FRUSTRATED CHILDREN – PART 1
(One Nanny to another, overheard by Author)
“He’s just begun to figure out that I’m hired help – me – the person who raised him from birth while his mom and dad worked day and night in their law firm. He’s getting fresh always answering back when I try to correct him. He’s already started referring to me as ‘the babysitter’ to his friends at school and on play dates. Slowly I am feeling my authority questioned and his mom doesn’t back me up – I think out of guilt – so the little Prince is beginning to assert his authority. It extends to the cleaner and any service people…he’s just plain arrogant.”
On Monday mornings when the parental weekend honeymoon ends a Nanny’s mere arrival can be a source of angst/sadness for children and parents alike. Hence when Nanny attempts to enforce the rules of the household she may find herself engaged in a power struggle. Children who feel helpless or angry about their parents’ absence can easily project their anger onto their Nanny in an effort to gain control. A child’s sense of loss may be expressed in acts of defiance, disrespect, temper tantrums, rages and depression. Parents may find themselves compensating their absence and their child’s poor behavior with indulgences such as lax rules at the weekends, toys, junk food and a general lack of discipline. In reality children need clear strong boundaries to feel safe. So a child’s attempts to resist a Nanny’s authority can actually, if successful, create greater tension for the child.
Secondly, how children observe their parents and their parents’ social peers treating Nannies in general, contributes to their behavior. For example as soon as some people found out that I was a Nanny, my social status dropped faster than a FICO score at a bankruptcy hearing. I actually felt disrespected, sometimes I felt invisible. Many times it would take the form of an adult completely ignoring my presence, while saying hello to my charge.
I have also witnessed a Nanny’s authority being undermined by parents in front of the children. For example, if a general household rule is: no TV in the afternoon, or, no candy during the day, this rule should be enforced by both the parents and the Nanny. It is confusing and disrespectful for a parent to ignore the rules that they set up because they didn’t want the bother of a tantrum. What the child learns from this is that with extra whining it will always get its own way. Most importantly the child in question will come to understand that the Nanny has no real authority in the home. In other words the child realizes that it has the authority. And this knowledge can drive a child crazy.
How can parents and Nannies work together on this issue?