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Attitudes towards feeding charges - opinions gratefully received

(12 Posts)
Tavvy Wed 08-Jul-09 21:52:42

Having just read the other thread regarding nannies attitudes towards feeding children I was interested in some advice.

I have the exact opposite problem in that the adults in the house apart from me are OBSESSED with every single mouthful the children eat. I provide healthy balanced meals - I love to cook and it is presented to the children but I never force them to eat anything. My only rule is that what is on the plate is what is for tea and they will not be getting anything else until the next meal. I do not cook to order unless for a medical reason. I do not cook things they dislike or anything like that.
The minute they are at the table the mum and the housekeeper hover over the children and just go on and on and on at them they whole time.
They have of course learnt to use food as a weapon against adults - dangerous territory and then get confused because of course it does not work with me - an attitude the mum takes that I do not care about her children (not true) I just don't see how making such a fuss if helpful. There are many other issues surrounding foodand mealtimes I won't go into.
I do genuinely worry about this situation. They are not my children and I understand it is not really my business how the parents choose to care for them but I really think this is a dangerous slippery slope. I can see it already
I just stay calm and refuse to get drawn into it as much as possible - difficult when it descends into a screaming match (not me)
Any advice - mums especially - can you offer a parental perspective I am missing.

frAKKINPannikin Wed 08-Jul-09 21:57:31

Not a mother but...

Maybe the mother has issues with food herself and wants her children to eat properly? Maybe they were underweight/failed to thrive as babies?

I think it's difficult to take this one issue in isolation because, especially with things like food, there are usually a whole lot of factors coming into play and it's impossible to pinpoint one thing.

Blondeshavemorefun Thu 09-Jul-09 09:27:52

why not ask the mum and house keeper to not sit there at meals times and go and do some work/chores/watch tv and see what happens

i know a mum who does this sad she cooks HUGE plates, far more than i give my 3 if we go there for tea, and i always say thats far too much, and she is fine with that for mine, but she makes hers eat it, till they are almost gagging

the mum i feel has eating issues,we goout for lunch sometimes,and i eat smile but i have watched her and she cuts food up,puts on fork, raies to mouth, then asks a question, then lowers fork,pushes food ont o the plate etc

once i was really -anal-- worried and really watched her and she only ate 3 proper mouthfuls of food, but chopped and cut it up and pushed it around so did look like she had eaten iyswim

AtheneNoctua Thu 09-Jul-09 10:49:44

Wow, tough one. Your approach to eating is definitely the right on in my opinion. But, you are right that she can choose to raise her children as she pleases and you work for her.

I had the opposit problem once. I had specifically asked the nanny to feed DD at regular meal times and not in between. She ignored my instruction and fed DD on demand. DD was a toddler and I realised as this nanny's time was coming to an end that this was why DD was demanding food of her choice all day long and not hungry at meal time. Now I have to say nanny was quite the health nut and never gave DD junk food. But, I don't do on demend food all day long and I was most displeased with what I considered to be insubordination on the nanny's part.

I think it's harder for you because you do have to feed as you are instructed.

Blondes, that's terrible. That woman is going to make her kids fat and they are going to have issues. grin at you counting the bites that went in her mouth.

Tavvy Thu 09-Jul-09 13:24:31

I think she definitely has issues. They are healthy children who eat a good healthy balanced diet - I make sure of that but I refuse to take it to those lengths.
I guess my only option is to get out before they do need serious therapy and leave them to it

Oligo Thu 09-Jul-09 13:36:28

i think food issues can be one of the most difficult things to resolve. Food is important and meal times happen so often it is very easy for bad habits to be set up quickly.

I think this problem is common and i completely sympathise with your position.

When children are not around you could make clear to parents that at meals times you are actively observing behaviour/attitudes/reactions/patterns and consciously making a big effort not to focus on food (even though it is all you are thinking about). This might help them see you are not just ignoring their children by your apparent non-action.

Also ask what their long term objectives are for their children's relationship with food- health, enjoyment, social activity, independent feeding; (suggest they can learn authority, doing as they are told in other activities). Suggest that although your way may not appear useful short term it is those long term 'results' that you are aiming to set up by your relaxed attitude.

Actually I think children could help decide what to cook and what to snack on as long as you only have healthy food around.

