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.

VIPs and VVIPs

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 11 November 2013
There are many reasons why caring for other people’s children is not an ordinary profession. I am not the mother, the teacher, nor the fairy godmother. What I am is a little of each and sometimes more one than the other.

I have worked for royals, outrageously wealthy folk, VIPs and even some that are SO important, they are considered Very VIPs. A few were a combination and one was all of the above. At least I think so because I don’t really know what the classifications are.

Is it the countless body guards, the fancy cars in the garages, private jet travel, entourages, the priceless knick knacks in the house/s, or is it just because the agency tells me they are?

There are certainly more rules working for such families. When to speak, who to speak to, what to speak about. I once made the almost fatal mistake of using the wrong toilet. Ooops.

And I never imagined scheduling a toddler’s routine would require strategic planning the social secretary at Downing Street would find challenging. Particularly, if mum keeps changing hers so junior in turn must keep up.

In some jobs I also cook and buy groceries, and others I just teach because I am only one of the many, MANY employees responsible for one family. It astounds me just how many personnel a mum, dad, and a couple of kids need to get through the day.

It might appear exciting to have one degree of separation between me and fame or fortune. But I am the behind-the-scenes guardian who helps mum and dad look good when they need to and the children appear the embodiment of perfect little angels. No snotty noses, no tantrums, no dishevelled princess dresses or pirate costumes for the paparazzi or heaven forbid, other “people-like-us”, to imagine the little darlings in my care could be a handful.

Sometimes security is a great issue. However, I have always felt more protective because the offspring of VIP parents have no choice about their status with all associated the hoopla and unreality. The challenge is to ensure an environment of love and fun, just like any other child, and not allow privilege to be a licence for unacceptable behaviour.

Each job, like each family is different. Good and bad depends on relationships and family dynamics, not the 15 seconds of fame or brand name wardrobe you might expect.

Discussing work details with nearest and dearest is at best cautionary, and posting life’s joys on social media is a definite NO.

And just for the record, no confidentiality agreements were breeched in this instalment.

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 04 November 2013
I had a flashback recently whilst discussing the nocturnal habits of a four-year-old with her sleep deprived mother.

I am not old enough to have experienced the era of silent and invisible children. The “Upstairs Downstairs” custom of the prim nanny hidden away in the nursery with the children whose exposure to their parents was a scheduled visit according to mother and father’s diaries.

There is good reason this belief is now no longer deemed healthy, nor beneficial for a child’s wellbeing. However, it seems that certain elements linger in some homes even today.

Little Miss K had trouble settling to sleep, exhausting the entire household and often could only doze off when someone lay by her side. This regularly resulted in that someone also falling asleep, and then stumbling out, eyes squinting in the light.

Later came the wandering into the parental bed during the wee hours. Or the hysterics when taken back to her own room. More stress and less slumber for all. Grumpy children, irritable adults and weeks of fatigue.

In desperation mum called in The Expert. Thousands of pounds forked out for suggestions, one of which was to fix a lock on Miss K’s bedroom door.

Call me old fashioned, actually, NO, call me compassionate. I would have issues if a bolt was on my door too. Sign me up immediately for therapy.

So I cannot imagine the trauma for a child. And I cannot comprehend a rational explanation for subjecting a child, let alone any human, to being locked up. Incarceration is for criminals in prisons and not for impressionable souls with little understanding of the impact of their behaviour.

A child’s disruptive behaviour is generally the outcome of either something troubling in their lives or a stage of development. Change. So take the opportunity, AND TIME to work through the situation.

Listen. Be consistent, firm, patient. There are no quick fixes. A child deserves your attention and love. Show her with your words and actions that she is loved and secure. This is one of her first life lessons in change, so it is as much of a learning experience as it is a good night’s sleep for all.

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 28 October 2013
“If a nanny is upset, hug her & tell her how wonderful she is.
If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her”

Not so silly. Like your first aid kit, it might come in handy one day. I am not suggesting it is necessary to be your nanny’s bestie, or counsellor. Simply know that she (maybe it’s a he, your manny) sometimes may need breathing space, time out, and a sound-proofed room to roar.

We all get frustrated. Sad and lonely. Distressed. And if your nanny is a true professional she can communicate her feelings without high drama and tell you what she needs. I have spent too many Christmases and Easters, etc, far from my own nearest and dearest, ensuring other families enjoy their merriness and gatherings. It’s my job so I don’t fuss when holidays and celebrations generally require longer hours and a muck-in attitude as that is what I sign up for.

