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Not enjoying my nanny job


Raezzz
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Hi,

 

I’m hoping for some advice as I’m really at a loss with the child I look after. I started a job about four months ago with a three year old boy and I knew he had a baby sister on the way. The mother is home with us on mat leave and I usually take him out in the mornings and come back in to the house in the afternoons. when we’re back in the house with the mother the problems start with the child. I will get there in the mornings and he’ll tell me to ‘go away’ or ‘get out of my house’ and runs away from me when I try to get him dressed. Even if I just try to play with him he tells me to ‘go away’. He repeatedly kicks and hits me (sometimes in my face) while I try to get him dressed. This has just become really awkward as I’m supposed to be helping the mother out since she has a two week old baby. No matter how firm I am with him he just won’t listen when we’re around his mother. As soon as I’m out the door with him he listens to me and stops fussing. i have experience with this in other Nanny jobs where children are complete angels with the Nanny and change as soon as the parent is there but it usually gets easier after a few weeks. He woke up from his nap one day and when I asked him if he was ready to get up, he screamed at the top of his lungs ‘get out’ and took LEGO from the bed and threw several pieces at me one-by-one. His mum did intervene and took him out of the room to talk to him about how that is not acceptable. I know he wouldn’t behave like this if I was on my own with him. All I have to do is threaten once with discipline (us leaving the park etc.) and he will comply. His mother doesn’t believe in time-outs which I think work wonders especially when children are repeatedly breaking rules. In previous jobs I would hardly ever have to discipline as the kids would just listen as soon as I gave them a warning, therefore I would barely end up using the naughty step or any other form of time-outs.

 

There’s nothing to warn this child about as there’s no consequences. The mother is a believer in gentle discipline which I think is great but it doesn’t work with him. The only discipline I’ve seen her offer was her leaving the room when he’s misbehaving but then he just has a tantrum and follows her, leaving me feeling helpless while he clings to his mother. I’m usually quite good with discipline but am finding it hard to do that around the mother as it’s a little awkward. If she had a set of rules laid out and consequences for breaking them, I would feel more comfortable dishing out discipline. Since the naughty behaviour is usually directed at me (e.g. throwing things at me or speaking rudely to me) I don’t want to seem like I’m taking things personally and I think I will if I’m disciplining him for it. It’s funny as the first couple of weeks with him were OK. I could tell he was ‘spirited’ and more tantrum prone than the average kid but it’s gotten worse. I think once he realised I wasn’t going anywhere he turned. I understand that having new Nanny and new sister in the house is strange for him however by what his mother says, his behaviour was the same beforehand. When we are alone together he doesn’t have bad as I’m good at controlling tantrums. When they start I get down to his level and speak firmly about the consequences of his actions. I also acknowledge his feelings and explains why his behaviour is wrong. I wouldn’t say he’s a complete delight when we’re alone either, he’ll often say rude things like ‘I don’t want to play with you.’ I try to play with him and do things he likes such as chasing, splashing in puddles, hide and seek which works some of the time but the mood changes as soon as he’s not getting his way. I do loads of fun things like bring him to museums, zoos, nice parks but he is extremely miserable a lot of the time. I actually went to bed thinking of all the horrible things he said to me yesterday and woke up thinking about him in the morning. He’ll say really weird things like ‘I’m going to cut you’ or ‘you can’t be in this house’ which just sort of make me feel depleted if I’m honest. I’m losing my enthusiasm to try bond with him. I have spoken to his mother and we were thinking of some strategies for discipline so hopefully it changes. Honestly this child is making me feel miserable and I can’t believe I’m even admitting that.

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Yep - he's pushing and pushing, which is par for the course for a three year old. This is fine, as long as there's something firm for him to push against, but his mother doesn't supply the necessary boundaries and therefore you can't either. This leaves him feeling insecure, and he'll continue to push. He's also in all likelihood feeling excluded because his mother's focused on the new baby and doesn't have as much room for him as she has in the past; this is going to come to the fore when you're there with the mum, and perhaps he equates you being there with this sister whose birth has dethroned him.

 

There's no way you're going to win this one, as you're coming up against a dysfunctional family system over which you have no control. I can understand why you don't want to admit that a three year old can make your life miserable, but let yourself know that he is just expressing the emotions for the whole family - and that it's the parenting which is the problem, not the kid himself.

 

If I were you I'd cut my losses and find another job.

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Yep - he's pushing and pushing, which is par for the course for a three year old. This is fine, as long as there's something firm for him to push against, but his mother doesn't supply the necessary boundaries and therefore you can't either. This leaves him feeling insecure, and he'll continue to push. He's also in all likelihood feeling excluded because his mother's focused on the new baby and doesn't have as much room for him as she has in the past; this is going to come to the fore when you're there with the mum, and perhaps he equates you being there with this sister whose birth has dethroned him.

