My Hellish Experience

nanny horror story I really want to get this off my chest. I never thought an 11-year-old girl could make me question so many things about myself. Things like, I like kids. I like nannying. I want kids of my own one day. I am a likeable person.

I have both nannied and worked in retail throughout college. Fed up with my retail job, of all us part timers getting only 10 hours a week at more than $5 per hour less than I got as a nanny, I frustratedly emailed my resume to a posting for a nanny on my school's job board. In 45 minutes I got a call and set up an interview. The next day I interviewed. The next day I was hired. The next week I started. They kids were older--an 11-year-old girl, M, and a 14-year-old boy, C. The parents were wealthy and paid above the going rate, with benefits, for only 15 hours per week. My last nanny job was with one 13-year-old boy. He was great, and I hoped to have a relationship like that with these kids. This was such a blessing to my frustrating work rut I was in.

The situation started out rocky. I know 11 years is a hard age, so I was sensitive to the fact that the parents told me M didn't have many friends and I should set up play dates for her with a few kids. Whatever, we all have rough patches in life. I'm sure this kid was fine enough. My first week was hell and I soon realized this household was ruled with an iron fist by the 11-year-old girl. After a week of her running away from me and making us late to C's karate practice I told her parents we needed to meet about her behavior. We met the next day and I expressed my concern. They were open and sympathetic and said M had a hard time "adjusting". I told them I was having a hard time meeting their expectations of "bonding" with her, because I did not want to do her a disservice by showing her it was okay to treat people poorly and they would continue to want to be friends. The parents nodded as if they understood. At the end of the meeting, I asked if we could call the girl in to explain to her that I was in charge, here to stay, and to know all the adults were on the same page about this. M, who had been listening outside the door the entire time ran up to her room. Her parents STOOD at the bottom of the stairs and called her down. She said "NOOOOll!!! I HATE YOU!!! I HATE YOU, MOM, DAD AND [MY NAME]" they told me I could leave, she was having a hard night. I should have quit then, but I still thought this would blow over and the kid would regress. I thought I could stick it out because of the pay. What kind of kid can really be this nasty to her core? And what kind of parents did not go upstairs, grab the kid by her wrist, pull her down and MAKE her sit on the couch and listen?

The thing about this kid was that she really had no friends and everything was revolving around that fact. Her parents wanted to be sensitive to her self-esteem. They didn't want to ever punish her too harshly... because she felt bad about herself enough as it is. Makes perfect sense, I know. At school, M was the kid that sucked up to the adults, but all the other students hated. She wanted to be not only her teacher's pet, but EVERY single teacher's pet. She had a list of all their birthdays and would make them cards, even if she barely knew them. If a song was on the radio that was playing bleeped out swear words, she would tell me "this is INAPPROPRIATE! CHANGE IT OR I'LL TELL MY MOM WE'RE LISTENING TO MUSIC WITH SWEARING IN IT." The parents and I had regular talks. In each of them, they told me exactly what I wanted to hear, but nothing ever changed. The most "punishment" they ever gave the kid was taking away her iPod for one day at a time. This family's emotional regulation and power dynamics were some of the most screwed up I have ever witnessed.

Every day the girl would say something rude. "Your butt looks big" "Stop talking about your classes, it's really annoying." C would thank me for making him a snack and she would say "Don't thank her, it's her JOB!!" She would come up to me while I was doing homework and say "Come play with me, you HAVE to play with me!!!" I would tell her no, not when she asked like that and she would call her mother and tell her I was "refusing to play with her so I could do my homework". After a while I'd just start ignoring her. I'd pick her up and say hi, but there was no conversation except for her malicious comments. Why did I think it would go away? How did I not realize it would not stop after 4 months? 6 months? Why did it take me 9 months?? I never condoned physical punishment until I met this girl. What this girl needed was to be slapped across the face by her parents every time she said something blatantly rude. I don't think it would continue. However, the parents worked to appease her. She knew she had no boundaries and she pushed them FURTHER. Meanwhile, the mom was constantly giving me the list of her classmate's phone numbers so I could set up play dates for her. She'd scream at me and say "I'll just call them back and say I'm not coming!!!" I was torn. I did it from time to time, as it was her mother's #1 expectation of me -- to get her kid some friends -- but sometimes it was just unbearable. The other parents knew their kid didn't like the girl. When I called to ask they would say "It's a really hectic next two weeks for us, I'll give you a call after that!" but they never did. My employers were a slave to this girl's "self esteem". I'd tell them I called but no kids were available and I hated seeing the pain on their face. They didn't want to "damage" her. They were too afraid to be assertive with her. It didn't matter what her behavior was. They wanted to make her happy because she was not liked by her classmates.

