Comical Chaos

opinion 1
Hi everyone! I have a situation that I am not exactly sure how to deal with - Here it goes: I am 23 and have years of babysitting (I know I know its completely different from nannying). I started babysitting when i was 13 so I have 10 years of experience working with children as well as an AAS in early childhood education and my mom teaches hearing babies and their caregivers sign language (baby talk class) which I have been an assistant teacher for about 5 years. I love children and I chose to make it into a career. Since I have only babysitting experience I chose to become a nanny for a mothers helper position (yes the mother views me as a nanny) Just so I can start off my nanny career with a bit of guidance (or so i thought).

I have been with family "M" for a little over a year as an after school nanny for 3 children now ages 3, 5, and 7 and I love these children to death, it is an amazing job working for them. I tend to think of them sometimes as my little brothers and sisters (the mom even thinks of me as her niece she said so) The husband is always away on business and their relatives live out of state/out of country.

Lately the morning helper/nanny and I have a few major concerns. The mom isnt strict around them! The mom holds onto nannies like they are family so there is no way we will get fired and I know this for a fact (due to the former nanny who has been there since the beginning but quit due to breaking her him and her older age telling me that most nannies quit).

My concerns are: L who is 7 has no free time she switched from public school to go to a french academy and is in first grade and has an hour of homework every night, has ccd, daisy, dance, piano, and acting class during the week and sometimes when Im with her if she is stressed i send her to her room for time out/down time. She bites and hits me and doesnt go to time out so I have to threaten to cancel all her play dates. She doesnt have time to run around or unwind (watch tv before bed) and chews on everything (should I be concerned?)

S who is 3 but does not act her age at all does not nap (refuses to nap) and goes to bed at 9:00 with the other children every night and A: who is 5 who has all of a sudden started rebelling (like within the last 3 weeks) - they have an occasional sitter who he is always telling me she is boring because she doesn't come up with fun ideas, he even tells me I am boring because I dont come up with fun ideas (I tell him to come up with something fun because all my ideas are "boring to him" but not to his sisters. And when I am not fun he runs up to mommy and or daddy (if hes home) to tell them I am not playing with him (while im sitting on the floor setting up dominos like how he wanted me to). Around easter he hid my car keys in an easter egg.

The other night I gave the kids choices about what they want for dinner and he told me chicken ka bob (shish ka bob with chicken they had in the fridge) so I warmed it up for him and got it off the stick. Mommy was up stairs resting and he decided he didnt like it (which is fine but he tried it cold and said he loved it) so he threw the chicken across the room! I told him I will make him a hot dog if he cleans it up because its unacceptable and he ran upstairs to mommy to tell him I wouldnt give him a plate to the point where mom called me to tell me to get him his plate of food (i then told her what happened when they fell asleep - and she said that he was sneaky and didnt tell her about it).

The other day I let the 2 older child go out in the back yard to play while I was helping S get her coat on I walked outside and walked near the swings and A threw a brick IN MY DIRECTION! I immediately grabbed his arm for time out (cause S is my little shadow heaven forbid he hit her with a brick) and he kicked and scream and kicked the time out chair outside so i sent him to time out inside and he kicked a hole through the door so mommy had a word with him and his reasoning that she believed was A was trying to get a spider web (a what?) A few times I had to yell at all the kids for not listening in front of mom and quickly apologized and mom said dont worry they dont listen to me either (but ur the mom? - they should listen to you?)

Now that we have the current morning nanny the oldest is out of night time pull ups and sleeps in her own bed (like within the past 3 months) something that I have tried and begged the mom to allow but she said its too much work in case they had an accident. The younger 2 are still in night time pull ups and sleep in the same bed together! and S who is 3 is finally potty trained.

