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Problems with Nanny
My 2-year-old is in a new nanny share situation and I have a bit
of a dilemma. Basically, the problem is that our nanny and the
other family have much different ideas about nutrition than we
do. Our sitter does offer our daughter the food we prepare for
her, but she also offers her food from her own plate, things like
cheesy fries. We suggested the nanny could make herself lunch
from our food, but she said no thank you. My daughter does not
nap most days, so I can't ask the sitter to eat her food on her
break. My daughter in the short time she's been with this nanny
has eliminated one thing after another from the list of foods she
will eat. This all could be coincidence, of course. Do I have a
right to ask our sitter to change her own diet while she is
here?? I really don't mean to be judgmental. I want my daughter
to eat healthfully--and I think nutrition is so important to her
development-- but I also want her to have a positive, relaxed
attitude about food. We have distinguished between ''growing
foods'' and ''treats'' with her, but it is quite confusing for
her now that she sees other people eating food we have called
''treats'' as meals or snacks. This morning I told our nanny
that we want our daughter to eat only from the food we give her
(I blamed it, somewhat disingenuously, on her recent eczema
outbreak), but I am concerned that this will be a big problem for
the sitter, as I can't imagine my daughter being too happy at
having tofu in front of her while her sitter has a cookie and the
other little child has a bag of goldfish crackers. Perhaps I need
to just give up control, but she is in care often enough that it
is not about once-in-a-while treats, but a regular thing. Just
hoping someone has been through a similar situation (even from
the other position!) and can offer some words of advice. Can a
toddler get used to eating ''growing foods'' while her sitter and
friend eat ''treats'' at the same time? Is there a way to phrase
my concerns that is not insulting to my sitter and the other
family? Do you think they'd buy it if I said my daughter was
allergic to high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats?? :-)
Trying to find the line between neurotic and overly fearful of insulting others!
You are right that your daughter will not like to eat healthy foods if she sees the nanny and the other child eating cheesy fries (yuck!). There are plenty of families and daycares that care about good nutrition. You don't have to keep your daughter in this situation.
What is more important, your daughter's lifelong health or insulting this nanny or the other family??? you are what you eat
Two more strategies I would consider-- 1) Can you contact the other child's parent's so that the two children are on a similar diet? They may not be as tuned into some of these facts about different foods and would be happy to have their child eat better during the day. 2) Whether that works or not, I would ask that your child be fed first (or with the child if it does). That way, your daughter will be full from her own healthy meal and will not be as inclined to want to eat what the others are. In fact, if she is put down to play a bit on her own, she may not notice what the nanny is eating. Good luck! Elizabeth
You do NOT need to give up control, and, incidentally, she might have allergies that are bringing on the eczema. Our son had very bad eczema and went on a wheat, dairy, egg, nut, and chocolate free diet for two years!
I cannot emphasize this enough. You are what you eat. Furthermore, if this nanny doesn't REALLY listen to what you say with regard to food and do it, what else isn't she listening to? another mom
First, let's dispense with the easy stuff: you can ask your nanny to do or not do anything you want. She is an employee, not a parent, and your child's welfare trumps any discomfort you might have in directing her not to feed your child from her plate. Dare I say, it's your job as a parent to direct her behavior. If she wants to drink/eat that junk, that's her business; let her deal with telling your daughter why she can't have her curly fries. But if she thinks it's OK to not follow your wishes -- whatever they are, kick that chick to the curb, because it won't end with food.
Now, let us travel deep in the land of my personal opinion: we all need to lighten up on the food issues. I was raised in a tofu, all-natural, nothing-out-of-a-box, whole-wheat, chip-and-soda free environment deepinthehearta Berkeley. I'd go to school and watch the other kids eating their ding-dongs, or their sandwiches made with Skippy (I, of course, had the all natural peanut butter from the Co-Op; you know, the kind that rips the bread when you spread it and leaves an oily stain on the lunch bag), while I ate my stale sandwich and all-natural fig bar. Oh, I could have cookies (made with honey), and candy (one piece, after hallowe'en), and my family was not morally opposed to dessert, but for a kid, it was a pretty miserable life.
I'm 41, and I've now discovered there were a lot of us 60's babies out there whose parents were doin' the all-natural thing in an attempt to promote healthy eating habits. I've also since discovered that it's we 60's babies that have the biggest food issues.
At 12, I used my allowance to buy Capn Crunch that I would store in my closet in my room (I was not alone in this behavior, I later discovered). At 16, I would go to those geeky evening parties, and spend the entire night at the snack table --alond with all the other kids who were deprived such treats -- devouring the jello blox, filling our pockets with pretzels and chips, and scooping that salty onion dip into our mouths. By the way, the kids who had the Ding Dongs in their lunch boxes? They were dancing and talking.
In college, I developed an eating disorder. There were a lot of reasons for that, I'm sure, but when I finally got help in a group setting, I discovered a lot of people, whose food choices had been strictly proscribed, were right there with me.
Now, I meet fellow ''granola-babies'' all the time and we laugh at what our parents tried to do and how badly it backfired. Sometimes it's not so funny.