It doesn’t mean I don’t need to feel a little connected to the occasion and those I wish I was with. And gosh, it is such a bonus to be appreciated for my efforts. I do not expect lavishness; however acknowledgement or a simple gesture of gratitude does help.

My dad was diagnosed with a serious illness and although I knew he was in good hands and running to the airport to get on the next plane home would not change a thing, I felt quite fragile from the shock and concern. I told my employer not because I needed nor wanted sympathy, but so she would understand if I wasn’t my usual self.

Context provides an ideal beginning to work through situations that may need a tad more attention. Show a little kindness. Certainly a little understanding. It’s good for the soul, yours and hers.

And keep a well-stocked supply of chocolate. One of those “break glass in case of emergency” should do.

Looking for a job as a nanny? Or looking for a nanny?


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 21 October 2013
Call me old-fashioned but I cannot accept that where you live dictates whether a child is happy, or well behaved. Growing up in Manchester, Moscow or Mumbai may present distinctive environmental challenges and opportunities; however, their impact is an aspect of character, personality, and not conduct.

So why does petit Pierre in Lyon, sit contentedly sharing an adult meal with his parents in a restaurant, whilst demanding David in Liverpool has more of his nuggets and fries scattered on the floor like debris, than in his belly?

The French are masters in managing enfant terribles according to Pamela Druckerman, an American mother of three raising her brood in Paris, with a keen interest in the “superiority” of French parenting. She feels the Gaels are so worthy of admiration, she has penned a how-to manual, “Bringing Up Bebe”, detailing secrets for avoiding tantrums, teaching patience, and saying “non” with authority.

I can’t say there is any ground-breaking revelation Madame Druckerman offers. “Even the French parents themselves insist they aren’t doing anything special.”

It seems it is simply the age old principles of spending more than quality time with your brood, engaging them without the distraction of phones & computers (YOURS, not theirs), consistency, teaching by example, parenting with calm firmness, patience and a whole bunch of love… ALL THE TIME and not just when it is convenient for you.

It is not a five minute miracle technique, nor a one-day-quick-fix, and this French style is no different from good parenting anywhere.

There is no top-secret ingredient in their croissants. Real kids do eat quiche. Actually, they also eat salads and soups and snails if that is what is served for dinner. No special meals for fussy eaters because there are none.

Good manners, pleasant behaviour, confidence, independence are all concepts that can be taught. Nurtured. Encouraged. The choice is whether you decide to be the teacher, or whether your children will eventually learn despite you. Or they might not, and just grow up.


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 14 October 2013
I’ve always wondered if the inspiration for the lyrics for the Police song, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” came to Sting in the nursery.

The gurgling noise may sound like nonsense and gibberish but don’t be too quick to disregard the importance of the sounds babies and young children make.

Baby music is a great introduction for words and melodies. However, you should also make the effort to turn off the stereo whilst driving and listen to the youngster strapped in the back seat. Or when young Daniel is happily babbling during play time, you can always start a conversation of sorts.

Engaging a child through sound supports their communication. It also gives you a window into their world. Young humans are social beings and keen to connect with others around them. They enjoy hearing you talk to them and also love to be heard. No matter how young, the practise of a two-way dialogue gives a child the chance to respond to what you say and then stop so that it is your turn again.

This exercise helps build their understanding and eventually, language skills. It will show them that you are interested and that they are worth listening to.

Although babies also communicate through crying, body language, facial expressions, behaviour, actions and play, it is never too early to start a conversation.

Miss G was a slow talker and at three was still struggling to verbalise her thoughts. In a way her brain had to work with lateral concepts to convey her expressions. One day she tried to tell me she wanted something specific to eat. We opened the cupboards and fridge and I named all the items I thought she might be interested in.

Completely frustrated, she went to her toy box and returned with her camera, put it to her face and sounded out “ch”. CHEESE. Of course! She knew the word but could not complete the sound. (When she did eventually find her voice in the months to come, she prattled on and became an incessant talker. She is now studying Journalism at university.)

Children need time to process thoughts and responses to you. They have all sorts of opinions and insights. Take the time to listen and you will let them know that you respect their ideas. And you might just learn something new yourself.

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