Nanny needs to look for a new job

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 18, 2012 06:00 AM

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I am a Nanny for a 4 year old girl who sticks her tongue out a lot.

At first it was when she was angry but now it is any time. Mom does not discipline this action at all. She just tells her daughter to say she is sorry. The girl is very sneaky about it, too. Makes sure mom is not looking. But I do call her out on it. Mom knows I do not like this but to no avail. What would be your suggestion to this? If she does this when mom is not home, I do take things away and put her in time out. I have tried ignoring it but to no avail. I think ignoring it is letting her get away with it and I don't think that is right. I raised children of my own and if they tried that, it was the last time. I just think this is so disrespectful and do not like it one bit. I am not the only one who she does this to. Mom also knows I do not like it but she does nothing. Trying to deal with it but it drives me crazy. Mom lets this child get away with everything and is very spoiled. My only option lately seems to be to stop Nannying for her. Please any advice would be great. Thanks.

From: Nanny2, Warminster (PA or UK? LW doesn't specify)


Dear Nanny2,

What troubles me much more than the sticking-out-the-tongue behavior itself is that you and the mother are in conflict over this and, perhaps, over much more. It's never healthy for kids when caregivers disagree to this extent. You've told the mother you don't like the behavior. The mother not only ignores the behavior itself, but also ignores your discomfort with it. You're so uncomfortable with the behavior that you don't tolerate it. That ends up giving the child an unhealthy amount of power because she knows mom doesn't mind (or doesn't care -- there's a difference), and she knows you do.

There's a lot of passive/aggressive behavior here!

It's the parent's decision which battles to pick and how to wage them. Ignoring a behavior is often a valid strategy; the lack of attention and reinforcement typically takes the "fun" out of it for the child. It's the caregiver's job to follow the rules and limits the parents set.

None of this is working. Not for you, the child or the mom.

The only way something good can happen here is for you and the mom to get on the same page. Usually it's the parent's job to make that happen. In this case, it sounds like it's up to you. That means taking the high road -- that you want what's best for this child, and that you need the mom's support on this particular behavior.

I sense, however, that that won't happen. An even bigger issue is that it sounds as if you don't like this child, don't respect the mom, and as if the mom is pretty entrenched. My bottom line? This isn't healthy for this child. Let the mom know -- that you're looking for a new job, and be sure to tell her -- as non-judgmentally as possible -- why you are.

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11 comments so far...
  1. I guess, I don't understand why there is so much discomfort with this behavior. The child is 4 yrs old and yes, sometimes they stick their tongues out. Sounds like she's getting the attention she's seeking from the nanny with this behavior. If the mom is ignoring it and the child is not harming herself or anyone else, I don't undertsand why the nanny wouldn't be ignoring it as well. Sounds like this isn't the right match for this family and nanny does need to go. I think Nanny also needs to realize that it's the parent's job to establish the rules and the nanny's job to reinforce them, not the other way around.

    Posted by Mommyof2 April 18, 12 10:35 AM
  1. I have no advice to add, but I did want to say that the Letter Writer is not alone. I once quit a job as a Nanny because the parents were so permissive that they greatly undermined my authority. Typically when I was a Nanny I would adjust to the parent's style of doing things, but these parents were, in my opinion, permissive to the point of it being physically dangerous for the children, especially around the swimming pool and running in the street. The parents expressed the opinion that their children were of superior intelligence to other children and therefore wouldn't get hurt. I realized that the parents weren't going to change and I wasn't going to change, so I helped them replace me and cheerfully went on my way. Sometimes that is best.

    Posted by Meri April 18, 12 11:14 AM
  1. Tough situation! I have had conversations with my nanny about situations like this. If there is something that one of us is uncomfortable with (whether it be sticking tongues out or climbing alone on a jungle gym), if one of us is uncomfortable, we both go with the more conservative approach and agree on it. ie. if the nanny is comfortable with child on the jungle gym alone, but I am not, the child will not go on it alone. If it was the tongue situation, I would stand by the nanny's lack of comfort with it and also discipline my child when he is doing it.
    There has to be an agreement between caregiver and parents so that the child has the same rules at all times. TIn my opinion, this is the only way to raise a child with nanny at home all day and parents at home at night. nanny

    Posted by Liz April 18, 12 11:34 AM
  1. I second what Mommyof2 said. This little girl certainly knows exactly what to do to get a reaction. And seemingly, it is working. What child doesn't do this? . The more you react to it the more they will do it. You say you have tried that. For how long? An hour? A day? Barbara is right it sounds like you simply don't like the child or the mother or both

    Posted by jd April 18, 12 12:20 PM
  1. Here's one....Stick your tongue back out at her every time she does it to you... That may make her laugh and give up the behavior....It really isn't fun if you are making a joke out of it and she doesn't think she is bothering you with it anymore...I have 4 kids..very challenging behaviors...Two are adopted with a multitude of problems...sticking their tongues out would be the least of my problems on any given day ...lol... I guess maybe the advise is right..find a new job...God Bless You ! I struggle with my own kids..can't imagine having to deal with another persons child !

