Have you ever seen a nanny on the corner of Palmer and Chatsworth screaming at a four year old ?
Now picture her shaking the child as she continues to scold him. His little face is confused and registers such dread that your heart clenches and your stomach jumps into your throat. You wonder for a moment – what could this child have possibly done to deserve such treatment? You are unsure how to respond.
So what do you do? Do you address the nanny? Do you take more extreme measures like try to contact the parents? Or do you walk away, somehow rationalizing in your head that maybe this is a problem child…or it’s not really any of your business…or that somehow in some alternate reality, it’s ok.
The answer is it’s not ok…because, simply, there is nothing that a child can do that could warrant such a response. There is no justification, especially from a nanny whom someone trusts and compensates to take care of their children.
My first nanny, hired with glowing local references and following a criminal background check, left my son in the care of her twenty-five year old boyfriend to run personal errands, locked him in his stroller and slapped him for complaining to get out. He was fifteen months old.
It wasn’t until a friend had the courage to tell us of the abuse, that we had any inkling that this was happening. We’d been fed a diet of lies. Horrifyingly, we discovered following a local police check that she’d been arrested two months after we’d hired her (and received the clean background check) for third-degree assault. We fired her immediately.
Suddenly other people started saying that they had seen her hitting or shouting at our son. Why didn’t they saw anything before?
Our second nanny, again hired with solid references, worked for us for over two years. I came home early from a doctor’s appointment to hear two sharp slaps and find my three year old with a red handprint on his bottom. What was his crime for such punishment? He refused to get dressed. Despite written guidelines on using timeouts for discipline as the exception, not the rule, she still felt it necessary to strike our son for what is typical toddler behavior. Later, after we’d fired her, we then heard accounts of her shaking the children, shouting at them, or being constantly on the phone when we weren’t around.
Again, only after the fact.
I’ve agonized on whether I was a bad parent. Why didn’t I see? Why didn’t I know? I did all the right things, performed all the research and did all the checks. My children seemed well-adjusted and happy. Still, I recall asking my five year old whether he’d ever been hit, and his response after a sidelong glance at the nanny was “no.” After she’d left, I asked him again, and his response was “what will happen if I tell you?” I don’t even want to imagine what the nanny had told him would happen if he’d said anything.
Parents, mothers, fathers, friends, we need to be on the lookout for these kinds of abusers because frankly, it is abuse. Trust me, I know it’s hard. I was recently at a class where I saw a nanny speaking quite harshly to a two-year old. I know that child’s mother and yet I said nothing. I didn’t because I didn’t know if it was my place. Do I risk a relationship with another parent because I’m too reticent to mention what I saw? Or am I not being a friend at all by not mentioning it?
Having now been through two nannies who have acted inappropriately toward my children outside of my home, I know better: It is our responsibility as neighbors and as parents to look out for each other. If you see something, SAY something. Or better yet, DO something. Someday, even though you may do all the right things and think you’ve found the perfect nanny, this could be you. Wouldn’t you want someone looking out for your children’s welfare? I know I did.
Report Bad Nannies here