When a charge becomes a tyrant

By Jacalyn S Burke,
Perhaps you helped raise him from birth and he has morphed from a loving child into a despot. Or maybe you’re a new nanny and the honeymoon period is over. Most nannies will face working with an angry, or even violent child during their career.
For the majority of children there is a good reason behind a negative shift in behavior:
  • a change in the home: a parent goes back to work, parents separate, parent absent from the home for long periods of time, family has moved home, a new baby is born, the family pet dies, etc.
  • a change of routine: attending a new school, going to pre-k, new caregivers in the home, new childcare schedule
  • a change in health: a reaction to a shot, the development of a new illness or condition, a developmental or milestone phase
  • a change in eating or sleeping: a child might be going through a stage of picky eating or they might be dropping their afternoon or morning nap
If our charge has suffered one of the above, caregivers will want to step up their game and offer more compassion and support. Clearly, what the child is going through is distressing to him or her and for us to try to enforce strict rules or demand total obedience would be a mistake.
Occasionally small children simply figure out who the principle people are in a family unit. They might go from being an infant happy to see us in the morning to a surly toddler, who yells and tries to kick us when we enter the home. What’s going on here? The toddler sees us – the nanny – as the person who takes him away from his parents – or the one who allows his parent to leave the home. It’s normal for toddlers and young children to project their anger onto a caregiver. Instinctively the child sees us as a safe person – someone to push against.
Kids 4-10
Older children who act up might simply be testing boundaries of authority.  They might be picking up disrespectful traits from their schoolyard peers. If a child is consistently disrespectful and causes you stress in your workplace you should speak directly to the parents about it. If the parents dismiss your concerns as a child’s tiredness or just normal behavior – you may not find your authority supported in the home, and that can be a tough, even intolerable situation.
Tips for managing negative behavior
  • Stay professional and never take a child’s behavior personally
  • Look for new ways to reach the child, take an extra interest in a new hobby or activity
  • Have compassion and take a step back and look for reasons why a child is acting up
  • Food dictates Mood. If a child’s moodiness is persistent speak to the parents about supplementing their child’s diet with Omega 3 fish oils and essential minerals; and to put a child to bed earlier at night if a nap has been dropped during the day. It’s vital children receive the correct amount of hours of deep sleep in order to grow and function properly
  • If the problem persists seek support – talk to the parents candidly about the new challenges and work together to resolve negative behavior traits
  • Never tolerate physical and verbal abuse. If a child is consistently abusive and his parents are not supportive you should look for a new position
Do you have any tips for managing negative behavior?