids. I watch a 21 month old and a 4 year old. I am with the 21 month old all day and the 4 year old is in school. Well, the mom is a stay at home mom. The kids act so differently around her than me its unbelievable. They are horrible and totally take advantage of her and I don't understand how she doesn't see it. They are totally fine with me, because they know I don't put up with anything. So talk to the mom about discipline.

ericsmom said...

Maybe, its the sleeping pattern. You mentioned the parents keep her up late, to play with her. Probably to catch up from missing most of the day. But it might not be in the best interest of an two year old to be up after, 8pm or 9pm. As an example

A nanny who cares said...

I disagree that it isn't in the best interest of the child to be kept up late. As long as she is sleeping in later, or taking long naps during the day, it is good that her parents care enough about her to want to spend time with her.

I have been a nanny for 8 years now, and I have had this happen in almost every situation. I was able to handle the children, but the parents never could.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find one solution that has worked for everyone. However, for her age range I would suggest that when she becomes unmanageable like that, you put her in her room alone until she can act appropriately. I usually only have to do it a few times before the child realizes they won't get any attention from you or the mother when they act inappropriately.

meghan said...

A 4 year old and a one year old are not to blame for 'taking advantage' of the mother. The mother is to blame for not being the parent, the person in charge. She's inept. And she's making your job harder and causing you to resent the children.

on resentment said...

resenting the children or resenting the mother? in all these instances i end up resenting the parents! they ask me what i'm doing differently, etc.

it's a matter of consistency and discipline.

former tn nanny said...

i whole heartedly agree with "not sure but maybe".
this is what should be happening. but it can become difficult to set limits like this once you have an established work relationship.

this was my life for two years. in the end, i couldn't handle it and had to quit. any time i made a suggestion about ways we could balance the day or interactions, i was brushed off and then reminded me i was not the parent. when she came to me pregnant with her third child, i had a personal melt down. i was overwhelmed by the idea of doing this with another child. the children were visually stressed out. i was stressed out. mom was stressed too. i hope either you have more convincing communication skills or an employer who is willing to reevaluate and make compromises. best of luck!

WTF? said...

You nannies just don't seem to get it. You're the nanny, not the child's mother. Children prefer their own mother and have separation anxiety that manifests when they are reunited. I love how all the nannies think the mother needs to tell the child that they NANNY is in charge. bahahahahahaha! Such egos. It sounds like the mother needs to cut back on her work hours and be there for the child who clearly needs her.

Kim said...

This sounds like mom's problem to deal with and there probably isn't much you can do. You can try Not Sure but Maybe's advice when you're both there, but how often is that? If she doesn't behave for mom, mom needs to change her parenting style and add some discipline, and you can't force her to do that as the nanny.

Sounds like a little bit of guilty parenting. She feels bad for working and not being home so mom makes up for it by indulging the child too much and being loose on discipline.

ok said...

Yeah, I do have to say that nannies who don't have kids, you just don't get the HUGE difference there is between your role and the mom's role and how that manifests itself in the kids' behavior. I babysat for many, many kids, some of the same families for years, and almost always the kids behaved so well for me. My own kid is just totally totally different. (Not that she doesn't behave, but it is a 180 degree difference in the dynamic, in the relationship we have.)

I do get the idea that some nannies feel a bit smug, like they have it all figured out and the parents are just hapless, clueless bumblers - not BAD, but obviously not tuned in to their kids, because then the kids wouldn't be such hellions for them, would they? It's bad logic. You can't compare apples with oranges and you can't compare how kids behave with a nanny and how they behave with a parent.

OTOH, sometimes the nanny really is doing something that the parent would do well to emulate. Nannies and parents can both learn from each other, I think. It behooves both parties to remember that they are not interchangeable in the child's life, though, so the kids will always behave differently when around the different folks in their life.

what's the question said...

WTF-
I think everyone here understands (at least I hope they do) that children prefer their parents over any caregiver and have separation anxiety when the parent is leaving. I think the question being asked is how to handle that anxiety.
Putting the nanny in charge is not for the nanny's ego. It's because it's the nanny's JOB.
I used to babysit for a lot of SAHMs, and of course the kids would always want to go to their parents, even though they liked me a lot and were excited to see me. The moms would always tell their kids to ask me for what they wanted or needed because they were PAYING me to be in charge at those times so they could get other stuff done. Also, children will feel more secure with the parent leaving when it is clear that the parent trusts and respects the caregiver.

onlyinca said...

