Nanny in a Power Struggle with 2yo Needs Help!

opinion 2 I need some nanny advice! (And just to be clear up front, I am not interested in any type of discipline that includes physical punishment at all.. not trying to start a spanking debate, just stating up front that this is not what I am looking for.)

I am a nanny to 2 year old "M." I have been working with M since October. She is a very active, physical and energetic child. She can be a little impulsive at times. She is not speaking yet, only saying about 5 words that are recognizable. (I realize that a lot of her behavior issues as of late are probably a product of not being able to communicate.)

Anyway, M has been having some behavior issues. Here are the main issues I have been experiencing with her:

* She kicks and smacks me, but not out of anger and frustration. She will do it without being provoked or being upset. She just simply thinks it is funny and a game. She has fits of giggles when she is hurting me. The more that she is told "no" or redirected, the more she wants to hit and kick me. I have tried time-outs, removing her from the situation, scolding her, and ignoring it (because it truly is my reaction she is looking for.) None of these things have been working. I try to stay very calm with her, tell her "Owww, hitting/kicking hurts nanny. I don't like that" but it just sends her into more fits of giggles. She laughs hysterically as she is hitting or kicking me. She also laughs and gets excited over time-outs. It literally has turned into a game, to the point where she ran over and put herself in time-out this morning after kicking me.

In general, anything that she does that I try to redirect or discipline her for, she starts doing more of. It is hard because she is pre-verbal, so at times it feels that she doesn't understand even though I know that she does because she is a very bright little girl.

I don't want to be in this power struggle, I feel so helpless and out of control. I feel like I am the nanny, so I should know what to do. Fellow supernannys, I need advice please, I am exhausted!!!


Phoenix said...

Sorry to say but the kid doesn't know that she is hurting you. When I was two I was fascinated with candles flames and such. I thought they were very pretty. I would constantly try and light matches if I found them. My parents told me over and over that fire hurts. At this age I didn't understand. My dad lit a match and said "Here, touch it." I did. It hurt like hell and I pulled my hand away. I was afraid of fire till I was 15. His idea worked.

My step-son used to bite come to think of it. He would walk up and chomp down on your arm or leg. We kept telling him no and doing various discipline routes. It wasn't working and then he too turned it into a game. So his dad held up my step-sons arm to his face and said "Here bite down on your arm like you bit down on mine." He did. And has never bit again. He didn't know that it hurt. He had to find out what he was doing to other people.

I am not saying you should physically discipline the kid only the parents have that right. I just gave examples of what has worked before in my situations.

Anonymous said...

This is hard, and it becomes more difficult as you are the nanny not a parent. I have two suggestions.

Ignore the behavior. If you have to, keep out of her reach. Just pretend what is happening isn't. Stop rewarding her with your attention.

Teach her baby sign language. Actually teach yourself, and let her butt in, eventually.

But the main point is, don't let her abuse you. As the adult, you can ignore and step away. However, where is she learning the behavior? Personally, I'm concerned she is being abused.

mine were early talkers said...

Wow, I know some children are not verbal as early as others, but 2 years old and only knows 5 words? Have her parents taken her to the doctor or anything?
I agree with the posters above, igoring the behavior is really the best solution you have at this point. Remove yourself from the situation when she starts hitting you. She needs to learn if she hurts you, she doesn't get to play with you, period.

Northern Nanny said...

First of all, I would strongly recommend that you start with some baby sign words immediately. She is not too old, if she is non verbal she needs some way of communicating. Its hard to tell anyone what they should do in a situation where few details are given and we can't see what it's like on a day to day basis. My suggestion would be to try keeping her VERY busy. things like crafts and outtings, any moment she is not asleep or eating should be filled with some sort of structured activity. Find things she really likes. if there is a particular playground she loves go there often etc. The problem may just be that she is bored. If the negative behaviour continues, then leave the activity. if you are out go straight home. and if you are doing a craft clean it up quickly. hopefully the disappointment of loosing a fun activity would help out. My bet though is that she is bored.

Nomeansno said...

When you ignore her, does she follow u, and keep hitting? Have you tried going into the bathroom and closing the door so she can't come in? You might have to resort to holding both of her hands in yours, and not letting go until she no longer thinks it's funny. Toddlers HATE feeling restrained, and it will probably work after a few times. While your holding her hands, look into her eyes, and say in a very serious voice, "NO HITTING". It needs to get under control before she starts hitting and kicking other children.....

Someone who knows.. said...

You should (or have a doctor) do an ASQ for her. A 2-year-old should be speaking in short sentences. A 16-month-old is supposed to know at least 6 words besides "mama" & "dada".

Charlotte said...

Anyone can make an Early Intervention referral. Just google the program for your state (assuming you are in the US). They could provide both speech and behavioral services if she qualifies. Talk to the parents about this. But do it sooner rather than later, since the program ends at age 3.

Cake said...