L had a play date yesterday and A was chasing L and her friend with a brick again! after i got rid of it the last time and a baseball bat when i took the brick away! Also during dinner the kids decide to run around and stand around which bothered me and the morning nanny too - so last night i told the kids if you get up for any reason (other then to get Katchup- cause I want L to be slightly more independent, or a napkin etc) I am taking your dinner plate away and your done for the night - am I being too strict? Cause it worked?!

What would you do? I love this position! The pay is Amazing and I have grown attached to the kids I just don't know how to adapt cause I feel slightly intimidated punishing the children right in front of the mom (maybe im too soft?)


nynanny said...

"Around easter he hid my car keys in an easter egg"?? LMAO!

You definitely have your hands full. And no, you're not being too soft, that's why they're running you into the ground.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

I think the general trend here is that you are inexperienced. I don't mean that in a bad way (because I think everyone has been in your position). Even I had a ton of babysitting experience and when I got my first nanny job I was in shock at home much more I had to learn, mostly relating to the parents.

A few things... first, don't bribe the children "if you pick up the chicken I will make you a hot dog." He threw it, he needs to pick it up regardless. With things like that, at first you might have to physically guide him to do it but the key is follow through! If you tell him to pick it up, make sure he does it!

Next, don't threaten the oldest with taking away her playdate. My guess is that you have never actually canceled one. Am I right? Instead, stick to a smaller punishment that fits the crime and that is a bit easier for you- like taking away a preferred toy or a privilege. If you are fine with canceling the playdates, that's fine but from what you said, it just sounds like an empty threat which will stop working once she realizes you aren't serious.

Also, don't compare yourself to the morning nanny. You probably don't have the experience she has. Worry about your strengths and improve in the areas that you can.

Concerning the mealtimes... I don't think I would threaten to take their food away. Children need to eat. I am also guessing the parents might not be ok with that. Instead, I would be sure to reinforce the good behavior (wow you guys are sitting so nicely at the table today!). And then one time when they do a great job, give them a surprise special treat afterward. Don't bribe them with the treat though. If the behavior continues, use a different form of punishment, again taking away a preferred toy, for example or a time out if you see fit.

The most important thing here is not to let the children get to you. My guess is that the little boy loves getting you riled up. Stay calm and be firm, not mean. Try not to yell because any attention children get, they like, even negative. And lastly, point out their good behavior. Best of luck!

workingMom said...

I agree with Strawberry, these kids do not see you as an authority figure; they see you as young, inexperienced, and ineffective. You are the "substitute teacher" we all ignored in high school. And throwing bricks is a serious and dangerous issue.

From ages 11 - 18 I babysat everybody and their brother - often - so after HS I thought I was ready for a live-in position and it would be a piece of cake. I worked for an alcoholic single mom, taking care of her 9 yr old spawn of Satan and his nicer, younger brother.

Spawn was horrible, throwing food, mouthing off (and generally being contrary to any proposed activity), hitting both his brother and I, and spying on me when I was getting dressed. Nothing in my bag of tricks worked in modifying his behavior. He did not have any actual learning or developmental disabilities (ADD, ADHD, FAS, etc.). The kid was just a psychopath and wanted to make life miserable for all of us.

I lasted 4 months.

(Years later, I read in the paper that upon gaining his driver's license, Spawn killed his mother and himself in a spectacular car crash.)

I think you might want to start searching for a better job, with better kids, and leave this one to someone with more experience. I would be very surprised if you made any headway with these kids, as they sound like they have already decided the aren't going to listen to you. Ever.

This is not a reflection on YOU; it is an assessment on the dynamics of the relationship. And you deserve a better job.

MariaMom&Nanny said...

I don't think it's too strict of you to expect them to sit at the dinner table and eat their dinner and not wander about & play during meal times, and not to get up without permission.

However I wouldn;t say if you play I'll take of your food. Not because kids need to eat ( kids will eat they won't starve) but you are encouraging them to misbehave. If they don't want to sit and eat one day they'll just start playing because they know you'll let them off if you do.

