The Thinking 

A Nanny Survives “Positive Discipline”

January 19, 2013


JULIA ANN writes:

Your entry on “consensual parenting” struck a chord with me. It reminded me of my recent experiences as a “nanny” for a family who believes in “positive discipline.” Since my family moved to a different part of our state, I had to leave the job. I do miss the children terribly, as I truly loved them, but I do not miss the battles due to their lack of sound discipline.

The children were ages five, three and five months when I left.  I’d been a “nanny” for many families over the course of my lifetime. You learn a great deal about a family and what they truly believe (regardless of what they say they believe) by working within the four walls of their home.

This particular mother was a doctor; this meant she was often away from her children for twenty-five hours at a time overnight while on call.  Her clinic schedule was unpredictable as far as days of the week.  This led to a chaotic state, and the children needed stability in discipline just to function, as their mother’s work schedule was a roller-coaster and their father worked all week away from home.

However, the family (I should say, the mother) subscribed to the philosophy of “positive parenting,” or “positive discipline.”  She shared this philosophy with me upon hiring me to ensure that I would not be of the mindset to “spank” her children or tell them “NO!” She wanted me to wear her baby for twelve hours a day when the child was two and a half months old and suffering from extreme emotional upset at suddenly not having her mother at home (a cold bottle replaced a warm nursing breast).  She coddled her five year old, allowing the child to breastfeed until four and one half years old.  When she was weaned due to the third pregnancy, the child howled at a volume to wake the neighbors, every night when her mother returned from work.  She cooked what the children wanted.  She “made” them vegetarians, as she was a vegetarian.  (Which would have been fine had she not demonized the children’s father, who was a hunter and red-meat eater).

She asked the children to do things; she never told them.  She held no authority in the home.  She spoke in that sing-song immature voice that your other readers have noticed grown men using with little boys.  Worse, she made certain that her husband had not even a shred of authority over the children, even when he was rarely there.

On one particular occasion, my husband had come over to have a meal with me and our children, who accompanied me to work at this job.  The father came home from a week away from home.  The eldest child of his was having a loud and violent temper tantrum in the living room, refusing to listen to me – she was totally out of control.  She would not put our daughter down (who was two years younger than her); she knew the rule that she was not to pick up our daughter, or any other child, while in my care.  (Their mother allowed them to carry small children all over the house like rag dolls!)

My husband, seeing that the child’s father wasn’t going to do anything at all, intervened verbally.  He loudly and firmly rebuked this child, who was well beyond the age to be having a temper tantrum like this.  She stopped the behavior immediately, as she feared and respected my husband as an authoritarian – much like a teacher.  She immediately obeyed my husband and was quiet.  All of this woman’s children adored my husband and ran to him like an uncle when they saw him.  They respected him and loved him for his boundaries and discipline with them.

As we were leaving for the day, the father of the child stopped my husband at the door and said to him, “Sometimes we just have to take it on the chin.  We don’t speak to our children that way.  We don’t lose our temper with our children.”

We were speechless.  I wanted to tell this man what it would look like had my  husband “lost his temper” – it wouldn’t have looked like what he did to discipline this man’s child!  Fearfully, I imagined this weak man calling CPS on my husband for yelling firmly to stop (abusing, according to liberalese) at his child.  I wanted to truly lose my temper , but I was frankly too stunned at what he had spoken.  At least he spoke it in such a quiet manner that his eldest child did not hear him rebuke my husband, thereby destroying any authority my husband had with the child.  I was more upset about this than my husband; he said it didn’t bother him much, since he’s not the one who is going to have to deal with the fruit of this rebellion when these three are teens!

There were other incidents when I did things which would have resulted in my losing my job if my employer knew:  her middle child, when angry (which was often and understandable) would scratch and claw and forcefully pull the hair of my oldest child.  I could not allow this, and “politely encouraging her to touch gently” (the Positive Parenting strategy) was a total failure, so I began to “flick” her little hand with my thumb and index finger, hard enough to sting a little, and this stopped the behavior outright – I always said, “NO SCRATCHING!  NO PULLING HAIR!” while flicking, and it was highly effective.  In retrospect, I’m sure I could have gotten into a load of trouble for doing this, but I was in Mama Bear mode protecting my own child and attempting to discipline the other as best as possible.

