Sunday

Mother's Concern Over Child's Reaction to his Nanny

opinion 2 In lieu of a recent post by a mom who was concerned about her 4-year-old's reaction to his nanny, I would like to pose a question to the experienced nannies out there...

Our nanny has been working for us for just about a year. We have aone-year-old and a 3 1/2 year old, both boys. "Jane" absolutely adores our 1-year-old but by nature, isn't the bubbly, engaging type and has difficulty connecting with my older son. Jane tends to be conservative and very even-keel, laughs/smiles only minimally, but is overall a kind and dedicated professional. Our sons are always clean, fed, and rested.

The problem: Whenever Jane comes into our home, our 3-year-old decompensates, bursts into tears, and clings onto my leg. He says things like, "She's mean to me," "She doesn't like me," "She's mad at me." The trouble with this also is that he has said similar things about his friends when he has a hard time with them, so I tend to believe this is just how he expresses interpersonal struggles with others and it is not necessarily an accurate depiction of his experiences with Jane.

Jane deals with this son by basically ignoring him, even when I am in the home. I try and encourage her to engage him when he behaves this way but I have to also understand that she is a person too, and having someone greet one in this manner each day (2 days a week) can be a bit over the top and irritating. That being said, which one came first? The chicken or the egg?

I don't want to let Jane go and my son will be starting preschool in a few weeks, which means he will be gone about half the time she is working and a big chunk of the other time, he will be napping. I can't help, though, but wonder if my son's reactions indicate an incongruence between the nanny/charge fit and if so, considering our satisfaction with her in other arenas, is this an appropriate and viable reason to look for someone different? Thanks in advance, for
any advice.

- Mom, pulled in 2 different directions


24 comments:

Northern Nanny said...

From what it sounds like to me, you have a good thing going with 'Jane'. That being said there are clearly some issues that need to be resolved. I would start by having a sit down meeting when the kids are not present. Talk about what each of you are feeling about the way your son is reacting. Be careful not to suggest that she 'fake' her demeanor around your son. kids can smell that from a mile away. It seems to me that he may be experiencing separation anxiety from you is there enough time in the morning to properly work through the good bye transition? Finding out from your son why he thinks the nanny is mean, etc may help you find a solution faster. Also keep in mind that 'Jane' may be one way with you and another when there are no parents around, not in a bad, way (although that's possible but doesn't seem likely here) for example I find it MUCH easier to be myself and upbeat and cheerful, and down right goofy when the parents are gone and its just me and the kids. She may be much more bubbly and your son much more affectionate when you are not home, so don't worry too much because of a few meltdowns.

Jane Doe said...

I would plan an activity for the three of then, such as library story hour or picnic in the park and either send a friend or pay someone to observe her. It is so important to know how our children are being treated when we aren't around. I've been fooled. I hope the conclusive evidence you get reassures you that she is a wonderful caregiver.

And as a reminder, to all of you moms out there who have nannies that don't make you wonder... do something special for your nanny this week!

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Considering how your youngest son is reacting to her, and the fact that your son makes similar statements regarding his friends, I wouldn't be 100% sure that Jane is indeed being mean to your oldest son. However, if I were in your shoes, I would not just "shrug it off." Jane Doe gave some great advice and I would take it. Have a third person see how this Nanny acts around your oldest when you are not around. It may take a few times for you to get an accurate depiction just to be fair. If in fact, your oldest son is right, I would let her go. I know she physically cares for your sons wonderfully by what you stated, however being a Nanny is more than just making sure a child is fed, clean and well. A Nanny is also responsible for meeting the child's emotional needs as well and due to Jane's personality, it seems your oldest child is being short-changed here OP. The way you described her personality does not make her a fit Nanny in my opinion. Perhaps she would make a great infant Nanny, but not one suitable to care for a toddler and a pre-schooler. Just my opinion.

The bottom line here is that your child is miserable w/this Nanny and this is unfair for him. Part of a Nanny's job is bonding w/her charge and your Nanny is negligent in this dept. If you really want to keep her, sit down and let her know that you really would like her to be more pro-active in establishing a relationship w/your eldest child. Stress that you think she has bonded well w/your little one and that you would love to see that same dynamic w/your oldest too. If she is worth her weight in gold, she will take the initiative and try to interact/engage more w/your oldest. If she continues to act the way she is now after having you discuss this w/her, you have absolutely no other option but to kick her out.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Is "Jane" your first nanny? Or did your older son have a nanny prior to "Jane"?

I like Jane Doe's idea a lot. I think that while your nanny is apparently doing all the right things when it comes to physical care, she is shortchanging your older son emotionally - your statement that she ignores him is a huge red flag to me. Yes, it stinks to be greeted negatively by a child every morning, but I believe a truly professional nanny would have made a much greater effort to bond with even the most reluctant child than your nanny has, according to your post. And a pro nanny would have also had the courage to say to you after a few months, if she wasn't reaching your older son, that she felt the position wasn't working out.

This is a tough one OP, simply because all we have is your POV. FWIW, my instinct says that you need to find someone new, who can find a way to bond with both of your children and can give them the best possible care.