The only person who seemed to see the situation for what it was was the brother, C. C was fairly normal, considering the circumstances. He was 14, but he knew not to behave like that or take advantage of his parents. I loved the 15 minutes alone in the car taking C to his activities. He'd vent to me about his sister. About how she'd kick and slap and scream at her parents at 11-years-old and they wouldn't do anything. I really felt for him, and told him to see the situation for what it was, and that it was not good, but other than that, what could anyone do? I stayed with this family for 9 months, before I reached my wit's end. The week before I quit, I drove this girl and one of her teammates to soccer practice. Neither girl spoke to each other. M told me to "be quiet" when I talked to her. The girls ate a snack in my backseat and left crumbs all over. The next day I teased M about the mess. She said, "My friend left that, I'm going to call her and tell her you're mad!!" I just looked at her. She picked up the phone and called the girl, "Hi A, my nanny is mad you left crumbs in her back seat yesterday." I just stared at her. When she hung up I said, "M, A is not your friend. You don't have any friends because you treat everyone around you like that. It is my sincere hope for you that one day you'll figure it out. You are a sad and lonely kid and people do not like you because of how you act. Even the teachers, who you try so hard to be their pets, see you for how you truly are and they aren't fooled either." She screamed and called her mom, and her mom never discussed the incident with me.

The next day I put in a week's notice. I remembered how happy I was before I took this job. I was under stress from both school and work, but now I was under stress, having muscle spasms in my back, trouble sleeping - insomnia and nightmares when I worked the next day, crying before and after work, feeling depressed enough to talk to a doctor about it. I went to the gym 6 days a week instead of 3-4 because this kid called me fat. She said my butt was big and my stomach had rolls. And I did this for NINE months? WHAT was I thinking?? I just couldn't stand this abuse from an 11-year-old and now I understood why they paid so high above the market rate.

Looking back, I should have done so many things differently. But the cycle was - kid would act up, I'd tell the parents, they'd tell me what I wanted to hear, I regained confidence that things would be different, nothing changed. Repeat. Every goddamn day. I should have been better. I should have quit. I know. I was under pressure. The pay was good, I needed money for an upcoming surgery I had scheduled that summer. Maybe I shouldn't have said that to her. I should have been strong enough to not let a child affect me so deeply that I still question if I'm a likeable person and if I am a good nanny. I should have looked harder for a new job. All these things I see now. My last day there was the happiest of my life. I sat on the trampoline with C and listened to him vent and cry about his family. He said he was sad to see me go. I told him he could call me if he ever needed anything, but I couldn't continue this. I liked nannying and I like being with kids who like me. Even now, I get a rush of joy when I remind myself I'll never see that kid again I still just can't believe the parents let their child act like this. They neither supported me, nor directly opposed her. They were just neutral witnesses. Successful professionals that were voluntary slaves in their own house.

Reading these words now, it just sounds surreal. No way a child could be this bad. No way I, an otherwise competent person and nanny with great references, could actually be reduced to this. Now, in interviews, I am much more assertive with my expectations of support from parents, but I still don't know how to feel about the situation. Maybe I am a bad nanny. A weak person. A fat girl with a big butt that listens to the edited version of songs with swear words in them. This was over a year ago and I still am so unsettled. I hope to post it here and get some feedback. Support, criticism. Whatever. My friends aren't nannies, and they don't understand. I feel I should really go to counseling about this, it just shook me up so badly.


Truth Seeker said...

Maybe you should be a Nanny for infants and toddlers ONLY.

Yes, they are stressful, but it is a different type of stress and they are usually easier to control.

OP...Don't give up! Being a Nanny is very rewarding work and if you love what you do, it would be a crying shame if you quit over ONE family.

Good Luck to you. :)

robinsparkles said...