It is no wonder society is in a shambles; the family is completely distorted and out of order – even in so called “God-fearing Christian” homes (these people claimed to be Christians; at least the mother did openly.)

We are certainly no grand authority on parenting, but we do try to follow God’s word on the matter, which is now considered “abusive” in most circles.  We find ourselves as loners – happy hermits, so to speak.  We home school and we keep to ourselves.  I believe this was my last child care giving job unless I should periodically care for a child in our own home for true “babysitting” and not nannying.

It is probably good.


— Comments —-

Mary writes:

If she hasn’t read it yet, Julia Ann would enjoy Anne Bronte’s book Agnes Grey. While it was overshadowed by her sisters’ more famous and lengthy works, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, it is a quick and very satisfying read; and even though it was published in 1847 the title character’s experiences will be very familiar to Julia Ann. The Bronte sisters wrote on the subject of poorly raised children from firsthand experience as governesses (Charlotte in Jane Eyre, etc).

Lena S. writes:

This is a direct result of the use of terms like ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in place of ‘good’ and ‘bad/evil.’ This is not the correct use of these words. This becomes clear with the application to language: “I will murder him” is a positive statement with an evil outcome; “I won’t murder him” is a negative statement with a moral outcome.

I must take issue with the idea that this mother coddled her children by nursing for four years. The weaning – which frankly at that age shouldn’t have been an issue, since a four or five year-old generally doesn’t nurse much anyway – was not the issue; it was the never saying ‘no’ to anything in the first place. No, this child was spoilt by ‘positive discipline’ and lazy parenting, not nursing.

A five-year-old isn’t suckling like a baby; it’s normally just a nip here and there and is more about comfort than nutrition at that stage, although there are still nutritional benefits for the child as well as health benefits for the mother. Weaning at six months is not the historical norm, nor is it the norm outside America and the much of the first world. For more information on longer terms of nursing, I recommend reading Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives” by Kathryn Dettwyler.

Laura writes:

I agree with Lena that breastfeeding itself was not the problem.

Mrs. P. writes:

A child needs to know that his parents are in charge. If this position is established early on in the child’s life and maintained thereafter till the child is grown, life is much easier for everyone concerned. I believe that children actually want this kind of arrangement even though they may kick and scream in protest sometimes. They want and need direction. They want and need to know what is expected of them. It makes them feel secure.

Unfortunately some parents of today do not know how to take charge. I recall two instances when I witnessed the fathers behave like absolute wimps with their children.

In one case it was at a park. The little girl, who looked to be about five or six, had jumped up onto a drinking fountain and was sitting on it. Her father told her to get down. I remember how snotty she sounded when she refused in no uncertain terms. She looked at him as if to say, “I dare you to touch me.” I expected the father to do the natural thing and forcibly remove her from the drinking fountain. Instead he just stood there and did nothing. His behavior disturbed me so much that I almost said something to him. I am pretty sure this was a divorced father on an outing with his daughter which would explain a lot about both their behaviors.

On another occasion we had invited a father and his young son and baby to share thanksgiving dinner with our family. The mother was away for some reason …. can’t recall why. It became time to sit down for dinner. Everyone was seated except for little Johnny who was still in the living room pounding away on the piano keys. I called to Johnny to come to the table — more to hint to the father that he needed to go fetch his son. But Johnny did not show up and the father did nothing about getting him.

So I went to fetch the little pianist myself. I politely told the boy that it was time for him to stop playing the piano because it was time to eat. He looked up at me through thick glasses that made his eyes appear twice as large as they were and said, “I am not stopping and you can’t make me.” I replied, “Oh yes I can!” And I removed both his hands from the keys, closed the lid down over the keys and led little Johnny, who was somewhat in shock, to the dining room where I sat him down next to his father who thanked me. Johnny gave me no trouble for the rest of the day. I decided afterwards that his father was a wimp and the boy was the one in charge. Such a shame.


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