Spurning the Nanny Raises Questions

I am the mom of a 26-month-old boy. We employ a part-time nanny for 3.5 days a week that we have been very happy with, and our son is also taken care of by his grandparents 1.5 days/week. Our nanny is generally punctual, pleasant to be around, and seems to enjoy spending time with my son. She is not afraid to report when he has had a bad day or when things do not go well, and he is clean and usually seems to be enjoying himself when we come home. I also think she is happy with the working arrangement.

In the mornings my son is often a little upset when she arrives and wants to nurse before I leave. He then is content to sit down with the nanny and read a book while I grab my things and leave (my husband has typically left at this point). When his grandparents come over, he is very excited to see them and waves me out the door. This morning before the nanny arrived, we were talking about his grandparents and then I reminded him, "Today, Nanny X is coming to take care of you." At which point my son said very clearly, "I don't like Nanny X." We were running a bit late this morning and the nanny was due to arrive any minute so I did not push him for any additional details, as I didn't really want to be discussing this right when she arrived, but of course I found this concerning.

I will try to get more information from my son, but I am curious as to how to approach the situation. He has not dramatically changed his behavior at separation or anything like that so I don't have any evidence or strong suspicion that something in particular occurred which upset him. I had felt very positively about the nanny and am not sure that this is really cause for ending our relationship, but of course I would very much prefer my son to feel positively towards his caregiver. However, I also worry that any caregiver is going to come up on the short end of the stick in comparison with grandparents that are positively enthralled with their grandchild, and spend extensive amounts of time planning activities and outings. I also wonder how to make sure of his feelings without repeatedly asking him if he likes the nanny, which seems like it might be setting him up to say no. He has fairly good language skills for a 26-month-old but communication about feelings is a bit beyond him! I am interested in any thoughts about how to approach this situation. - A Concerned Mom


Dr. Juris said...

The main thing is to ask non-leading questions. I'd start off by asking him what he did with the nanny today. Then ask him what he thought about it. Make sure to use "why" a lot, and don't assign him feelings, but rather, allow him to express himself (you'd be amazed how well toddlers can, if you give them a chance).

If you think you won't get very much out of him, ask him to draw you a picture of what he did with his nanny and have him explain it to you. It may clarify some things.

blurp said...

I'd borrow a nanny cam.

Nay The Nanny said...

I agree with the PP, you can never be too careful...also, I should mention that as a nanny/babysitter this does happen. I babysit every weekend for a little girl (older than your son) who I adore. We have an awesome time together, she cracks me up and is very bright. However, many times I am greeted with a mini tantrum because she associates me with Mommy and Daddy leaving. She does not do this with her grandmom but in reality, by bedtime we are giggling and having a good old time and she wants me to snuggle with her. I just want you to keep that possibility in mind. :)

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

Great advice Dr. Juris.

Anyway, Concerned Mom...I do agree that your child most definitely prefers to be w/the Grandparents more. This may not fare well for your nanny and I wouldn't assume she was a bad nanny just because of this.

However, I would ask him after the nanny leaves what him and his nanny did and how much fun he had. Try to figure out if he compares her to his Grandparents and if he does, then he probably just prefers them over her.

Honestly though, if he doesn't like being w/his nanny and continues to voice his negative opinion of her, I would find someone else for him. Perhaps they just are not a good match which may or may not be the fault of the nanny here.

Personally, I could not leave my child w/someone that he was unhappy w/.

CleaverJune said...

It may simply be that nanny has more structure than grandma and grandpa or you and your husband. Then again maybe not. I found in a past working situation that grandma would come over and all rules would go out the window. Grandma NEVER said no... To anything. It's hard to compare to a grandma that doesn't stick to healthy foods and no naps times and no having to clean up after yourself, if that is the direction I follow from the parents.
That may not be the same situation you have at all, but it could be a possibility.

It could also be something as simple as your little one thinnking that if nanny isn't there, the child gets more time with mommy.

It IS important that you find out why he doesn't want to be with nanny anymore though. I applaud you for listening to your child and do hope you investigate a little further. It may be something purely innocent as I stated above, but it's always best to find the answer... Just in case.

I hope the situation turns out to be something minor. :)

linnea said...

When I read that, I wondered if "I don't like Nanny X" could simply mean "I don't want you go". Possible?

Bethany said...

How does he seem when you return?

Is he happy with nanny?

I echo the others that it could be something innocent like he hates when nanny comes because that's when you leave and he misses you. Or that grandparents are more lenient with him. Or a combination of the two.

I agree you should talk to him see what you find out and go from there.

workingmom said...

The reason could be as simple as something like the nanny isn't as "huggy/kissy" with your son as you and the grandparents are, and your son is a child who really values that contact. This does not mean the nanny isn't caring and nurturing; just that your son doesn't view her as snuggly as family.

? ?

However, because your son is so young, I am a second vote for a nanny cam.

Birminghamsitter said...

