Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Three-Year-Old Making Babysitter Cry

Even though I have a shitload of work-related things going on right now, I need to take a break from it to blog about the following situation I'm finding myself in. I just got back from a lunch meeting where I was asked to start taking on a new business opportunity that I'm really excited/scared-in-a-good-way about. Of course it will require me to make sure I have adequately backed-up childcare, because unlike some of my other work, I can't rely upon being able to do most of it from home. I'm also pretty sure our regular babysitter is at the end of her rope when it comes to our charming 3.5-year-old DS.

Isn't that how life works? You get a great professional opportunity, and the very same day your babysitter tells you how unhappy some little one is all of the sudden making her. "I was crying in bed last night and my husband asked me what was wrong...." Noooooo!!!

Sitter approached me just a few minutes ago with tears in her eyes telling me she believes that DS really does not like her at all. The last 3 times she's watched him he has been a holy terror towards her because he misses his mama. I've had to leave my house with DS kicking and screaming. (Side note: I'm guessing at least a part of this is a developmentally-normal 3.5 year-old thing, because a lot of friends with same-aged kids have reported the same fits of Erratic, Sudden-Onset Clinginess). We've been down this road before with Sitter whenever DS has been in one of his phases. Talking through it with him has sometimes helped. Today she insinuated that she thinks DS would be happier without her - I had to ask if she was quitting. She said "No way." Whew.

DH feels that Sitter needs to develop a thicker skin and stop taking a 3-year-old's pissed-off protestations that he "hates you" because his mama just left for work as Gospel truth. I tend to agree. Sitter takes what DS says to her very, very personally. On the one hand she says she understands it, "He's only 3, I know that's how 3-year-olds are, but the way he talks it is like talking to a grown-up. He's just different than all of my 3 daughters and DD." Yeah, he's one special snowflake alright.

I asked her "so what do you want me and DH to do about it" - three times.

"I don't know."

"Do you want us to keep talking to him and letting him know what our expectations are?"


"What else do you think would help?"

"I really don't know."

"Does he need more discipline?'

"No, I just think he hates me, and I'm sad..."



Jac. said...

Well, sometimes I think my DS (3.75) hates me too. Sometimes he tells me he wants a new mama, or that I am not nice, or that he doesn't love me. Really - it doesn't bother me except superficially. I think that if a kid is acting out against you, it actually means that he really feels loved and safe and he knows that he can act out and the love will still be there afterwards. If it is just that your sitter's feelings are being hurt, maybe you could frame it that way and she'll think that she is actually quite special to your son.

Congrats on the new work opportunity!! I hope it works out for you.

mom2boy said...

Special snowflake. Ha. :) I agree with @Jac - I tend to think about the ability to express negative feelings as a sign of a secure child. Tate can simultaneously be in a mommy don't leave me phase and feel free to tell me he doesn't love me at all and he'd rather not have a mom if it has to be me. I have to believe that is perfectly normal since I've never walked in to find him pulling the heads off his dinosaurs.

"It's because he loves you that he says he hates you." Women have fallen for worse lines than that. :)

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

love all previous comments :) we have yet to cross that bridge, but this should have me at least semi equipped for the future :)

congrats on the new venture!!!

PS. nice new design :)

Jac. said...

"It's because he loves you that he says he hates you." Women have fallen for worse lines than that. :)"

Mwhahaha!! Too true!

Cloud said...

I agree that this sort of acting up is probably a sing that your son is really secure with his sitter. Which is a good thing... except it is hard on her.

I don't know how you "fix" things, since although we have gone through phases like this, it is with a day care center, so a different set of problems.

Is there some way you could try a "play it out" approach, where you get some dolls/stuffed animals/branded character action figures of choice and have him pretend one is the kid, one is the mom, and one is the sitter? And then work through the emotions and make the sitter cry when the kid says something mean, etc?

I don't know- it might work, it might fall flat. But we've had some luck with that technique for other issues.

Got It, Ma! said...

I think everyone is right that your son is comfortable and secure with his babysitter which makes him feel okay about acting on his darker feelings with her. Hard as it is to hear sometimes, when my six year-old daughter tells me she hates me, part of me knows I've probably just done something right.

It sounds like the babysitter needs to grow a thicker skin. This is just what kids do. We had a similar situation with a sitter and lucky for me she was a friend of my mom. When she lamented to my mother how sad she was about my daughter getting angry with her my no-nonsense mom said something to the effect of, "Oh, come on! You do remember who the adult is in this situation, right?"

While I don't necessarily recommend that exact turn of phrase, you might tell her some stories about how your son has pushed you away (even if they're fictional at this point, they'll be true enough soon) and try to put some positive spin on it, to the effect that "He wouldn't push you away if he wasn't totally sure you weren't actually going to leave."

Anonymous said...

How bizarre. How do you have that many kids of your own and not realize that children are just children?

Just because a special snowflake has the vocabulary and sentence structure of an adult doesn't mean that kid is actually an adult.

If you ask DS, does he say he likes the sitter? Maybe an, "When I ask him he says he likes you just fine." Also, if there's something he doesn't get to do when you're home (watch tv, eat ice cream etc.) maybe the sitter can make it a special treat. "Your mom said we could (do this fun distracting activity that is usually forbidden fruit)." We generally do something like that when one of us is on a business trip... order pizza, have ice cream for dinner, etc.

the milliner said...

