Tuesday

10 Nanny Interview Questions About Discipline Techniques

GUEST COLUMNSubmitted by Debbie Denard                       nanny.net
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One of the most important aspects of being in charge of children has to do with the philosophies of discipline. There are various schools of thought on what’s the most effective method of disciplining children, and when interviewing nannies for a position with your family you need to make sure that you and any potential candidates agree upon the disciplinary tactics to be used with the children. Asking the right questions during the interview can help you determine which nanny candidates will fit with your vision.
  1. Do you make a distinction between punishment and discipline? – For some, this may be a matter of semantics, but for others, it can make a difference in how misdeeds are dealt with. It’s best to ensure that you and the candidates are on the same page when it comes to understanding what is meant by punishment and discipline.
  2. Do you know what style of disciplinarian you are? – Disciplinarians usually fall into one of three categories: authoritarian, permissive, or authoritative. Each has its pros and cons. You will also want to know if your style of discipline is one that your nanny candidate embraces; otherwise it can be stressful, particularly on the nanny, if the styles do not mix.
  3. How do you handle misbehavior? – During the interview, give examples of behaviors you know your children are most likely to exhibit. It is good to have an understanding of how potential caregivers will respond to your child’s inappropriate behavior.
  4. How do you feel about corporal punishment? Spanking is frowned upon in many circles and even outlawed in some places, but for some parents it remains a viable and sometimes preferred method of discipline. Nannies, however, should never engage in corporal punishment. Parents should make this absolutely clear with all nanny candidates.
  5. Can you tell me about a time when a child made you very angry? – There may be a time when your child will drive the nanny to distraction. Kids have a way of pushing the limits as far as they will go, and sometimes it seems like they just want to know what a very angry adult looks like. It’s at these times that a good nanny will have a way to disrupt the bad behavior in her arsenal of tools, as well as a way to keep her own anger in check.
  6. How have you dealt with a biter? – Toddlers will often bite other kids and/or those who are in charge of them. This can take a person by surprise if they are not expecting it, and it can be upsetting when someone else’s child is the victim. Handling the situation effectively and diplomatically is going to be imperative.
  7. Can you tell me about a time when you had to discipline a child for a serious transgression? – Examples of past performance will help you determine how future issues will most likely be handled.
  8. How do you encourage positive behavior? – Discipline has as much to do with positive behavior as it does negative actions, if not more. Learning how your nanny applicants plan to reinforce positive behavior is critical, because that is a part of your child’s development that you definitely want enhanced.
  9. What do you do to get kids to mind you? – There is always the chance that the children are going to manipulate situations and play adults against each other. A nanny must command the respect of a child in order for her to be effective in her position. How the nanny achieves this is vital in creating a relationship with the child that is mutually respectful and beneficial.
  10. Have you attended any positive discipline classes or read such books? – A candidate who has gone above and beyond by attending classes or educating themselves on positive discipline techniques is certainly worth serious consideration, especially if everything else is in good order.
It is not easy to turn the discipline of your children over to someone else. Your nanny needs to be of the same mindset as you when it comes to how your children are going to be reared. Children need to see a united front between their authority figures so they will know that they cannot pit one against the other. Discussing discipline with your nanny and confirming that you are both in agreement will go a long way in creating a positive environment for your kids, and a pleasant working relationship between you and your nanny.

30 comments:

Bethany said...

Good post. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get parents to discuss discipline, but I find that many of the parents I've worked for have the " Bobby and Cindy can do whatever they please approach to paenting."

They also don't see the importance of nanny and parent being on the same page concerning discipline.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

I agree w/you Bethany.

I have worked w/plenty of families who are so lax in parenting that whatever I do looks like I am the "Wicked Witch of the East" and kids resent me.

I NEVER have even considered using corporal punishment w/my charges. However, I also do not want to be seen as someone for the kids to walk all over so if they misbehave, I enforce consequences. 2-minute time-outs usually work w/younger kids (toddlers, pre-schoolers, etc.) yet w/older kids it can be more challenging. I usually threaten to tell the parents and say the parents will take away their video game time, etc.

Rhiannon said...

