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Why children act up for their parents

2015 October 19

‘They never behave like this with me’. ‘The minute the mother walks in the door all hell breaks loose’. ‘The house is like a zoo when I get home’.

It’s a common complaint on both sides. Why do children act up when both nanny and parents are present? Here are 3 possible explanations:

They’re playing ‘power struggle’. Kids know that there’s a sense of hierarchy and they’re trying to navigate the complicated world of human relationships. When two people who are in charge of them are together, who is the one who has the ultimate power? The surest way for them to test this is to behave badly and see who tells them off, and whether the other person can over-rule any consequences.

Nanny is much stricter. If the children have been behaving perfectly all day they may explode from the pressure when their parents get home, particularly if the parents have a very open, permissive and affectionate parenting style. Even though they’re capable of behaving it’s still a strain and they revert to what they know and are comfortable with. They may even hit out at their parents to test the unconditional love and acceptance they’re expecting to find.

Nanny is much more permissive. In this case the children are making the most of nanny’s presence to get away with things they would never usually be able to do in front of their parents. Sometimes this includes things that nanny won’t let fly during the day but that funny transition time means she may be more inclined to let the parents sort it out. In turn the parents have the impression that nanny lets them get away with this kind of behaviour and that’s okay while she’s around just as long as it stops as soon as she walks out the door.

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