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.


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Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 16 December 2013
When does a child develop social skills? Do rules help or inhibit appropriate behaviour in a social environment? Does any of this really matter?

A recent study reveals that over ten per cent of four and five year olds lack social skills to start school. They are rarely able to follow rules, show self-control or play with other children.

Hmmm, no real revelation I’d suggest and, possibly a loud reminder to parents who endeavour to fast-track their offspring at the expense of enjoying a childhood.

I guess the divide is whether your perspective is that a happy, carefree childhood is a luxury or simply preparation for life. Maybe life is not meant to be easy, as espoused by pessimists or prison guards, but does it have to start off with such a reality hit as high expectations?

Australian teachers who contributed to the Early Development Index observed their students as hyperactive, disobedient, anxious, threw tantrums and got into fights, blaming “genuine skills weakness” that got them into trouble in class.

I would expect a four year old to have a meltdown now and then.

It is how we handle these moments that matters. It is not a contradiction to raise happy children in a safe and enjoyable environment whilst teaching customary manners, such as to pay attention, wait their turn, and listen. Acceptable behaviour does not cancel out fun. By instilling good “self-regulation” skills early, and as a part of everyday learning, it won’t feel as traumatic when expected in public and or other social settings.

Some tips:
  • Set up a “calm space” at home
  • If anxious or angry encourage your child to walk away from aggressive situations
  • Teach breathing techniques to help settle heightened behaviour
  • Wait until calmness is restored before discussing the problem
  • Help to identify the first signs of anger, stress, nervousness, frustration
  • Always ensure you convey love to reassure and support their development.

Call me old fashioned, but a loving and firm approach is what works. It may not be rocket science but it does take time, patience, INEXHAUSATIBLE energy and consistency to get it right. It won’t supress creativity and individualism.

It won’t compromise leadership aspirations and academic potential. What it will do is help a child understand how to communicate and understand their world a little better…actually, I could do with a little retraining myself.


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 09 December 2013
“Once upon a time…”

Four magic words a child will often respond to with glee. And what comes next begins a world of possibilities and adventures for learning and fun.

Let me start by saying that it is never too early to introduce reading and telling a story to a baby. Even if too young to understand the words the relationship you create, the routine you establish, is one of the most wonderful experiences for both adult and child.

And don’t be too disheartened by a toddler whose attention span challenges your patience. Focus on the pictures; ask them about colours, shapes, and anything you think will help concentration. Maybe assign a specific reading chair or comfortable corner. When they start to fidget, a gentle reminder that “now its quiet story time” may also help.

If nothing works and they are just not interested ensure you confirm that story time is over and we will read again in bed or tomorrow morning. By being firm and consistent, and if possible, enthusiastic, hopefully this special time will become easier and more enjoyable.

As their language skills improve, prompt memory to encourage them to complete the sentence or fill in the blank. You can also use the opportunity to discuss feelings.

However, the most exciting aspect is not stopping at “The End”. You can ask “what do you think happens next?”, “where is the rabbit/monster/car/girl now?” The aim is to use stories to tap into their imagination and you might just learn something new or even better, you are inspiring a young mind to develop and enjoy the first steps of creativity.

Move beyond the words to incorporate stories into art and activities. A Gruffalo hunt in your local park, high tea with princess fairies, finger painting an enchanted forest or even a paper mache sculpture of a hungry caterpillar, are a few great ways to play and learn.

But why limit yourself and your charges to someone else’s story. One of my favourite memories is helping 8 year old Zahra write and illustrate her book, we then had professionally bound and covered. A memento she will treasure like “Sammy the Silly Seal”, my own childhood contribution to literature. Well, my mum said she liked it.

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The Golden Age

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on Monday, 02 December 2013
When you get a moment to breathe, collapsed on a playground bench watching the children play, have you ever noticed which age group looks the most happy?

It may be a generalisation if little Olly is still a little self-conscious at the age of seven, but his peers apparently are less so. By this stage, a child is also most energetic, engaged with life, open to new experiences and most in awe and wonder about the world.

The Galaxy Research Poll surveyed parents to reveal that joy, energy and innocence peak between the ages of six and nine, before children start worrying about what their friends think, or how they look.

