Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Discipline

My parents were visiting New York this week, and for the first time I took them to meet "my kids". When we arrived at the G.'s apartment I took my mother into the kitchen where Mrs. G. was giving Drew his lunch. As I entered the room with my mother close behind me Drew spotted us. He froze with a panicked expression on his face, and when I said to him, "What's wrong?" all he could manage to say was "Mommy lets me!"

It only took me a moment to realize what he was talking about. In his hands was a deconstructed PB&J. He had been systematically licking the jelly off the bread. Taking his sandwich apart is something I don't allow (and clearly, Mrs. G. does).

My mother thought this was an absolutely hysterical scene. We've often had conversations about our differing views on discipline. She is what you might call "old school". She believes that a parent's job is to frequently say no. She thinks that limits in general, even if they border on arbitrary, are important for the development of self discipline (or something like that). I admit that she's often made a compelling argument. I've weighed in on the side of moderation.

I've admitted to my mother that I've faced many moments when I'm with the G. children and find myself saying "no" for no good reason. I've tried to train myself to stop and ask why I'm saying no before I actually do. Apparently, with the PB&J, at least, sometimes the answer I come up with is adequate enough. When Drew takes his sandwich apart he makes a complete mess, which is why I've made the mandate against sandwich deconstruction.

Now, Mrs. G, who (compared to both my mother and myself) rarely says no at all, might argue that it's not the worst thing if Drew, or any of the kids, get a little sticky while eating lunch. I'll admit, it's pretty easy to sponge them off when they're done, but the obvious solution to me was to forbid the act in the first place and force Drew to conform to a norm of behavior which he is completely capable of.

I'd like to think that, as the voice in the middle, my way is the best. I am beginning to wonder though, if I really am in the middle. New York parents seem awfully permissive these days, and a frequent complaint of New York mothers is that their nannies are too strict. Wouldn't the alternative be much worse?

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