General Ramblings

Dealing with Discipline

One of the things that I come up against most often as a nanny is the idea of discipline. Everyone seems to be afraid that a nanny is going to take it too far and turn simple discipline into abuse. I’m here to tell you that that is really not the case in about 90% of cases – most of us would never lay a hand on a child, and never have. I certainly have never spanked, hit, or otherwise manhandled a child. Why? Because it’s not my place. I’ve been given permission to do so, but it horrified me. Spanking is not something that I would ever do, and I’m not even really sure I agree with it for any kids I will have. I find other discipline methods much better to use than laying an unkind hand on a child.

Instead, I use a variety of discipline methods at my disposal that are tailored to each individual problem that a child may run into or choose to do. No kid is inherently bad, but there are children who are challenging, and I find that my discipline not only has to be firm and kind, it can’t be the same method for every offence, either, since the child simply stops listening or taking me seriously. So here are a few methods I use to help keep control when I nanny!

1. Time outs: Time outs are a wondrous thing. I don’t know who invented them, but I daily want to kiss his or her feet. They are perfect for almost any situation, but work the best when a child is overtired or just overemotional. And the child is not the only one who gets a time out – I give myself one, too! It’s very easy to get frustrated with young children, especially if you yourself are tired and overemotional, too. These don’t work for babies, obviously, but anyone over the age of about 18 months can understand a short time out to gather their thoughts and feelings and deal with it in a less tantrumy way. I do one minute for each year of age, added on to if the child is taking themselves out of time out. I never go over 10 minutes for a young child, though. If time outs don’t work that day, they don’t work. The message is still driven home – this behaviour is not okay, and you will be removed from the situation until you can calm down.

2. Taking away privileges: This is a big one for an older child. Taking away privileges is a surefire way to see behaviour turn from a downward spiral back up! The trick with this method is to figure out what a child’s “currency” is – what they will miss most if you take away, and what will give them the incentive to return to good behaviour. Also, I’m not mean about this – I take away a privilege for a short time only, and give it back for good behaviour. If I’m with a child all day, this means that he or she has something to work towards, which can really be a nice thing to see.

3. Redirection: This is a big one I use for younger children, like babies above the age of 7 months and under-2s. Obviously, these children can’t understand regular discipline methods. You’ve got to remove them from the situation, but they’re not going to sit quietly and think about it, either. Instead, you redirect. Baby’s got an item you don’t want them to have? Redirect with a special toy. Two-year-old is getting into trouble? Redirect with a new activity. It works and cuts down on tears, too.

4. Going home: This is a method I use when we’re out and about and fighting breaks out at the park or someone is being disrespectful. They get warnings – if I see that again, we’re going home. You get one more chance. If they refuse to listen, we go straight home. Normally, I don’t follow this up with another punishment because the punishment is going home – they’ve lost their fun. This is enough to make them turn themselves around. If they continue the bad behaviour, they go into time out or lose a privilege.

5. Tell me why: With any discipline method for kids that can talk, I finish up their time out or privilege-taking with one question. Tell me why I took it away/put you in time out. I want them to understand that I’m not doing this for my own pleasure – there is a reason behind it and they need to understand that this behaviour is not okay. I am a person that deserves respect, just as they are people that deserve respect. We need to mutually give respect to each other and follow the rules. Most children are able to tell me why they were punished, and most of the time, they apologize. I don’t demand apologies for bad behaviour because I don’t like the idea of a “fake sorry”, but if they’ve hurt someone else, they must apologize to that person, no matter what, fake or not. It’s only polite and showing remorse for hurting someone.

What are your favourite discipline methods that don’t involve physical punishment? I’m always looking to add to my arsenal!


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