Negative Connection Needs Positive Outcome

I have been with this family for about a year and have actually just renewed my contract. My charges are 3 and 14 months. I love MB and DB although I secretly don't agree with all of their philosophy on parenting (I know I can't be the only nanny who says that). I'm content with the schedule, the requirements, the pay and have an honest, trusting relationship with this family, including aunts, uncles and grandparents. I adore the 14 month old and she's so easy going.

So what's the deal? The 3 year old, my oh my! I don't know what it is and for the past 10 months I've exhausted myself trying to resolve this but I don't like him. I can't say it any more plainly than that. There is something about him and maybe we just don't click but everything about this child annoys the life out of me. Now I've worked with children for several years now, taught preschool and Sunday School. I think any professional in our field would be lying if they said they have never encountered a child they didn't care for or didn't click with. This is different. From how he plays with others, to how he speaks, his attitude, his lack of respect for others around him, his loud outbursts and his obsessive need to be the center of the universe. Even when he's not being loud or rude he never stops talking, it's all day. He just talks so someone, anyone, will listen. I have stopped taking them out a lot in public places because I'm embarrassed by his behavior. Sounds ridiculous but any type of method used to encourage a smooth outing does not work anymore.

He's a very cute and intelligent child but he is just off the wall. He's not physically aggressive with me but by lunchtime, I want to pull my hair out. Every. Last. Strand. Now before anyone thinks I'm an awful person who secretly hates children, let me clarify that I love children, all of them. In fact, when I taught preschool, the children who were the most challenging were usually the ones I held dear. I have talked with others in our field, I've read as much as I can, I've prayed about it.... and I can't change how I feel about this kid. There are moments, rare moments when I think I just adore him.... but then he does something so insane that I just forget the good. I continuously look for the good, praise him for the good. I've tried every tactic for changing and guiding his behavior (outbursts, Mr. Universe attitude, talking back) but nothing works. It does not help that his parents are extremely passive with discipline.

I have moments throughout the week where I don't even want to look at him and I drive home in tears sometimes feeling awful. Regardless of how frustrating my charge is, I am fair and I give hugs and praise and am attentive to him. I have never treated him badly. I don't know if this is just not a good connection or chemistry... Right now the only thing I have been doing that seems to work is to completely ignore the unwanted behavior. Every screech, outburst, disrespectful answer. It tries my patience but when I ignore the behavior, he's lost his audience to perform for. He's well aware of what he's doing. *Note: I am ignoring the bad behavior, not the child. I've tried talking to MB but everything to her seems to be a "phase" a "bad day" or he didn't sleep well, eat well the night before, family was over... there is always an illogical excuse for his repulsive behavior. It is also ten times worse when the parents are around. I honestly don't know how they do it by themselves. They treat his behavior as typical and I have had enough experience and have worked with enough children to know that it is not.

I love MB and DB but I'm at the point where I just say he's had a great day and leave it at that. There's no getting through or coming to an agreement on how to resolve the behavior. An easy way out would be to get another job. The thing is, I'm happy with everything else about this job and the family and in the meantime, it's paying my bills. So my question is, how do I deal? While I'm comfortable here, I am looking to get into the field that my degree dictates once I graduate. My plan is to stay until at least September(ish). How do get though the next 10 to 12 months without losing my sanity and how can I help this child? - Anonymous


Nanny loves what she does said...

you need to sit with the parents and explain your situation. You can't do it alone... You all need to be on the same page. Is he like this with the parents, too. If not, it's not you. 3 year olds go through a separation anxiety stage. And they may call it "terrible Twos" but I really think it should be called terrific twos. I have seen more kids with that stage start around the age of three. They want to ask bigger- more independent. They want their own way. Sit with the parents and come up with a reward system for him. I would go with a sticker chart- something easy he would understand. good Luck.

Sarah NY said...

