So I just came back to work after a long discussion with our 4-year-old. He complains (more to the effect, he had a meltdown) that he doesn't like our nanny, and would prefer to have our neighbour watch after him instead. It's not like she's behaving inappropriately or abusing him in any way, he just doesn't like her as much as the neighbour. He, on the other hand, generally behaves poorly with temper tantrums, bad manners, and throwing things at her (not constantly, just once a day or thereabouts, and she disciplines him appropriately).

To be honest, we've had better daycare providers in the past, but my wife says the problem isn't with her, it's with our son, and he'll get over it eventually. She has prior experience as a full-time nanny, and we both like her (in fact, she's a friend of ours), and we don't really have too much of a problem with the way she cares for the kids. It seems to just come down to a personality conflict. Our second son is only 14 months old, but he goes into a fit every time we leave him with her as well.

What do we do in this situation? Look for another daycare provider, or stick it out and hope things just get better somehow?

  • 1
    How long has she been your nanny? Has the problem existed since she started, or is it new?
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 3:27
  • @HedgeMage: About four months now. It's more like a growing problem.
    – Ernie
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 16:09
  • 9
    Get a new nanny. If both your sons are reacting to her in this way, she is not the nanny you want. Who knows what she is doing to the boys when you're not around? She might be a good friend, but is she a good nanny?
    – Mia Clarke
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:59
  • 1
    maybe put in a few camera's if you can't get a new nanny.
    – tgkprog
    Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 14:59
  • Separation anxiety is pretty normal for a 14 month old. I’d probably not assume it’s because the 14 mo old is following in older bro’s footsteps, or, that it has anything to do with the nanny.
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 0:42

6 Answers 6


If it's a full-time nanny I'm assuming it's inside your own home.

You have to understand your home also belongs to your child and although in the real world we have to deal with all sorts of people we don't like to be around people we don't like in our own home. This can be a significant cause of stress and a reason that your child is reacting so aggressively.

Do you know how the nanny handles your children when you are not there? It's easier at a daycare / childcare center where there are more sets of eyes. If your child is not being dealt with well during the day this may lead to an explosion when you walk in the door.

Children can't express their frustration the same as adults so they act out. Try and give your child a chance to explain why he doesn't like the nanny and don't just listen and say that's that. Make sure you let him know that you want to know why he is not happy and will consider.

Also explain to him that it is necessary to have someone care for him and he can't just dislike everyone.

I always ask my son to provide reasons why he doesn't want to do something or doesn't like it, to justify his dislike.

Remember in the end, it's also his home and it's very important for him to have a space where he can say to whoever he likes to back-off. If he actually has a decent reason why he doesn't like the person I would be taking his side and finding someone else.

  • 12
    +1. I'd be wary of discounting your kids' feelings. It isn't necessary that he just wants his way - maybe the nanny really isn't as great with him when you're not around. Ask him for details. Explain the nanny's behavior if necessary. Work with him.
    – Swati
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 2:17
  • 1
    This sounds like good advice, but I've already tried all this. It was part of the long discussion that led to the post, and the reason I know she's not mistreating him in any way.
    – Ernie
    Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 16:03
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    we don't like to be around people we don't like in our own home -- But I didn't like my siblings a lot of the time, and I didn't get any chance to fire them. Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 12:09
  • I think if my kids could trade me in for the neighbor with a pool, an Xbox, and a bunch of dogs they would. After all, I make them brush their teeth, eat broccoli, and come inside at dark. I also love them with all my heart though, and I sometimes make them pancakes at bedtime after they turned away dinner. (Ssh!) Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure my kids dislike me more often than not, and some days I wish they would fire me! But, I’m still here...I think this is why 4 year olds can’t vote.
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 1:03

It sounds like you and your wife may have slightly different inclinations about whether a change is needed, so I'll see if I can make a respectable argument for the 'contrarian' side:

If the situation doesn't improve in a reasonable amount of time then it would seem changes are needed. Does the nanny acknowledge the problem? Does she know that the kids prefer other caretakers? Have you asked if she has her own theories why, or how to improve. Does she seem really motivated to improve things & excel on all fronts?

