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MUSIC AND CATS

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 15 June 2015
Smart people sometimes say silly things which make you ponder. Like Albert Schweitzer who won the Nobe Peace prize in 1953 and stated, "The only escape from the miseries of life are music and cats..."

Life is not always miserable and for all I kmow, cats may make some lives more, or less miserable, but other smart people, who study the effects of music, time and again, conclude it's great benefits.

Musical trianing doesn't just affect your musical ability, it provides tremendous benefits to children's emotional and behavioural maturation.

James Hudziak and his research team at the Univeryity of Vermont College of Medicine, "...found that the more a child trained on an instrument, the more it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control."

Music develops phsycial skills, enhancing co-ordination and timing; cultivates social skills by problem solving; boosts self esteem when students learn to give and receive feedback; introduces children to other cultures; and, as music and maths are intertwined, it helps with academic pursuits.

In short, musical training actually helps kids become more well-rounded.

It's always a good idea to discuss with your child what instrument they like before you sign them up for lessons. If nothing else, it may make the routine of practise more palatable.

And as they set off on their musical adventure, perfecting the sound of a screeching feline, you can feel assured that the pain in your ear drums is all for the greater good. Even if it's mostly theirs.

Listening to music can also provide a great aid to both calming behaviour and physical wellbing. Athough you'll need to monitor what type of music and how often they listen, it may help to increase a chld's productivity.

A couple of tips; start early as childrens' brains absorb sounds before they're able to make sense of them. And vary what you offer. Music stimulates, it distracts from pain, soothes a soul, aids in concentration, and it's simply wonderful when you find a song or a melody that speaks to you.

Whether like me, you consider music a language to connect us all, the world of music is infinite, like the possibilites which lay before each child. It can only help no matter if it's Mozart or Madonna, as they both have their place and their delight.

NOT SECOND BEST

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 01 June 2015
I've never really understood why coming first, being first, or winning, is so important in life.

When people think Second Place Is For Losers, it basically means that if someone gets second place in a competition (that has more than two contestants), it's little better than coming in last. It doesn't matter if you've won a footrace with everyone on the planet, and bested 6,999,999,998 people (or there about). All that matters is you didn't beat the one.

Is it losing or nearly winning? Is it doing your best and being elated with your performance but disappointed because one person did their best better than yours?

As a five year old in grade one, Sister Anthony gave us large brown 1960s-era shopping paper bags and paint. Boys drew Prince Charming. Girls, Cinderella.

Mine was voted the best which meant that my acting debut had me muffling lines about a glass slipper and wicked step-sisters through the bag on my head. It scarred me for life.

I sometimes wonder if I hadn't come first and consequently subjected to this simultaneous art and drama class, I may have eventually found my own path to a Thespian life and obviously, great stardom!

Bertrand Russell so eloquently philosophised, "real life is, to most men, a long second best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible".

In all seriousness it is well and good to strive for the best, but delight in the journey and the lessons encountered, as this is what makes a life. The vision, the passion, the discipline, humbleness, relief, and judgement are merely a few aspects to consider.

Compromise may sound boring in an equation for success, however, one must consider too, responsibility and balance are important for achieving long term goals.

I guess I will never have the fire and determination to coach the next Roger Federer or the stubborn doggedness to motivate another Steve Jobs, but I do and will have the compassion and unconditional support for each child I help to feel good about their achievements no matter how simple or momentary.

Sometimes all a child needs is hugs and smiles and knowing that you care about them.

Gadgets for mums and nannies

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Thursday, 02 October 2014
As a nanny I really only need one wish from my genie in a bottle or maybe I should wish to the heavens, “Starlight star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have my wish I wish tonight.”

Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee or even Alice from The Brady Bunch to move in and take over.

I would welcome a little magic to deal with a snarly teen, whilst cooking dinner, planning the weekend ahead, and sewing name tags on new school uniforms, or simply have a happy ending like a 30 minute sitcom. The reality is I need to be organised and professional and breathe through the stressful times.

A magazine I flipped through in the paediatrician’s last week suggested gadgets might help. It didn’t mention a robot version of me so these will have to suffice.

I can see the merits of a slow cooker to solve the occasional dinner dilemma when the day is just too jam-packed, or a robot vacuum cleaner to quietly deal with the meal scraps that didn’t quite make it into small mouths.

It also recommended a car DVD player for longer road journeys, an iPad or Kindle for both adults and kids when waiting is tedious.

The most practical two were a portable battery charger and a wireless key finder. I’d suggest these are necessary for mummy and nanny sanity.

However, the portable mini hair straightener is as useless to me as a portable nail polishing art machine.

Such frivolity would only cause me more stress, draw attention to the lack of cosmetics in my handbag and make me fret to look into a mirror. No space even for a lipstick unless I toss out the Matchbox cars, Lego figures, just-in-case snacks and drinks, and my secret stash of liquorice allsorts when a deep breath and mediation fail dismally.

The gadgets may help here and there but there is no substitute for the old fashioned talking to your mini me’s, playing games, going for a walk, reading a book, and a regular salon treat for you.

Babysitters

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Friday, 27 June 2014
Another long week is over and you are in dire need of a night out. Dinner without someone complaining the carrots are too orange, a non-animated movie, or adult conversation unrelated to offspring is the only cure.