Up until this golden age, a child seeks the attention of a parent over anyone else. The apron strings are still tightly bound and home is the safest and most secure environment (you could also include their attachment to Nanny V).

Dr Justin Coulson, author of the study suggested “…there’s a beautiful period between six and nine when the world is just wonderful”.

“Most children have boundless energy and lust for life – something that deteriorates as we become older and perhaps more jaded,” he adds.

A seven year old has had a few years to test boundaries, explore and learn the lay of the land. No doubt it’s the onset of lifelong discovery, but it’s also a time when risk is not so conscious, nor critical.

Consequences are a relative novelty so the sweetness of the uninhibited soul shines through. Like a perfect blend of innocence and enthusiasm.

Gosh, I want to be seven again. Though no miracle Freak Friday body swap possible. As the adult I do however, get to relish the beauty and live vicariously through someone else’s golden age.

And just because Olly may not be as vibrant as the statistics suggest he should be, his timing is no cause for concern. If anything, it’s part of what makes him delightfully pure and in no hurry to race through childhood.

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on Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Working with children can test anyone’s ability to be articulate and correct in the moment. Saying the right thing when you are exhausted and exasperated can be a greater challenge than finding a clean wayward sock in the laundry basket on a school morning.

Although it was never beneficial to overwhelm a child with either excessive praise or criticism I am a little sceptical about the political correctness of language. Any extreme is damaging, especially to an impressionable soul without the life skills to process what to listen to and what to discard. So as always, try for balance.

I am not encouraging behaviour like a Hollywood “yes man” as the occasional and assertive “NO” is necessary for a dose of reality. Also never hearing a little praise is not ideal healthy reverse psychology to build strong character.

“Good job” or “good girl/boy” is fine, as long as you take the time to add more detail. For instance, “It’s great that you tried your best” emphasising the effort and a start to further dialogue.

I recently read that “seemingly positive phrases are actually quite destructive. Despite good intentions, these statements teach children to stop trusting their internal guidance system and to give up when things get hard”.

Hmmm, princess pumping maybe so, but clever girl acknowledgement, just like a commendation you might receive in the office, I believe is smile-worthy, possibly inspirational.

“Don’t cry” is another tricky one. A parent and carer quickly learn to distinguish the difference between genuine weeping and the attention-seeking howling when junior is not getting his way. Depending on the ferocity (eg tantrum or a little teary) it could be time to allow space for the unruly frenzy to take its course as generally, reasoning is not possible. For the real thing, soothing cuddles with reassuring words help emotional wellbeing.

Finally, we all struggle with broken promises. So best to avoid anything you cannot commit to. And as for Santa and the Tooth Fairy, I have no answers as my bucket list includes a visit to the North Pole where Prince Charming might be hiding too.

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 18 November 2013
Daily feedback for parents is an important aspect of childcare and many families now require the nanny (you) to communicate via a diary.

Busy lifestyles, crazy schedules, even different time zones mean adults sometimes don’t have the opportunity to sit in peace to discuss the day’s events. It’s a combination of catching up on the ordinary affairs of life, and the more significant issues such as milestones and the “something happened on the playground today I need to tell you about” moments.

Hopefully the parents are in sync with the difference between an important matter for conversation and the regular daily routine. When 5-year-old Sammy loses his third tooth a quick note in the diary is fine (with the evidence alongside). If his teacher has approached you with a concern about his behaviour or development, the note should refer to this and the need to find time to relay the facts in person.

A few more tips:-
  • A little detail is good. An essay is unnecessary,
  • Even if you are exhausted and should have had your break 3 hours ago, ensure you at least write a few words before you clock off to say you will compensate tomorrow,
  • Don’t rely on the diary to write something you would never say in person.

Also smart phones can be a handy tool for messaging if you are running late, for reminders and even happy snaps. Every parent loves updated pictures of their offspring having fun and smiling. Just remember your employer is not your bestie so better to err on the side of “less is more”…unless otherwise instructed or demanded.

A diary is a convenient tool for communication. And like any tool it has its place and its time. Use it wisely. Regularly. Sensibly. And always have a pen that works close by or a charged up laptop.

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