I cringe when I go to the park and hear parents talking about the dietary constraints they have laid on their kids. I don't want my child to eat cheesy fries, either, and a can of chili poured into a bag of corn chips is not my idea of a protein-rich diet. Accordingly, I have no problem telling my kid NO if he wants marshmallow creme for dinner (I'm not afraid of a little crying); he'll eat what I serve. If his nanny was serving him orange soda instead of milk, I'd give her exactly one chance to stop feeding that crap to him. At the same time, I would try to temper my desire to expose my son to a healthy lifestyle with a little realism, and allow him to experiment. It wouldn't change my behavior at home, where his diet is fiber, vitamin and protein rich, but I not going to focus too much attention on it. -- Tsan
I've always been pretty strict about food -- not (I hope) in an overbearing way, but I just don't believe in the steady diet of sugar and processed foods that have become normal in our culture (even in the Bay Area). That said, as my son has gotten older I've learned to bite my tongue and suck it up some of the time -- on his carpool afternoons, for instance, I know he's going to have a juice box (basically a liquid candy bar) and a cookie on the way home, food I'd never give him as a snack on my own. But at 5 he also knows that his carpool buddy eats too much sugar (his observation, not mine) and that it's important to eat healthy food.
I think you have to stick to your food values just as you stick to your other parenting values (which will also be constantly challenged by those who feel less strongly than you about things like media exposure, violence, etc.), not only because you want your kid to have a diet of healthy food, but because it's true that kids become pickier about healthy food once they've acquired a taste for highly processed junk.
For politeness sake, I think ''food allergy'' or ''doctor says'' is an acceptible white lie to tell your nanny so that you're not seeming to criticize her food values. You can say that your daughter is on a special diet, and needs to eat the food you pack for her and not other food. If your nanny seems open to the topic, you can explain to her why something like goldfish crackers aren't actually that great (although you should know that Annie's makes whole wheat bunny crackers which my son loves and which are actually a decent snack, high in fiber, low in sugar, no transfats, -- you can find them at whole foods and it might be good to pack some in your daughter's lunch if she has a yen for goldfish). I'd couch it in terms of ''I was so surprised when I found out that juice has as much sugar in it as candy'' so that it feels that the two of you are learning about this subject together, not that you're talking down to her. For your daughter, you explain that other people make other food choices, but in your family this is what you eat.
You do all of this knowing that there's going to be some slippage, that the kids are going to share the goldfish crackers, and nanny's going to slip her a few french fries. You're right that you can't control everything that goes into her body -- that pretty much ends when solid food begins. But at 2, you still get to control a lot. nelly
Moral of the story: moderation in all things. I don't keep a lot of junk food around the house, but I do allow treats and we have ice cream for dessert pretty regularly. I don't act like a control freak on special occasions (playgroups, birthday parties, Halloween, Christmas, etc.) when there is a lot of sugar around. And what I've found is that my kids will eat a few treats or part of a dish of ice cream -- and then STOP. They listen to their bodies and set their own limits.
If only I had been so lucky. S.
I would like to find a way to talk to her about it, be clear about my expectations (in as kind a way as possible), and at least give her an opportunity to rise to the occasion before I start the dreaded hunt for someone new. Does anyone have any advice on how I should approach this ?? Thanks.
The day that I'm not satisfied with that choice is the day I'll cut over to full-time parenting.
I'll be specific. Our nanny wanted Sesame Street on, and Arthur and Kratts Creatures; all of which I opposed internally. She also cooked meals (for the grown-ups) quite often, again I opposed this internally. I wanted her playing with and interacting directly with my children; not marginalizing them during the time she cooked or while they viewed TV. But, a broader gentler view (my husband's) helped me here. The nanny sang songs with the children, did the alphabet with the children, pretended to be lions with the children; all derived from participating with them WHILE watching TV. The children, learned to wash dishes, load spoons in the dishwasher, observe vegetable chopping, help clean string beans, nibble on raw vegetables, WHILE she cooked with them. So, she really was playing with them; just in her own way. This may be different from your "interaction" dilemma but I'm trying to say that children do indeed know that different people are different. They have no desire to watch a ton of tv when I'm around, because they know I like it off when I play directly with them.
Conversely, if your gut says it's just not the right kind of interaction; don't soft pedal. Show the nanny what you mean. Spend TIME with the nanny and child DEMONSTRATING what kind of interaction you're after. You don't have to ask her to change and indicate that what she's doing is wrong; just build on what's there. Then ask her if she played game xyz with your child that day (the same one you demonstrated). If she says no; ask her if she would. It makes it easier to save face that way. With demonstrations, and subsequent questions; you'll learn if your nanny has a willingness to please you. If not, look elsewhere. Trust your gut.