 

There's no way you're going to win this one, as you're coming up against a dysfunctional family system over which you have no control. I can understand why you don't want to admit that a three year old can make your life miserable, but let yourself know that he is just expressing the emotions for the whole family - and that it's the parenting which is the problem, not the kid himself.

 

If I were you I'd cut my losses and find another job.

 

Yes, 3 year olds push push push. They are big ole button pushers. And he was “ dethroned and replaced” in his eyes . Then mom’s boundary style is “ oh little Johnny you stop that..... “ in other words please parent yourself because I am ineffectual.

 

You won’t win this one.

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If it helps, what he's going through is akin to seeing an ex partner who you're still in love with, being with a new partner. It's the same feeling of being replaced, but he can't articulate or rationalise that and is acting out in other ways. Also three year olds have extremely acute intuition and will know instinctively what to do to get mum's attention - negative in this case, but attention nevertheless.

 

They are probably going to have major problems with this kid in the future if they don't adopt a different approach, but don't let that be your problem.

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I know a couple who has a 8 year old who is very rude thanks to lack of parenting boundaries and she always have to be the centre of attention or she'll throw things or take things from people's hands. The mother is now pregnant with a baby and is very worried how she'll feel when the baby is born. He might be acting out because of the newborn being now the centre of attention and the mother not enforcing boundaries.

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My advice is get out of there before something bad happens and you get blamed for it.

Realize that this 3 year old is very much a reflection of the adults in the house and you aren't going to step in and fix that.

You are obviously good at what you do, but take those skills to a saner environment. You have taken on high risk clients and it's a risk never worth taking.

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Gentle discipline done right is not meant to be passive or "gentle" in the sense of no boundaries -this mother is using it as an excuse to not have proper structure and boundaries. And no I don't do all "gentle discipline" (meaning, yes I do time outs-I even give myself time outs LOL) and I have known of situations where the nanny certainly can do time outs even if the parents don't - and sure of course the parents should be clear on "no spanking/no physical discipline" -the extreme stuff -but honestly when I send my child to school I support the teacher's discipline methods as much as possible because kids have to get used to different styles of discipline including with teachers/instructors/nannies. Yes if that is her rule "no time outs" honestly I don't know if I'd survive with a job like that.

 

Also -this child needs to treat you with respect -relative to his age/capabilities/communication skills. He cannot throw things at you for example. So you are entitled to give consequences (again within reason -not saying you can spank him!) if a child intentionally hurts you. When my son was three, if he threw something I'd hold his hands together with light pressure and say "no throw" in a firm and calm tone. Rinse repeat. For example. And then we'd stop playing/leave the park, whatever was necessary to show him that the behavior was unacceptable and to avoid any safety risks.

 

I was a nanny in the early 1980s -live in for one summer. 2 year old and 5 year old. 2 year old was awesome. 5 year old - he said things to me that were unacceptable -that I was his servant/slave, I couldn't use "his bathroom" and obnoxious things like that. She mostly backed me up and also I had free rein in disciplinary techniques (meaning time out/removal of privileges etc). I had other issues with her as a boss but no I would not have survived if she had to step in at those times because I was not allowed to show the child I would not tolerate that kind of disrespect. I wouldn't have lasted longer than that summer (I was 17 years old so that was a factor too -I didn't know how to deal with a boss like her). Just sharing to say I relate.

 

Find a situation where you discuss in advance how you approach discipline, make sure you match up and I'd look for a situation where the parents respect you and give you sufficient decision making authority so that you can actually do your job. She's not doing gentle discipline -she's relying on that label like a crutch so she can let him run wild. I agree with Seraphim and the others and I'm sorry you are in this situation!

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Gentle discipline done right is not meant to be passive or "gentle" in the sense of no boundaries -this mother is using it as an excuse to not have proper structure and boundaries. And no I don't do all "gentle discipline" (meaning, yes I do time outs-I even give myself time outs LOL) and I have known of situations where the nanny certainly can do time outs even if the parents don't - and sure of course the parents should be clear on "no spanking/no physical discipline" -the extreme stuff -but honestly when I send my child to school I support the teacher's discipline methods as much as possible because kids have to get used to different styles of discipline including with teachers/instructors/nannies. Yes if that is her rule "no time outs" honestly I don't know if I'd survive with a job like that.

 

Also -this child needs to treat you with respect -relative to his age/capabilities/communication skills. He cannot throw things at you for example. So you are entitled to give consequences (again within reason -not saying you can spank him!) if a child intentionally hurts you. When my son was three, if he threw something I'd hold his hands together with light pressure and say "no throw" in a firm and calm tone. Rinse repeat. For example. And then we'd stop playing/leave the park, whatever was necessary to show him that the behavior was unacceptable and to avoid any safety risks.