My charge, K, is 4 years old and I am K's first nanny. I work only part time in the mornings. I have been noticing the same behavior, but not lately. The first couple months K was also sad to see mom leaving, but then as the morning goes by, K is a happy child and we play really well. One thing is that K is the only child in the family, like me, and I can understand that behavior. I knew that would take time for K to trust me not as an intruder but as someone who has been given the care and safety and love when mom is not at home. I personally do not know if mother has any concerns because until now she hasn't told me anything negative. It wasn't not just long ago that K started to greet me instead of ignoring me, to be nicer instead of kicking or yelling. K can get upset at me when I don´t permit time to watch TV or movies the whole morning, or when I say that not bad language can be used. K is not a child of hugs and kisses, but when I am getting there or leaving and if I ask if I can have a hug, I get it. I know it is just a matter of time for K to learn to trust in me but I know that K likes better Mom and grandparents. As for today, K said that I am the big sister, and gave me a hug. That compliment meant a lot for me. I personally agree with Dr. Juris.

HobokeNanny said...

Umm...he's a kid. He knows that when nanny X comes, mom leaves. I have amazing relationships with every kid I watch, but over a family member, who wants a nanny? Why is this "alarming?"

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

I wanted to add that it is very important to assess your son's mood when you get home. If he seems in good spirits, then probably there is nothing wrong w/your nanny. However, if he still seems unhappy every time you walk through the door, I would let her go due to poor chemistry, etc.

I wouldn't put up a nanny-cam because that is being deceptive and if your nanny finds out inadvertently that you were secretly filming her, she may not be too happy about it.

melissa said...

I agree with CleaverJune- although my charge is always thrilled to see me, whenever her grandparents have been in town she is a bit of a terror to deal with sometimes. Her grandma watches her if I'm on vacation, and it's always a rough start when I get back the next week. There are definitely not the same rules when I'm gone. I tend to be a bit strict, and that's no fun when you've had no rules the week before! I'm just saying, as long as your child is otherwise happy, I wouldn't worry. If his behavior starts to change, then I'd be concerned.

MissMannah said...

I agree with others that it is likely a case of grandparents spoiling him a bit and nanny being more strict. But that's the way it should be! If you see no other red flags, I'd say don't worry about it and just keep asking your son to describe his day...not only to put your mind at ease but to practice his verbal skills. If you find yourself getting really worried, install a nanny cam, but only if you discussed it with the nanny during the interview. If you have never spoken of nanny cams, she may see it as a huge invasion of privacy.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

One thing I notice that my families see as a huge factor in keeping me on as their nanny is the fact that when they walk through the door, they love how their child is in good spirits and seems content. When I use them as references, they always use this line to show other families why they are so happy w/me.

I have had many children cry and fuss when their parents walk out the door, but within minutes they are laughing, playing and care-free. I practice re-direction w/them and feel it is very effective.

Siriusly James said...

If your son's 26 months old, he's just living in the now, and "I don't like Nanny X" means "I don't like Nanny X RIGHT NOW!" Because you're leaving when she arrives... Even small children, I think, are aware that a nanny is not family in the same way that grandparents are.
I, too, recommend you ask him "What did you do with Nanny X today?" and the likes. No leading questions, only open ones.
No nanny cam. It's disrespectful, distrusting and just plain rude. If you're so insecure around your nanny that you feel you need a nanny cam, that nanny shouldn't be taking care of your kids.

Oh, and why don't you have a little chat with Nanny X about it? Maybe she can clarify, maybe he has said something to her, maybe this and that.

nanny S said...

I wonder if your son's limited language is interfering with what he's trying to express. I'm a nanny, but I know that coming from kids, "I don't like X" can mean a lot of things. "I don't like Johnny" usually just means, my charge doesn't want to go play with the neighbor. "I don't like tomatoes" means "I don't want to eat tomatoes today."

I'll also add that this happened with my previous charge. When I first started, she protested my presence for a solid month. I didn't know what I was doing wrong, and considered leaving. It was only later that her parents told me that between her last nanny and me, they told her that MB might stay at home with her, so I can understand her disappointment. In her case, "I don't like you" meant, "I wish my mom was here instead" From time to time she would tell me she didn't like her last nanny. I asked MB about it, wondering if it was something to be concerned about because the old nanny still babysat and MB actually laughed and said she loved her. It turned out that "I don't like Old Nanny" meant that Old Nanny was stricter with her than me or her mom were, but she did indeed like her.

These are just examples, but with everything, go with your gut. DEFINITELY do not ignore it. I like Dr. Juris' advice too about asking your son more about his day in non-leading ways.

anon nanny said...

I am a nanny and you have no idea how many times kids have said that they don't like me or don't want me there.
They associate me with mom leaving. I would have been more worried if the child had asked the mom to leave and asked me to stay forever.

The suggestion on the first post is great and you should ask your child what he did with nanny. Strict nannies are usually hated on but children need discipline and as long as there's no physical punishments, there's nothing wrong with a nanny who is firm with a child.

Anonymous said...

your kid is "26 months" old? your kid is 2. 2. And if they are old enough to "ask" to nurse, they should not be. Your kid wants you home. No reason to think the nanny is at fault.