Congrats on the business opportunity!

What's curious to me is why the babysitter seems to be focused on why your DS 'doesn't like her', vs. what's going on with him to bring on the change in behaviour, and what can be done to help ease/work through that.

To be fair, I can see how the adult language & way of speaking can trip her up. But I think that's more of an indication on what her hot-buttons or sensitive areas are, than anything else. It just sounds like it's the first time she's encountered this and doesn't know what to do - it sounds like it's challenging her self esteem as a caregiver.

If this is it, it's clearly her issue. But, of course, you want to keep her and you want her and DS to work it out. I think anything you can do/say to show to her that it's part of the phase of 3.5, and that it's a sign of DS feeling secure with her (as others have pointed out) could help. Maybe recommend reading 'Your 3-year-old' (or just talk about some of the stuff behind what's going on developmentally at 3.5) if you can find a way to do it that feels comfortable.

I'm working through 'Your 3-year-old' now and oh man, I kind of fear that age. DS already doesn't like being left now at 3. And is having some power-struggle type tantrums. The thought of it getting that much worse is a little scary. Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst...

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

Ugh. 3.5. That was when my son started FREAKING OUT because he had to stay with me and couldn't go with Grandma, or inversely had to go with Grandma and couldn't stay with me.

I remember one particularly fun incident on a snowy afternoon in the first month of my daughter's life. My son had a three-alarm tantrum in the middle of the street because he didn't want to come home, so my mother-in-law called me and asked what to do. I said, in my hardass-I-can-manage-it-all-but-I'm-a-secretly-fragile-new-mom-to-two way, to bring him home anyway. Which was both emotionally and physically challenging for my mother-in-law, because my son was not only screaming and insulting me, but also flailing and dropping to the ground.

Anyway, I get a tearful call from my mother-in-law, who's in the entrance hall to our building with a screaming kid who refuses to budge. I pop my daughter in a baby carrier and head down to retrieve him. The door's open, the frigid air starts making my daughter scream, so I have to take two hysterical children upstairs with more strength than I knew I had.

It took, like, 10 minutes to calm everyone down. My daughter was quick -- she just wanted to be back where it was warm. My son was a challenge -- it took 10 minutes of my best NVC communication strategies to get him to stop howling already -- but my mother-in-law was the hardest of all. I think she left convinced that my son hated her, and was rattled for at least a few days afterward.

That's 3.5. They barely understand their own emotions, and have absolutely NO IDEA of the impact their new words and physical strength can have on others. The good news is that I'd guess that the behavior is peaking for your DS, and that all of a sudden he's going to start rapidly metamorphosing into a so much more rational almost-4-year-old. That's what happened with my son, at least: October through January were brutal, but things have been getting easier by the month ever since.

In the meantime, I would suggest your sitter try the most boring response possible. "I know you hate me, but I'm still waiting for you to eat your peas." Or she could try bursting into song at opportune moments. My mother used to croon the Stones, and I'll admit I've responded to whining with a cheerful "You can't always get what you wah-ant..." on more than one occasion.

"'It's because he loves you that he says he hates you.' Women have fallen for worse lines than that. :)"

HA HA HA! I love it.

Oh, and good luck with your new business venture!

caramama said...

Well, ditto everyone else.

And I feel bad for you, hush, having to deal with THREE children. Maybe I'm a bit of a hardass in cases like this, but really. She doesn't know what she wants you to do about it and is crying to because she thinks he hates her and she's sad? What other job would a situation like that be acceptable?

Oh, project manager! My client again didn't like the idea I proposed to him, even though I worked on it so hard! I think he hates me, and I'm sad. Waaaah!

With a previous boss I had at my consulting firm, there was a story about someone who broke down and started crying in a higher up's office. Over an issue with her work, not something person. So me and my boss used to joke "there's no crying in consulting!" if something upsetting happened. No crying. Get over it and do your job.

But yes to what everyone else said about it being a difficult age and the kid must feel secure and things to try. I just find it unprofessional of her and a bit childish for her to have told you all that. IMO, she should state it as something that's going on and ask you or suggest to you things to try to overcome the difficult stage.

Melba said...

Coming in late, but i agree with the previous comments:
- he's doing it because he feels comfortable with her and knows she'll still be there for him despite his acting up, and
- she's being a baby about it and more than a bit unprofessional. I'm with @caramama - where else could someone go to their boss and say "so and so hates me! I'm sad! Wah!"

Which reminds me of what happened to me once. I gave a performance review to a young woman and she got a "very good" review (which is like a 4 out of 5). She was so upset she didn't get an "excellent" that she literally locked herself in a bathroom stall and cried hysterically all afternoon. Finally after a few hours I had to go in there and tell her to go home if she can't return to work. Seriously.

hush said...

Effin' blogger ate my extremely long comment for each of you! NOOOOOO!!!!!

So now that I'm too peeved to re-type I'll simply say THANK YOU for all of your comments. @mom2boy - LOVE that line. @caramama & @Melba - yeah, it sucks and is so not professional, and "there's no crying in baseball!!!!"

Anonymous said...

As both a mother who employs a babysitter, and a childcare provider, my two cents is this: your babysitter is unprofessional to cry over this.

Get a new one.