I also wouldn't get into the trap of I'll make you a new meal if you don't like this one. You were already accomodating by giving him the choice he made the choice and that's it. Again a child will not starve .

If they throw and make a mess they can have a time out, clean it up, & sit right back down at table

Set clear expectations, warnings if you will about behavior and always follow through do not just threaten.

Adopt a firm tone to your voice ( this isn't screaming but means absolute business)

Mandy98824 said...

hi all op here-
I gave a. a choice on what he wanted for dinner- he threw it and I demanded he clean it up (and eat his dinner-the table and floor where clean although I wouldnt force him to eat the pieces that fell onto the floor) instead he ran up to mb and told her I wouldnt allow him to eat so she called my cell and demand i make him a hot dog and hung up on me before I even had a chance to explain so I walked him through on cleaning it up and he was being rude so I sent him into time out for a 2 minutes while his hot dog was being made.

I also don't mean your done for the night as in I'll throw your dinner away if you play. I just dont want A to take a bite and run through the house. OR lay underneath the table and kick his sisters or the table. L also tends to walk around with a fruit cup spilling all of the stickyness.
MB gave me the idea of if your not going to eat thats it until the morning so when your done your done and if your not going to eat but play your done.

Also it is not an open threat to cancel L playdates- I left her home with MB before when i took the other kids to the park before because she bit me. Usually what happens if I am Not there and she acts up I send her to her room for time out (although I dont agree with her room as time out cause its more of a play time) she usually screams no and its kinda hard to carry her or force her to go so I call up mb and have mb talk to her and usually mb tells me to tell her that if shes not in their by the time i count to 5 she wont do that days fun activity and if shes not in her room by the time i count to 30 shes canceling all her extracurricular activities (so far we canceled 5 activities)

I talk to these kids in a serious demanding/ firm voice when they dont listen and sometimes they just laugh at me so I end up yelling Once in a blue moon and apolgize to mb- mb told me dont worry they dont listen to me either- I understand.

baxter- as to why i stay... I <3 these kids its just gotten a bit challenging the past month for some strange reason. Not to mention the pay is amazing (600 dollars for 30-35 hour weeks) and I am supporting a disabled husband. I can't afford to be unemployed atm either. It took me 3 months to find this position too.

UmassSlytherin said...

If you feel and behave as if you are angry or stressed out, kids will eat you alive. Learn how to deal with crowd control and command the children's respect. Strict is good, but stressed is not. Strict and stressed make a bad combination. You seem very inexperienced and overwhelmed.

As far as a 3 year old napping, my child did not nap past the age of 3. So get over that one!

Also, you have to let the parents make decisions for their children to some extent and get over feeling as if you know best. Even if you did know best, which is doubtful at best, they are not your kids. If the mother wants them to sleep in a pull up, let her. All kids develop at their own rate. Get over the fact that you are a childcare provider and not a parent.

As far as the brick throwing and hiding your keys, the parents should be more involved in disciplining these kids. That behavior is unacceptable for any child. They need clear consequences, and things taken away from them. There must be a method to this madness: but above all, don't lose your cool. As I said, if you do, which I can tell you have, they will eat you alive and you will never be good at this.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

OP, thanks for answering some of the questions. What worries me is that you have to call in MB and rely on her so much for discipline. I think that is part of the problem. The children aren't listening to you so you often have to have mom do the discipline. No wonder the children don't respect you. You are showing them how little authority you have. If I were you, I would try my best to pretend MB is not there and handle the discipline yourself.

I definitely know what you mean about mealtimes about the kids walking around. That is one of my pet peeves. I am a little confused about your technique about taking the food away but in my mind you are giving the children too much power. You are basically giving them the option of eating or not eating. To me, there is one option- sit at the table and eat with everyone else! I came from a "may I be excused from the table" family so I may be a little biased but there is no reason that the children can't sit down for a few minutes at the table. The only other thing I can think of it make sitting at the table more fun. It seems to me that you are stressed out but try to be fun at the table. Talk about their day, make up stories, be silly, etc. They seem to need a lot of encouragement to complete these kind of tasks but if you put in the effort and remain firm, it will be better for you in the long run.

oh well said...