I had a child, age 5 who was awful. I adored her two siblings and that is what made me stay at the job for as long as I did. I sat down with MB to discuss her daughters behavior and possible modifications or was that bad, very violent and disrespectful. She chose not to listen to me or work with me and I had to leave. Just saying if you choose to tough it out and talk to your MB and DB be prepared for them to ignore you. This family I have has been through 3 nannys since me (less than a year). And she still doesn't see anything wrong with her daughters behavior... some times its just beating your head against the wall and theres nothing you can do sadly...

Dr. Juris said...

He may have some sort of disorder. Before my ADHD was diagnosed and treated, I had the irresistible urge to speak almost all the time. ADHD covers more than just hyperactivity: it covers lack of control over impulses as well.

Sweet Pea said...

He could be bipolor. If you're having a hard time try thinking of how he feels. He is miserable in his own skin. Id load up on empathy for him. Poor guy. Poor guy. Say it with me, OP. Poor guy. Lol...

I have an extremely active four year old son. He never stops talking or moving, ever. However, he doesn't throw fits or scream. Id get this child evauluated and in preschool asap. YOU and HE need a change of pace. It would be wonderful for him.

When I'm stressed, I find walking or cleaning helps. Find a way to release your inner tension on a daily basis.

I think as hard as he is that you really love him. Don't walk. He needs you. God/higher power put you two together for a reason. This is going to teach you something about yourself. : D I truly believe that. Stick it out. You'll be glad you did.

Manhattan Nanny said...

I agree with Dr. Juris. This sounds like more than the result of the parent's lack of discipline. If you approach the parents with a suggestion to have him evaluated, they will probably not react well. Maybe you can approach it by discussing the possible effects of diet on behavior, and suggest getting advice from their ped. If the ped. is made aware of the behavior he/she may suggest an evaluation.
I admire your desire to stick it out and find a solution, but if the stress gets too much to handle, you need to look for another job. He isn't your child, so there is only so much you can do.

oh well said...

"I adore the 14 month old and she's so
easy going". I could be wrong, but I think your problem could be sibling rivalry here. He tries to push you away because he is afraid that you will reject him. Have you tried to discuss with him about
his feelings for his sibling and
to be open to the possibly negative feelings he might have? It is not easy being a toddler around a cute baby.
In any case, no matter what happens (and even if you leave the job), please do not think that what you do does not matter just because you do not see any effects. Kind words will be heard. I know the bad behavior must be hard on you, but I am sure that it must be equally hard for your charge. No child misbehaves without a reason, and we
all want unconditional love.

nannycalifornia said...

As someone speaking from a similar previous experience, I think you need to be more assertive in discussing a discipline plan for your older charge. If mom and dad don't follow through, simply request a lovely reference letter after giving generous notice (since you just renewed your contract). Discipline is one of those issues in which a nanny and her employers should have a united front. Anything less is leading to a blow-up, and you'll end up being the bad guy.

MissMannah said...

I also think he could have a mental or emotional disorder. He sounds very much like me as a child and it horrifies me to think that someone was probably thinking of me the same way you speak of this boy. He's 3, for goodness sake. He doesn't have impulse control and if something is wrong with him, he's never going to naturally have it.

BrooklynMomma said...

First off, I think you're doing the child an awful disservice by telling the parents he's "had a great day" when in fact he didn't. As you probably already know, it simply provides the parents with an additional excuse not to step in and help you. I have a 3 yr old myself and the fact is that the "terrible two's" is a big o'le lie. Its the threes that are terrible and when there's the most work to be done to help the child through this phase of development. Honestly, nothing you pointed out here screams at me that he needs to be evaluated. All 3 yr olds talk allllllllllll the time and are fully convinced that they are the center of the universe. These two things are absolutely normal and developmentally appropriate behaviors. The big catch is that during this time, the parents need to be fully engaged in order to guide the child through and provide support as needed.

