Nanny Needs Tips on Redirecting Hostility

opinion 1 I have worked in a live out nanny share for almost 3 years with the same 2 families. Prior to this I had about 2 years experience where I bounced around from several families (the good families moved, and I suffered through some really bad experiences in that time) When I found my current position everything seemed perfect! They paid above what I was asking, they showed me appreciation and respect, and they had adorable children. Since that time one family had another baby, who was a welcome addition to the 4 other children, who played great together, and were all great friends.

There has been one issue that I have let go on for a very long time, and I have lost perspective.

When I first started the kids (in one family in particular) would scream and cry and throw themselves at their mom or dad as they left the house for work. The mom was going back to work after several years and I took this to be a typical adjustment to mom leaving. It would only last 5-10 minutes after they were out the door, and then they became distracted with other things. Eventually they started throwing these tantrums as soon as I arrived in the morning (about 30 mins before mom or dad left). The children were 37mo. and 18 mo. so I never took it personally. I provided them with excellent care and after the 10-15 mins. they would be happy and cuddly and always told me they loved me so I never felt bad about myself I just allowed them to work through the separation anxiety and then move on their own. I was waiting for the day, when the children would accept me immediately in the morning as part of their routine , and would run to the door to happily greet me as other children I have cared for have.

Fast forward 3 years... This has NEVER happened. The 37 month old is now 5 and in Kindergarten, and the 18mo. is now almost 4. Both have become increasingly rude to me, and horribly disrespectful. It really only happens at its worst when another adult is around (ie mom). I have been hit, kicked, screamed at, called mean names the list can go on and on. They make up things that 'i have said' and tattle to mom to try and get me in trouble (its pretty obvious to everyone -'The Nanny said she was going to stab me in the eye with a knife' etc etc) At first the mom would tell the kids that 'Nanny' is part of our family and you will be kind to her but that has long since stopped and I am on my own trying to demand respect to no avail. If nothing else mom is making excuses for the kids, 'They had a late night and are over tired', 'today we had a rough morning' etc. Because of their age now, when they behave this way its hard not to let it get to me. I would say that 80% of the time they are great and we have a lot of fun together, but that 20% is horrible and I am unsure of what else to do about it. We have talked about feelings and how it hurts my feelings when they call me names, and about respect, they get what it is. For example they wont call mom or dad, or teachers those names so it is disrespectful to say them to me. I have given them space, I have tried to confront it head on, I have laughed it off, I have cried over it, I have done everything I can think of to make a change. I know in my heart that there is nothing in how I care for these kids that could make me deserve this. And it is beyond 'testing' their limits with me. They know the boundaries I have set in place, and on more days than not will stare at me as they defy those.

The parents have never questioned the quality of care their children are receiving, they and I know it is top notch. However nothing is changing and I am starting to feel burnt out. Has anyone gone through similar situations? Or have any tips on how to redirect this hostility? I have no intention of leaving this job right now, as the other family, and the majority of the time this family are wonderful employers. I just need some tools to get me through this time. Thank you.


sharon said...

ok, how about this - the next time one of them is being ugly - give a maniacal stare and whisper " i am going to throw you in a pot on the stove and cook you into snigglefrump soup!!!" Then later when the kid repeats that back to the parents - just laugh.

Then later when they are at it again say in a threatening way - "snigglefrump!!"

i am kidding - sort of.

but seriously - this is very very wrong - the parents are letting the kids turn you into a punching bag - they know they can do it and they know it gets your goat. When you are out of the picture the kids will always look for a punching bag their whole life. Your feelings aside - the parents are doing a disservice to the kids let alone yourself

christine said...

Why don't you tell their parents that you have had enough of their abuse (because that's what it is) and you are giving a two week notice. If they know it's upsetting you to the point that you are prepared to leave, maybe that will motivate them to act responsibly and teach the kids how you (and others) should be treated.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

I want to be sure I am reading correctly. You said the children hit you/kick you/scream at you/call you names IN FRONT OF the mom and/or other adults?

If this is the case, it's (way way past) time for a formal sit-down meeting with the parents of those kids. And be sure to meet without the kids around! You need to lay out the situation for them (children's actions unacceptable, abusive) and ask them how you can work with them to solve this problem.

Be prepared to offer ideas and solutions - I would suggest that Mom/Dad make it clear to them that they are not allowed to hurt you with their hands/feet or with their words, and then when they test that declaration, they get an instant consequence that will have a huge impact ("Jack, you just hurt nanny with your words. Since you cannot be kind, you must play alone in your room today. If Nanny reports that you did not stay in your room, you will not be allowed to have a playdate with a friend tomorrow.")