The brick is a safety issue and requires swift action. If he hurts someone he will be in trouble, and so will his mother. If you tell the mom that you are concerned about
her kids' safety, I think she might listen to you a bit more than if you say that you are concerned about the children's manners.
Throwing food on the floor is completely unacceptable, and should be cleaned up before any other discussion takes place. I like your idea of taking the dinner plate away and I am glad that it worked!
I don't think there is much you can do about pullups, unless you can convince the kids in some way, so I would not worry about it.

Logical Skeptic said...

A child "chewing on everything" at the age of 7 has serious stress and anxiety issues that need to be addressed immediately. It sounds like she needs to drop at least two or more of the activities she's in and be given lots more free time that does NOT include TV (and she needs those playdates for stress relief too, so don't take them away!). Seriously, this is a big deal. Talk to MB about it right away.

It's very common for 3-year-olds to start resisting their nap, so your charge is indeed "acting her age". The problem is that they still need it even if they think they don't, so it's a good idea to try to get this one to get into bed (she doesn't have to lie down or try to sleep) and look at books or listen to soft music or some other quiet activity. Sometimes they'll conk out without realizing it, but either way they'll get some much-needed downtime!

I agree with Strawberry about not relying on the MB so much. These NOT your siblings, these are your charges and this is a JOB. You need to be stricter!

I also agree that you need to lay down the law that when they are eating, they must stay at the table until they're finished. For small children that means 15-20 minutes, max. Maybe closer to half an hour for the 7-year-old, but don't push your luck. No getting up from the table and coming back, and NO wandering around with food. It's messy AND dangerous. Also, keep in mind that kids do go through periods where they're not growing, so they really don't need a lot of food (also kids these days snack ALL THE TIME and they might not want a big dinner). If children throw food or wander around during a meal, it means that they're not hungry, so taking the food away and declaring dinner over is exactly the right thing to do. If they were just screwing around and the really DID want their food, they'll never make that mistake again.

Strawberry, it won't hurt them at all to go hungry for an evening to learn that lesson. Yes, "kids need to eat", but often adults overestimate how much a small child needs, especially one that's not in a growth spurt, and believe me, no one is underfeeding these children.

Logical Skeptic said...

oops, almost forgot. The brick thing is completely unacceptable and anyone caught throwing them or swinging baseball bats around needs to be removed from play and punished swiftly and memorably. Whatever that is for your family, do it.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

@ Logical Skeptic... I definitely see your point and I think you sort of mentioned what I was trying to say. I think that by taking the food away, it really isn't a punishment if they don't want to eat in the first place. Instead, teach the child to say he/she is not hungry. The five and seven year olds can certainly do that. However, If they are wandering around with the food, clearly they want to eat it so sitting at the table is the issue here and taking the food away may teach them that "next time if they want to eat then I'd better sit down" but then you might have to deal with the "I'm hungry!" before bedtime and I bet these kids will complain to MB that nanny didn't let them eat. The heart of the matter is that the child won't sit/listen to your direction... a common trend this nanny is having.

I just think it is better to have the child sit for meals, whether they are eating or not. Don't they have family meals? Everyone can sit, talk, laugh, etc together until everyone is done. Maybe I been jaded by children who aren't as resistant to sitting, idk. Certainly these children have to sit at school and wait for others and I'm sure they sit for lunch at school too. This is a problem with authority, not food. So my advice is to leave the food out of it. Sit down, eat or don't eat, when everyone's done, then you can get up. Simple as that.

Logical Skeptic said...

Strawberry, I agree with you about dinnertime being a social time as well. That's an important thing to teach kids along with being able to express (politely!) "I'm not hungry".