Those parents should be posting ads for a personal care attendant, not for a nanny - with the level of mental illness that kid has, it's really only fair that they hire someone who's prepared to be called names and doesn't expect to be her buddy. You didn't, and it was totally fucked-up of them to let you think she was normal.... although I guess they also think she's normal, so no surprise there. Either way, don't feel bad for leaving. She plainly needs more than you or a usual nanny could give her.

Teacher in a Combat Zone said...

The girl who lives two doors down from us is EXACTLY like this. Well, not exactly, she is always nice to her father because he overrules the mother and gives the girl exactly what she wants. She is fifteen and her every want and whim rule the household.

She does have a few friends, but it is a constant revolving door of friends. None of them are "true" friends who are there through everything. Once they stop doing everything she wants when she wants it, she not only stops hanging around with them, she makes up horrific lies about why she no longer hangs out with them. Seriously, she once said, "I can't hang out with H anymore because she's a lesbian."

I feel for you OP. It's difficult to deal with children who are out of control. She is not allowed to spend time at my house or with my children. I do feel bad for her-- she's going to have a hard life a head of her because she's so rude, self-absorbed and out of control.

MissMannah said...

Did it ever occur to anyone that this child might have a real problem? Not that she's just nasty and mean, but she might have a mental or emotional illness and needs medical intervention or therapy. Did her parents ever discuss any of this with the doctor? I don't know how anyone can experience that level of abuse from someone and not wonder if something is going on under the surface.

Dr. Juris said...

It would be a very big maybe about her having a mental illness. Sounds like she has "I need an asswhooping ASAP" disorder.

RBTC said...

OP - without a doubt you should see a counselor - you have been verbally abused for 9 months, it sounds like you have a form of post traumatic stress.

i am sensitive to this kind of thing also - as time goes by you will feel better - the abuse went on for many months so it will take time to heal from it

your sensitivity proves what a good person you are in your heart

KJ said...

I think there's hope for the kid, even if she has ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) which is a good possibility, but it's going to be far from easy for whoever attempts it, to bring her back to the realm of being a "likable" child. Whoever is blessed to be her caregiver now simply needs to go back to the basics; she needs to be treated like a toddler. Anyone- 11 year olds, 4 year olds, 24 year olds, 49 year olds- can benefit from being treated like a toddler...

Toddlerhood is the crutial time in which children learn manners, compassion, patience and the fact that sometimes, we as human beings are simply SOL and can't always get our way. From the development of these skills and the right parental guidance we begin to develop the core of our personalities. With M, something went terribly wrong.

Don't get me wrong. When I say "treat her like a toddler" I don't mean to do so in a manner in which she KNOWS you're doing it. I speak to my toddlers the same way I speak to my peers- when they're acting like toddlers: "I'm sorry you would like to have your window down, Sophia. I want the windows up and the air conditioning on. Someday when you are older and you take me for a ride in your own car YOU get to decide whether to have the windows open or closed." (An actual conversation I had with a 3 year old this summer.) I would have handled M like this: "I'm sorry you don't like this music, M. I can assure you that they are censoring all the curse words. If it offends you, you can go to your room and listen to the music of your choosing." -or- "Luckily you will be able to drive in a couple years. When you're the driver, YOU get to pick the music! We're going to listen to this station right now. When I'm finished listening to this song, we can keep this station on or I can turn the radio off. Up to you." It's all about keeping it positive and giving choices- that way they still maintain SOME level of control. Basically I have just told her to STFU while ending it on a positive note: "you're going to be able to drive in a couple years..." I WILL say, however-- NEVER give what they "demand." Make sure the outcome is only a result of the limited control YOU'VE permitted them with choices: "We can listen to this station or NO station, you decide."

To her insults I would have simply ignored them- or brushed her off with a "gee, thanks" and not let her see it offend me. Because of her age, I may even insult her back with something completely ridiculous- but then after giving her a second to let it sink in, ask her how it made her feel: "Huh. Thanks... You know, I think you have ugly feet... How's it feel when I say STUPID stuff like that? Does it really matter if you have ugly feet or if have a big butt?"