Please do update us, and good luck in whatever action you decide to take.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Just to add, if your older son had a nanny prior to "Jane", he may be feeling some hard to handle emotions about losing that prior nanny (or the prior care situation he was in), and is taking that excess of feelings out on "Jane". (I've been the nanny who left and have heard stories about former charges raking replacement nannies over the coals.)

Regardless, what I said before about "Jane" needing to reach out to establish an attached relationship with your older son stands. If she doesn't care or has simply given up, she needs to be gone.

Wow said...

Tales...

You took the words right out of my mouth on both counts.

This is an example that everyone cannot do what professional nannies do. It takes skill, know how, and compassion to win over a child - whether they had a previous nanny or not.

nannyto1 said...

I would listen to my child but When he is doing that i would ingore him to IF he is acting like this and you are giving him attention he will do it more . I do not give my charges attention when they are acting out . Always postive attention for even little things which your nanny should be doing . But when a kids act out and you give them the attention thats what they want . I would watch and see if she just not paying attention when he doing this or all the time . We do time outs etc and i will not pay attention to my charge .It took MB forever to learn when she did she would act out more . I guess that why she behaves better with me then her parents . She greets me everyday with arms wide open and ask for me on the weekends :)

Lissell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vanessa said...

Well, all human beings, expecially kids, need some kind of affection. You child wants to feel loved, and your nanny is not showing it to him. That obviously hurts his feelings. Imagine being around someone who ignores you or is cold to you, someone who you can't figure out, all the time. It's very stressful and uncomfortable. Your kid must be so stressed being with her (that's why he reacts that way when she arrives).

My suggestion is to sit down with her and tell her about your sons feelings, and ask her if she could try to be a little more... encouraging. It doesn't take much to give a little smile, or a hug. The kid needs reassurance that he's not unwanted or hated. That's all she needs to do.

DJD said...

Here is an idea....Raise your own kids!!! Then you don’t have to worry about abuse. If you truly needed the money from your job, you couldn’t afford a nanny in the first place. Lower your lifestyle and raise your own family. Your kids will be better off in the end.

Mrs. Billy Lamar said...

DJD..while your post sounds harsh, you do have a valid point.

Phoenix said...

children know when people don't like them. I know first hand. I really really hated my step-sons little brother. The kid just pissed me off. i didn't have to say anything, I was smiling, laughing, and playing with everyone (meaning the family kids). But that kid knew I didn't like him. I never spoke bad about him or anything. He just flat out hated me in return. Kids have great intuition. She may just not like your oldest son and that is ok. We don't have to like everyone but if she can, she can at least try to make him comfortable or something. I mean it is her JOB to watch kids, she really should like them all. i don't know, go with Jane's idea

marcie said...

I agree with you. Except as a mother, I don't want a nanny who doesn't like my kid! Even 1 out of 3!

Another nanny... said...

OP: How does your child and nanny interact with each other when you get home?

The 3.5 year old that I watch will cry and cling to his mother when I first arrive. I think he plays on her guilt about leaving and is rewarded by that behavior because she stops whatever she is doing and cuddles and pleads with him and offers him sweets and new toys to stop crying. However, once he sees her car drive away, he is very happy to play with me. We play and interact very lovingly the rest of the time that the mom is out.

This pattern has been going on for months and months and all of my attempts to engage the child when I first arrive fail. The only thing that I have found to work successfully from time to time is to great both children and then engage the younger one with an activity and hope that the 3.5 year old sees us and decides we are having more fun and it is worth giving up his separation anxiety (or manipulating drama fest?) to come play...

OP said...

Thank you so much for those who replied with productive, thought-provoking comments.

Northern Nanny: this was a great perspective to take and I need to take into consideration that she is probably different when I'm not around.
Jane Doe: Excellent idea, thanks--I think I am going to find a way to do this!
TwoCents: That's my issue-that my older son is getting short-changed. I agree that Jane is fantastic with infants, has more difficulty with the older ones.
Tales: Jane is our first nanny, although he has been in a home daycare setting very parttime in the past. Thanks for your words of encouragement.
Wow: Yes, I think the ability to bond does separate the pros from the non-pros. I'm going to have to process that one.
Nannyto1: Great advice on the positive reinforcement. I do try my best to adhere to that.
Vanessa: Thanks for the sit down idea--sound and to the point. I have already scheduled this for the next time we meet!
DJD: Not sure why you're on this site. Furthermore, no issues of abuse were raised. I'm guessing you didn't really fully read my post--having a nanny 2 days a week is hardly having someone else raise them. What's your profession? I went to graduate school for 8 years(intentionally prior to having children) so I could work PART TIME, bring in a good income, have an adult outlet, and most importantly, have a career that would allow me to work only while my children were in school once they reached that age. I'd say "giving up" (and trust me, it's a nice outlet) 16 hours out of of 168 hours a week is worth it. I am a better mother because of it. I hope you have found something as fulfilling, DJD.