Taking food away shouldn't be a punishment, exactly. Hungry kids will eat purposefully. It's more that if kids are forced to sit at the table for too long (and as I said, before they're school age, 20 minutes is about all you can hope for), they get bored and start fiddling with the food they aren't interested in. Thus, a modification to your suggestion: sit down, behave, eat or don't eat, and when everyone's done, then you can get up. BUT if you start messing with your food, I'll take it away because you're clearly not hungry. And if it's been a reasonable amount of time, then you can get up.

It might be worth keeping that 7-year-old at the table for a few more minutes, because she's older, and she needs some more quality nanny time to help her calm down after that horrible schedule they've got her on.

As for the "I'm hungry" nonsense before bed, if OP takes away food at dinner, everyone but the 3-year-old can be clearly told, "you were messing with your food, and that tells me you aren't hungry, so I took it away. Next time, eat properly and I won't remove it". They'll get it right away. The 3-year-old should be given a small, boring snack, like crackers and a VERY small glass of milk (she's still in pull-ups, so accidents aren't a problem), and reminded then AND at the next meal to eat more at dinner to avoid the bedtime munchies. And I think OP said that food removal was MB's idea, so if the kids complain, she ought to be able to tell MB she was just doing as MB suggested.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

@ Logical Skeptic, very good points all around. I think my main thing was that taking the food away was not going to solve the big problem at heart, the lack of compliance on the part of the children. If they are getting up because they aren't hungry, there are other ways to communicate that. If they are getting up just because they don't feel like sitting, well too bad. It really depends on exactly WHY they are getting up but I think you are right.

Belle Vierge said...

Everyone's advice is spot-on, so I'm just going to throw in my two cents for creating conversation at dinner. What I do with my three kids (aged 6, 10, and 13) is Highs & Lows. At dinner each night, we go around the table and share the best parts of our day and the worst parts. The only rules are: 1) Everyone has to give at least one High 2) Highs must be equal to or greater than lows. 3) No one may leave the table until everyone has shared.

Sometimes this creates conversation without me doing anything. The kids just tell long stories for Highs/Lows. Other times I ask extra questions based on their Highs/Lows. "Oh, gym was your High? What did you do? School was your Low? Was it class, your friends, did you have another problem with your teacher?"

The added benefit is finding out in a roundabout way if there are issues going on in the kids' lives that need extra discussion with their parents.

Lauren said...

AT my work, they do "3 things" at dinner. It goes around the table, one person says what the 3 things are for that day...
Your favorite part of school/work today
You favorite movie
Best snack you had at home
Best snack you had at a friend's house
favorite color, movie, etc.

Then everyone goes around and says their 3 things. This leads to much giggling at times, and added conversations, many of the times.

Nanny J said...

I hate parents who don't enforce nap time. Sure, there are plenty of kids that won't sleep during nap time but nap time isn't just for the kids!

You as a provider need a bit of down time, too. I will not work a position where I'm not allowed some child-free time during the day. Even the position I am at now, only 5 hours a day, the kids have time that is 'quiet'. The boy, P, is 3 and doesn't nap, but will lay quietly or read a book for the allotted time.

His sister is 1 and definitely naps, which is nice.

I would say the best thing you can do as a new nanny is to NOT let these kids become such an attachment. It creates an unhealthy need for them, and since they aren't your family there is a good chance you will eventually not see them anymore. I'm fortunate enough to be friends with most of my previous bosses, but that isn't always the case.

UmassSlytherin said...

"I will not work a position where I'm not allowed some child-free time during the day."

This comment made me laugh. You sound like some of the young kids who work for me. They can't put in a half-day shift without having a break. Kids these days are so freaking lazy.

Dr. Juris said...

Something I hadn't read but perhaps I missed is that you desperately need to sit down with the mother and discuss discipline with her and your issues with authority when she counteracts whatever you're doing. You need to develop a plan of action that you can put into place where if the child comes running to her, she defers to your judgment.

