Constantly Learning: Discipline Strategies from a Hard-Working Nanny

8 Jan




I recently became obsessed with listening to a comedy channel on Pandora radio when I was traveling with my husband to the mountains for New Years. We don’t listen to all of the same music, so we figured we would pass the time in a new way. I was immediately hooked on a few comedians, two of whom are Aziz Ansari and Louis CK. While both can be a bit crass, there were a few tracks we listened to that discussed disciplining children, as well as just managing your patience level in general. Here is a link to one of the Louis CK tracks, which is pretty hilarious, but also very realistic. (Disclaimer: there is some serious profanity in this one, but the overall message is the point here)


Louis CK talks about how one night his 3 year old daughter woke him up multiple times at night for no reason, and he then goes on to talk about how their morning went afterwards. Long story short, she was very difficult and just wanted something to be mad at.


Since I work with 3 year olds (as of Friday, ahhhh!!!), I completely lost it in a good way when he started talking about a moment in which she was so angry and cranky, that she said she needed help when choosing with bite of her pancake to eat first. I figured I would share a few things that I have learned over the years when it comes to disciplining. Yes, this can be a very touchy subject for nannies, as well as parents, and especially when you combine both parties. However, here are a few things that I have found work in ALL parenting styles:


  1. 1.    Giving choices!  Instead of using the word “no” over and over again to redirect behavior, instead try giving children choices on which action they would like to do. For example, instead of saying, “no jumping on the bed, Trevor!”, you could say, “you have two choices: you can either hop down off the bed and find a book to read, or you can help me wipe down the table”. Yes, this sounds a bit extreme to some, but I have found that actually giving the child a choice (and yes, usually the second option is some sort of chore for them to “help” me with), makes them feel like they are in control of their own actions. I guarantee you they won’t choose to help you wipe down the table. The kids I have taken care of over the years absolutely love to have a choice…even if choice #2 stinks.
  2. 2.    Do NOT raise your voice! Sometimes I have to speak up a bit more (and I am already a loud person) just to be heard by the 4 kids I care for, but I have never once yelled AT them. In my family, we definitely raised our voices as kids, and so did my parents. That was just my family dynamic. BUT, I have found that when I raise my voice with children (again, never yelling at them) that it just gives them more power. They see that they can upset you, and they WILL continue to push your buttons to see if they can rile you up.
  3. 3.    Telling a child “I told you that would happen” after they get hurt doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. Children don’t always listen. If that is a surprise to you, please find me so that I can study everything you are doing to become a super parent some day! But, there are countless instances where kids get hurt doing something I warned them about. For example, one of the monkeys I take care of loves to open my car door. Every single time he nearly opens the door into his own face. I try to oversee him opening the door since I am all about self-sufficiency, but the other day he beat me to it when I was keeping the other one from running into a tree (yes, this sounds completely ridiculous). Needless to say, he thoroughly whacked his own mouth with a steel car door when I had just reminded him that this was a possibility. Of course, my first thought was to say, “This is exactly why I ask you to have Katie help you open the door.” But he was very upset, crying, and he had a nice red mark forming. In other words, he just learned that lesson himself, and this is their version of self-correcting. When something happens as a result of not listening to a grown-up’s directions, just soothe the child until they’re ok. Trust me, they probably learned their lesson the hard way, so there is no reason to pull the “I told you so” card.
  4. 4.    Threatening to enforce a rule with an action you won’t follow up on. I am 100% guilty on this one. I constantly find myself threatening to relocate a toy they are fighting over or to leave an outing that we are on when there is no way that I will actually enforce that. Instead of threatening, follow up on what you say. Maybe redirect them into better behavior by giving them a CHOICE like I mentioned earlier! J In short, You Must Be Consistent – If you decide to lay down a law/rule you must have the self discipline to enforce it with real consequences. If you don’t enforce the law how can you expect a child to respect it?
  5. 5.    Listen to them! Most often, when a child is acting up, it is because they are not being heard. If they feel like they are being heard and taken seriously, they will act more maturely and won’t have to misbehave in order to get your attention. Even when you’re at your busiest (ie: cooking dinner, answering the phone for work, and keeping an eye on all of them), make sure you listen. When kids ask you questions or simply try to talk to you, just stop for a moment to listen to them. They’re just little guys trying to learn….or just asking for a hug. 

Good luck!



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