    Posted by Four no More ! April 19, 12 08:22 AM
  1. I'm surprised that people think it appropriate for a 4 year old to stick her tongue out all the time. The letter writer already tried to ignore her and she kept doing it. I also think it might be something kids do from time to time, but if its the stock response to everything, it just gets annoying and interferes with your ability to even have fun with the kid.

    I agree with Barbara, any negotiation that is done over this really annoying behavior is with the parents, not the kid. I'm left wondering if what the letter writer is really trying to say is I'm the only one who disciplines this kid and mom isn't purposefully ignoring this behavior in particular, but all bad behaviors in general.

    Posted by ash April 19, 12 11:49 AM
  1. ash, what did you read that makes you think "people this appropriate for a 4 year old to stick her tongue out all the time"? I didn't read that anywhere here. Just that sometimes, kids this age do annoying things. And often, the best response is no response - NOT because what the kid is doing is "appropriate," but because the kid is doing it to manipulate or get attention or get a rise out of the adults. So getting angry and yelling or punishing is getting her what she wants - in other words, it is actually rewarding the behavior. You don't ignore it because it is "appropriate" behavior, you ignore it because often, this type of behavior is about grabbing attention. So don't give attention.

    But I agree that it seems likely the LW is really upset about discipline in a larger sense - she and mom are not on the same page, and maybe LW feels she is the only disciplinarian. In which case: new job. If you can't be on the same page as the parents, you can't bring yourself to conform to their level of permissiveness, you really should leave. It isn't healthy for a kid to be stuck in a middle of adults who disagree over basic expectations. (In fact, such kids might be prone to... stick their tongues out! Because it gets everybody crazy with each other.)

    Honestly, there is such dislike in the letter it seems a new job is necessary anyway - if you don't like the child you nanny, and you have no respect for the parents, you need to go elsewhere.

    Posted by jjlen April 19, 12 02:14 PM
  1. Hmmm, we're telling the Nanny that she's right that the child is rude, but that if the Mom thinks the child's behavior is OK, and the Mom is otherwise too permissive in her view, she doesn't like the child and the Mom. So, she should move on to a new job, because it's not good for a child to be around an adult who doesn't like them and not good to be cared for by people who don't agree on discipline. I agree. Nanny should work for a family whose values are more closely aligned with her own.

    I bet she liked the child and the Mom just fine until she found that having respect for her was not part of the child-rearing process. I think she should move on because the Mom does not respect her or back her up in regards to discipline, and never will. It has nothing to do with liking or caring for the family.

    From the comments I see that sticking out your tongue is now considered a perfectly normal and harmless part of childhood, which can successfully dealt with by being ignored. And that sticking out your tongue when your Mom can't see you do it is a successful strategy to make it look like Nanny doesn't like you.

    If raising children is all about making them comfortable, I agree. If raising children is about helping them learn to deal with different people, different cultures, different skills, then I disagree. If you look at the way the world is going, listening, caring and respect far outweigh the skill of sticking out your tongue and thinking you've gotten away with something.

    We go to a lot of seminars on world affairs. We talk about politics, hunger and disease and the projections for world peace, water supply and food supply for the rest of the century. If you want your children to be the ones to survive and flourish, teach them to respect others and to work together. Four is not too young to learn respect for other humans.

    Nanny, go get a job with a family that has values similar to your own.

    Posted by FavoriteAuntie April 19, 12 07:46 PM
  1. It seems that nanny is being over sensitive to the behavior and the 4 year old knows how to push the right button. I suggest to Nanny, ignore the behavior. When she sticks out her tongue dont make eye contact and turn around to do something else. When the for year old stops getting a response from the behavior, yes the behavior will stop. You make a choice when you react...make a choice to not react :) don't have a battle of wills with a four year old.

    Posted by Tammy April 24, 12 03:09 PM
  1. This is actually quite OT with respect to the original letter - but Four No More...why is it necessary that you note that your adopted kids are the ones with problems? They're *your* kids. Legally. You adopted them. Does it have to be said that they're adopted or simply that they're having problems?