If parents don't bring up discipline in an interview, I do. It's amazing how many parents seem taken aback by this. As if they never expect it to be an issue! I had one mom tell me she felt it was important to her that there is no discipline. That her child should feel as though he had a say in matters and in what the rules were. He was not even one! She thought that time outs for older kids was extreme. I've actually had other parents say this as well. But when I ask what they think is appropriate, they don't have an answer.

MissMannah said...

Rhiannon, I agree with that mom. The child should have a say in matters of discipline--it is his life after all. And when she said "no discipline" she was probably mixing up discipline with punishment. I don't know what you mean by "extreme" when it comes to time-outs for older kids, but I think they are worthless.

Lyn said...

Mannah, I would love to know more details about how you correct a child. I have never heard anyone talk about it the way you do and Im curious to know more details for how you do this and what made you look at childrens discipline so differently.

Not-BBQ said...

I've never once put my four year old on a time out or punished him. Not once. I focus on self-discipline & self-correction. If he does something that we don't want him to do, I ask him questions about what he did. I talk to him about what he did & I ask if he thinks he should do xyz instead? Because xyz makes everyone happier & its just so much nicer! He is so well behaved & can regulate his emotions & make good decisions. One example of how we do this is, when he picks something up at a store that he can not have, we don't take it from him & chastise him for it. We allow him to decide to put it back. He decides to put it back & we continue on. Also say its time to leave the park, we don't drag him out of there crying. We tell him that when he is ready to stop crying, we can go to the car & come back again. We never force decisions upon him, he makes them. As a result, he doesn't look to us for everything. He can make good decisions regularly & also indepdendently. I see no point in making a child feel like crap because they haven't yet learned how to behave properly. I also find it so much more productive to teach a child self correction in leiu of having them look externally for answers, having decisions made for them. You do that and a child will eventually look at peers for answers bc they don't know how to look internally for answers. See: Parenting With Love & Logic

Melanie Raye Castor said...

I very rarely use time outs.
Instead, my philosophy is "personal responsibility and legitimate consequences".

For example, if a child scribbles on a wall with crayon, they aren't sent to time out while I clean up. Instead, I hand the child a cloth (with a tiny bit of cleaning product on it), and supervise while they clean up the mess themselves. My supervision ensures that the child is not in any danger while using the cleaning product, and I supervise thorough hand-washing afterwards.

Another example is if one child bites another child. The biter is given a wet washcloth, and has to go say sorry to the child they bit, and place the wet washcloth on the bitten skin, and the biter is also encouraged to hug and comfort the child they bit (as long as this is okay with the injured child). I supervise the entire time, to ensure that everything is okay and the situation does not escalate again. I feel that this teaches children to show compassion and consideration for other people's feelings, and to understand the effects that their actions have on others.

The reason for my philosophy is that I believe that in the real world, you make a mess, you clean it up. No-one else is going to do it for you (or at least,they shouldn't be). And if you hurt someone (either physically or emotionally) it is your responsibility to repair the relationship by saying sorry and doing things to make the situation right again.

I believe that my strategy teaches the children I care for to take responsibility for their actions,and accept the subsequent consequences, as well as developing children who are kind and mindful of other people.

notBBQ said...

I disagree with this so much. See "notBBQ" below.

NotBBQ said...

Agreed!! ;-)

Melanie Raye Castor said...

Not-BBQ, I have just re-read your comment, and I just have to say I like your "asking questions" technique, too. I think I will try to incorporate that more into my behaviour management strategy, too.

I love getting good ideas from other nannies on this site!

Melanie Raye Castor said...

By no means do I think that my philosophy is perfect, nor is it set in stone. I am still in my first year as a nanny, and I am learning so much so quickly. I am sure that the more I learn and experience, the more I will find what works and what is best for the children I am caring for.
I welcome insight, feedback, wisdom and advice from other nannies, as I know that this is one of the ways that I will learn and grow.

Joseph-Rays-Momma said...

Thank you so much!! I like getting him to make the decision, based on his internal compass. Amazingly, this has worked very well for four years, with our son & with countless children that I've cared for, over the past twenty years. My oldest is 18 & she makes very good decisions. Have you read Parenting With Love & Logic?