You might also suggest that the kids be told in no uncertain terms that you are in charge when you arrive, and that mom and dad will support you if you have to punish them for hitting, etc.

And if they agree to back you up, then take them at their word, and clamp down HARD on these unacceptable behaviors. It sounds as if you have talked until you are blue in the face, so I would have one final discussion, and say something like, "You have been really mean to me. It is not alright to treat me that way, and I am not going to allow it any longer. From now on if you hit/kick/yell, you will be punished in this specific way...(I would take away or stop providing them with activities they enjoy doing with you.)" And then follow through every time. If mom and dad don't like it, or don't back you up, you don't really have a lot to lose, since then you'll be leaving the job anyway, right?

But truly, if Mom is no longer even attempting to stop her kids when they act rotten in front of her, you may need to resolve yourself to give notice if things don't change drastically within a week of your meeting.

In that case, I would speak with the other family, and find out if they wish for you to stay on with them and possibly find someone else to share you with.

Or it might be best to move on entirely, get a fresh start, and start enjoying your work again.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to put your foot down with the parents. Tell them you have a deal breaker situation.

Unless the parents instruct the children this behavior is unacceptable and has consequences, you are out of there. You are being insulted by preschoolers. This needs to stop, one way or another.

It might be a good idea to get a letter of recommendation first, in case it doesn't go well. You could tell them you need it for weekend sitting jobs. (I learned that from ISYN.)

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I once worked for a four year old that would kick and punch me. It was tough to discipline him since his mom was a work at home parent who did nothing to stop him. In fact, whenever he would "act out" she would yell at me...she would tell me that how I handled him was not "working" and I needed to try other techniques. The nerve!! Needless to say, that job didn't last very long and things ended badly.
I advise you to speak to the children since your techniques are not working with the kids. I personally feel it is the parent's responsibility to teach their children how to treat other adults. If this were to happen at school, the principal or teacher SURELY would call the parents. Stress to the parents how much you love your job and want to find a solution to this problem vs. giving notice. Explain how you want things to work out and you are at your wit's end on what to do. Ask them if they have any add'l suggestions on what you can do or if they can do anything on their end. If they truly want to keep you on, they will do everything in their power to try to rectify things. If they shrug and simply act like it is your problem, you have no choice but to give notice. Because by then, you would have exhausted all of your avenues.
You sound like a fantastic nanny with a grip load of patience!! Good Luck to you OP!!~

sharon said...

village said a mouthful. The op sounds like she cannot quit the job just yet, but IF at all possible it is not only the OP's right but actually her duty to do whatever it takes to make the parents and kids change the dynamic-for their sake as wwell as hers

From personal experience in my family - my brother and cousin did this kind of behavior, it was never stopped - and it affected them negatively in later life that they were not taught what is right

If the op decides to leave - definitely do what village said and get a letter of reference - actually - do that NOW as soon as possible.

To remind anyone new - a brilliant poster in the past said she always gets a letter of recommendation on a periodic basis for "church events" or a "weekend sitting job" or some other activity so that she will have it if the parents hate her when she has to move on.

The op should do that right away

Bostonnanny said...

I would create a consequence book and visual chart that states unacceptable behavior and the consequence for each negative action the child acts out. Sit with all the children as a group and go through the list of negative behaviors explaining why and how they hurt you. Tell them that if any of them does these hurt things to you or eachother it will be put in the consequence book and they will be punished accordingly.

Make sure to never back down or give in. If the child physically attacks you, you need to physically restrain them so they can't do it. While you hold them tell them that you love them but not their behavior and that they need to calm down. When they relax in your arms tell them to go sit on the sofa or chair for quiet time. After a minute go back to them and explain again why they cant act that way and tell them the consequence for such actions.

This is going to be very hard and time consuming. You need to be firm and never back down. It will take a while for this to work and behavior to alter because you have to undo years of not being disciplined appropriately.

You should write a email and talk to the parents on both sides about how you are going to start handling the situtation. The parents must support you.

If you think you no longer have the patience or time to correct their behavior then it's time to move on. Disciplining a child appropriately takes time, patience and consistency, there is no magic solution that will change them over night. You also need to take in account their developmental level and environment.

CanadianMom said...