Having children means micro-managing other humans to care for your babies and having the confidence that you will hopefully not receive a call to race to emergency because little Jenny has lodged a chickpea up her nostril, and that when you return home the house is intact and maybe the dishwasher has been emptied by a compassionate soul.

So how do you find this saviour of your emotional and mental state? And where?

Even nannies and regular go-to carers need time off so out comes your list.

1. Grandparents adore your mini-me possibly more than you do at times. But they live too far/ already have plans/aren’t responsible enough to put them to bed before delirium ensues. You appreciate their unconditional love and patience but the aftermath is almost too exhausting.

2. Other friends with kids with whom you can trade sitting nights, much like the barter system. However, beware to choose your candidates carefully as you might just get lumped with agitators so insufferable you will need to immediately sever contact with their entire clan.

3. Friends without offspring uninformed and idealistic about the bewitching bed time hours have a romantic image they will be baking biscuits with no mess or playing only 15 minutes of ninja battles. You may never hear from these “friends” ever again.

4. Local teenagers in need of pocket money are always eager and usually available at short notice (it’s how I started my fledgling career), though their value may be more inflated than you may initially imagine. A well-stocked larder for their insatiable stomachs, at the very least, Wi-Fi when they are ignoring your children because it’s the end of the world if they are offline even for a nanosecond, and the inevitable lift home when all you want to do is crash in bed before the dawn wake-up.

5. Your partner is a final option if it’s a girl’s/boy’s night out. This situation is wrought with all sorts of conundrums so I suggest you channel your inner 5-star general when laying out the game plan.

You love your babies and would lay down your life for their happiness but remember to make time for your own. Sanity and happiness sometimes takes mammoth energy to succeed.

NANNY OF A CERTAIN AGE

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 10 February 2014
If I had to create the quintessential nanny I’d want someone with a degree in child psychology and teaching, someone with the energy of a professional football player, someone who cooks like Jamie Oliver and sings like Julie Andrews, curious, happy, loving and all things Mary Poppins.

Hollywood characters and reality are at spectrums which do not exist. However, it does not mean that a professional child carer cannot be a little of everything and also everything your child needs.

Maturity and experience are the two key elements when the nanny you seek may not have a medical degree or an interest in rocket science. I have neither and yet I kept calm and collected when young Luke suffered a febrile convulsion (actually comforting his mum was almost more stressful). And I have no desire to fly to the stars but I do know how to stimulate a young mind and hope one day to shake the hand of an astronaut I once read “The Magic School Bus: Lost In The Solar System” every day for weeks and weeks.

I am in no way disregarding the efforts of an educated mind and the value of a degree and other credentials. It is a great starting point and also demonstrates a determined individual.

And yet, parents recognise the maturity of a nanny who has raised a family of their own and appreciate the value of wisdom. A Recruitment Consultant at The Lady Magazine, confirms that “qualifications are not as important to families as are life experience and an ideal fit of personalities and philosophies”.

“Examining family dynamics and logistics is part of my job when I help to find the right nanny, because a new family member has to be more than just an employee. Age is not really the issue”, she added.

So just like Alice from The Brady Bunch, Carol and Mike Brady valued her love and attention to their children. When mum and dad weren’t around or didn’t understand, Greg, Marsha, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy turned to Alice to talk to or help them with their problems. Like the time Alice helped Jan with being the middle sister just like her. She was also quite adept at backyard basketball games despite the confines of that blue uniform she wore.

Hmm, maybe Hollywood did get it right this time.

And just for the record, if there was a degree for Lego construction I could blitz it with my eyes closed.


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PLAYTIME

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 27 January 2014
Working as a governess over the past 20 years has allowed me to observe parents and how they choose to bring up their children.

Their approaches range from “I am too busy/tired” whereby the children somehow muddle through. Like the time my brain turned to mush watching endless hours of TV with three year-old Miss Luisa. But that’s what mum wanted.

Then there are the “helicopter mothers” micro-managing almost every second of their little darling’s lives. Six year-old Stefan was expected to spend all morning at school, picked up for violin, karate and swimming lessons while his peers lunched, back to school for the afternoon session, chauffeured again and ate dinner on the run to his evening classes. Each night he was either too hyper or a zombie at bed time and expected to repeat this schedule 5 days a week.

These scenarios are examples more about the what-NOT-to-do for sanity and your child’s development. Sadly my attempts to explain as much went unheeded.

Logistics, family dynamics, and whether you have the time and interest, all contribute to how your day pans out and who cares for your children. Having bucket loads of money to hire professional live-in help is not a guarantee for success.

And before I write myself out of a career, I’d like to add that playtime in this balance is fundamental too. It may sound like wasted time and too much freedom but take a moment to consider what children can learn when interacting with their peers in play.

The opportunity to interpret and understand how to not miss-read situations, helps a child begin to consider how to behave. To deal with bullies, to empathise, to have fun, to know when to be calm are all lessons learned in the playground.

If nothing else, the fresh air in young lungs cannot be overrated. Celebrate the bumps and scrapes. Use them to discuss how “next time” maybe a little thought and caution would be a good idea.

And join in. Well sometimes, if you are welcome. You might just discover your inner-child too.



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WHAT TO SAY ABOUT…

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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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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