Nanny B (you think I'm going to put her real name on the internet for her employers to see??) titled this email "Nanny in despair" and writes:
"I'm an eighteen year old american girl and i just recently picked up this nannying job in [name of foreign country redacted](but the family is also american).
I've had a lot of babysitting experience in the past starting when i was 12 and it's always been relatively easy for me to relate to the children and control them, no matter what age.
However (and i've only been here for about 5 days) the 3 year old boy is a disaster! He fights everything we do: going in the car, taking baths, going to bed, putting on clothes, and even playing at the beach! I've never experienced anything like this and i don't think it has much to do with fact that i'm just the nanny because he throws tantrums for his parents too.
Hopefully you'll be able to give me some advice and/or suggestions."
OK, this really sucks for you. I can't even imagine how hard it must be to be a nanny, because you have to deal with the children, but you also have to deal with the weight of the parents' expectations, and you're a victim of however they parent. If they're not setting things up right, you're the one who deals with the misbehavior but also it makes it impossible to do your job well.
Not that I think this is what's happening here, but it is a huge problem for babysitters in general, so I just wanted to put it out there.
Now, I think there are a whole bunch of things that could be going on here.
1) He's 3. It's a notoriously bad age, which is why the Ames & Ilg book is called Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy. (My review and a bunch of funny comments here.) He's just going to tantrum sometimes.
2) He doesn't know you yet, and he could be really mad that his parents are leaving him with someone new. Time, and kindness, and being your normal fun self are going to fix that.
3) He may be missing his old babysitter. Do you know if he had a babysitter before, how long she was there, when she left, and why she left? If you can find some of that out, it might help you get into the boy's head a little. He could be absolutely heartbroken because the old babysitter is gone. Or happy she's gone but scared that you'll be mean like she was, or any other kind of combination.
4) Diet. At this age, parents start to lose control of what their kids eat. When they're teeny, you can control everything that goes into their mouths, but once they hit three there are just too many outside things going on. And preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, fake sugar, and even plenty of real, natural foods can cause radical personality changes in kids if they have problems with them. (Go read Hedra's comment in the post about juice boxes for a dramatic example of huge problems with some foods that are no problem for most people.)
I'd keep track of what he's eating for a week (everything, including gum and beverages--everything that goes into his mouth) and see if there's anything that puts up a red flag for you (lots of artificial colors, or tons of wheat) and also pay attention to his sleep.
If kids are having food sensitivities, they really can't control themselves. Think about what it would be like to be slightly poisoned all the time but still have to do all your usual stuff *and* be nice to people who told you what to do all day. I don't think I could do it.
I hope that it's the kind of situation that you can talk to the parents about. Has he thrown tantrums for long? Does it change? See if you can find out about his previous babysitter, and watch his diet. Then get back to me and we'll figure out if it's something as simple as switching parenting/discipline tactics, or if it's some other problem.
In the meantime, be of good courage. You're doing a great job. It will get better.