Aside from quitting, your other option is to be prepared to do some serious work with this child and his parents. Lying to the parents about how his day went is only making their excuses for his behavior acceptable. And honestly, if his parents were paying enough attention, they would know that their excuses are complete BS. My suggestions: come up with a plan that involves positive reinforcement (a sticker chart for example). Start treating him like a big boy and make distinct differentiation between his sibling. Give him simple chores or responsibilities, pointing out that this is something that big boys do and his sibling is a baby and can't yet do these things. Make him a leader, a role model. It will hopefully distract him from his bad behavior.

On a side note, it really drives me batty when parents aren't willing to get in there and do the hard work. OP, your success with this young boy is dependent on his parents also being on board and be willing to *parent* (as in doing something rather than make excuses). You can only do so much. Good luck!

BrooklynMomma said...

One last thing- I am a firm believer that children need structure and discipline in their environment, as these things help them make sense of their world. Are their household rules (or any rules in general)? If not, engage the parents in creating some and come up with easy to implement consequences for not following the rules. For example, in my home, one rule is we don't hit our siblings. When the rule is broken, the offending child will have their favorite toy taken away and placed on a high shelf where they can see it but not reach it. Again, the parents HAVE to be on board for this to be successful. Please keep us posted on how things go.

dana said...

Excellent advice, BrooklynMomma. I had tried everything with my charge, he's just as difficult as OP's. I had a sit-down with the parents to discuss solutions and we came up with one very close to yours. We implemented a sticker chart (he's 6yo) and allowed him to be fully involved, even helping to make up the chart, design/color it, and when he gets his sticker, let him pick it out from a book what he likes best, then him placing it on the chart. We also as punishment tried many things that didn't work, and the parents had a hard time following through (they work so much the last thing they want to do is a time-out, etc or other "harsh" punishment) so if he misbehaves, one of his favorite toys is taken away, depending on the offense, anywhere from 1-3 days. All this has worked wonders. We also sit the child down and take the 5min to discuss with him what he did wrong, in a calm manner, and let him know what behavior is acceptable.

Good luck to you, OP. I hope you find something that works for you and this family. Your feelings are normal. Continue to keep them hidden as best you can from him; praise him, hug him, as much as possible. Give us an update soon and let us know what happens please!

OP said...

OP here. I never said he has a serious disorder but I've worked with hundreds of children through preschool, Sunday School, tutoring, volunteering and nannying and have worked with special needs children, etc.. What I am seeing from this child is beyond typical behavior. Yes, all 3 year olds exhibit self-centered behavior and talk, however his behavior goes outside of that. It's difficult to articulate it in 1 post. I also agree that it's wrong to just tell the parents he had a good day but it's also not worth wasting my time and energy. When he is with me all day there is consistency, routine and I already use a reward system. I have tried on several occassions to talk to the parents regarding certain behaviors and outbursts and how we can work together to address it and they are either in denial and oblivious or they really truly do not see what I see. I don't believe it's the latter simply because I've witnessed countless times his episodes in front of his parents.

The truth is, I love this kid and am doing the best I can but at the same time the parents aren't on board. We can have a great week and make great progress and by the following Monday it's back to square one. Me just letting it go at the end of the day and telling the parents everything is fine is defeatist on my part, I get that. I'm just tired.

Also, to answer Oh Well, I have considered the sibling rivalry. When I say adore the baby, I do. I've searched myself to make sure there is no favoritism and I honestly do treat them equally. They both get equal amounts of love nd affection from me and equal one on one time. I include special activities with the older one, especially when the baby naps. We've also talked about how he feels, etc.. I also don't know how he is really treated behind closed doors.

It is clear that the parents are unwilling to cooperate and we are not on the same page. Recipe for disaster but I want to help and contribute to this child's well being. As frustrating as it can get for me, I'm fully aware this child is battling with himself as well and I just need to figure out how I can help him and cope with it at the same time.

dana said...

I'm so sorry, OP. You really sound like you are fatigued and battle-worn. If the parents aren't willing to cooperate I don't see an easy way of fixing things here but I must praise your sticktoitiveness.