It might help to describe and demonstrate for her some specific ways to interact with 1-year olds. You could do this in a friendly way by making it a topic in your morning and afternoon conversations in a natural way. Describe how you've played with your daughter recently and what she seemed to enjoy, and ask what she enjoyed doing with the nanny that day. For example in the morning you could say: I noticed that my baby really liked playing peek-a-boo in a tent yesterday. When she crawled over here, I draped her blanket over this and put my head in here...and she got so excited... Demonstrate as you talk, with baby if possible.
Your "instinct" that the nanny is not being very interactive may come because you've already had such conversations and felt they were very one-sided or sensed that something is wrong; if so, I'm not sure what I'd do next. But if you've really only been talking about naps, food and poops, then maybe these kinds of exchanges could help convey the message that this is also important and they would also provide concrete ideas that the nanny could copy and hopefully build on.
That said, I don't know all the specifics of your situation or what you're observing, so I can only respond based on my personal experience. I have had similar questions/uncertainties at times regarding our nanny, but I think these are more a part of the parental anxiety I feel toward childcare. I do trust our nanny--she was referred to us by a friend who personally knew her and could vouch for her character, etc. but she had never formally worked as a babysitter. In our approach, I have emphasized open lines of communication. When she first started, I told her I wanted to have periodic check-ins (once a month, every two weeks..) separate from the "hello's/goodbye's" of each day. These would be a chance for both of us to evaluate how it's going. I've always tried to come more from a problem-solving approach than coming from the boss/employee angle. I ask her whether she has enough variety of activities and feels comfortable with her day or if she wants to brainstorm other possibilities. I share with her things I've noticed that my child likes, she also tells me things she's noticed, etc.
I have asked her about her approaches to different situations, what kind of activities she does with my baby, etc. --- and seeing how her approach matches mine. I also tell her what I expect, and while I don't tell her specific games or activities, I give her a sense of how I would like the overall day to go (some interactive high-energy play time, some more quiet play, go to the park, etc.) I know some parents like to be even more structured, and like for their nanny to take their child to various activities (babygym, swim class, etc.)
I have also tried to check-in on my own expectations. I think it's very hard to leave your child with a babysitter! And having stimulating/interactive activities is a constant worry of parents. But, as a friend of mine who was a nanny for years always reminds me, being a nanny is hard, and I try to take that into account. It can be isolating, one can't be engaged and "on" with a child all day, it can get boring, etc. I say this to our nanny, so she'll feel comfortable talking to me about things and not think she has to be "perfect" at everything. In talking to other parents, I think I have grown increasingly comfortable with our nanny because she is also "loving, responsible, gentle and reliable." There's a lot to be said for that! One thing that makes me feel reassured is watching how my child shows trust and smiles at the sitter. You also have to take your child's age into account. At one, they aren't really ready to participate in "activities" per say, and may be perfectly content exploring/playing with different toys, etc. and you could emphasize to your nanny that you want her to give your child those opportunities (vary toys, take him/her to the park, etc.) and that you also want her to read/sing, have some "high-energy" play time with your child. Someone who is quiet can also be stimulating to a child -- maybe in different ways than you are. Or, maybe she feels more comfortable "letting loose" when the parent or other adult isn't in the house.
I know this is really hard, and I hope this message has been at least somewhat helpful! Regardless, you have to feel comfortable with her. In addition to having the open lines of communication, maybe you should also drop in at different times to see how she is doing with your child.
In our case, she started when our child was 4 months old -- we did have conversations about expectations, etc. Mostly I was trying to convey my parenting philosophy, asking her about hers, what does she think is important with a child this age,etc. She has worked with us now for six months, and we have had periodic check-ins and keep talking about changes/expectations as my child grows. I think it's very normal for parents to be clear about their expectations, and I have always phrased my comments as "As a parent it's important for me that....."
It's hard to tell from your message whether it's your "instinct" alone that tells you she's not being stimulating enough, or whether you've observed something that tells you that's the case. I only say that because sometimes people may not feel as comfortable "letting loose" when the parent or another adult is around as when they are alone with the child. Also, the fact that a person is quiet doesn't mean they don't do things with a child that are interactive or stimulating.
I have a good, but not great, part-time (3 days) day care provider for my 16 month-old son. She comes to our home. I advertised for "loving," and she certainly is, but now that jr. is older it isn't enough. She follows his lead in play but doesn't initiate creative play. She doesn't challenge him at all or take opportunities to teach little lessons. I am not talking about completely guided activity, but some child development stuff worked in would be nice. I have no training in child development, but I know enough to ask him if that is the best way to do something, or "how did trying it this way work out?" I can pretend to be a frog and jump across the room. She doesn't do any of that.
English isn't her first language. I know she can read and write it, though she is not very confident in her skills. I once lent her a book on baby sign language and a couple of months later asked her if she'd finished it. She said not yet. She hasn't tried to incorporate any of the elements of the book, either, though that was my intent in giving it to her.
How have people dealt with this? Can I send her to a Bananas class? Should I give her stuff to read? Or do I need to look for another provider, or send jr. to family day care where he will get more stimulation? Or should I just relax and let loving be enough? My gut tells me no. I am especially concerned as winter is approaching and she will not be able to take him to the park all day. Thank you all.
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