I have four weeks left of the worst nannying position of my life. I originally thought the job would be great, three kids that seemed a little naughty but manageable.

The interview went great and the trial baby-sits went fine, but the eight year old has literally made this the worst summer of my life. He's threatened to kill me multiple times, constantly swears at me, has taken a kitchen knife and tried to kill me and his brother, kicks, punches me, lies, steals...

I've pulled out every trick in my bag, I've tried 123 Magic, which works with his other siblings, but he just mocks me, kicks me, swears at me, threatens to call the cops and runs out to a friends house. It's miserable. The worst is that his blatant disrespect is having a terrible effect on the middle kid, who will listen to whatever the older one says and go crazy while I'm discipling the older kid.

I'm getting no support from the parents. They just laugh and say their children are bad. I have four weeks more.

Should I quit, get no recommendation, lose my salary, regain my dignity, or stick it out and be miserable?

  • 4
    Not an answer, but: Please consider contacting the appropriate government/local authority (Child Protective Services / CPS or equivalent)? This sounds like the child needs immediate help, and as a caregiver it is your responsibility to intervene for the protection of the child. You should be able to discuss the problems with CPS anonymously first, then decide whether to file a report. They will also be able to help you with how to approach the parents (and in case the parents are already in contact, they will just take your observations).
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 8:51
  • Geographically, where are you? That might make a difference if you follow advice to get some kind of intervention. Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 15:42
  • "has taken a kitchen knife and tried to kill me and his brother" If it is really the case then the problem is not "regain my dignity, or stick it out and be miserable?" but letting a child being murdered or not ...
    – agemO
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:46

7 Answers 7


Leave. Leave now.

There's clearly something seriously wrong. Whether it's bad parenting, a psychological disorder, or something else entirely, it is beyond your control and you are liable for the welfare and actions of the children in your charge. Don't end up under criminal neglect charges or worse because you can't change the situation.

If you suspect criminal abuse/neglect is going on, report the parents to the appropriate authorities.

You will take a career hit by leaving, but far less than the one you would take for having someone sue you, or press criminal charges, for something that happens here. Being the nanny who walked away from a bad situation without a reference is a lot better than being the nanny whose 8yo charge stabbed another child, and with three in your charge you can't have hold of all of them at once.

Rules of good behavior aren't just for the caregiver's sanity, it's for the children's safety!

  • 26
    Parents that just laugh when their kids threaten to kill the nanny is IMO criminal neglect. I'd quit and call appropriate authorities. Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 8:32
  • Excellent advice! @Sarah: that's the best advice you can get IMHO. Imagine what happens if one of the kids really injures itself or anyone else while you're responsible for them. However, it would be good to have an independent witness or another documentation of those things as dave suggested (however you should find out what you're allowed to do and what you are not, e. g. filming someone else) in case the parents would try to blame you for something when you reported appropriate authorities and "made waves" (from their point of view).
    – BBM
    Commented Aug 1, 2011 at 2:24
  • 2
    I agree with everything HedgeMage writes, except "you will take a career hit". You can address the situation during an interview: "The Johnsons are upset with me for not renewing our contract and decline to give me a recommendation." Right off the bat you have 1) indicated the Johnsons wanted you back (which is the best form of recommendation, really), and 2) opened the door to discuss further: "I loved the kids, but we couldn't find a way to work with James. It's a great example of why it's so important for us (parents/nanny) to be a team." Commented May 3, 2013 at 15:33
  • I am having a similar situation. The girl I am looking fell from a tree, lucky she didn't hurt her spine, a few days after the accident she listened to me that not climbing on the tree and she is now not listening anything whatever I warn her before she played with her friends at their front and her younger brother said "my mum and day let her climb on trees". I am decided to leave the job. Nanny salary is higher than working in the childcare centre but if an accident happens, all my life earning with family won't be enough to pay for it. I like to have peace of mind without this family.
    – user24674
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 3:08

The most concerning thing about your question is the comment, he "has taken a kitchen knife and tried to kill me and his brother."

If you are speaking literally this child needs a professional intervention. The consensus is for you to get out of this situation for your safety.

Do everything you can (outside of staying) to help the family transition to another care giver. Hopefully, for the children's safety, the family can find someone capable of helping the older son, such as a councilor or therapist.

