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NAN: Physical Punishment

Even if the child’s parents ask the nanny to spank the child the nanny should not comply. Children who are physically punished may become aggressive in addition to developing low self-esteem.  If the parents ask the nanny to spank the children she should simply say she is not comfortable with that request. 

A nanny should not engage in any forms of punishment that could cause a child physical or emotional harm. A nanny should not shame or belittle a child, lock a child in his room, withhold food or inflict humiliation on a child. 

Nannies also must be knowledgeable on signs of abuse and neglect. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs.

“Neglect may be:

Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)

Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)

Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)

Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs).

The Child Welfare Information Gateway defines “physical abuse” as a non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child.”

It is important to note that “physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.”

Other types of abuse include sexual and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove, and therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other types of maltreatment are identified.

Signs of abuse and neglect may include a change in behavior, if a child reports maltreatment, unexplained burns, bruises or bites, has attempted suicide, shows extreme behavior, abuses animals, demonstrates bizarre or unusual sexual knowledge or seems frightened by parents.”

While state laws vary on who is mandated to report abuse, since nannies provide care for children and in doing so demonstrate a commitment to their safety and well-being, they have a moral and ethical obligation to report signs of abuse.

For information about where and how to file a report of neglect or abuse, nannies should contact the local child protective services agency or police department in their area. Nannies can also consult the Ontario Association Children’s Aid Societies.

NAN volunteers should also be familiar with the NAN Child Protection Policies.

Michelle LaRoweNAN: Physical Punishment