 

I was a nanny in the early 1980s -live in for one summer. 2 year old and 5 year old. 2 year old was awesome. 5 year old - he said things to me that were unacceptable -that I was his servant/slave, I couldn't use "his bathroom" and obnoxious things like that. She mostly backed me up and also I had free rein in disciplinary techniques (meaning time out/removal of privileges etc). I had other issues with her as a boss but no I would not have survived if she had to step in at those times because I was not allowed to show the child I would not tolerate that kind of disrespect. I wouldn't have lasted longer than that summer (I was 17 years old so that was a factor too -I didn't know how to deal with a boss like her). Just sharing to say I relate.

 

Find a situation where you discuss in advance how you approach discipline, make sure you match up and I'd look for a situation where the parents respect you and give you sufficient decision making authority so that you can actually do your job. She's not doing gentle discipline -she's relying on that label like a crutch so she can let him run wild. I agree with Seraphim and the others and I'm sorry you are in this situation!

I agree. Time outs work well. A 3 year old entered my daycare 5 months ago she would have screaming epic tantrums because she couldn’t watch Dora. Her mom even admitted she had used TV as an evening babysitter. Little one learned pretty quick her tantrums were going to get her nowhere. If one is kind but firm and consistent most children respond and start to respect people and boundaries. Now all I have to do is mention timeout and she stops unacceptable behaviour.

 

But if mom is not on board forget it.

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Bringing home a new sibling is beyond stressful for the new kid. It's like your husband just brought home a new woman, and says she's now going to live with us. I get this is tough for the mom with a new baby, but she needs to take some time with her eldest, while you watch the newborn, even for an hour or two, and they can play a game together, or just cuddle. His behavior is normal and reactive to what is going on. Timeouts don't work on every kid. In this scenario, ask the mom if they can swap, so you have time caring for the baby, while she has QT with her son, then go do awesome stuff on the other times, set up play dates with other mommy groups, art lessons, museum trips with passes from the library. Indoor playground or play places. Etc. This kid needs time to get to know you.

 

Don't take it personally...the kid has his whole life turned upside down.

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there are a lot of things going on here.

1. 2 wk old baby. Kid is probably jealous of "mommy's attention" being 100% on new baby and not on him anymore. Futhermore she's pushing him to somebody else (a stranger) instead of his own mom to spend time with. I can understand why he's acting like this.

2. Also, it's obvious he's doing all he can to FORCE his mom to pay attention to him. This only works if Mom is within earshot. Also, it only happens when she's "available" (aka in the vicinity).

3. It is very important to note that when the child is "threatened" - aka something he covets or desires is threatened to be removed - he behaves.

 

So.. given all this 3 - we can come up with a few things to help the situation.

a. maybe babysitting should only occur at your place instead of theirs - have them drop off the kid at a neutral or your spot where mom will not be (i'm sure she'll appreciate the time away from kid to focus on new baby). It is the MOM'S OBLIGATION and responsibility to make it clear to the child that mom is NOT available for the next 2-4 hrs and that you are helping and going to spend time with him "at the zoo" (something he covets/desires to calm him down about the outting) and make it sound like a reward, an adventure, a FUN thing to look forward to for him. That is MOM's responsibility to frame it so the kid behaves.

 

b. you need to be very consistent in "threatening" to remove something he desires when he misbehaves. IN your narrative when you explain he hits you or throws toys at your face, you never mentioned that you made any announcements or alerts that "fun time" or "those toys" will be removed.. or even a 'time out'. which leads to C...

 

c. it needs to be clear to Mom that if they want to hire you - you will be using YOUR disciplinary tecchniques while the child is with you - not theirs. You can outline to them what those are for their approval or to find another nanny (things like "time outs", etc.)

 

I think those 3 things should make a difference for now and then can be modified, tweaked, added to as needed. But that's a good foundational start.

LASTLY - yo are NOT obligated to take and keep this job if it's not working for you. So the ultimate "threat" - you can always say "no thank you" and walk out yourself...

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I agree with thisrichey -when I nannied/babysat it was much better when mom left. And when I had a mother's helper (my niece!) part time over two summers when he was 4 and 5 same thing -even if I was in another room it was too distracting to hear him and of course he could come and find me. She did do something once I didn't approve of so much but to me my hiring her meant she needed leeway so I said nothing in light of the larger goals//purpose.

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i wll also say that as the kid starts to realize this isn't changing - that he has a sibling and mom needs to take care of that sibling and that a nanny is his new reality - he will simmer down and work with his new reality. it may take a while, but as long as Mom doesn't give in and always come to the tantrum throwing baby (even to discipline him) - it should go away.

 

how often mom and nanny DON'T stay consistent with the plan and reinforce this new reality on the child - the longer his tantrums will continue.

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He's jealous that the baby gets all that alone time with Mom.

 

Consider swapping children while in her company--you look after baby while she dresses the boy. Then the 'discipline' you both offer him is a REWARD instead of punishment. HE gets special time with Mom after behaving well during your outing.

 

When you return the child, switch roles again. Mom takes special alone time with son while you tend to baby.

 

If the two of you will remain consistent with this, he'll learn that acting out makes Mom go away to the baby until he cooperates.

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