She may keep them safe and provide appropriate discipline but if other people can do it better (you say you've had better in the past) then it doesn't seem right to 'settle' indefinitely for someone they don't like. Being an intimate caretaker in a family is certainly about more than just safety and discipline.

It might mostly be a problem of tempermental kids, but adult professionals should be more able to change and improve than 4 year olds, so I'd say give her some time... as long as you and the nanny have ideas and the motivation to improve things, then keep trying... but as soon as you're out of ideas or any of you find you've "given up" on improving things, then you need a new Nanny.

Maybe it is no one's 'fault' at all, and is just a "personality" conflict, but even then, I'd hope that the Nanny would recognize that's a problem and would want you do whatever you need to to resolve it.

Long term, there are other nannies in the world, but these are your only kids. Even if they seem irrational, you can't feel that you 'owe' the nanny her position; she is the employee, hired to be a sort of proxy family member, and mutual love should be a part of the requirements for such an intimate position.


I'd suggest you spend some time and see how they interact. Your 4yo may have a point.

We had a number of nannies for our son over an 18 month period. Some were great and really loved kids and totally got that the job is all about being there 100% for the child and being involved with them. Others, not so much. One would arrive at our house, turn on the TV for our son and fire up her laptop - she though her job was simply to stop the kid from complaining. Based upon my experience (seeings 100s of CVs, doing 10s of interviews) nannying seems to be the fill-in job of choice for many young women, few treat it like a career.

One common feature was that they all just viewed the position as a job - there was little or no emotional investment and they'd quit and move on without a second thought.

Our son was pretty robust and got on well with most of the nannies but our daughter (8 yo) actively disliked several of them. Most of her issue was simply that the nanny was not us and did not like taking directions from them.

In the end, we got our son into a local childcare centre. We had had enough with nannies and our son was craving the attention of other children and he is much happier now.

  • I'd love to do that, but it's worth noting that it doesn't work. I've offered to do this at professional daycares, and they insist that doing so changes the child's behaviour - they at least know that they're being observed, and my oldest son in particular just gloms onto me the moment I walk in the door (I come home for lunch frequently), so it's really difficult to observe anything about how they normally operate.
    – Ernie
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:12
  • 1
    It was easier for us since we work from home so our child (and nanny) was used to us floating in the background. Even then, there is a "Heisenberg" aspect that needs to be taking into account. This is the same as childcare, though. You drop the kid off and they sook. The second you're not there, they perk up and play. In your mind, they are desperately unhappy all day.
    – dave
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 23:57

You might try to let your son know that the neighbor is not an option. Maybe the problem isn't that he dislikes or is unhappy with the nanny. Maybe he just really likes the neighbor and wants to play with him. Once the kid knows that running off this nanny isn't going to get him the neighbor that he wants, just another nanny, maybe he will settle down and be happy with what he has.

I know this is a pretty hard concept to communicate to a toddler, but I think it would be worth testing to see whether he dislikes the nanny or just has his mind set on the neighbor.

  • I think you are on to something. This is what I though too-that it’s a “grass is greener” situation. I have this problem with one of my 4 sons. He’s just got that kind of personality where he’s NEVER satisfied. Someone always has something better that he wants. He used to complain endlessly about our nanny-he wanted my in-laws to watch the kids bc my in-laws let them eat cake for dinner. Once he was there, he complained he wanted after school camp instead. They do crafts! It never ends. At some point they need to learn “you get what you get, and you don’t get upset”
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 0:50

Don't wait Make a change Children are little barometers They will react when the pressure is up. ... But it takes a lot for them to verbalized that they do not like an adult. We had the same nanny for 10 +years ... Closer to me than my own family. No big blow out but the kid's needs changed and she never really adapted to their growing needs . I should have made a change 3 years ago . The nannies that are Great will infants are not always great with the changing needs of a growing child . As a parent you are their advocate and decision maker.


We had a very similar problem with our son and his child minder. If your nanny doesn’t already do it I would ask her to keep a diary for a few days detailing what they are doing and how his mood is and how he is reacting to her throughout the day. You may pick up on something she is doing or not doing that differs from how you are with him that may be the cause of his frustration.

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