Have fun with it. Thanks again, Melanie Raye. Our son is Joseph Ray!!! :-)

Katie said...

I find with some parents you have to give specific examples to ge to their preferred method of discipline.

Ask them how'd they'd like you to respond if their child hits, bites, colors, on the wall, takes an item from the store etc

Katie said...

I like you philosophy BBQ, and I agree with Mannah that to a point children should have a say in the rules and discipline.

You want to to raise thinking, compassionate people, that make good choices on their own.

The flip side is also in the real adult world we have bosses, and we aren't always the boss.

Very often we don't get to make the rules, or have the world stop when we don't like something.

Sometimes you just have to. That's an important lesson as well.

There is always a balance. Always a give in take.

Lyn said...

I agree it is all about finding that right balance for the particular child. As all children are different I don't believe in any one particular style of discipline being better than the rest.

Melanie, I love your approach on the subject! I do the same thing with my charges. However I give time outs in addition depending on the "offense".

I love learning more about how other Nannies deal with the day-to-day issues!

NotBBQ said...

My child isn't the boss. He respects the rules of society. And he never makes the rules! He is very much the child. We are not his "friend." Just last week, he colored on the wall outside of our house. At four, I was really surprised bc he had never done such a thing. He was really embarassed & I acted very shocked by it all, saying things like,"We neverrrr write on walls. Dad, what do we write on? We like to write on paper, only." I gave him a wet rag & boy did he try to clean the crayon off the wall!!! He felt regret & I feel confident he won't want to do that again.

NotBBQ said...

Thank you, Katie!

Bethany said...

I have had children help come up with rules in a classroom setting. I find they're amazingly good at coming up with appropriate behavior and consequenses. I've also found that they are more likely to stick to the rules when they feel they have a say.

I agree there is no one right way of discipline. Children are all so different and respond in different ways.

Bethany said...

I like your approach BBQ & Melanie.

I've actually used your technique before, Melanie. I think it's great with kids especially in the 3 to 7 year old range.

It's so important for them to learn the "why" behinf the "no: insteead of just hearing "no" all the time

It's so important to teach children to think for themselves, and learn to recognize right and wrong for themselves.

Positive Guidance? said...

The majority of parents today do not want to discipline or punish their children, they want you to positively guide them. Twenty years ago when I got my child development degree the class that discussed discipline was called Positive Guidance for young children. We were told we should never tell children no, we should give an simple verbal explanation of our expectations for a given situation and guide the child verbally to the behavior you expect. Sounds good, but it's hard a Hell! No time outs were allowed in the nationally accredited preschool where I did my internship (20 years ago). So it's been nothing new to me, I still ponder if such polite and considerate child rearing is helpful once the child is an adult. Adults hear no all the time, how do those children feel when they face the real world? I think parents for the most part muddle through the disclipline part until they are faced with a real issue. As experienced nannies many of us have cared or children that needed a whole lot more than positive guidance, but we are not their parents. It can be really frustrating as a nanny to tolerate rude and nasty behavior from children and not be able to do more than say "I don't like that," while the child keeps on with the behavior. Most parents would rather you distract negative behavior with fun activity than take away a privelidge and send child to their room. Sure makes me wonder.

Melanie Raye Castor said...

@Joseph-Ray's Momma- I have not yet read Parenting with Love and Logic, but I would very much like to! It sounds like it would be right up my alley. I am always looking at new ways of doing things, as I aim to consistently better myself in my profession.

@Katie- good tip on finding out the parents' preferred method of discipline! I did find that challenging in my first few interviews!

@Lyn, thanks so much for your encouragement! Just for clarification, if you are using a time-out alongside another consequence, which do you do first? (ie put them in time out or having them clean up their mess,for example). And I agree about different children needing different styles of discipline (rather than just one style being the "best").

@Bethany, thanks so much for your feedback, too- I agree about the age-range you specified, I have noticed that it works best with kids of those ages, too. And I liked your phrasing "the why behind the no"...that's exactly how I feel.

Lyn said...

