27 answers

Help! 4 Yo Boy That I Nanny Is Out of Control!

I am a nanny of a 4yo boy and a 9mo girl. I take care of them 2-3 days per week & have just grown exhausted with trying to correct the 4yo's behavior. Literally EVERY time I ask him to do something or tell him to stop doing something, he doesn't do it the first time. Every time I make a request he either asks "why?" or just ignores me. I then say something like "If you don't obey, you will be on your trouble chair" (or will lose a privilege). Immediately, he just starts screaming for his Dad & totally wigging out. I immediately place him on his trouble chair until he calms down & stops screaming. I then calming go talk to him about why he was in trouble & what he needs to do to correct his behavior. Usually he'll be okay for about 5 minutes and then it's the same thing over and over. Another important thing to share: his dad works from home in a separate part of the house & this boy knows his Dad can hear him if he screams loud enough. Dad is also very lax in his discipline & allows this boy to boss him around while they are together. The Mom & I are very much on the same page as far as disciplining & getting him to respect our requests but things aren't getting any better for me... in fact, they're getting worse!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for your wonderful advice! I went to the library and checked out all sorts of discipline books. Some were very helpful, others not so much. Unfortunately, when I spoke with the parents about discipline, it seemed like they were very offended and defensive of their child... they ended up saying that they don't ever have problems with their boy and that they are concerned because he is scared of me (which is very interesting to me because I know it's not true). So, basically, I'm thinking I'll have to move on... this makes me very sad though :( But, if anyone knows of a family who needs a nanny on M,W,F (or something like that) let me know! :) Thank you!

Featured Answers

hes looking for dads attention. dad needs to play more with him AFTER work. But on the other hand im hoping dad backs you up on time outs to

GET A LOVE AND LOGIC BOOK! I have a 3 yr old boy and it is helping tremendously with discipline and behavior problems. good luck.

I think it would be good to have a definite game plan to present to the dad so that he has something concrete to expect. Something like "I'm going to try this method with him, and this is how he has responded in the past (screaming). If I need you I will come get you, however for me to be successful I need you to be off limits to him except in an emergency..." I would recommend reading some books on the subject. The tv nannies have books out, and I love John Rosemond, a family psychologist. One thing that he recommends when a child is having a tantrum (that worked on his own kid) is to have a special "screaming place", such as in the bathroom on the rug. You just tell him matter of factly that that is where he can scream, all he wants, and when he is finished he may come out. Good luck.

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I have taken a class called Love and Logic that has some wonderful advice that may help you and is very easy to get the parents doing it to. Most kids act out because they are always being told what they are doing wrong and they fill like they don't get to make and decisions of there own. I use it all the time with my two little ones. When it comes to some thing you want them to do and you know they will through a fit over it I say for example. You can either eat your dinner or you can get you pj's on and go to bed but you have 10 sec. to decide or I will make the decision for you. There are other was of saying things also that will get them to respond to you better. For example
instead of saying (Please sit down. We're going to eat now) say (We will eat as soon as you are seated) not phrase (Clean your room so we can go shopping) say (I'll be happy to take you shopping, as soon as your room is clean) this is my favorite instead of saying (Don't shout at me) say (I listen to people who do not yell at me) I have many more. If you are interested in a few more idea send me and email at ____@____.com
I hope this will help I know it did for me.

1 mom found this helpful

Honestly S. there's little you can do to correct the problem if the parents AREN'T willing to do their job. They are responsible for laying the foundation and if the son is unruly with them, he will not act right for you especially if you only see him 2 days a week! What I have learned is that the parents have to be on the same page when it comes to disciplining--how the child acts with others is merely a reflection of what's going on at home! I don't mean this to sound crude but training a child is like training a dog (if you've ever trained one you'll understand the analogy). You have to be CONSISTENT in your discipline as well as reward their good behavior. You can't tell a dog not to sit on the sofa and then allow him to sit on it every now and then because he won't know which rule to follow.

Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in how to deal with the child and pray for the parents. You may need to express this concern to them because their lack of agreement in how they discipline is the root of the problem. Two things the Lord has taught me regarding disciplining my boys are:
Whatever I permit, I allow and Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

If the parents are not on the same page there is not much you can do. I assume mom is having the same sort of problems that you do with her son? Honestly, unless she can get her hubby to step up and make thier son see they are united in dicipline, things are just gonna get worse.
I don't envy your position in this and if things don't resolve I would suggest quitting if possible. I have been through something very very similar, and ended up being "let go" after 6 months because they felt I didn't "fit" with thier family. Honestly I just couldn't fix the problems that were out of my control!

