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Nannying difficult children without losing your mind

12 Jan, 2016

Nannying difficult children without losing your mind


Nannies sometimes find themselves caring for difficult. Regardless of whether you are a new nanny or have years of experience this situation can make you feel like you are losing your mind. The Nanny Emporium offers some tips and tricks to dealing with difficult children to ensure the well-being and safety of the children and your own sanity.

Some behaviours are signs of an underlying situation or problem and some can be redirected or ignored until they grow out of that phase; the really tricky part is identifying the difference.

Bad behaviours that are harmful to themselves or others, such as biting, hurting animals or hitting, can’t be ignored and must be handled immediately. Other behaviours like tantrums, screaming, whining, refusing to eat, holding their breath, refusing to talk or interact can often be remedied.

Here are the steps involved in stopping difficult behaviours of the children in your care:

  1. Determine the cause of the behaviour
  2. Determine the developmental level of the child and whether the behaviour is characteristic of that developmental age
  3. Talk to the parents about the behaviour and methods they have used in the past to stop that behaviour
  4. Brainstorm with the parents on possible measures you both can take to minimise or eliminate that behaviour
  5. Talk to the child directly about their behaviour and see if they can offer possible causes or solutions to their behaviour
  6. Set your rules as a nanny for the children

How to set the rules and make them stick

  • Sit the children down and talk to them (very early on when you start the position) and tell them what the rules are, and why
  • The longer you wait, the harder it will be to stop the difficult behaviour
  • If you are caring for children who have been in preschool or older, they may be able to ‘tell’ nanny the rules. The more the children participate in the setting of the rules, the more ownership they have to them
  • A rules chart often works well for the pre-schooler through to primary school aged child
  • Sit down and explain the rules to guests when they visit. This both informs the guest and reinforces the rules to the children in the your care
  • Tell them the consequences when they break a rule
  • Physical punishment should never be an option
  • Time outs (one minute for every age they are is the general rule) or stopping an activity they are engaged in, or removing a privilege, etc.
  • Follow through with consequences every single time

Children will throw the biggest ‘fit’ the first couple of time you follow through, it is inevitable. But, the more consistent you are, the more they understand that you are not a pushover. Difficult children are masters at testing their limits. But kids are adaptable, once they have tested and established those limits then they are more likely to abide by them. Most children need some limits and structure.

Make sure the parents know what your rules are. Parents will seldom disagree with a rule if the rule keeps their children safe, even if they don’t use the rule when the nanny is not there. If the parents do disagree with you about a rule then you should explain why it is important. The nanny is 100% responsible for the safety and well-being of the children in her care, and is entitled to set reasonable rules of conduct to insure their well-being. Nannies need to protect themselves from charges of negligence or child abuse – all reasoned arguments that parents should be willing to agree with. The nanny who finds themselves in a position where the parents will not permit basic rules you need to maintain safety then you should immediately find another position. Do not jeopardise your career in this way.

Communication between you as the nanny and parents is key. Make sure the parents know when the child has misbehaved, and when they were redirected or received a time out or had a privilege taken away. Keeping a daily journal or log for the parents is something you should keep anyway to update the parents of what their children have been doing while they weren’t home.

Sometimes, you can’t curb difficult behaviour by yourself without the parents’ support. If the child is treated one way at home with you and another way while with their parents, sometimes it is nearly impossible to help the situation. You can’t change a family. This is why it is important that the family and nanny have similar philosophies of childrearing in the very beginning.

As a nanny you must adapt to the parents’ philosophy of childrearing, but within reason. When it affects the children’s health and safety, and your job performance you should follow the above steps to improve the situation. After all, the goal of child care, is to help them grow into happy, healthy, safe, friendly, productive, responsible, and independent adults.



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