I have recently been tkaing a parenting course (The Incredible Years) and this is what I would think is happening and how I would deal with it based on this course and to some extent my own experience:

They are attention-seeking. I would ignore the unwanted behaviour as long as it doesn't involve injury to anyone else or cause a problem to others in public places. Withdraw your attention in a neutral way, do not betray any emotion, do not even glare, show disapproval by sighing, etc., and avoid eye contact and verbal communication until the desired behaviour returns. Reward good behaviour with copious praise and possibly even simple 'prizes' (stickers, trips to favourite parks). If they do not get attention for being 'bad' and they get lots of attention for being 'good', they should soon figure it out!

Bostonnanny said...

I would also recommend getting one of those blow up clown punching bags, if the child absolutely cannot control their emotions they can take it out on an appropriate object rather then person.

You said that most of the children's misbehavior happens during the morning transition maybe you can redirect behavior by creating a book about transitioning from parents to nanny. Ask the children questions about how they feel and what happens then put everything they said in book with drawings. Make the book a positive reflection of the transition and they can read it every morning.

MissMannah said... in the world do you suggest OP "ignore" being physically abused by these children? I would love to hear what your parenting course has to say about that. You also said "until the desired behavior returns," did you not read the post at all? The desired behavior was never there to begin with...that's the problem.

OP, I am a little confused about one thing. How are these children the rest of the day? If they are agreeable and happy all day long but only angry and abusive during transitions, that's really odd. It sounds almost like a fear of abandonment, but really they ought to be used to the transition by now. Have you tried discussing this with them at a neutral time? I've found that books about identifying emotions can be really helpful for children, especially when learning proper ways of dealing with frustration. Of course, what others have said about having a sit-down discussion with the parents is an absolute necessity also. I can't believe you haven't done it yet! I would have gotten fed up long ago.

Another suggestion I can think of is somehow changing the morning routine. Would it be easier if you arrived right before the parents are ready to leave? I don't really understand why they need you there a full half-hour before they walk out the door. Or maybe if the parents could leave earlier and you wake the kids up after they leave...though that might backfire and make any abandonment feelings worse.

Anyway, keep us posted, because I know I'm really interested in what techniques could work in your situation.

MissMannah said...

PS: LOVE Bostonnanny's idea about the punching bag. Great way for both kids and adults alike to get frustrations out.

rosemary's baby said...

I would not go on about how these things are emotionally hurtful to you because that sounds like partly why they are doing it. Instead I would take a simple reward/punishment approach. The physical aggression (at this age) should result in immediate time out. For the verbal stuff, I would create "good manners" charts, where you can dole out stickers for good behavior at each part of the day (e.g. when Nanny came in the morning, when we went to school), and then grant tangible rewards to those children who got x number of stickers (I would do it on a daily basis at first, rather than weekly). It may take a little while, but I think they will start to "get it" after seeing the other kids getting rewards.

rosemary's baby said...

Just to add, you can also add this "reward/consequence" theme in other areas, as well. For instance, before nap time..."Whoever did not throw a tantrum/behaved nicely in the morning gets to choose a book before naptime." If nobody did, "I guess I'll choose the book today, then." I've found little stuff like this can make a big impact on kids, because certain things become so much more attractive when you're NOT allowed to do them but other kids are. The reason I suggest things like this is because it seems there's little you can do in the moment when the parents refuse to step up

TC said...

Canadian mom, that's how you train dogs.

Whatever Works said...

CanadianMom, that sounds similar to what has worked for me in the past. I used to work with kids who would throw their dishes off the table for attention, fun, or when they were finished. Terrible mess! I started by talking it up with them, "big kids keep their food on the table" and had them repeat it back to me "Where does our food stay?" Then I let them know what the reward would be for following the rule (jellybean--say what you will about food rewards, it worked for me here). Then when they were at the table, I praised, praised, and praised some more as long as the plates stayed on the table. When one tested and threw it on the floor, I immediately gave the other one a jellybean (yes, I know, it was the middle of dinner) and continued praising that child for doing a good job while ignoring the other one. Honestly, within days the problem was solved, after months of frustration with this.

chachacha said...

sounds like they are demanding attention and might be resentful that you probably spend more time with them then their own parents.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

I also wanted to add, there is a good book out there called "Winning the Whining Wars", which focuses on ways to extinguish bad behavior and encourage good behavior.

The basic premise is that you do ignore the bad stuff and praise good acts, but it's more than just that.

As far as ignoring the hitting, you could try walking away, or you could try stepping back, looking at them with your "Nanny Power Eyes" and saying "Do not hit me. Hitting is not acceptable." Don't yell, don't tell them you are angry/sad/hurt/upset. Be very very emotionless.