First, pray for this little boy and his family. Something is obviously bothering him. There has to be a source of this behavior. Did they have a nanny before you? If so what was his relationship with that nanny? Talk with the parents. They NEED to support you in this if you want to make any progress at all. Dad needs to back up Mom and you. If not the behavior will only get worse and they will never be able to keep a nanny around. Dad will not be able to work if he is the one taking care of a disobedient child! I think if Dad would only make an appearance when the child is acting like this and tell him it is not appropriate and not allowed then return to work the boy will stop. He is probably only doing these things to get attention!

I too was a nanny for 15 years and am now a mother of a 3 year old boy. In my experiance, some children need different behavior modification and do not respond well to typical methods of disipline. My son for example does not take heed to what he "can not" do, but responds very well to what he "can" do. So if he is standing on his chair I say" Please put your bottom on the seat." Instead of "Don't stand on the chair" or "You may put your feet on the floor" instead of "Stop jumping on the bed". You might want to check out the Waldorf method and offer it up to the parents. It would be best if both parents were involved 100%. Best of luck to you.

Have things changed for the child any major changes in life, a birth a death, you being a new nanny? Talk to the parents you all need to be on the same page and expect the same behvior and as much as possible have the same consequenese for non desired behaivor. Maybe you all need to sit down and talk with him...keep it short. Use the "chair" sparingly, it will loose it's menaing to him quickly if you don't.Maybe go to the dollar store and pick up five little treats, tell him when he's been good for a whole day he'll get to pick one out.
A four year old has been discovering his independance and just is trying to figure out what everyone is expecting from him. Also maybe a trip to the doctor to rule out things like ADD. A child hwho is four only has about a four minute attention span.

Hi S.! You only have one option here, refuse to care for him! Tell the father that you have other children that are left in your care, and his behavior sets a very bad example. I would also tell him that perhaps he could be a little more stern, this kid is only going to get worse if he doesn't. You have to stand your ground on this, it is the only way the dad will wake up, and if he doesn't at least he's not under your care. My guess is armed with this information dad will buck up, and maybe you can care for the boy again! Good luck, R.

Power and control are big for 4-year olds. They are just beginning to figure out they have options in this world and are a separate person from parents and other authority figures. Try to find ways to give him options when you ask him to do things. Do this in a way that either option is one you need him to do. "Do you want to put on your right shoe or your left shoe first?" "Would you like to sit in this chair or the one over there?" "Would you like to brush your hair first or your teeth?" He needs to feel like you value his opinions and that he is able to make some choices. Hope this helps. I have three children of my own... 9, 7, and 5 year olds.

Have you heard of Love and Logic?? Check out the web site.


Sit down and talk with the boy's father. Tell him you need his support in disciplining his son. Then the three of you should sit down and have the father tell his son, in front of you, that you are the one in charge and that he expects the boy to follow your rules.
If the father refuses, get out of there! You are lucky it's just a job and you can quit.
Sounds like you've got a fiesty child to care for and that he's testing your authority.

That's definitely a difficult position. You could tag team with the Mom and try to discuss the situation with her husband. Though if he's unwilling to change, you're not really going to make much progress I'm afraid. You're doing the right thing and I wouldn't change your methods.

On a side note, if you and your husband ever move to Albany, Oregon, I have three sweet little boys and I'm in the market for a good nanny like you. :)

Hang in there!

Unfortanatly unless dad gets on the same page you and the mom are on while he is working from home you probably wont have any success. I know that sounds bad, but the boy has his dad figured out and knows that if he screams loud enough that he will come to the rescue. While dad continues this it wont get better. I have a 4 year old son who is a terror monster. I love him to death, but he drives me crazy. He does the same thing, tells me no or ignores me. I have had to crack down on him and really start getting strict with him. He tells me no, and he looses toys, or privaleges. He does not get them back. He has lost his fav cars and all kinds of stuff. It does seem to be getting a lil better, now we are dealing with lying. Fun lil stage. You guys are going to have to have a sit down with the father and set him straight.