While it's obvious to ignore negative behavior in toddlers and anyone in need of being treated like a toddler, there's the additional strategy of giving ridiculous attention and praise for positive behavior. "M, thank you for making room for me on the couch. Sometimes you can be really thoughtful." Even if it seems hopeless, FIND stuff to praise her for. Compliment her, even. And if you try this, know she might not know how to take compliments right away and is likely to reject them.

Obviously this kid wasn't completely self sufficient- they hired a nanny for a reason. "I'll be happy to do that for you as soon as you start making an effort to address me with respect." "You keep this attitude up and you're on your own with your homework." "You EARN privileges such as going to the mall/pool. If you continue to treat me/act this way we aren't going anywhere."

Anyway, hopefully you never have to deal with a kid like that again, but if you do- be it toddler, pre-teen or adult co-worker, remember that anyone can be reminded of how to behave by being treated like a toddler once in awhile.

Phoenix said...

Oh yes a child can be that bad. My friend's 17 year old son is that bad. He is a little bit more of an abuser though because he would manipulate people to think that he is wonderful and treat his mother like dirt. My little cousin was like that too. Everyone would bow down to her and give her what she wanted. She was always TELL me to play with her and I would say No because I didn't like her. Then she tried getting my approval and thus I became the only one she listened to. I hate kids like this and I hate parents who let their kids be like this. Imagine what that bitch of a girl is going to be like as an adult.

christine said...

I actualy live with someone just like this and it can be miserable. My son, who is almost 21, has been behaving like this for years. He was actually a pretty good baby, toddler and up til Middle School a pretty alright kid. But, he can be downright abusive and mean, mostly to me. My husband lets him have his own way, as it is easier but I usually do not. The anger and rage happen when things don't go his way and he has what I have dubbed an "adult temper tantrum". He calls us terrible names, wrecks our house (we have holes in almost every door, the banister came off the staircase) and then proceeds to embarass us by slamming doors and screaming at us while neighbors look at us. It began to peak during his senior year in High School. At one point it was so bad, we put him out of the house right before Christmas... he would have been out for good but he had a medical emergency and he required surgery... we let him come home to recover.

It all really kind of crept up on us...We started to overlook bad behavior because it caused such an uproar to discipline him. Well, my husband did so I came out looking like a bitch- thus the target of most of his name calling. He is a bully, plain and simple. He found a way to get his own way even if that meant a giant fight... in fact, he seems to relish in it.

All of that being said, he has gotten better as the years go by. It is better today than when he was 17. And, while the outbursts are less frequent, they still exist. I did find one thing that worked wonders- I finally told him, during a nice, quiet day- I am going to begin seeing a therapist so I can learn how to effectively manage his abuse doing the least amount of damage to myself. His jaw dropped and I recommended he pick a therapist as well or not- whatever he disides. His behavior improved dramatically. I think because he knew he would lose control once I had the tools to protect myself.

Nanny Freud said...

I don't think you're a bad nanny. But I also don't think the kid was pure evil. Based on what you said, it seems like M was causing you to feel exactly how SHE was feeling. You said you began to question if you were likeable, if you were a competent nanny. I imagine that's how she felt due to having no friends.
You would "complain" to the parents (roughly the equivalent of this girl's acting out behaviors), seeking some kind of action from them, and they would simply appease you, just as they appeased her. Obviously kids don't ask to be disciplined, but it definitelly seems like she was craving some consistent boundaries. (Side note, her self esteem probably was terrible, because having consistent boundaries is actually good for kids' self esteem)
I don't know if that helps at all, but I was in a bad nanny situation before, and I felt that analyzing the situation helped me to realize that there were more factors at play than just my own emotions.

MissMannah said...

Well said, Nanny Freud. I think when someone is insulting us, even a child, it becomes increasingly difficult to try to look at something from their point of view.

I really don't want to place any blame here because I don't know the situation, but I still stand by my previous post and my initial gut feelings that this girl has some kind of undiagnosed disorder. I think the entire family (including you) could have really benefited from counseling. The parents definitely needed to learn stronger parenting techniques and the girl obvious needed to learn social skills.

Nanny J said...

