I am a nanny. With 24 years of experience. All I do is spend 50-plus hours a week trying to get children to listen, to behave, to do their chores, and homework. When I am having a disciplinary problem, I do not have the option to smack, spank, whack, or paddle. If I did, I would wind up either sued for every penny I have, or jobless. I have worked through some very prestigious placement services, and I sign contracts stating I will never touch a child with the intent to inflict pain. Having been a nanny and former Montessori preschool teacher for so long, I am acutely aware that many families spank. I have worked for some of them. I want to say that even families who spank, and think spanking is the only way to discipline or the best and most effective way, have seen that my non-spanking methods are more effective.
My most recent situation involves caring for four children from the ages of 3 to 10, the youngest of whom is developmentally delayed. Their parents spank and have asked me to spank the children, too, but I just couldn't bring myself to strike a blow to their immature, perfect little bodies that the Gods had made so beautifully. It just totally went against my grain, against all my experience and training, and against my spirit. These kids were in pretty rough shape, behaviorally speaking, when I started. People on the streets (smallish town, parents are both doctors) would come up to me and say, "Oh, you are the Smiths' nanny. Well, bless your little heart for trying!" It was very hard. These children were only used to being hit. They let what I had to say go in one ear and out the other.
I implemented "Fun Friday," by far my most useful nanny trick. On Fridays, we do something or go somewhere fun: the movies, the park, have a water balloon fight. Anything inexpensive. If they do not score 20 points on their housework charts (make bed--1 pt., clean up living room--1 pt., pick up after the dog--2 pts., take bath without a hassle--1 pt., etc.), they get left behind with the housekeeper. Each child has been left behind once and only once. The key is that when they are asked to do something, and they do it promptly and without hassle, a reward is in the air. After about two months, the novelty of the chart wears off, but the precedent has been set.
When the middle daughter stopped turning in her homework for a week, and I found out she was lying to me about "no homework," I started phoning the teacher every afternoon, to get her assignment. Then, when the child would tell me, "no homework," I didn't spank her for lying. I simply said, "No, I am pretty sure Ms. Jones has some spelling words for you to learn. Let me call her and check..." The child immediately whipped out her spelling words and was surely wondering how I knew so much. I didn't need to shame her. I simply wanted her to believe I was too smart to be scammed. I didn't need to teach her that I was bigger and could beat her into submission and make her howl with pain.
The whole thing to me is this...kids are supposed to misbehave. It is how they learn. I give them real life consequences for their actions.
With a very young child who is doing something unacceptable, let's say tossing food on the floor from the high chair, I immediately and swiftly remove his food and utensils. I hunker down and meet him eye to eye, and say, very firmly, "NO!" I wait a few moments, and the child gets no attention while he cries or stares at me. Then I return the items for another chance. I do this over and over, and I get right up in his comfort zone when I say no.
This method does not work if mealtimes are a solitary event for the child. Children will take negative attention over no attention, so I always make it a point to sit with the child and converse and eat a little something, too, so I can give the child a model of behavior to work with. If you park the kid in a high chair in one end of the kitchen and you go wash dishes in the other, well, then, I would chuck my Cheerios on the floor to get some eye contact, too!
Once a charge has it firmly instilled that I am not someone who is going to be inconsistent or too tired to care, that's it. Half the battle is over.
When my kiddos ask me "WHY???" my patent answer is, "Because Nanny loves you, that's why."
The other day at the dinner table, my oldest charge, who is 10, was asking why he couldn't ride his bike in the street with me at dusk. His 8-year-old sister said, "Because Nanny loves you, that's why!" And then she went into a litany of things I do not let them do in a sing-song voice. "Why do we have to hold our hands in the parking lot? Because Nanny loves us, THAT'S WHY!" "Why do we have to sit DOWN in the bathtub? Because Nanny loves us, THAT'S WHY!" "Why do we have to brush our teeth for two minutes? Because Nanny loves us, THAT'S WHY!" And all four of them were making up stanzas, giggling away. It brought tears to my eyes, that they understood my many rules were because I love them so much.
As far as one-size-size-fits-all discipline, there is no such thing. Every little person I have ever worked with and for required a slightly new and different approach. One of my greatest strengths and accomplishments is that I can and do rise to the challenge of each unique child's needs. I consider it the Power of the Creator(s) working through me. I honor that Power every time I can discipline and teach peacefully, without tears of pain, and with love.
I believe that each precious gift of a child has been given to just the right parents. The Powers That Be make no mistakes. Parents and caregivers of children are privileged to learn from one another, as well as to teach. It causes me great apprehension to think that, in the event I have my own precious child, when discipline is no longer a paid position, but my life's work with my own child, I might forget what I have learned from my experiences. If no one is there to critique my performance, if my livelihood isn't jeopardized by my rational decision making, will I still try so hard to impart lessons without resorting to a slap or a smack? I just have to look myself in the eye and decide if I was the best mom I could possibly be that day. I hope I can meet my own gaze and say yes. I respect parents. You have a very difficult job. I believe we are all given the tools to do the job right. I just hope I never forget to use them when it is my turn.
Blessings upon all the little children.