Received Friday, April 9, 2010
I am a 44-year-old mother of teens and have been a nanny for a family for the past three years. Their son was 20 months old when I first started. He is now 4 ½, and they also have a daughter who is now 11 months old. They are a wonderful family to work for in many ways. The pay is competitive, on the books, and always on time. The home is a clean and pleasant working environment. I do no housework, only preparing breakfast and lunch for the children and cleaning up after them (including diapers in the laundry -- they use cloth diapers).
I rarely have to work overtime. The mother is the parent with whom I primarily interact. She is easy to work with, however almost since day one there has been a tension within me because our child-raising philosophies are so different. She does not believe in discipline in the traditional sense of warnings and consequences. While she does many things very well (teaches why certain behavior is prohibited, gives alternatives, engages her son in decision-making processes), she does not gear them appropriately toward his age, making her very ineffectual. Children this young don't respond all that well to reason and logic on a consistent basis.
There are many tantrums when she is dealing with him, much resistance, much misbehavior and rebellion, and often he ends up doing exactly as he had intended because she simply will not be decisive with him. Nor will she ever show any displeasure or disapproval in a way that motivates him to comply. She does not convey authority. She will blandly say generic things like, “We don’t hurt other people.”, or, “Words are not for hurting.”, but she says them with no emotion and no follow-up when he ignores them.
She doesn’t use any discipline technique, not even time-outs (which I think are questionable anyway, but that’s not the point). Although she will put toys in time-out. She has said that she thinks punishment doesn’t teach anything and is constantly making excuses for his misbehavior: he is coming down with something; he is sick; he is getting over being sick; he is tired; he is hungry; he is stressed about something, he picked up some behaviors from school, his allergies are bothering him, he is overly excited because his birthday/Easter/Halloween/Christmas is coming up; she had the flu and was in bed and unavailable for a while; he is jealous of his new sibling, etc. etc. etc.
There is always an excuse for him, and she never shows any [normal, human] negative emotion toward him. She thinks that everything can be accomplished through appealing to him cognitively – and has thought this since before he even turned two. It drives me nuts, but we never really have time to have any good conversations about these issues because in the morning she’s in a rush to get to work and in the evenings the kids are demanding her attention and dinner needs to get started and I need to get home. But I don’t think much of what I have to say would be welcome because in her eyes, her ideas are the most enlightened and modern way of doing things. Even though the results indicate otherwise.
I guess you could say it is none of my business how she chooses to raise her child, but when I am expected to implement philosophies that I am so opposed to, it is very stressful. It also makes my skin crawl to see her son be so difficult for her to handle when he is a piece of cake for me to handle. I can take him on outings all over the city with never a problem, and she can barely take him to the grocery store without having to deal with a meltdown. It is so frustrating to hear about all the time, when I know it is so unnecessary.
The other issue I have with her is that she lets him roam the block by himself (in a free-range type of mentality), which I think he is too young to do. Especially when he’s in my care and I could be held liable (negligent) if something happened to him while he was outside playing down at the end of the cul-de-sac without me.
So anyway, the other day Alex did something to Sofia that was really bad in my opinion, and I started to tell the mother about it when she got home from work. Right in the middle of my telling her, she started talking to Alex, asking him if he wanted to watch a movie. Things deteriorated at that point (he was still upset about the incident and wouldn’t cooperate with her), so I just left. Later I emailed her telling her we needed to talk. Three days later she finally answered my email and said that she had interrupted me to try to get Alex involved with a movie so he wouldn’t hear me telling her about what he did. Then she ended her email with, “What did you want to tell me?”.
Since I knew we would not get the chance to talk uninterrupted, and that I had so many things bottled up to say, I decided to pour it all out into an email. I hope readers will let me know their thoughts on any of the issues presented in the above narrative, and/or in the email.
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