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.


Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 03 February 2014
My job has many perks. One is travel to exotic destinations I would never have had the opportunity to visit if I had to pay for my own ticket. Another is watching a well-made children’s movie (along with the countless mediocre animations) with a happy-ever-after ending…over and over, to the point I can recite the dialgoue.

Last night it was “Nanny McPhee” again. Not that I wish to admit it too loudly, but I think it may have been my choice because of a certain Colin Firth. Nannies need a little treat too.

Hmmmm…ok, back to sensible Nanny V.

Five lessons and 99 minutes is all it took for a little magic and wise utterances to bring harmony and beauty back to a troubled family.

Nanny McPhee’s lessons, necessary for a smoothly run household, are for children:-

1. To go to bed when they are told, to say please, not fight each other, apologise

2. To get up when they are told, and learn how to share

3. To get dressed when they are told, and learn to work together

4. To listen and say thank you

and 5. To do as they are told, and to have faith and bravery.

Also great life lessons and seemingly fundamental you would think. I’d like to recommend a few of these to a number of adults who could do with a little discipline. Sadly, common sense is not an automatic state of being.

Obviously, to learn something new, one initially needs to be told and instructed. Though with time the behaviour becomes innate and reminders unnecessary, and therefore, no nagging. There is a fine line between pestering a child to complete a task you have asked them to do a number of times and yet, it frustratingly remains uncompleted.

At this point magic would be wonderful but we mere mortals can employ explanations, incentives (some bordering on bribery), deals, and work our way through to outright threats. Not the life threatening kind, more like the action/consequence principle Buddhists espouse.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of Nanny McPhee, I highly recommend a viewing. Particularly if a certain Colin is a favourite.

"When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It's rather sad, really, but there it is..." Bye for now.

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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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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 20 January 2014
Last week I espoused the virtues of teaching a child to apologise.

Well, this letter appeared on my Facebook page and it is a poignant example of not-quite sincerity, but bucket loads of honesty. Apparently, all three are now in their 20s, good friends and had a hearty laugh about the letter. Kudos to mum who insisted and was consistent.

Not quite sorry

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Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 13 January 2014
UK folk say it a lot and often.

“Sorry” seems to be a word to absolve us of life’s errors from accidental blunders to the colossal intentional mistakes. Sometimes we mean it. Sometimes it’s simply politeness.

Whatever the reason behind the apology, it’s fundamental to how we relate to others and an important aspect of ethics.

However, according to child psychologist, Michael Carr-Gregg, “I think the word “sorry” has lost its meaning”.

What? When did this happen?

Every now and then I have to wonder about experts and their latest revelations. And there is nothing about this one to make me change my mind about old fashioned manners and doing the right thing.

Of course young children have no idea about the significance of words. So the “please” and “thank you” we teach them start off as simple parroting. It’s a beginning to understand compassion and being grateful.

Similarly, sorry is more than a word. The concept of remorse is a starting point for a conversation to learn. It takes time. Some of these times there will be opportunity for a longer discussion to explain emotions and empathy. When this is not possible, defer “the talk” but ensure you follow through. As with most lessons, it’s the consistency you instil that sets the stage for future behaviour.

It bamboozles me when I see parents and carers neglecting to parent. Actually, more than anything it saddens me. Yes, parenting is a tough gig. No, there aren’t excuses for shirking responsibility.

Children are not to blame for repeated unacceptable behaviour. Challenging the boundaries and rules is how they learn. So do them, and yourselves a favour, to take the time and interest to show them.

And now I will calm down, take a breath, stop my bossy Nanny V finger waving, and admit to making many mistakes. Like the time I thought it’d be a great idea to organise a mud fight. But that’s another story.

I subscribe to the basics … "Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody." It’s a good start for everyone.

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Happy 2014

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 06 January 2014
Johnny: "Tomorrow when I grow up I’m going to fly a plane."

Nanny V: "Can I come too?"

Explaining time to a child is as mindboggling as, well, explaining time.

Seconds, day and night, weeks and years seem eternal when you are seven and race by terrifyingly fast by the time 40 hits. And then there’s the concept that life becomes a collection of decades rather than years. Aaaaarrrgh.

So revel and savour and share in the joy of timelessness that children show us. We have to be adults with responsibilities but remember the one gift you can give your children that cannot be wrapped in shiny paper and is never too indulgent, is your time.

Don’t just plan or intend. Do. And make 2014 your “Pooh” year.

"What day is it?"
"It’s today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favourite day," said Pooh.

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