There are times in Nannydome, when your look at your young charge, the very one whose job you have to shape into a successful member of society, and you think, “I’m just not getting through here.” This is definitely the case on the “Day of the double throat punching.”
My charge, and the perpetrator in this case is a mild-mannered six year-old girl. It is a school holiday and both this child and her older brother have invited several friends to their house to play. The children, ranging in age from six to eight, have been happily playing together for hours without major injury or insult. With six rambunctious youngsters, however, this requires non-stop air traffic controlling and can be fairly stressful. It is for this reason that I limit the times I am responsible for multiple small humans who have little control of their facilities, bodily functions, and physical outbursts. This type of prolonged, clamorous stress is like alcohol, best if taken in moderation, otherwise one runs the risk of having a seizure and peeing oneself.
This day has gone smoothly because I have not exited the area of play, even for a moment. However, the time comes when a bathroom break is absolutely unavoidable. Of course, this is when the earth shattering ruckus begins. I have seated myself and have just begun the long-awaited, joyous expulsion of liquid when the first glass-shattering screams begin, activating the instant flow shutdown procedure – a hazardous undertaking.
Bolting from the bathroom, semi-dry and half-dressed, I expect to find one of the children experiencing limb amputation judging by the ferocity of the squalling. Instead, what I find is my six year-old charge engaged in vicious hand-to-hand combat with one of the older boys. I watch dumbstruck as the normally mild-mannered princess repeatedly throat punches her horror-struck friend, Jacob. I jump between the two amid shrieks and slugs and physically peel the two apart. The playdate is abruptly terminated and all participants are sent home protesting and pouting.
After a period of solemn reflection (time-out), I hand the child a sheet of paper with several questions I have written and ask her to take her time, think hard about the questions and then answer each in writing. I expect her answers to be neatly written, full sentences and each should include a paragraph of discussion or explanation. This punishment comes from my Catholic school upbringing, whereas the nuns would require the perpetrator of this kind of infraction to write “I will not throat punch my friends,” five hundred times. My questions and her answers are below.
Nanny: Why was your playdate cut short today?
Child: Cause Jacob is mean.
Nanny: Why did you punch Jacob in the throat?
Child: Cause his head is up too high.
Nanny: Is it ever okay to hit our friends?
Child: Only when they make me really mad.
Nanny: Can you think of anything you could do differently next time Jacob makes you mad?
Child: Yes, I can tell on him first. Then I could punch him.
So much for this thoughtful form of behavior shaping. Next time I will consider good old-fashioned corporal punishment.