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.

MOTHER OF INVENTION

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on Wednesday, 23 April 2014
I like to think that when Plato coined the phrase that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”, he was inspired by a remarkable woman rather than poetic expression.

Every mother is remarkable every day she cooks, cleans, teaches, works, washes and cares for her family. Multi-tasking is what we call it today, but mothers have been supreme jugglers since, well, FOREVER.

I recently read a good news story about an Israeli mum who invented a harness to help her son with cerebral palsy, learn to walk. Now that’s necessity. And as admirable as Debby Elnatan and her creation are, more than anything she symbolizes what mothers and nannies do on a daily basis.

Maybe they aren’t patent-worthy nor money making discoveries, but if they entertain a child, keep a child occupied, safe, amused, distracted, and interested, I regard the effort commendable. Give them a medal or a homemade crown…with lots of glitter and feathers.

An empty egg carton, brown paper bag (invented by a mother in 1868), with string, glue, scissors, paint and a balloon, on a rainy afternoon and voila, Miss Sara will have her own piggybank.

Games, recipes, all sorts of objects we take for granted were the brainchild of a woman who was not limited by “how”, and inspired by “what”.

Where would we be without chocolate chip cookies, bullet proof vests, windshield wipers, retractable dog leash, monopoly, disposable nappies and computers?

Grace Hopper may have not been the first person to invent a computer but she is responsible for creating a writing code for one of the first computers at Harvard University. And like every talented hausfrau she also dusted the five-ton machine to remove the moths it attracted, literally the “bugs” we now refer to when our systems crash.

I praise all the women with children in their lives who get through the day and make things happen. And I applaud them for their creativity and stamina and passion, but mostly for the unconditional love in everything they do for the future inventors and mums and nannies.



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EASTER BUNNY EARS

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on Monday, 14 April 2014
When most people eat chocolate Easter bunnies they eat the ears first.

I can’t recall where or when I read this. But I can tell you I like to observe how children devour an odd shaped item of food, and what parts are leftover because rarely do they seem to consume an entire bunny…my turn to “help out”.

Does starting with the ears imply a cautious individual? Is biting off the tail indicative of a leader? Or poking a hole in the belly suggest an artistic future? The psychology would be an interesting read. However, I say enjoy and savour.

Easter offers a Christian occasion to reflect on life and meaning. Whether it is of importance for this reason or simply time for family, sharing and making memories, enjoy and savour.

You can bake hot cross buns, decorate eggs, organise an egg hunt, play at being bunnies in the park, read together. Indulge in all that is playful and fun about holidays with your children… and they don’t need to know if mum has nibbled on a discarded bunny foot.


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SLEEP, EAT, RELAX

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on Monday, 07 April 2014
“Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax”. Misao Okawa is 116 years young and obviously won the generic lottery for health and wellbeing.

But I like to think her wisdom speaks volumes for adults and children alike.

A healthy body is a healthy mind is a happy soul. Nutrition and rest make it so. And a developing body requires more rest and an appropriate routine. Bed and sleep well before a child becomes delirious and crashes on the sofa/in the back seat of the car/on your lap.

Irregular bedtimes can disrupt everyday rhythms, which in turn leads to sleep deprivation. Physical, emotional and behavioural changes occur during a 24-hour cycle as the body responds to light and dark. Apparently it’s something like jet lag when repeated over time.

There are many sleep experts out there you can tap into to help with your child’s issues if it’s a problem, but the responsibility is entirely yours. Give yourself and your dear one the gift of calmness and find a routine to satisfy you both.

It’s an investment in their development and your sanity, and it’s never too late to introduce as the detrimental effects are completely reversible. It may take enormous effort and energy, high drama, tantrums (keep your cool), and at first until sleep time becomes a pleasant experience for all.

Children don’t grow out of bad habits and behaviour. They require adults to guide them to learn and then understand.

Misao’s wisdom is not ground breaking nor, an ancient Japanese mystery. Next step is to adopt her sushi diet and you’ll be blowing out an inferno on your birthday cake too.



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LET’S GO OUT

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on Monday, 31 March 2014
Outings are fun. Suspend routine and monotony and get out the front door. Enjoy a sunny day, family time, eat out.

“Easily said”, I hear you sigh. I appreciate that often the reality may feel more like an afternoon herding sheep rather than the delightful image of a happy family strolling in the park. But don’t give up. And don’t let the sheep take over.

Firstly, clear limits and family hierarchy are the basis for children to understand that mum and dad or Nanny V is in charge.

Being authoritarian does not mean you need to be dictatorial (well, not unless in times of danger or tantrums). A tyrant rules with fear. An effective chief employs open communication, a plan and a sense of fun, and humour always helps.

Involve your little ones in the preparation. Maybe give them a choice of a bike ride or playground, a picnic or a family restaurant, the library or a movie. Keep it simple. Then set the ground rules and ensure everyone is aware of the boundaries and consequences if breached.

“A picnic is still a meal and I expect you to remain seated while eating just like at the table at home”. “When we are all finished you can run around while I pack up”. It’s an opportune time to engage them to work out what to do next or simply talk and tell stories. Play a game of “I Spy”. Children love silliness and are more relaxed with laughter.

Although subtle, there is still structure which helps them learn self-control, and ultimately, independence.

A consistent philosophy of discipline is the healthiest lesson you can teach. And with love they’ll feel safe and happier.

Just because they are children, and otherwise healthy, there is no reason to expect anything less than pleasant and respectable behaviour. If erratic, deal with it as soon as you can and definitively. Even when there are tears (both yours and theirs) make sure you follow through.

It does get easier. I promise. Just put in the time and energy and when you need to plaster a smile on your face, do it.


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SHOULD YOU?

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on Monday, 24 March 2014
How do you get fussy children to eat their daily portion of fruits and vegetables? Would you pay them?

It’s one of those quandaries where the grey area has merit and in this case has shown results in major studies.

Next question. Is blatant bribery acceptable when benevolent, a means to an end, and if it works for a greater good?

A scheme in the US paid children as a positive incentive to eat their fruits and vegetables provided at school lunch. (Tokens were rewarded that later could be exchanged for school stationary or toys) And it worked.

However, when the project finished most students returned to their former habits as the study only lasted a week.

The purpose for the experiment was an attempt to combat childhood obesity. Simply making good food available was not enough encouragement.

David Just of Cornell University says parents are often misguided about incentives. “We feel a sense of dirtiness about a bribe. But rewards can be really powerful if the activity creates a new skill or changes a preference.”

It’s not a quick, nor a magic fix. Children sometimes need many tastings of new flavours or even in a variety of ways. And still there are no guarantees. Everyone has likes and dislikes and no one could ever convince me that brussel sprouts is a palatable delight. But show me a plate of broccoli, beans, beetroot, and any fruit and I am in foodie heaven.

Certainly there will be the issue of attachment of performing a task simply for the reward thereby eliminating the intrinsic motivation. But does it mean if you have tried everything else, (including a favourite dessert as a reward) it isn’t worth a new strategy if you regard incentive as a part of your parenting tools?

Although the concept is straightforward, the philosophy requires perspective. Also consistency. It won’t work if YOU don’t eat healthy. You know how children learn by example? Well, this is an opportunity to lead so the troops will follow.

Worth a discussion don’t you think?



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