Pheonix and Marcie: I do believe there are some serious bonding issues that need to be resolved.
Another nanny: that's just the thing--he is almost always happy, or at least content, when I return home. It's the biggest indicator I have that this is not a crisis situation. I do not linger when I leave and I set clear limits. You sound like an excellent nanny and had Jane distracted my son in any way, I wouldn't have written in. My concern lies in that she watches me as I pry my son's hands off me and I have to direct her to take him or engage him in something specific.

Thank you all, again!

oh well said...

OP, have you considered sibling rivalry? It would not be out of the ordinary for your older son to experience jealousy feelings towards the younger one. And, it would not be out of the ordinary for your caregiver to show or even feel some preference for the baby. What your son says may or may not be true. In any case he seems to be distressed and the situation needs to be addressed. Rivalry feelings can last a lifetime.

DJD said...

I have a masters degree and worked in the corporate world but you know what...??? Nothing is more important and fulfilling in this world than raising your own child. If your career was so important why have kids? I am fulfilled everyday and my daughter is flourishing. I am a stay-at-home mom with all the degrees it comes with. Sorry that your career is more important than your family. I feel sorry for you.

Jane Doe said...

DJD,
What an absurd and hateful comment. Nevermind, you forget all of those women who have to work.

Vanessa said...

DJD, good for you if you can afford to be a stay-at-home mom. Consider yourself lucky. Not everybody has your luck though. So maybe, instead of being a close-minded individual, you should try to understand other people a little more. With all those degrees you have, I'd expect you to be a little more aware of how the world works. Sadly that's not the case.

talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

OP, it sounds like "Jane" may be unsure how YOU want the situation handled, based on your update. Have you sat down and discussed your specific desires regarding this situation with her?

(I am glad to hear that your older boy is generally content when you return home though!)

I speak only for myself, but I always found it harder to "peel off" a child from parents when I worked PT. It might be that Jane" is in need of some specific positive reinforcement about your needs! She might feel that you'll be angry if she does peel your son off you???

DJD, you are a troll. Go away, troll, and don't come back without better material. The song and dance about bad bad working moms needs a new verse. Might I suggest one about bad bad working DADS? Then at least your bizarre POV would be unusual.

OP again said...

Wow, seriously, you are all great! Thanks for the continued advice.

Oh well: definitely sibling jealousy issues, hands down. I guess I expected Jane, as a seasoned nanny, to be more aware--I don't really like to be too directive, but I have asked repeatedly for her to engage my son in something specific ("I really have to go. Maybe you can help him with his new puzzle?") and she'll do it, but doesn't seem to remember for the next time.

Jane Doe and Vanessa, thanks, and ditto.

Anon: Thank you for saying Jane sounds great. I needed to hear that!

Tales: Excellent point. I am really going to have to think about that--you're probably absolutely right.

Thanks again, ladies, and have a fabulous night!

Nicki Babysits said...

She may be choosing to ignore him in front of you when he acts this way, because she feels awkward about it! Imagine if you frequently went to a friend's home, and each time, the friend's child shrunk from you and said, "She doesn't like me!" In front of your friend, you might just try to act like nothing happened or like you don't notice that the child doesn't seem to like you. Maybe you could spend some time with the three of them... for instance, on a day off, ask Jane to go to the zoo with you and the kids, and have it be a day where you are doing most of the care for the kids and Jane is just kind of a friend... try to make sure everyone has a good time together. This might help Jane and your son bond, while Jane isn't under pressure to "perform" in front of you and your son isn't feeling anxious because you're about to leave.

nannytara said...

I have this problem with the family I work for. I have been with the 2 year old since birth and the older boy is 3 1/2 and "not so nice" to me. He has hit, spit, kicked, punched and said some mean things to me. I would have to say that it makes it really hard to bond with a child when they do that. Generally, when he says he doesn't like me, or that his dad is going to "spank me" I just ignore his comments or tell him that he doesn't have to like me, but I like him or whatever. I think it's just a personality thing. My 3 year old charge goes to school part-time and pees his pants when he has a new teacher, or a teacher he doesn't like. Some kids are far more attached to their parents than others. The 2 year old and I have no problem and he cuddles with me and has a positive reaction to me coming over.

FamNan said...

My lovely beautiful 4 year old neice does this. She clings to me sometimes even when the family comes home she won't let go of me so I can have me time but what can I do? Some mornings she cries, clings, acts like I beat her all day long but then as soon as the garage door goes down she turns around and walks off without a tear. I text my sister whenever she wants to talk to her, she sends her own texts (gibberish typing they know is from her) etc during the day and we talk about how after lunch first her brother, then her sister come home and then mama comes home. Tell your nanny to try these things. Maybe they didn't hit it off or maybe she lost it one day due to stress and it scared him. Ask her and don't get mad if she did lose it unless she struck him. Sometimes just yelling will scare the daylights out of a kid. Or maybe she spoke louder than she meant to and scared him. I have the worst temper and take care of my sisters kids and the older sister who saw me with worse temper than little sister wants me to take care of her baby come fall when she goes back to school but that's another story lol