Please........kick the little bitch back! She'll stop soon enough! Besides she don't talk right? So who she gonna tell? Jus don't leave no bruises n shit.

cool nanny said...

I think part of the issue is is you keep changing your response to her actions.
If she hits etc i would just sit her down on floor and say 'no hitting'(or whatever it is she has done) then walk away and ignore her if she giggles etc
I would be getting her speach checked out-maybe go for a hearing test too

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Sounds like she is easily frustrated and bored, and that she is enjoying the attention she gets when she hits/kicks you.

Frustration - likely from lack of verbal skills, so teach her to sign, ASAP. If she can communicate, her frustration levels will decrease very quickly.

Bored - Do you get to go anywhere with her? Is she doing the same activities, playing the same games, seeing the same toys over and over? Is she drowning in toys? If at all possible,m change up some of the things you and she do, and if she has tons of toys, out some away so there are fewer choices on a daily basis and rotate toys weekely. Are the toys passive (npisemakers) or active? Try to emcourage play with activbe toys that require her input.

Attention - when she hits/kicks, react as little as possible. Don't discuss it, just say, very deadpan, "I can't play with you if you hurt me.", and walk away. If she follows you, engage again, and repeat the calm walk-away as needed. Also, find a new place for TO that she cannot access by herself (packn'play? Crib? Highchair?) and label it the hitting and kicking TO spot. If she hits/kicks 3 times, warn her before you walk away that next time is TO, and then follow through. Let her calm down in that TO spot and then let her out.

Good luck - this is a tough situation. What do her parents say about this issue? Are they also working with her and dealing with the hitting and kicking?

MissDee said...

Cake: Someone should slap you for that comment. I for one, hope you do not work with children in any capacity, because your ignorant comment and disrespect show you are not suited for the work myself and ISYN posters do.

OP: This is a tough call. I would try the suggestions other posters have mentioned. If she is a "young 2" (a daycare term) she most likely is trying to express herself but is frustrated because she can't. Barnes and Noble, even your local library has great books on baby signing. There is also a great book that I used called "Letter of the Week", which had word cards. Start with A and make a "word wall", assisting her with pronounciation.

As far as the hitting goes, I had a child do the same thing to me-he was very aggressive, and I walked away from him when he attempted to be aggressive; the look on his face was priceless. He was 5 years old, and although your charge is 2, the aggression stopped completely.

Do everything you can to turn this around. Talk to the parents, and record the behavior, as in what works and doesn't work. Documentation will be helpful if there is a problem. I would give the problem 4 months to see if this can be resolved with the advice you are being given here. If not, I think the Early Intervention would be a great idea.

Cake: Those are the comments from a PROFESSIONAL. Choke on that!

Ms. Vivienne LePeaux said...

When "NO" is necessary, I always try to follow it immediately with an acceptable option. In this case, I would get a large stuffed animal or similar object and introduce it to your charge as an acceptable outlet for all her hitting needs. Every time the aggression begins, calmly but decisively hold both of her wrists down at her side and say, "No hitting people.", then take her to the stuffed animal and let her pound away all she wants.

NZ Nanny said...

I used to look after school-age children. They never hit me but were always 'beating up' each other. I found the best way to make them stop was to take their favourite toys away. If they were using a plastic sword, I'd take that and put it up high but still in sight. That always stopped them because they knew they couldn't get it back unless they behaved better.
If nothing else, you could do this with her toys and hope that she will spend time trying to reach them instead of hitting you, lol!

Cake said...

Miss Dee,

I betcha my method works faster then any of the bullshit displayed here.
Professional? C'mon now you are a freakin glorified babysitter! That's like saying the guy who bags my groceries is a professional!!

MissDee said...

Cake: So slapping a child is the way to get them to do what you want? In other words, slapping the child, calling her a bitch and acing inappropriately is how you would handle this situation?

I am a former nanny. I now work in a childcare center. I have spent 13years in daycare, plus a year as a nanny and countless years babysitting, and am currently working toward my degree in ECE.

MPP: Can you block this person from further posts? The comments on how to handle the situation, along with the comments directed toward me insult the blog and anyone who works in the field of early childhood education.

OP said...

OP here.

First and foremost, she is defintely NOT abused.. She has the most loving, kind and gentle parents who adore her and don't use any kind of physical discipline with her. The only other person she is around is me, and I don't and would never ever use any physical discipline with her either. I am by nature a very gentle person as well and I love that little girl more than I could tell you!

I have enrolled in a baby sign language course that begins tomorrow. She doesn't seem very interested in signing, but I am going to see if I can find some new methods in teaching her the signs. I am willing to do anything to help her with her communication. We have been working with flash cards, we read a ton and I am always talking to her about everything we see.

Most people's first reaction was that she is bored (My MB also posted to a mom blog that she belongs to for some advice for this) but she is actually a very stimualted child. I take her on daily outings to the zoo, gymboree classes, library, aquarium, local parks, we belong to multiple play groups...etc.