Melanie,
It depends really. For example: If my charge bites their sibling I have them apologize and give a "sorry", a hug and a band aid (to reaffirm that biting hurts and is the same as any other "ouchie")and then I will walk them into the dining room away from the action, get down on their level and reiterate what happened, what else could have been done (asking for a turn with the toy, etc)and then tell them I want them to sit here and cool off for a few minutes.
However if it's something like coloring on a wall I would just have them clean up the mess right away (along side myself of course). I only use both if the problem is an act of aggression towards another child, a parent, caretaker, etc.

Melanie Raye Castor said...

@Lyn- that sounds really good! Especially asking what else could have been done- I think I need to incorporate that element more.
Thanks for your advice!
You sound like a fantastic nanny!

Bethany said...

@Lyn
How long have you been in childcare?

You sound amazing.

You're one of my favorite nanny posters here.

You give great advice, and never come across as condescending or judgmental for differing opinions,and you seem to be willing to learn different techniques.
You also seem like a genuine kind and caring person.

@ Melanie Off topic, but I have always wanted to visit NEw Zealand. I've heard it's lovely.

Melanie Raye Castor said...

@Bethany- New Zealand is beautiful. I love it so much. I really recommend that you visit someday :)

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Disciplining someone else's child is my least favorite part of working as a Nanny. It is such a grey area to me. I try to be firm, but loving as well. I find the older the child, the harder it is to get them to respect me.

Lyn said...

Bethany, thank you for your kind words! It's so great to have an outlet ike this one to get support in ways non nannies dont really understand.

I have been a Nanny for 5 years this upcoming November. I'm 22 and started working for my first family full time right after finishing high school at 17 (I finished a year ahead).

nycmom said...

Just My Two Cents,

I completely agree that it is much harder to navigate discipline with older kids and our nanny. I just make sure I stick to my basic rules of always supporting our nanny in front of the kids and reinforcing she is in charge when she is there. I also don't expect or want her to get into drawn out battles with a stubborn almost-teenager. Nor do I want to put her in that position because it can't be easy. So our rule is she tells the kids the rules once, then the second time she tells them she will write down the problem for me and I will address it. My kids know I will double the consequence if they aren't listening to our nanny.

I think it is kind of a given that positive methods are the best first approach. But they simply do not work for all kids. In the examples above of a child wanting a toy from a store or not wanting to leave a place, each time the child behaved well ultimately so problem averted. That just isn't reality in all situations for all kids. What about the child who simply refuses to put the toy back and you are at a store with 3 kids, including escalating noise and disruption to other people? I can't imagine simply staying there indefinitely and having an ongoing discussion with a 2-4yo about "why" he/she should make the right choice. Sometimes you just have to take the toy away, pick your child up and respect that other patrons also want to be in public without being disrupted.

Kids can be quite different and respond to very different things. Certainly my own 3 are each very different from the other. But no way do I subscribe to the idea that you never assume the authoritative role or enforce an action/consequence. In real life, choices have consequences. Kids do need to learn and be given the opportunity to make choices. If they continue to make a bad choice, they need to learn there is a negative consequence.

MissMannah said...

Lyn, I follow the RIE philosophy as much as I can. Some of it I don't agree with but for the most part I do. Much of what other posters on here have said I agree with, like logical consequences to actions. However, one big thing I don't do is force a child to apologize. For one thing, I hate it when someone apologizes to me and I know they don't mean it. For another, the child has no idea what the words "I'm sorry" means. Instead, if the child is older and capable of understanding, I will ask him if he thinks he should apologize to the other child and if he says no, I will accept his choice. I don't think caregivers should ever force our own choices on children. If a child has been hurt, I will ALWAYS personally apologize to him because he deserves it. ie: "I'm sorry that happened or I'm sorry you got hurt." I believe modelling the apology in front of the child is much more effective than forcing him to say it.

ECETeacher said...

I teach in a pre-k classroom, and I always ask the kids if they feel they are making a good choices. 9 times out of 10, they say no, and self-correct their behavior. Rarely do I have to ask them directly to stop doing x,y,z. It's amazing how children react with choices vs. always being told what to do.