    As an adoptee (from infancy) it really bothers me at how quick adoptive parents are to note that their kids have problems and, Oh. They're adopted. As if the two are inextricably intertwined. My own parents did this too, so maybe I'm a bit sensitive, especially since their biological daughter is the one who's a barely functioning adult...by her own design...but seriously. It doesn't matter...

    And if the kid's problems are as a direct result of the circumstances surrounding the adoption (e.g. past abuses at the hands of birth family), then either state it that way or keep your mouth shut. Language like that stigmatizes and too often makes the problems (that are usually caused by the adoptive parents anyway) worse because now they also think that they're messed up because they're adopted and no one will want them.

    Either they're your kids or they're not. If they're not, you shouldn't adopt anymore.

    Posted by Adopted April 25, 12 11:18 AM
  1. Holy smokes, Adopted, "keep your mouth shut"? And "problems are usually caused by the adoptive parents anyway"?? We have an adopted daughter and love her dearly, she is the best thing that has ever happened to us. I pray to God she doesn't end up like you.

    Back to the pertinent subject matter: nanny, you need to find a family in sync with your parenting style. You are clearly frustrated in your current situation. Nannying can and should be rewarding and validating!

    Posted by Fernie May 5, 12 09:22 PM
 
11 comments so far...
  1. I guess, I don't understand why there is so much discomfort with this behavior. The child is 4 yrs old and yes, sometimes they stick their tongues out. Sounds like she's getting the attention she's seeking from the nanny with this behavior. If the mom is ignoring it and the child is not harming herself or anyone else, I don't undertsand why the nanny wouldn't be ignoring it as well. Sounds like this isn't the right match for this family and nanny does need to go. I think Nanny also needs to realize that it's the parent's job to establish the rules and the nanny's job to reinforce them, not the other way around.

    Posted by Mommyof2 April 18, 12 10:35 AM
  1. I have no advice to add, but I did want to say that the Letter Writer is not alone. I once quit a job as a Nanny because the parents were so permissive that they greatly undermined my authority. Typically when I was a Nanny I would adjust to the parent's style of doing things, but these parents were, in my opinion, permissive to the point of it being physically dangerous for the children, especially around the swimming pool and running in the street. The parents expressed the opinion that their children were of superior intelligence to other children and therefore wouldn't get hurt. I realized that the parents weren't going to change and I wasn't going to change, so I helped them replace me and cheerfully went on my way. Sometimes that is best.

    Posted by Meri April 18, 12 11:14 AM
  1. Tough situation! I have had conversations with my nanny about situations like this. If there is something that one of us is uncomfortable with (whether it be sticking tongues out or climbing alone on a jungle gym), if one of us is uncomfortable, we both go with the more conservative approach and agree on it. ie. if the nanny is comfortable with child on the jungle gym alone, but I am not, the child will not go on it alone. If it was the tongue situation, I would stand by the nanny's lack of comfort with it and also discipline my child when he is doing it.
    There has to be an agreement between caregiver and parents so that the child has the same rules at all times. TIn my opinion, this is the only way to raise a child with nanny at home all day and parents at home at night. nanny

    Posted by Liz April 18, 12 11:34 AM
  1. I second what Mommyof2 said. This little girl certainly knows exactly what to do to get a reaction. And seemingly, it is working. What child doesn't do this? . The more you react to it the more they will do it. You say you have tried that. For how long? An hour? A day? Barbara is right it sounds like you simply don't like the child or the mother or both

    Posted by jd April 18, 12 12:20 PM
  1. Here's one....Stick your tongue back out at her every time she does it to you... That may make her laugh and give up the behavior....It really isn't fun if you are making a joke out of it and she doesn't think she is bothering you with it anymore...I have 4 kids..very challenging behaviors...Two are adopted with a multitude of problems...sticking their tongues out would be the least of my problems on any given day ...lol... I guess maybe the advise is right..find a new job...God Bless You ! I struggle with my own kids..can't imagine having to deal with another persons child !

    Posted by Four no More ! April 19, 12 08:22 AM
  1. I'm surprised that people think it appropriate for a 4 year old to stick her tongue out all the time. The letter writer already tried to ignore her and she kept doing it. I also think it might be something kids do from time to time, but if its the stock response to everything, it just gets annoying and interferes with your ability to even have fun with the kid.

    I agree with Barbara, any negotiation that is done over this really annoying behavior is with the parents, not the kid. I'm left wondering if what the letter writer is really trying to say is I'm the only one who disciplines this kid and mom isn't purposefully ignoring this behavior in particular, but all bad behaviors in general.