Also, I know many aren't going to agree with this, but as a side note, if I EVER had thrown a brick or swung a baseball bat at someone when I was a child, my mother/sitter/whoever was in charge would have beaten my ass...and rightly so. I'm not sure what discipline you've considered, but it's going to have to be harsh to convey the message that this is NOT OKAY.

Logical Skeptic said...

Yes, yes, yes, Dr. Juris!

UMass, even half-day shift workers are entitled to a break BY LAW. And anyone working full-time is entitled to either a one-hour lunch break and or one 30-minute break and two 15-minute breaks during their workday. Childcare is no different from any other job in that respect, and people who care for children should not be exploited or exempt from basic labor regulations. Any industrial psychologist worth his or her degree will tell you that a normal human working an 8-hour shift needs several short breaks during the day to perform optimally, regardless of the nature of the work.

Mstk3000 said...

House frumps these days are just so freaking useless!

Nanny J said...

Yeah, I don't accept positions where children under the age of 6 won't at least lay in one spot for 1-2 hours.

Glad I don't work for you, in that case, since I despise being considered a 'young kid'. I also have more child related experience than a lot of the people I work for, they never seem to complain and in fact often agree that naps are important for their kids.

UmassSlytherin said...

A 6 year old who is in first grade does not need two hours to go in a room and be quiet. But that is just my opinion. Of course all kids need down time and quiet time. Sure. But a nanny who will not accept a position where there is not at least a one to two hour nap time? I would not include her in my second round of interviews if she said that.

Regarding state laws and breaks: if you work full time in childcare, you usually get a half hour break for a full day shift, as well as a 15 minute short break. But that often does not happen in many lines of work. In private nanny care you have to expect to forego your break time frequently. That is just my opinion.

We all want to keep our sanity. Psychologists will probably tell you that financial harships are detrimental to your mental health too: but we still must deal with them. They will tell you a lot of things. But we can't always get what we want. We all know (if we have worked in childcare) that we must sometimes work through our break. Especially private childcare in which you are the only one on.

I would not want a nanny who gets stressed out if she cannot have "alone time" during a 6 hour shift. Is that exploiting her?

When I was referring to lazy workers, I meant young employees in general. I do not employ a nanny. I am a supervisor at a licensed school-aged program.

Phoenix said...

well these kids are assholes. And their mother is to blame. God they sounds as bad as my friends kids. Who don't listen at all. One actually has real life autism. He is 7 and can only speak a few words and he waves and still uses a binkie. So yeah, real life autism. He is a darling little boy but the other two she has are monsters on steroids. They pick on the autistic one and they don't sleep in their beds at all. I was over one night and the 5 year old threw an un-opened soda at the 6 year old and then they opened it sprayed it all over the living room then decided to drink off the walls and this was all at 3 in the morning. My friend just casually said "they are always like this."

WTF! They are out of control. YOu are going to have a very hard road with them and it you are the only one enforcing rules then its going to be a battle of wills. To be real the only way you are going to see major improvements is if you get the paretns to actually do their job.

Your day with these kids is stressufl and proves one of my points that little kids do have the ability to lie and they know they are doing it. Some kids are assholes and the parents are to blame

UmassSlytherin said...

"Well, these kids are assholes."

lmfao :) I love it.

Rosegirl said...

Ah, Phoenix's stories are so very entertaining :)

Z said...

This is a very common problem for nannies when the mom is at home. Children have a hard time understanding that you have authority, all they know is that mom is the real boss and she is in the next room. Don't beat yourself up, this has happened to a lot of nannies! This is one of the reasons I don't accept jobs where the parents work at home. Unless MB gets a job outside of the house, or can go somewhere else while you are there, the kids are going to continue to make your life hard. You cannot maintain a position of authority around kids if their most authoritative parent is at home.