Another way is to cook everything put in big bowl in centre of table and give empty pates, sit down with them and take from the same bowl as they do onto your plate.

Oligo Thu 09-Jul-09 13:49:25

Well re the getting out. Unless you are really unhappy where you are it sounds like for the childrens sake it is better that you are there than not. They see two different attitudes and this among other things you do helps them learn about the world and making their own way- that is therapy!

nouveaupauvre Thu 09-Jul-09 21:13:06

i'm a mum who has a nanny - i think as athene says your approach is right, but clearly the mother's is different, and at the end of the day she is their mother (however misguided).
is there a cultural issue here - in some cultures food and finishing everything on the plate is a very big deal (and offensive or disrespectful to the mum if you dont) in which case you might have to steer clear. if not.....
is she there at all the meals? (and if so, um, why does she have a nanny?) are they very little or quite old? do they have any meals outsie the house eg at school?
if mealtimes degenerate into a screaming match, i imagine the mother knows at some level that something is wrong, so could you sit down and discuss with her how she would like you to work with her to tackle that problem - make it about their behaviour, not hers versus yours, even if frankly she is the problem - and use that conversation to gently bring up alternative strategies such as some fo the ones oligo suggests? as an employer i'm always open to my nanny suggesting ways things could work better but that's probably because she is very tactful and never makes it sound like a criticism of me - if you think your boss could be willing to go with the same approach, try it. but if you think she wont budge, and you really disagree with what she does and expects you to do, i agree you might have to leave. but you sound like a caring and thoughtful nanny so it would be a shameif you had to

Tavvy Thu 09-Jul-09 22:11:52

I would discuss it if this parent was approachable but she isn't. She has always been quite hostile towards me - it's almost as if she resents me for doing the job she pays me to do and I do to the best of my ability. I have qualifications in child nutrition and have worked with children with eating disorders so I do know what I'm talking about but she insists that I am 'just a nanny,' which translates as thick I think in her book. I think this is a no win situation for me actually. I think I shall just continue to try and set what I think is a good example. I don't see what else I can do.

Oligo Fri 10-Jul-09 01:03:50

I respectfully disagree with unquestioning defference(-sp?) towards (misguided) parents just because they employ you. You have experience, qualifications and a humanity, even as an employee.

Certain extreme and less extreme attitudes and behaviours of adults towards dependent children can be damaging for children in many ways e.g. mental, emotional. You are in a responsible position and in fact it is your job to evaluate the significance and magnitude of any potential problems in the context you work. Food issues can be big, important and can wreck lives and happiness, as you seem to have had experience with op. You can only do your best to counter this.

If your natural considerate way of being with a child is compromised and you do not feel comfortable it is right to voice concern if you can. You certainly shouldn't incorporate such approaches into your work purely for the sake of following orders, culture or not.

nouveaupauvre Fri 10-Jul-09 12:47:14

i agree oligo if something is damaging, as a nanny you should voice concern. what i meant was that in practice you're more likely to get somewhere if you make it sound tactful rather than confrontational - and if this is a cultural issue, you're unlikely to get anywhere at all. so in those circs i think a nanny should express concern but should also be prepared to get fired if she doesn't do what parents want (however wrong). this sounds like misguided parenting rather than child abuse, and if parents are determined to be misguided, not a hell of a lot you can do about it.
btw tavvy sounds as if confrontations over food is only the half of it. if your employer is hostile, doesn't respect your qualifications and treats you as if you were thick, then as long as you have been approaching her tactfully (with due respect for the fact that she's the kids' mother) rather than challenging her openly, she is not a good employer and on those grounds alone i'd be looking for another job.

Oligo Fri 10-Jul-09 23:20:51

i would probably be thinking of leaving too. Although i've stuck out a couple of difficult experiences for a while just to see if i could and learn about people.

Getting non-hostile references is also sadly a consideration if you don't have loads of others to back you up; similar to the being prepared to get fired thing i suppose. Depends how confident you are that something is affectingly wrong and tact is definitely always first thing to try- easier if your feelings haven't been festering.

If parents attitude is all consuming every meal time, long term, it is very likely to negatively affect children's relationship with their parents, authority figures, food etc. There is no line where it is abuse- parents behaviours can affect their children to the extent they behave that way.

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