They are getting something out of their crappy behavior. (More than likely, they are getting attention during transition time from parents and big reactions eventually from you.) You (and the parents, if they will step up) have to figure out what they are getting, stop giving them that for poor behavior, and give them attention for good behavior instead.

Wow said...

There are a couple of things in this post that concern me. One, you've been with these children for 3 years and their behavior has not changed? That indicates, in my opinion, that the parents have not exercised the ability to teach their children discipline and respect towards you. There is no way on earth my daughter would have been allowed to disrespect another adult without immediate consequences. The fact that they are still disrespecting you in this way after 3 years makes me believe there's not much chance the parents are going to enforce change, especially since mom makes excuses for them.

Two, you have stated that you have no intention of leaving - "I have no intention of leaving this job right now, as the other family, and the majority of the time this family are wonderful employers." That insinuates that you will stay whether it changes or not. If that is the case, maybe you are in a subtle way "saying" that you can be disrespected. There is no way on earth I would allow any child to disrespect me in the ways you've described. And to the point that you've cried about it? No way! It would have been made clear to the parents and the children how unacceptable it is and either it would have been nipped in the bud, or I would have left long ago.

If anything is going to change, you will have to put your foot down - hard. There have to be swift and consistent consequences for any and all disrespectful behavior - towards you and anyone else. I would sit down with the parents and agree on what methods will be consistently used by both you and them.

Time out really does work if implemented correctly. Taking away objects or privileges works, also. Keep in mind that your tone of voice makes a difference when giving consequences. If you sound like you're begging them, rather than telling them, they know they have the upper hand. And, don't give in. Keep on until they obey and always follow through with the consequences.

Do have fun activities planned each day; give plenty of praise for positive behavior; add in teachable moments during activities and conversations; and don't feel bad for giving consequences when necessary.

And most of all, decide what you will do if things don't change. I hope you will decide to have enough self-respect to leave if you continue to be disrespected.

Phoenix said...

these are the type of kids that need to be spanked. I see it all the time and the parents just sit as stare off into space. My step-son said something stupid and disrespectful to his father once. He got spanked and never anything like that again.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said... today's world with spanking children considered "abuse" etc..look what the sad result is. We have a generation of children with self-entitlement issues.
I myself was spanked as a child. No, I was NEVER abused, but I was spanked on occasion by my parents when I misbehaved. It's ironic, because now as an adult, I am resentful of certain things my parents did to me (being too strict, not allowing sweets, etc.) However, being spanked is not one of them. Truthfully, being spanked made me not repeat whatever offense I was being punished for. If I mouthed off or my parents didn't know where I was late in the day at times because I didn't call,I got spanked, I remember I never EVER repeated the offense since my parent's spankings taught me a good lesson. Cause and effect. I was never a spoiled child and now as an adult, I don't have a selfish bone in my body. I never feel like I am entitled to anything in life just because.
I shudder to think of all the kids who don't get spanked, yet act out. What is their consequence? No Facebook or texting privileges for 3 days???! No Dora for the day?!

Bostonnanny said...

Just my two cents,
Spanking does not affect every child the same way and doesn't teach the right message. What it says is, if you do something bad I will hit you. What is that really teaching? Is that explaining why the child shouldn't do something? Is it teaching the child a different way to handle a situation or behavior? The answer is no. All spanking is, is a parent losing control, patiences and not wanting to deal with an issue.
What a good disiciplinian does is set limits,teaches self control, teaches empathy and follows through with
consequences while teaching positive ways to change their
What ends up happening is parents are either becoming indulgent or unengaged. They want the easy fix rather then working to change the behavior.

I think more parents and caregivers need to take a guidance course and learn positive ways to change and teach behavior.

Nanny in Montana said...

Bostonnanny, I used to feel the same way about discipline until I had three of my own children. Unless you have had your own children and raised them, it is very easy to be anti-spanking. If I were in my twenties and had no children yet, I would probably feel the same way as you. I spanked my children when they were younger. I NEVER did it out of my own personal anger. I did it to teach them a lesson and it always worked 100%.
It all depends on the child. My children understood the cause and effect thing. Some children will not and thus other measures should be used instead of spanking.
For the record, my children complain about how I am a "neat freak" parent, how I embarrass them because I talk to much, etc..but the spanking thing...they could care less. They are more angry that I took away their computer privileges in middle school when they brought home a bad progress report. When all is said and done, unless a child was beaten/abused, he or she will just view spanking as a part of their childhood. I did. Life goes on.....
It's too easy to form opinions about things without being in the shoes of those that actually have to or had to deal with them.
For example, I used to be against nannies working under the table, until I met my neighbor who was on welfare/food stamps and WIC. She tried to get off by working, but once she did, they stripped her of ALL her aid and health insurance. She was only making $500/month with no child support since the Dad was incarcerated. So instead she chose to go back on welfare and work under the table as a nanny. Now she has enough to pay rent, buy groceries every week and most important...afford heat since it gets mighty cold in the winter.