Out of curiosity, do you think this child, based on your description of how bad things really are, would benefit from medication? How would the parents react to your suggesting the child get checked out by a Dr or child psychologist? It seems you have the experience in working with special needs children so if you're thinking that might be what's going on here, then perhaps the parents would listen.

BrooklynMomma said...

OP, you sound wonderful and I applaud you for doing your best in this situation.

Do you think the parents would be open to reading a book or two on how discipline and/or structure are beneficial? Do you think the parents would make use of a weekend behavior chart so that Mondays aren't start-over days? Maybe a chat about how your current reward system works will help get them on board?

Seriously, you are a saint to put up with the parents. I hope they realize that they will likely end up with two unruly children if they don't figure out a plan of action.

OP said...

You know, I am experienced but I'm also in no position to diagnose a kid. I think he would benefit from at least being seen by someone outside of our little circle so the parents can receive an unbiased vievpoint. This child is an extremely bright, intelligent boy and his parents fully believe he's gifted as in baby genius/ child prodigy. While he is very smart, his development is comparible to typical 3 year olds. I've brought certain habits and behaviors to the parents and they are really passive and dismissive and look at me like I have 5 eyeballs and 3 noses. They are truly wonderful people (and first time parents) so I get where they would not want to rationalize all this. For now I'm relying on lots of coffee and prayer to get me through.

Ashley B. said...

Hi OP, a fellow nanny here - many of my charges have been in this age range. I agree with you that this does not sound like typical behavior.

IMHO, I would have to guess that this child has some sort of social or personality disorder. The difficult thing is that many disorders of this sort cannot be diagnosed until later on in life. It could definitely be ADHD, or even Tourettes...perhaps a combination of the two. Interestingly enough, he sounds exactly like my 16 year old brother who also has displayed similar characteristics from an early age. While he hasn't been definitively diagnosed, it appears that he has borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder.

Regardless of what it is causing this behavior, it is important that this child is evaluated. Not just for your well-being, but for his as well. It sounds like his parents are majorly in denial. The best way I can think of to support your argument is to collect "data", so to speak. This might include taking notes on specific things that he says, or specific behaviors. You are at a disadvantage since you are his nanny and not his teacher, however, I would pull from your past experience and even note comparisons between his behavior and typical behaviors of other similarly aged children.

I would have these things written down on paper to leave with them in case they get angry. Chances are they will end up looking through them later. Stress that you want what is best for him - because of course, you do. So do they, and hopefully they will eventually come to terms with the fact that he will benefit from some sort of help that neither you nor they can give them.

Good luck!

anon poster said...

Everything else is fine, but him, right? You won't able to last 10 or 12 months like that. Not even 3! All the emotional issues that inside you will show physically,headaches, feeling blue, etc. One day you'll have enough and just quit , right on the spot. After you talk to the parents and you don't see any changes, start to look for an other job. And remember: it is not your fault!

Natalie said...

The issues that you are having with your charge sound extremely similar to issues we had with our oldest son around the same time. Our son was eventually diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and ADHD.

Children with ODD are extremely intelligent, loving, and bright, but also very manipulative, have impulse control and anger issues, can have horrendous meltdowns, say terrible things they don't mean or truly understand. They require unerring routine and structure, patience and consistency, and understanding.

I am not talking about children who are just "stubborn" or "need discipline." Children with ODD have a real mental break and need to be taught basic socialization skills, empathy, and cause/effect. It is a real disorder and the sooner the child is evaluated, the parents educated, and everyone trained in how best to handle his set of challenges, the happier everyone will be.

I cannot tell you enough how much I knew then what I know now. Do some research on ODD and if the child is a match, at the very least you can start implementing some of the recommended strategies.

Communication with the parents is key. You can start the dialogue by saying, "DB has been exhibiting XYZ behaviors. I've done some research, and I think ABC reactions are the appropriate responses. What do you think?" and then if they ask where you found the info, you can email them the link to the ODD sites you found.

I commend you for not wanting the "easy" way out and just getting a new family.