I have a 5 year-old who is also very obstinate... time outs and threats simply don't work. It's all about control. We’ve had success with removal of toys and privileges for bad behavior (if you jump on the couch one more time I’m taking away a Barbie doll) and rewards for good behavior (once you get dressed and brush your teeth and clean your room you can watch a ½ hour of TV). She has to “earn” back the toys once they get taken away. I think the key is tapping into what the kid really wants and then using that as leverage. You also need to get Dad on the same page as you so that he’ll back you up on whatever strategy you both decide to use.

Wow, it sounds like you have your hands full. I am a Mom, Grandma of 6 and have taught elementary school and special ed. preschool for 20+ years. Recently I participated in a book study on a book called Love and Logic. I only wish I would have had this when I was raising my own children. This is a fantastic resourse. I would encourage you or the Mom of the kids to purchase it.
It really sounds like a power struggle. Until Dad gets a little more involved in supporting limits I think you will have a hard time. But the book may be the thing he needs to help him parent.
Good luck! V.

Two books I recommend are Your 4 year old and Positive Discipline.
It is a tough one when the parents aren't consistent, but if you are he should respond.
Four is a challenging age. I found that giving them a warning, in 15 minutes, 10 or five we need to do...helped with transitions.
Good luck!

GET A LOVE AND LOGIC BOOK! I have a 3 yr old boy and it is helping tremendously with discipline and behavior problems. good luck.

Hi S.,
You need a no non-sence approach. If you ask him to pick up his toys and he doesn't, then you take them away. Whatever you ask him to do should have a consiquence if he doesn't do it. I know that it is more difficult for you since you are not the parent. I read the book "Make you child mind without losing yours" and it has many examples of "reality discipline". Maybe you could have an agreement with the dad that when you are there, you are the ultimate authority and that the dad shouldn't get involved. Then the child will know that the he can't get his dad involved and has to deal only with you. Good luck.

I imagine the mother has much the same difficulty. If she does't ask her how to handles him.

I suspect that this boy will continue with this behavior until his father reinforces what you say. When he hears his son scream he should come out. Tell his son to do it and if he doesn't put him on the trouble chair.

MOst likely the father won't do that because he is lax and apparently not concerned about the screams since he doesn't come out. Or maybe he doesn't know what to do. If you or his wife suggested that he come out for a few times to reinforce your discipline he might do that. I then suggest that he tell his son that he knows that his son can co-operate with you and so he's not going to come out any more but there will be a consequence if he hears screams. Then the father delivers the consequence in the evening.

Perhaps the boy is wanting more attention from his father and is getting it in a negative way. IF you suspect that possibility talk with his mother to see if there might be a way for his father to spend more time with him. Perhaps have lunch with him everyday or often.

The most important aspect of solving this problem is getting the father because he is in the house) to reinforce your requests and discipline. If that can't be arranged, I'd stop being the nanny.

Here lies the problem. The father of the child. If he is lax about the whole thing you will continue to have a problem. You need to have both parents on the same page with you. I am a nanny as well, a much older one then you and I have been doing this for the better part of 35 years. I had problems with the 4 year old not respecting me as well, and when his mother came home we talked, the first day. The next day he was a lot better, and he knows what he can and can't do with me. If he is acting up and not behaving I just tell him, well no games, no fun, I will not put up with you being disrespectful to me. I have had to put him in the corner only once, he gets warned if he say something he is not suppose to, and funny thing is, I give him the look and he stops. But you know what when his mother gets home he acts differently, whines, and hits her and I step in and tell him that is not the way you treat your mother. In the 6 months I have been there he is learning I think a lot about being respectful, I can say it enough that is so important to raise a child to be respectful then anything else. Nip it in the bud now, because it will be worse as they get to be older, and by then it will be out of control. Children know how to play you, and he is playing his dad. Dad needs to step up to the plate and have a word with the child letting him know that you are in charge and what you say goes, and if he has to come down there a price will be paid. Bottom line kids want disipline, this kid is crying out for his dad to get a back bone!

I think it would be good to have a definite game plan to present to the dad so that he has something concrete to expect. Something like "I'm going to try this method with him, and this is how he has responded in the past (screaming). If I need you I will come get you, however for me to be successful I need you to be off limits to him except in an emergency..." I would recommend reading some books on the subject. The tv nannies have books out, and I love John Rosemond, a family psychologist. One thing that he recommends when a child is having a tantrum (that worked on his own kid) is to have a special "screaming place", such as in the bathroom on the rug. You just tell him matter of factly that that is where he can scream, all he wants, and when he is finished he may come out. Good luck.