Who am I to judge? Until you have walked in another man's (or woman's) cannot make a true judgment.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Bostonnanny, while I see your point regarding spanking, I still have no regrets that I spanked my own children on occasion. I personally feel it was a very successful tool in disciplining them. My children are all grown up now and are all in college. They have grown up into great kids and have solid morals and values. One is 18 and the other just turned 20 and they are nothing like some kids their age who feel like they deserve something in life just because they want it. They know life does not work that way and that there are consequences for their actions. Consequences come in many shapes and forms and in our house, spanking was on of those forms.

MissMannah said...

Phoenix, I have to agree with you. I usually don't like spankings and am torn as to whether or not I will spank my own children, but I wonder if anything else would be extreme enough to get the attention of these children. I don't agree with time-out, it seems more like "cop-out" to me. Wow said it works when it is implemented correctly...what does that even mean? I've heard a million different ways of implementing time-outs and they never really get the message across. If children are as disrespectful as OP says these are, four minutes of sitting in a chair is not going to do much. And it will probably take her 30 minutes just to get them to sit, making them resent her even more. I'd love for someone to explain how this process is really successful, other than it gives the caregiver a couple minutes of quiet.

Bostonnanny said...

Time out is crap. A different way to handle it is to call it. Quiet time and send the child to area where they can relax and get ahold of their emotions.

I feel strongly about not spanking because I've seen parents who never once hit their children and used positive discipline to change their behavior. There are ways to teach lessons without resorting hitting, it just takes more time and patience.

I was raised in a spanking home and for a long time believed that was the only way someone could affectively discipline their child. That was until I worked for one family with 3 children who used positive discipline and then took a guidance and discipline course. I now know that there is no reason to use physical pushiment when there are so many other ways that take into account the Childs developmental and environmental issues. I see spanking as a easy and quick solution for parents who don't want to deal with a problem.

Bostonnanny said...

Time out is crap. A different way to handle it is to call it. Quiet time and send the child to area where they can relax and get ahold of their emotions.

I feel strongly about not spanking because I've seen parents who never once hit their children and used positive discipline to change their behavior. There are ways to teach lessons without resorting hitting, it just takes more time and patience.

I was raised in a spanking home and for a long time believed that was the only way someone could affectively discipline their child. That was until I worked for one family with 3 children who used positive discipline and then took a guidance and discipline course. I now know that there is no reason to use physical pushiment when there are so many other ways that take into account the Childs developmental and environmental issues. I see spanking as a easy and quick solution for parents who don't want to deal with a problem.

nycmom said...

Bostonnanny, spanking is one of those "controversial" subjects that either you are for or against. It sounds like you are against it and from what you said, I can see why since you saw first hand what a different approach can do. I think it is up to each parent to do what he or she wants to do with the child. No one has a right to say whether it is right or wrong to spank or not to spank. It is a personal choice. I personally think it is wrong to work under the table like you do and evade taxes, but wrong is a very subjective term and what is wrong to me may be right to you. Or another person.

Mom-of-1 said...

Spanking is a moot point here. OP is obviously not allowed to spank the child and the parents have no interest in doing so either. Therefore, OP needs a way to manage the behavior other than with physical discipline.
My opinion is that while spanking may be effective, other discipline is equally effective. Otherwise, teachers, nannies, coaches, etc. would likely have way more problems managing children's behavior

toonces the cat who would drive a car said...

This is terrible. I would start stealing from the parents. Gradually at first, quarters and single bills from trouser pockets and purses. Then I'd move in to CD's, DVDS, fives and tens, costume jewelry, new looking neck ties for my husband and expensive spices. These people are awful. They are raising maniacs. I would then go to a pet store and buy a rat, two mice, a bag of crickets and set them loose in their house on a Friday, but only after the final score-a few bottles from the wine cellar, handbags, perfumes,twenty dollar bills, and electronics and peripherals.