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, 07 October 2013
You can’t escape a performance appraisal, whether you're in Grade 4 or are the CEO of the Bank of England.

As much as I like to think I am Super-ior Nanny (with an emphasis on all-knowing, dare I say, omniscient…well, in my blog at least), I thought it would be a productive exercise for 8 year old Miss Polly to evaluate me. Here’s my report card.

Fun B++++++
It’s nearly an A but not when the fun has to stop and I have to go to bed or do my homework or tidy up. I like it when we turn the music up loud and sing and dance. When Nanny V reads me stories with her crazy funny voices. She makes me giggle because she thinks she is SO good at it.

Drawing Z
Nanny V can’t even draw a house. But I like her flowers. She is helping me write my book. It’s called “Susie the silly seal”. My other project is a piggy bank money box. I started with a balloon and then lots of glue and newspaper. I can paint it when it’s finished and dry and maybe I will let her help me with the colours but not the drawing on it.

Cooking A, B, C, D
She gets 4 marks because I don’t want to be mean. I like it when she shows me the menu for every week and when I get to choose on my “whatever I want” day. She makes really good meatballs and chicken. Her cakes are horrible. She eats healthy salads which sometimes I like too but my favourite is pasta. Once she let me eat pasta with honey and I want to try pasta with ice-cream too.

Miss Polly is truly delightful, creative, and her generous soul endears her to all creatures great and small. I am not sure whether her words are a true insight to how she feels. I like to think it’s more the smile that beams when she sees me. Her giggly little girl laugh. And the delicious hugs.

Infinitely better than the handshake a CEO gets.

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 30 September 2013
It’s one of those days.

All the reasons you started out in child care are not working for you. The passion is a distant memory. The knowledge and skills have abandoned you. And your brain, it’s as grubby as a toddler’s smile post self-feeding of chocolate cake.

It’s not the end of the world. And hopefully, all is not lost. I recently heard a comedian describe herself as a “good-enough” parent. No mother of the year awards adorned the family room mantle, and yet home life functioned perfectly fine. Even if her mother-in-law wore a certain expression of braced disdain at every visit.

When her son asked mum to peel an orange, she told him to grab a biscuit because she was too tired, consumed by domestic chores, or something like that.

Some readers may squeal “child neglect”. Others consider it regular behaviour. But so much more is expected of the nanny.

After all, you are employed to perform a job. And like every other role in society, duty of care and excellence are expected.

In my experience, if your approach and perspective aims for the ideal, then more often than not, you’ll reach the goal you set.

It’s not life threateningly detrimental to give a child a sweet (allergies withstanding), as we all need treats and special moments in life to find balance. It’s what you do most of the time that matters. Though the message you convey is what is important.

And it’s not just about the food either. It might be a favourite play time or toy. Anything to occupy a young mind while you find your groove.

So once you’ve cleaned up the chocolate mess, get some fresh air, hydrate, get your own chocolate fix, employ whatever you need to get back on track and on to your best game. Just know it will happen again, although next time you will recognise the signs earlier and kick into high gear without too much disruption. Well, that’s the theory.

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Parenting 101

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on Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Some adults just don’t want to grow up. You are not your child’s “bestie”, nor “BFF”. You are the parent.

There comes a time when children don’t want you around when they are with their friends. Tweens are entitled to their own relationships and don’t need you trying to be one of the gang. Being the jokester dad or mum who wants to be one-of-the girls is not cool.

It’s so cringe worthy for a 10-year-old who does not have the words to explain to peers why my parents can’t leave us alone.

Allow your child space to develop a personality and explore their own social skills. And if you really, REALLY must show how “with-it” you are, employ the less is more rule and then exit the stage. Quickly. Your offspring will have more respect for you if you save your kooky behaviour for family time.

And if you find yourself uttering “I only want the best for you”, to encourage junior to sign up for Japanese or Fencing classes when his current ambition is a musical career, listen rather than trying to relive your own childhood regrets. The Pushy Parent is just plain ugly and unfair. Tread cautiously. Self-esteem and confidence may be compromised in a fragile and yet undeveloped character.

Every child carer at some point in time will be guilty of the dreaded mollycoddling. There comes a time when a child is ready for more responsibility even if you are not.