I have dealt with kids hitting and kicking before, but it was always out of anger and frustration. With M, it is really just because she thinks it is funny. Anything that we tell her "no" about or redirect her from, she wants to do 100 times more while she disolves into fits of giggles.

Something that I did not mention (which I guess I should have) in my original post is that she has a baby sister who is 7 months old. Baby sister has become very active all of a sudden and as she is able to sit up on her own and move around a bit more, M is very taken back by the fact that her sister isn't just the baby in a crib/swing/etc but is now participating in things that we are doing and down on the floor using her toys and things. I think that maybe M is trying to get attention (even though she gets smothered in attention by both her parents and I.)

After thinking about it a lot, I think the main issues here are her communication issue and sibling rivalry.

*Side not on the talking thing- I agree that she should get tested. However, her pediatrician told the parents that her not talking is not a concern until she is 3. (Whhhhhaaaaaaaat????!!!) So yeah. I don't know how to even approach that one. I am not her parent, and I follow their wishes. So I am just trying my best and doing everything I can to help her.

nanny in pgh said...

Have you tried reading any little books about it? The 18 month old I nanny hits and I usually just put her down (she is always wanting to be held) and tell her no hitting. Barbie is not going to hold you if you hit...she will start crying and ask to be picked up and I tell her I will hold her but she must not hurt. Its been working.

Nanny E said...

@ Cake-WTF is your problem? You sound completely ignorant.

MissDee said...

NannyE: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Watch it, you may get attacked the same way I did. Remember, we are not professionals, because we don't abuse children in the manner that Cake does. lol

MissMannah said...

If she's wanting attention, the best thing to do is not give her any. Say "That hurts me and I don't want to play with you if you're going to hurt me" then immediately turn away and start playing with baby sister instead. She will start getting jealous, of course, and come over and try to get attention. If she does this by hitting again, reiterate you don't like it and turn away again. If she follows up with more violence, trying to get your attention, completely leave the room with the baby. (If baby is asleep, go in another room and pretend to be busy.) It'll make M mad, but she needs to get upset so she'll see that hitting isn't funny and the repercussions aren't fun. And of course, as soon as she comes near you without hitting, heap praise and attention on her, saying how wonderful it is to play with her when she is being gentle.

I don't really use time-out for children this young because it's hard to see if they can see the correlation between action and punishment. I think saying "I won't play with someone who hurts me" is more effective.

Marypoppin'pills said...

"MPP: Can you block this person from further posts? The comments on how to handle the situation, along with the comments directed toward me insult the blog and anyone who works in the field of early childhood education."

Cake is entitled to her opinion. As I have said before, posters need to feel they have the liberty to say what they want... even if we don't agree with it.

mea said...

I am dealing with this problem on a much smaller scaler.. My 2.5 yr old charge is very verbal, however she laughs among other things when she disobeys as well. she also has a new baby in the family.

I inquired with a few professionals and they suggested.. Practicing faces and feelings with her in front of the mirror. "make a sad face", "make a happy face", etc. She may not be reading emotions properly and is obviously responding in inappropriate ways (sign of social impairment). Talk about when we make angry faces, happy, etc when you are in front of the mirror. Im guessing her receptive language is fine.

Definitely teach her some signs.. You don't really have to take a course, just get some DVDs from youtube or the library. Signs for "stop" "want" "mine" "more" "play" etc.

Lastly, don't let her engage you. It's all just a game for her. If you know certain situations spark certain behaviors, completely avoid them. If you can sense her spiraling out of control, walk away before she actually gets to hit you. Bottom line, just don't let it even get to that point, it means she has less choices and freedom so be it. Do a lot of hand over hand. Example: my charge was scraping the wooden dining room table with her metal fork everyday on purpose, now I just automatically give her plastic.. It has completely stopped. She runs away and laughs saying "I'm playing games with you" when it's time to get dressed. Now when it's time to get dressed I go and get her hand and say "time to get dressed" and bring her over to me before she even has a chance.

She's a bit young for time outs, they ar pretty ineffective at that age. You can also shower the7 month old with extra attention when she is exhibiting difficult behaviors.. "ohh (name) you are such a good listener!"

Hope this helps! If you want any more advice my mom is a behavioral therapist in Early intervention and has a lot of good ideas that could work.

Good luck!

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

OP, I think you are exactly right that a big part of your older charge's behavior is related to her baby sister starting to be mobile. IMO, trying to offer positive attention when you "catch her being well behaved" is key, as long as that is paired with neutral/no attention when she is hitting/kicking.

So, praise when she's kind to you, and specify what you are praising and why, and calm avoidance of her when she hits!

Also, the doctor may not be concerned if your charge has typical receptive language skills paired with very few words. Hopefully concentrating on signing will help. I do think an evaluation might be helpful just to ease the minds of her parents (and you!) though.