Nanny Knows Best

Although Mary Poppins may have saved the day with "a spoon full of sugar", Nanny V employs a more pragmatic approach. No magic, just simple love, attention and consistency. And a healthy dose of humour.

The woman behind two Bushes

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on Tuesday, 16 December 2014
It would be interesting to ask Barbara Bush if she cringed at her son’s verbal blunders or whether she took pride in George W’s contribution to a new English vocabulary. Did she bother to correct him? Buy him a dictionary for Christmas? Admonish him?

Unlike his dad, George Senior, Junior did not always “resignate with the people”, and believed “they misunderestimated me”. Ooops.

So when I came across a speech she gave to university graduates I was intrigued by her compassion and insight for young and eager souls to consider choice and change.

I appreciate the greater picture is not always foremost on your mind when you’re in the thick of late night feeds or dealing with a moody teen, however, the guidance and opportunities you offer your children will be based on your beliefs and what they see you do. So consider the following concepts when deciding the how and why of behaviour management.

“Decisions are not irrevocable. Choices do come back”. You make a mistake, so try and fix it or at least learn from it. Teaching children about success and failure is an early life lesson to hopefully stop repeating unhealthy behaviour patterns. We can’t be perfect all the time but showing children that even adults are infallible is a positive example for their development.

“Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family”. Loving your children is the easy part, liking them enough to spend time, instil family routines, and create memories, is the part you may forget is as important. Work, household chores, and all life’s demands do leave you exhausted and distracted, but giving your babies YOU is the best present. Play a game, go for a walk, cook together, and turn off your mobile.

“Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Beuller said on his day off … “Life moves pretty fast. Ya don’t stop and look around once in a while, ya gonna miss it!” Laugh, play and laugh some more. Or as George W often said, “work toward embitterment”.

Raising children is not rocket science. It’s much harder than that. It takes all the love and energy and more, and it can be lots of fun too. I’d say more satisfying than flying to the moon.

If you’d like to read Barbara Bush’s entire speech, here’s the link,

Lipstick tiger mums

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on Tuesday, 16 December 2014
With so many books and magazines and therapists offering their version of how to raise happy and healthy children and what to do when there is an issue, I really cannot offer you something new. However, what I want to talk about is what NOT to do.

I am not an admirer of Sarah Palin’s politics, and her parenting style is also somewhat questionable, but she did provide me with a quote ideal to demonstrate the opposite of what I have experienced in childcare and teaching.

When she captioned, “You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is? Lipstick”, I quivered. Whether it’s football, violin, homework, or learning a language, there is a great difference between pressure and motivation.

Whatever you call parents who strangle their children with great expectations and overburden them with tutors and activities, the result is the same according to former Tiger Mum, Tanith Carey.

“Tiger parenting wrecks family life and it ruins our enjoyment of parenting. It's heartbreaking”, she says and adds that “the stressed and anxious kids of today are the depressed adults of tomorrow”.

I am not in the habit of promoting reference books but all too often I see the damage this parental behaviour has on the innocent offspring of well-meaning adults.  As the cover of her book asks, “how to put your child’s well-being first in a competitive world”, consider this as the primary mantra when making decisions.
There are many tell-tale signs children exhibit when stressed or unable to cope. The physical tummy and headaches; the behavioural tantrums and fidgeting; and the emotional extremes in self-confidence and chronic worrying.

It is well documented children learn significantly through play by exploring and discovering without having lessons rammed down their throats. Give them space. Time. Encourage friendships. A fulfilled life is not just about school grades or awards.

Organise a family “Wellies” outing and see who can make the biggest puddle splash. If it’s too wet and woolly outdoors get out the face paints and let your children find their inner-Picasso on you first.

Find fun, be silly, laugh, giggle and if you’re phone/camera is handy, capture the moment for your family Christmas greeting.

Birth notice

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on Monday, 08 December 2014
birthnotice-176You might read this and think it is an extreme of what parenting is all about. How wrong. What next?

Let me enlighten you why I believe Mama and Papa Bogert are precisely the kind of mum and dad I would hope are the norm rather than the exception. Reason being, unconditional love and acceptance.

Parenting is a tough gig. There are no guarantees. And just when you start to feel comfortable and think you know your offspring, they surprise you…not always in a good way, or with something you might be completely unprepared for.

On so many levels giving birth to a daughter who rejects your expectations and challenges what society also presumes is acceptable behaviour can be a humdinger of a situation.

And yet Kai gets to grow up, learn, and discover life and the best in people through his parents.

“It is all very new to us. Kai told me a few days ago that he no longer wanted to live as a girl”, Mrs Bogert said.

“I need to show my son I support him 100 per cent and wanted to let the world know that”.

And she does it with grace and humour and a good dose of reality. “Tidy your room”.

Now that’s a mum who is a real parent.

Darling I'm your Auntie Mame

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on Monday, 01 December 2014
Whilst many little girls dream about growing up to be a princess or a mummy or a doctor, my sights were set on becoming the quintessential aunt. Not that I knew the word “quintessential” way back when, but I did know and love the flamboyance and witticisms of Auntie Mame were far more attractive than nappy changing or balancing a silly crown on my head.

Like Auntie Mame all aunts obviously had riches to swan about in grand homes and travel lavishly; have the wisdom of a life well lived to indulge in outrageous and delicious passions; share beliefs with young impressionable souls and espouse, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”.

My reality proved to be far different although thanks to my considerate siblings I can boast a brood of 10 nieces and nephews with whom I am deliriously besotted.

Being an aunt can be all the lovely, happy, fun bits without the nerve-racking, sleep deprivation and mundane chores most parents would gladly swap. Like the extra cuddles and giggles, or the games you get to play totally lost in a child’s uninhibited joy. You can savour a little one seeing and learning something for the first time. Most of all, realise there is no limit to how much and how many your heart can love.

An aunt can make mum and dad happy by offering babysitting services or cooking a meal, lending a hand during stressful times and organising special “auntie kidnapping” mornings for parents to enjoy a lie-in and a peaceful post dawn cuppa.

A confidant, a big sister, bff, and role model are some of the helpful ways you can love your sibling and your nieces and nephews.

And in times they (whether adult or child) need a hug and support you can wear your Agony Aunt hat. The listening is more important than the counselling as you may find yourself in the middle between the adult and the child, at which stage you might just suggest the wise words of The Lady’s very own Patricia Marie, a qualified and caring therapist who has the common sense and imagination to solve any problem.

I’d also sit everyone down for a screening of Auntie Mame to escape the drama and stress even if it’s a temporary diversion.

Dear Santa

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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

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