The next time such a situation exists, one child tries to kill you or another child, you must call the parents and child protective services immediately to intervene.

There is a real likelihood that the violent older child is being abused (possibly sexually) by someone the family knows or a family member. Information from the National Center for the Victims of Crime here.

  • 3
    + 1 for the abuse flag, buit dont assume 'Sarah' is in the USA!
    – NWS
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 8:21

Honestly, if the parents just laugh it off and at the same time confirm that they are bad -- leave. These kids are not yours; they're just a job. Your life and sanity is worth a better job. If you can, move on to a better job and forget about this.

I don't see anythIng in your question to say that you really need or want to keep the job, except for the fleeting details such as salary and a recommendation. But as soon as you've landed the next gig, those things don't matter anymore.

Don't be too concerned about those kids. If not even the parents care, why should you? The next family is bound to appreciate you more.


You have a professional and moral obligation to report your concerns to the relevant authorities. (Certainly in the UK; I imagine it's the case in other countries too.)

Here's a UK link:


Here's a Canadian link:


By not reporting your concerns you may be leaving yourself open to serious consequences. (But I am not a lawyer!)

  • 1
    To report in the states, you'll need to look up the Department of Child and Health Services (some states call it this) or the Department of Child and Family Services (other states call it this) for your state. I'm sorry there isn't a more universal way to look it up, but one of these searches should gain you reporting info for your area. Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 3:06
  • France and Switzerland have the same kind of laws. They even nullify any kind of confidentiality contract you might have (at least in switzerland).
    – MakorDal
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 9:31
  • @MakorDal: Yes, same in Germany, and I would assume in most other countries. Even doctor-patient or priest-patient confidentiality (which are very strict) is overridden if there is a person is in danger. Definitely contact authorities.
    – sleske
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 7:55

This is probably too late now, but I wanted to add another option in hopes you still have a chance to make a difference.

This child needs professional counseling. The parents have no interest in obtaining it. However, their ability to maintain their standard of living depends on a babysitter. In other words, if you are really willing to leave, they need you a little more than you need them. It means potentially staying with the family, but you do have some leverage that you could use to try to help the child in a meaningful way.

How you do that is to show up for your next appointment with a list of phone numbers in your hand. Before entering the house, you give the list to the parent and tell them you are turning around and walking away unless they call a counselor and make an appointment there in front of you. They can find someone else to watch the children that day, work or not. No warning... put them on the spot, so they only way they can possibly have a sitter ready is to meet your demand. If they don't call, you leave, and you're no worse off than you would be with the other recommendations here. Perhaps a bit of blackmail about reporting the child will help, though I'd avoid that if at all possible.

Probably the parent will call, because it's their easiest option. The risk is that they'll do it to keep you in the house right now, and will just find a new sitter as soon as they have a spare minute. You want to make sure they follow through, so if they do call, make sure you know who they called, and make sure they give the office a release so that you can follow up that the child and parent actually attended the appointment. Failure to attend will also result in you leaving.

Honestly, this probably won't work. It's likely the parent will make the call, but then find a new sitter before the next day. But it's the kids' (all three of them) only chance.


As mentioned by the other people, leave. While you are there, you are responsible for these children and anything that happens to them. You only have 4 weeks left, so there is little incentive for you to start a long-term correction of the child's behaviour, especially since you have no support form the parents.

Whether you stay or go, I would suggest filming (mobile phone camera) the child at its worst. Keep this up your sleeve since it may contravene privacy laws but it may come in handy if things get ugly - at least you'll have something to back you up when the parents claim the child is just being boisterous.


If you are supposed to be in control of the children and one of them is leaving the house at his will when not dangerously disrupting the house when home - then -YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. You have asked the parents for their help and they LAUGH at the situation - then - YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. Would you drive a school bus when everything is out of control...NO. This is your cue to call in the authorities and admit the situation is out of control...and you can not gain control and therefore need to leave asap. The parents are the authorities you tell this to and then make a complaint to child services. No more negotiating. The parents refusal to do their job is not your fault. Human service positions are complex jobs - but they are jobs and not permanent positions like parenting.

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