I've gotta say I don't understand any of these comments. Children behave how their parents allow them to behave, so from what the OP has written I don't really understand these comments. Maybe the girl did have some sort of disorder, but the fact still remains that the parents should have been the one to take control--to control their daughter, by shaping her behavior or getting her mental health treatment, in order to make sure she treats other adults, especially her nanny with respect and is severely reprimanded if she didn't. I am a nanny to a 9-year-old girl and I can't even THINK what her parents would do if she insulted my physical appearance even once. I think both a written and verbal apology, as well as some other severe action would be the minimum. OP mentions the son and how it affected him, why are the parents not being proactive and protecting their other child?

I am sorry you went through this, OP. I understand the financial struggle, saying you were in school and needed surgery. Hopefully you can analyze the situation and see it for whatever it was, and not allow yourself to make the same mistake of continuing to work under dysfunction and/or abuse.

BrattyBratty2by4 said...

Sounds like you are describing "Rhoda" from "The Bad Seed" (fantastic movie by the way....the black and white version)! I feel bad for you AND the girl. It's sad when a Parent keeps enabling the bad behavior. Nobody can really do anything if the Parents refuse to Parent their child. Parents need to stop worrying about hurting their childs feelings! Come on! Seriously!

Phoenix said...


do me a favor and tell him to get therapy. He is going to treat some poor girlfriend the same way he treated you. Or at least warn the girls. YOu have to. You have to. Please I am begging you to do this. He is an abuser and he could really hurt someone. It sucks living with someone who throws adult temper tantrums especially one who is violent. I really wish I knew before hand.

christine said...


I have suggested it many times but cannot make him go. He has had a few girlfriends and I have warned them all. I actually overheard a fight he was having over the phone with one and quickly put an end to it. I am well aware and hyper vigilant. He doesn't have the nerve to actually hit me (or anyone else) so I am not physically afraid but it is no way to live...

Phoenix said...

that is what is scary. They don't start out by hitting people. It starts with the wall. Then eventually goes to people. I'm sorry that you have to put up with that. It is very stressful and heart breaking. I don't know why some people behave like that.

christine said...


Once, after he called me (his mother) a douche bag I hit him. I punched him in the face. He was so surprized, as I am not usually a hitter, he said 'I can't believe you hit me". I said, I can't believe I didn't hit you harder. yes, a bad situation with a person who could be so great if he only could lose his atitude.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Christine, I have to ask - why is he still living with you? He's 21 and an a$$ with violent and abusive tendencies, so tell him to go and not come back until he has his issues resolved.

I know it would be hard to do - moms love their kids no matter what. But hasn't he used up any LIKE you have for him?

If it's a matter of forcing him to leave, start documenting the abuse and call the cops every time you feel threatened. Eventually you should be able to throw him out because of what's on the record, right? Or evict him through legal channels if that's what is needed.

I feel for you, I truly do, but there has to be SOMETHING you can do!

christine said...

I have been over him for a long time. He has been kicked to the curb a number of times... when his father has had enough. He comes back and his behavior improves for a time. Just a vicious circle. If it were only up to me I would have him out the door today. My husband doesn't think kicking kids out the door improves anything- after all- our son has a problem that will still remain should he be on his own. Then we will worry about him every second he is not under our watch, so to speak. I guess I'd rather he abuse me than abuse someone else and end up in jail.

To remind everyone, I responded to OP's post... I'm trying to explain how this family ended up with a monster. The plain and simple fact is some kids can become unmanageable. I am a seasoned mom, with years of experience (I have four children and I'm no dummy) and I am at a loss as to how to "fix" my son. Part of the problem is definitely my husband, who didn't want to continually rock the boat with disciplne when it was needed the most. So, we are left with, at best, an unsteadied household. It will, however, come down to putting him out of the house eventually.

Thanks for letting me vent a little... I've never spoke out about this in any forum before. I appreciate the opportunity.

MissMannah said...

He's an adult. You can't fix your son, he has to fix himself. And from the sound of it, it sounds like he needs a professional to help him fix himself.

By the way, he will hit you or someone else, the day is coming eventually. Especially because you hit him. I'm not saying he didn't deserve it, but you opened that door.

Sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do for her child is cut him loose, whether he likes it or not.

Phoenix said...

