Serious Temper Problem

Alright fellow nannies (and parents), I need some serious advice. I have over five years experience working with children on a professional level, so temperamental children and handling "fits" is nothing new to me. However, my current charge is really starting to push me over the edge. I have been with this family for about eight months, and care for three children (fifteen months, five, and twelve). As far as the older children go, I have absolutely zero issues and deeply enjoying spending time with them. And although I deeply care for the toddler as well, he has the worst temper of any child I have ever met. This has been consistent for the past eight months, and hasn't slowed down in the slightest. From what I can tell, he seems to be the exact same way with his parents, so I know it isn't me. His mom comments to me all the time how "he has a temper" or she "doesn't know what to do about all of these fits". Throughout the day, despite all of my efforts, he just can't seem to be pleased. He spends most of his day screaming or banging his head on hard surfaces. I always make sure his needs are met, so I strongly don't think he is tired or hungry. However, he is SUPER difficult to put down for nap, so maybe he actually is overtired? I know toddlers have fits often, but I *really* feel like this guy is a bit out of hand, and don't know how much longer I can handle it. What efforts can I make to reduce these tantrums and temperamental behavior for both the parents and myself? I think MB solution currently is just to give in to his every whim At least that is how it appears to me. He is allowed to play in the kitchen cabinets (I'm not talking pots and pans, I'm talking putting his mouth on chemicals and other dangerous things). When I'm with him, I don't allow this behavior, so maybe he is even more temperamental with me because of the inconsistency?


Siriusly_James said...

I want to apologise if I tell you something you already know, as you said you have five years experience - but you didn't say if it was this age group (0-3) which is my "area of expertise" ;)

Basics first: Sleep. A fifteen months old child needs 12-14 hours of sleep per day - usually 10-12 hours at night (uninterrupted!! If he's awake during the night, he will be tired during the day and it doesn't help to nap. He needs a good night's sleep) and 2-3 hours by day (one short and one longer or one longer nap).

Food. What does he eat? Everything that's put in such a small child should be healthy. He has no extra room for sweets, cakes etc. Be on the watch for artificial flavouring, artificial sugar, artificial anything in anything he eats. Also, make sure he has fat and protein with every meal - fruit should not be served alone as the fruit sugars work just the same way as plain sugar in such a small body. Same with white bread = works as sugar. Fruit juice is a no go - it's all the fruit sugars and none of the fibres.

Other than that... Routines, routine, routines. Try to do the same things every day at the same time.

It does NOT sound good at all that MB just lets him get away with anything. That will ONLY make his behaviour worse. You will have to talk with MB about how you each react when he has a tantrum so he gets the same response every time.

You don't say what your approach to his tantrums is?
I'll say stop trying to please him. Meet his needs, and then take charge. Complete charge. Right now you say he's allowed to do whatever he wants, and that NEVER works. He needs to know who the adults are and that they are in charge, always.

When he has a tantrum, allow it to happen. Don't try to avoid the tantrums, because he WILL meet bumps on his way and he NEEDS to learn how to handle them.
Don't allow him to hurt himself or others. Try to make eye contact (I know it's hard when he's screaming and kicking). Say his name over and over, even though he's not listening, like: "D, stop screaming. D, stop screaming. D, stop screaming." Until he stops. Don't ever show him that it rattles you or that you're frustrated. Try to remain calm. That will (hopefully) show him that it's not dangerous to be angry, that it's OKAY to be angry, but it's NOT OKAY to hurt yourself (or others) and that you can handle him.

I wish you all the best!

freespiritedm said...

Thanks so much for the advice, Siriusly_James, and taking the time to comment. :-)

I wrote this post about two weeks ago or so after FINALLY get BB down for a much needed nap, and was having an extremely rough day. Fortunately, he seems to be doing a lot better this week. Up until the last week or so, he has never been one for sleeping through the night. MB has told me many times that he wakes up 3-4 times during the night still, and she can't wait for the day when she is able to finally get some uninterrupted rest. I guess we both assumed as long as he was getting some naps in during the day, the night sleep wasn't such a big deal. However, he is FINALLY at long last starting to sleep through the night, and I am seeing a MAJOR change in behavior. The fits are so much easier to deal with, and don't occur even half as often.

I think MB always letting his "get his way" is unfortunately something I have little to no control over. DB and I share a similar mind set when it comes to discipline, and although I know she means well, MB has a very hard time being firm with all of her children. When she is on week long work trips, leaving only DB and myself to care for the children, I see major positive improvement in all of their behavior. Just as an example, you mentioned the sweet treats. Despite the fact that I cook very healthy and nutritious foods for the children, they are all about sugar, and MB doesn't have a huge problem with this. It's not uncommon for her to come home and hand BB a sucker or some other candy to keep him quiet.

I promise I LOVE my nanny family, and am not trying to insinuate my MB is a terrible mother. I just needed to vent a little there. :-)

justaneastcoastnanny said...

15 months is strange for naps. The average 15 month old needs 2.5 hours of nap time a day. However that is average meaning some need a little more some need a little less. Some do the 2.5 in one session others still have a morning and afternoon nap.
While children need naps I don't believe in forcing sleep or turning sleep time into a battle give them all the ingredients for sleep and let it go.
If he is giving up his nap you may try instituting a quiet/rest time dim the lights,cuddle and read stories listen to soft music you get the idea.

justaneastcoastnanny said...

As for tantrums there is a variety of way to handle them. Tantrums happen for many reasons, you can't nor should you handle them the same way. Is he tired. Is he hungry. Is he overstimulated. Is he bored. Is he frustrated. Is he having difficulty communicating with you. At his age sometimes distraction/ redirection works best. Example you cannot play with the bottles under the sink. Bottles are for cleaning you can play with x and show him how much fun x is. Also those chemicals should be locked up completely out of reach.
You can try ignoring the fit let him be somewhere safe where you can see him and go about having fun.
Sometimes an angry toddler just needs a hug to calm them down. Show them understanding, Being a leader is not all my way or the highway it involves flexibility and sensitivity. Task with mob and db and you must be willing to compromise in some areas and be flexible is a little sugar from mom every now and again is not the end of the world. Also try as we may with the exceptions of dangers to the children we care for we as nannies can only suggest it's up to mom and dad to implement the changes longterm.

justaneastcoastnanny said...

Last of all mention to pedi and have him evaluated. I do not mean to be the armchair clinician, but I have experienced so similiar behaviors in children I've cared for that were diagnosed with autism.
Good luck to you. It'll be tough but I'm sure you can manage.

NVMommovedtoTX said...

I would second East coast nanny in getting him seen by his doctor. The other reason may be that he has an undiagnosed physical ailment. Many kids don't/can't express what is hurting, esp. if they have been living with it for awhile. He could have an ear problem (the head banging made me think of this), or some jaw/tooth related pain.

Sensory issues can also be a cause of this level of tantrums. He can be screened for sensory processing issues by a qualified Occupational Therapist. There is a lot online about this. You could print out the symptoms and compare notes with MB to see if it's worth pursuing. Good luck. I know it's hard on you, but also on his little nervous system, too. Hope you find a solution soon.