As long as the dad is undermining your efforts you probably will not make any progress with the boy. You need to have a sit-down with both parents, present your concerns, what you have been dealing with, and get their full support for your discipline techniques. The dad must support and back up what you are doing, or you may as well not do it at all. You might have to tell him (the dad) exactly what you need from him in order to support you and back you up to his son, so that you can start getting some respect from the boy. The boy is smart and senses that you two are not on the same page, and is playing the situation. Kids aren't dumb about that kind of stuff.

Good luck!!

hes looking for dads attention. dad needs to play more with him AFTER work. But on the other hand im hoping dad backs you up on time outs to

I've gone through this with my youngest son. So your not alone in the boat. Sometimes I had to take a step back and think about if my request is reasonable for a child of that age. Sometimes I forget that he is 5 and I treat him like he is 7 which is unreasonable. I limit his stimulation time (TV/Video games) to 2 hrs total for each day. This has helped more than I can express. Now, he has fewer melt downs and is more responsive to my requests. We play more board games and he has gotten back into make believe and imaginary playing. Now that spring is coming and the weather is getting better, he rides his bike. He is also in pre-school where he is socialized with children his age 3 days per week. This gives us time apart and helps us to appreciate each other more.
We don't use a time-out chair. I simply tell him to go to his room. If he doesn't go cooperatively, I carry him there. Yes, he screams and it is loud, he hits his door, slams it and bangs his feet on the wall,but he calms down. I tell him when he is calm and in control he may come out.Also I tell him he can scream and yell, but he may not hit/slam the door or kick the wall. Then I close the door. I wait until he asks to come out. I don't do that timed punishment. It didn't work for us.
This didn't happen overnight, but it works now. Talk with the mom. Her husband needs to get on the same page with both of you. The child is getting mixed messages from all of you with the different disciplinary actions which may be the cause of the conflict. Children need consistency.
Eventually things will get better. Hang in there.

I have a four year old who will taunt me by not getting dressed or washing his hands etc. when I ask him to. When he asks why ask him what he thinks the answer is. That way he gets to talk and thinks on his feet and as he tells you why he can process what you have asked him to do.
The other thing I tried the other day that is still working is to challenge him to do something by the time you count to a certain number. He loves it!!

I had the same problem when I was a nanny, but it was the mom that was the problem. I told her that in order for this to work, I need her to make it clear to her kids that when I am in charge, I make the rules, and that she will not come get in the middle of it everytime they yell for her. In your case, the dad needs to make it clear to the 4 year old that he will not get in the middle of it, and he expects him to obey what you say. If he cannot make that commitment, then you need to move on to a different job. You cannot discipline him without the parent's support.
The reason he acts like this is because he can. Dad has taught him that he can do whatever he wants. It is quite easy to teach him that the rules are different when you are in charge, but he needs to be perfectly clear that Daddy will not save him from you, and therefore, you don't care if he yells for Daddy til the cows come home, the punishment is still the same. It is likely that he sees you flinch and change your attitude when he threatens you by calling Daddy. My guess is that Daddy has on more than one occasion come in and saved him.

I hate to say it, but most little boys need their father to discipline them. Especially during this age. They are forming their male identity and if that father doesn't step up and be a father to him, he will be the sole person to blame when no one will be that boys friend. He will continue to get worse unless that lazy, excuse for a man actually does his job. And you can quote me to him! He is ruining that little boy!

Congrats to you and the momma for trying to do what you can, but unfortunately that will only go so far. We have a neighbor who constantly coddles her little boy and won't LET the father do his job and that boy is the same exact way. It is so frustrating to watch. When the father is around but won't or won't be allowed to step in, the child becomes an absolute brat.

Sorry :( Good luck, maybe get the father to spend some quality time around another GOOD father and see if it will rub off?

I have a very strong willed 2 year old daughter so I understand your exhaustion. But I think and I could be wrong that until the dad gets on the same page and starts to establish the rules you will never get any further. You are doing what you need to be doing, so hang on and keep at it. Who knows maybe it will sink in one day.

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