Do you think Mom feels guilty about working full-time? If so, she may not be disciplining consistently out of guilt (as someone else pointed out).
I don't know that you can reasonably give mom parenting advice- I don't know what your relationship is like...maybe if you say it very diplomatically.
However, at the very least, you could somehow compliment her on how much she does spend time with Emma, which might put her at ease a little.???

alamocup said...

This is totally normal and she will grow out of it. I would minimize the amount of time she's with you and mom.

Most kids reserve bad behavior for the people they feel most secure with--in this case, it's mom, as it should be.

Vanessa said...

Yes. I have gone through a similar situation. Not quite as bad but I have had kids that were angels with me but as soon as Mommy is home, it's tantrum time or they misbehaved horribly. They do it because they know who lets them get away with it.
I also think she's somehow letting mommy know that she doesn't like it when she leaves and it's showing her how upset she gets. My advice is that when mommy gets home, you leave them be. Tell mommy to distract her by planning something like going for a walk or bake cookies, or do something she likes. That way she'll keep her mind off of it.

Vanessa said...

After reading your second post, I've realized that she really might be punishing mom for leaving all day in her own way, and mom probably doesn't know how to deal with it or maybe is afraid to set boundaries. Just tell mom to not let her misbehave. Two years old is not too young to say no or stop or put on a time out for a couple of minutes. Mom probably thinks her child is too young for that but if you don't teach them while they're young, it will be too late

Vanessa said...

One last post:

Nannies who believe mom should say you're in charge: I'm a nanny and you're absolutely wrong. Kids are able to recognize several authority figures; the same way it works with mom and dad, works with mom and nanny. The child needs to learn that whoever is responsible for watching him/raising him, is in charge. So when mom and nanny are home together, they're both in charge. What is important is that they both work together. If nanny says no, mommy should say no and viceversa. This is what happened on the last house I worked on. I was like a second mom to the children and whenever daddy or mommy were home and they'd say no or put them in a time-out and they came to me for a hug or to save them I'd say "No. Daddy told you to stop, so you have to stop." or "Mommy put you in a time-out so you have to go sit your time-out chair."
And whenever I said, they couldn't do something or have something, and they'd go to their parents they would also say "No. Vanessa just told you you can't have any more candy so you're not having any more candy." And they listened to all three of us.
So yeah both nanny and mommy are in charge.

Jenna said...

I'm going through something slightly similar with my job. I watch a 2.5 y/o boy and a 1 y/o girl and the little boy is wonderful with me during the days. When his mom or dad gets home (whoever comes first), he freaks out - we're thinking it's just a change issue and he has been doing better with preparing him for the arrival of them. Sometimes in the morning when I arrive he has a hard time too. We're all working together to get him ok with the morning and evening changes.

I don't think parents realize how difficult it can be to be a nanny when the parents are around. I am TRULY grateful that in my situation, when the parents are home occasionally, they are away from us except to visit for a few minutes. I have had situations where the children are doing great, mom comes into the room, child breaks down, and mom says to me "I don't think I'm helping; I'm just going to go back upstairs." About 1 minute after mom leaves the child is fine again.

Good luck with everything! Oh, also, working together when she is throwing tantrums works well. We have recently implemented time-out with the 2 y/o and have had situations where we have to discipline together (tantrums when nanny and parents are in room). As long as everyone works together, it goes well. Just be consistent!

mom said...

I love Vanessa's last post.

I also agree with whoever it was way near the top that said it is best that nanny NOT be the supreme authority figure if you're going to choose just one, because mom is mom and nanny's come and go. parents need to be recognized as the final word in every situation.

But again, I especially love the idea that all authority figures agree and support one another in front of the child. A nanny is like a third parent and so nanny and parents should not disagree or contradict one another in front of the child.
How great nanny, if you and mom were to be able to agree that you can speak up even when she is there. That way you would feel free to say to the little girl, in front of mom when she misbehaves for mom, "Stop. We do not hit people." And then mom (or you) could give her a time out.

mom said...

nannies, not "nanny's"

DenverNanny said...

Minor detail here, WTF?, but we are hired to be "in charge" of the children... that's our job description. Every position I've had (with children old enough) started with a nice sit down where mom and dad explained "this is your new nanny and you need to listen to her just like you would listen to us...she's in charge when we can't be."
However, that doesn't mean I get to over-ride whatever mom/dad says--not at all!! Vanessa's last post is right on: "So when mom and nanny are home together, they're both in charge." Absolutely: nanny and parents make a childcare TEAM--to not say in ANY way that nanny is the same as parents. My point is that kids "manipulate" both parents and nannies. So Junior needs to know that if nanny had said "no cookie--you didn't eat your lunch", that means no cookie... even if mom just walked in with a bag of cookies