    Posted by ash April 19, 12 11:49 AM
  1. ash, what did you read that makes you think "people this appropriate for a 4 year old to stick her tongue out all the time"? I didn't read that anywhere here. Just that sometimes, kids this age do annoying things. And often, the best response is no response - NOT because what the kid is doing is "appropriate," but because the kid is doing it to manipulate or get attention or get a rise out of the adults. So getting angry and yelling or punishing is getting her what she wants - in other words, it is actually rewarding the behavior. You don't ignore it because it is "appropriate" behavior, you ignore it because often, this type of behavior is about grabbing attention. So don't give attention.

    But I agree that it seems likely the LW is really upset about discipline in a larger sense - she and mom are not on the same page, and maybe LW feels she is the only disciplinarian. In which case: new job. If you can't be on the same page as the parents, you can't bring yourself to conform to their level of permissiveness, you really should leave. It isn't healthy for a kid to be stuck in a middle of adults who disagree over basic expectations. (In fact, such kids might be prone to... stick their tongues out! Because it gets everybody crazy with each other.)

    Honestly, there is such dislike in the letter it seems a new job is necessary anyway - if you don't like the child you nanny, and you have no respect for the parents, you need to go elsewhere.

    Posted by jjlen April 19, 12 02:14 PM
  1. Hmmm, we're telling the Nanny that she's right that the child is rude, but that if the Mom thinks the child's behavior is OK, and the Mom is otherwise too permissive in her view, she doesn't like the child and the Mom. So, she should move on to a new job, because it's not good for a child to be around an adult who doesn't like them and not good to be cared for by people who don't agree on discipline. I agree. Nanny should work for a family whose values are more closely aligned with her own.

    I bet she liked the child and the Mom just fine until she found that having respect for her was not part of the child-rearing process. I think she should move on because the Mom does not respect her or back her up in regards to discipline, and never will. It has nothing to do with liking or caring for the family.

    From the comments I see that sticking out your tongue is now considered a perfectly normal and harmless part of childhood, which can successfully dealt with by being ignored. And that sticking out your tongue when your Mom can't see you do it is a successful strategy to make it look like Nanny doesn't like you.

    If raising children is all about making them comfortable, I agree. If raising children is about helping them learn to deal with different people, different cultures, different skills, then I disagree. If you look at the way the world is going, listening, caring and respect far outweigh the skill of sticking out your tongue and thinking you've gotten away with something.

    We go to a lot of seminars on world affairs. We talk about politics, hunger and disease and the projections for world peace, water supply and food supply for the rest of the century. If you want your children to be the ones to survive and flourish, teach them to respect others and to work together. Four is not too young to learn respect for other humans.

    Nanny, go get a job with a family that has values similar to your own.

    Posted by FavoriteAuntie April 19, 12 07:46 PM
  1. It seems that nanny is being over sensitive to the behavior and the 4 year old knows how to push the right button. I suggest to Nanny, ignore the behavior. When she sticks out her tongue dont make eye contact and turn around to do something else. When the for year old stops getting a response from the behavior, yes the behavior will stop. You make a choice when you react...make a choice to not react :) don't have a battle of wills with a four year old.

    Posted by Tammy April 24, 12 03:09 PM
  1. This is actually quite OT with respect to the original letter - but Four No More...why is it necessary that you note that your adopted kids are the ones with problems? They're *your* kids. Legally. You adopted them. Does it have to be said that they're adopted or simply that they're having problems?

    As an adoptee (from infancy) it really bothers me at how quick adoptive parents are to note that their kids have problems and, Oh. They're adopted. As if the two are inextricably intertwined. My own parents did this too, so maybe I'm a bit sensitive, especially since their biological daughter is the one who's a barely functioning adult...by her own design...but seriously. It doesn't matter...

    And if the kid's problems are as a direct result of the circumstances surrounding the adoption (e.g. past abuses at the hands of birth family), then either state it that way or keep your mouth shut. Language like that stigmatizes and too often makes the problems (that are usually caused by the adoptive parents anyway) worse because now they also think that they're messed up because they're adopted and no one will want them.

    Either they're your kids or they're not. If they're not, you shouldn't adopt anymore.

    Posted by Adopted April 25, 12 11:18 AM
  1. Holy smokes, Adopted, "keep your mouth shut"? And "problems are usually caused by the adoptive parents anyway"?? We have an adopted daughter and love her dearly, she is the best thing that has ever happened to us. I pray to God she doesn't end up like you.

    Back to the pertinent subject matter: nanny, you need to find a family in sync with your parenting style. You are clearly frustrated in your current situation. Nannying can and should be rewarding and validating!

    Posted by Fernie May 5, 12 09:22 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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