No it's not that easy you see. If you have never loved an abuser it is hard to understand what they put you through. My friend's son is an abuser and he acts just like Christines son. He will be horrid then he will go through the nice phase. It is the same cycle that married people deal with. The abuser acts out then they go through the honey moon phase. And trust me they are wonderful during this phase and it is like they have changed. You think that finally they have realized their ways and they have changed and you are so proud of them. Then they snap and the cycle repeats itself. It is very hard to detach from an abuser if you really have deep commitment to them. You feel bad if you abandon them even though they hurt you. They will sometimes cry and beg you for forgiveness. And you they make you feel bad for them. They suddenly make you feel that you are supposed to help them because they are hurt.

It is a very manipulative horrid way to live. And it hurts very bad all the time. Even when the honeymoon phase is on. You will try to make this phase last as long as you can by not upsetting them. It isn't fair and it sucks. I live with a narcassist abuser. Just last night my friend was beat up by her bf of just 8 months and she is the same woman who has the abusive son. She goes through the cycle with her son all the time that she didn't see the warning signs for her bf. Even though I pointed them out to her becuase I noticed them immediatly.

MissMannah said...

Phoenix, are you addressing me? Because I'm not sure who you're speaking to when you say "it's not that easy."

But yes, I have lived with an abuser. My ex-fiance was physically and emotionally abusive and the best decision I ever made was leaving him and moving halfway across the country to get away. So I know how manipulative they can be. I certainly wasn't trying to over-simplify the situation and it is because of him that whenever I hear about an abusive person, I urge their loved ones to get them into therapy. It has done me a world of good, but unfortunately he never stuck with it.

Phoenix said...

I don't think that I was addressing anoyone in particular about that. Yes therapy doesn't work most times because they feel that nothing is wrong with them. If you didn't make them angry then they wouldn't have to act like that. So much fun. NOT

Chrissy said...

I was thinking the same thing. My son is 9 and has been diagnosed with Asperger's, OCD, and Bipolar. He sounds a lot like this girl except he's not mean and nasty to his friends. He really tries to hold it together at school because he wants to fit in more than anything. Then he gets home and unleashes it all. He's been in therapy since age 2 and has even stayed 2 weeks at a psychiatric hospital 2 different times (when he was suicidal). He's on all kinds of psychiatric meds and we are finally on a good dose after his last hospital stay where I can see real positive results. It is a constant struggle, but I got him help when he was 2. I actually knew by about 13 months old that he was "different." He even knew (he talked VERY early and said, "I just want to be a normal boy" when he was not even 2. I can't imagine waiting so long before getting help, or not getting help at all. Hope is not lost but at this point the girl really needs to want to change before any therapy/meds are going to help. It's best you got out of there OP.

Mary L. said...

The girl could be The Bad Seed, but it sounds like an undiagnosed mental illness is more likely.

This story sounds like my daughter (off her medication), except she is nice to everyone at school and mean to her brother at home.

My daughter does really well with people as long as she gets her medication (anti-anxiety) on time.

We have a child psychologist and a child psychiatrist treating our family. I don't think it's fair for this family to put this burden on a nanny (especially that they couldn't handle it themselves as parents) and are not getting appropriate care. The older son also needs therapy to be able to share his feelings on dealing with his sister.

oh well said...

From what you says it sounds like the whole family should be in therapy. I can't understand why this kid would be so mean to you. She needs to be stood up to, and it does not sound like you are the person to do it.

Laura said...

This story made me absolutely shudder. I'm so sorry you had to experience that, OP. If you can, I would definitely recommend seeing a therapist to talk about your experience. You were abused for nine months and should receive treatment for it.

So should the poor brother. My God, it makes me sick to think of having a sibling like this.

Sounds like this girl has a serious mental disorder that her parents are ignoring and/or denying. I hope it is... I don't want to believe people can be that awful just "because."

a dc nanny said...

I agree with what everyone says. If possible, OP, could you keep in contact with the brother? He sounds like he's getting lost in the mess. My younger brother behaved really badly when he was younger & got all the attention. As long as my grades were decent, I was ignored. I started drinking and doing drugs & still no one noticed. The neglected sibling often tries to get attention by doing well, and, failing that, causing trouble too. I'm not saying this kid is going to be an alcoholic like I turned out to be (14 months sober tho! :) but being neglected by his parents and abused by his sister will harm him. If he has a cell phone, call him, maybe go get coffee with him or see a movie? He needs an ally.