A solo trip to town or a movie, especially if it’s the first, can send parents into a head spin. “Make sure you wait for me to pick you up inside the entrance…in a well-lit area…actually, maybe your father and I can see a movie tonight and we can all go home together”.

It’s wonderful to love so completely, however, over-controlling will never allow her to learn independence. A lack of freedom may impede the ability to make a considered decision as she matures.

When you are in the thick of parenting and caring, it’s not so easy to find your rational self. The best advice is to take a moment to ponder, “What am I doing?”

Do you really want your little darlings penning their version of “Mommie Dearest”?

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 02 September 2013
Can a nanny have a favourite?

There will always be moments and even far-TOO-long-and-torturous-times, when one of the little darlings in your care is bound to be more likable than the others.

However, there is never a time when your behaviour towards each one must, and I stress, should not be fair and healthy, and without reproach.

Whilst one may be easier to engage, to enjoy, to be around, or to have fun with, this is a situation that should be a challenge rather than unjust.

Sweet, accommodating, respectful, versus frustrating, disobedient and just plain exhausting. Sarah pushes your buttons with her hyper, head-spinning behaviour, and her more subdued older sibling Jimmy embodies raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Reality is that you won’t be able to sing your way out of a rock and a hard place, but don’t discount a cheery jingle under your breath. Think “The Sound of Music” and smile, Smile, SMILE!

Actually, forget the muteness, warble as loud as you can. Maybe one of you will soon be giggling.

Another approach is to turn this taxing time into an ideal opportunity to reinforce some ground rules and offer learning lessons. Be clear and consistent. Calm. Talk through what’s happening and aim for an outcome of understanding on both sides, even if you are the one stifling the tears. Life is not a TV sitcom solved in one episode, so don’t get too disheartened.

There is much research by learned souls confirming that attractive people favour more attention. Similarly, a cute child can also be more popular and a genetic lottery should not be an excuse for favouritism. Society's standards of beauty and the media don’t help, again no need to deliver inappropriate messages to impressionable minds.

A child is a blank canvas for new experiences. Depending on their age, first times can have a life-long impact so as the nanny it’s your job to make it positive. A happy memory. Constructive.

And when in doubt, hug.

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 19 August 2013
“Can you please put your toys away so we can go to the playground”?

I must have repeated myself a dozen times. I explained why. I offered an incentive. I suggested how to start. And still no progress.

Ultimately, I heard “because I said so” blurt out of my mouth. Oh nooooooo! How did it come to this?

Maria von Trapp could sing her way through any situation. Mary Poppins had a little magic at her disposal. Some days, reality can just be so GRRRRRRR.

Exasperated is probably the best definition and reason for such an outburst. I took a deep breath, and then another half dozen more, and started afresh.

Although it may feel like a battle some days, what you want is a win/win outcome. The ideal is smiling faces all round (even if momentary or glaringly artificial), but if it’s a lesson learned or a truce, your nanny world will remain in balance.

One thing I constantly reinforce to the children I care for is that they can ask me anything. I will explain and if they still don’t understand, I will try to explain again. We can discuss, negotiate, make deals, like in the real adult world. However, my decision is final.

Aim for co-operation. Assert the authority the parents have invested in you. Engage. Make it fun. If appropriate, turn it into a game. Use anything within reason in your nanny bag of tricks to get an outcome. Because an outcome is essential.

If you walk away without resolving the situation it’s a suggestion or even an opportunity for the child to believe that there are no consequences, no responsibility, or that someone else is at hand to clean up any situation they don’t want to deal with.

And most times life, like packing away toys, is not a quick fix.

I asked Mr M if he was tired – YES. If he was bored – YES. If he was hungry – YES. If he just didn’t want to tidy up – YES. If he had to choose one reason – WELL, MY BACK HURTS. (Where on earth did he hear that one?)

So we did some stretching. That done, I started with a red car and he continued with the other colours. And so the game continued until order was restored. Later while we were digging in the sandpit, Mr M told me it was a good idea we did the exercises, “BECAUSE MY BACK FEELS LIKE I AM YOUNG AGAIN”. He is four.

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