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Being a Nanny

Consider being a nanny as a career
Consider being a nanny as a career

Consider being a nanny as a career choice

If you are considering looking for a nanny's job, this article is to help you find out what being a nanny is like. Taking on nanny jobs is one of the quickest and best ways to find temporary employment, which might help to finance you while you are studying. It can also be a very satisfying permanent career, which you may want to stick to during your working life.

So what kind of things can you expect when you accept a nanny's job? It certainly will be much more involved than just playing with the child and keeping him or her amused and happy. Usually you will also have to do a little housework, perhaps some laundry, cleaning the dishes, tidying up the house, and perhaps cooking a light meal and making snacks for the children. Whilst it is unlikely that you will have to cook for the whole family, it is a good idea to be familiar with a handful of easy to cook, but tasty recipes, which you can prepare in a hurry. It might sometimes happen that the parents come home later than expected and have to rush off quickly soon after arriving home. If you can have a meal ready for them on these occasions, the estimation of you as a nanny will grow in their eyes.

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Stopping Thumb Sucking


It's common for infants and pre-schoolers to indulge in thumb-sucking

Many parents worry about their infant's thumb sucking behaviour. While it is true that it can cause backward alignment of the teeth and an overbite as well as thickened skin on the thumb, all of these are reversible and not permanent provided the habit stops around the years of 4 to 5. Most children stop sucking their thumbs on their own, mostly due to peer pressure. I well remember what motivated me to stop sucking my thumb: On the walk home from kindergarten there was a beautiful velvety blue-green hedge which I could not resist running my fingers along as I walked past. The trouble is, it left a bitter taste on my fingers and I was over the thumb-sucking habit in just a few days!

Here are some tips for parents, nannies and babysitters to help the child in their care break the habit

A Guide to Stopping Thumb Sucking

  • Never coerce your child to cooperate. Do not press the issue by using forceful methods, such as pulling the finger out of your child's mouth. This will only reinforce and encourage the behavior.
  • Avoid teasing or embarrassing your child to try to get him to stop thumb sucking.
  • Use encouragement and positive reinforcement, such as a reward chart or star calendar. Every day that he refrains from sucking is rewarded with a star. Discuss an appropriate reward for when he has gone for a few weeks with stars pasted on every day of the calendar.
  • Try to distract your child and keep him busy Some children suck their thumb when they're bored. Avoid activities that stimulate the behavior, such as watching television.
  • Many children are not even aware of the fact that they're sucking their thumb. Use an adhesive strip or bitter-tasting medicine to remind him not to suck his thumb.
  • Nighttime sucking will be difficult to stop. You can try applying a sock or glove to the child's hand.
  • Enlist the help of your doctor or dentist to encourage your child to give up the habit because he is "growing up."
  • Buy a book or take one out from the library that you can read to him about breaking the habit.
  • As a very last resort, your dentist can make a plate that prevents thumb sucking.

Positive Reinforcement and your Child’s Behaviour

Childrens Star Chart

In the previous two posts (Using Time-out on the Kids in Your Care and  Strategies for Managing Time-out Sessions) we talked about the technique of giving your child time-out as a way to control his difficult behaviour. It teaches children that there are consequences to bad behaviour. It is a form of disciplining which is effective without being unduly harsh, however it does have a degree of negativity to it. So now we'll discuss other, positive, ways to encourage your child to do the right thing. It's called positive reinforcement, and it it really powerful.

Of course most parents are already aware of positive reinforcement in an intuitive way. You encourage good behaviour through praise, rewards and shared activities which gives them the incentive to carry on behaving well. It helps to strengthen family bonds and build self esteem, trust and respect between family members, which is what we are aiming for.

Like any other technique, there are some traps to avoid. It is easy to unwittingly give positive reinforcement to a child and strengthen bad behaviour. An example of this is if a child throws a tantrum in a store, an easy way out would be to buy some candy or a toy in an effort to get him to behave. The result of course, is that the child soon learns that he will be rewarded for bad behaviour.

Another thing to be wary of is that there is a fine line between reward and bribery. Bribery is a quick-fix method of getting the desired behaviour. So a promise of a trip to the cinema and a bucket of popcorn if homework is completed within a certain time is getting pretty close to a bribe. A warm smile, a hug and a compliment shows how delighted you are with what your child has done and helps to ingrain the correct behaviour and ensure it continues. On the other hand, when the bribing stops, so does the behaviour.

Some people (my MIL) seem to think that too much praise is a bad thing and you will spoil the child (I hate that word, what does "spoil" mean?). If I tell my daughter too many times how pretty she looks, or how nice her finger-painting is, or how nicely she played with her friends, will she become conceited? No, I don't believe she will, but she will get a warm glow that will stay with her for a while.

You have to be careful to give praise appropriately. Kids can see right through praise that is condescending, not genuine, or is misplaced. So you have to give it honestly and appropriately.

Childrens Star Chart

Childrens Star Chart

One method of giving rewards for the very young, is to use star charts or reward charts. These are good because the child can observe, and get delight in watching the progress  towards the goal or reward on a colourful chart. Watching a star get removed for bad behaviour may fill them with remorse, but seeing two more added as rewards for doing good, will fill them with pleasure and help to keep them motivated.

Strategies for Managing Time-out Sessions

The time-out Spot
The time-out Spot

The time-out Spot

Giving time-out as described in the previous blog post is an effective way to control anti-social behaviour, but if you are just starting to implement the technique, you may run up against some difficulties. This blog post is to help you overcome them, and keep the program going.

One thing that is very important is the warning. You may think that the child should already know that what she is doing is wrong. But actually, since she is caught-up in the heat of the moment, she is only thinking of the situation, and not realising she is behaving badly. That is why the parent, nanny or care-giver must step in quickly and firmly, describe what is unacceptable about the behaviour, and remind her that time-out will be given unless it stops immediately. The warning is a sudden stop-and-think punctuation mark which sometimes jolts the kid out of the behaviour making having a time-out unnecessary.

If you were to immediately grab the child and march her off to the time-out place, she won't have had a chance to think about what she is doing, and you have not given her a chance to stop it. She will be resentful that you acted so hastily and so harshly, and this may ratchet-up her bad behaviour.

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Using Time-out on the Kids in Your Care

Time Out

I abhor the thought of smacking a child, or caning, or any form of physical punishment. I have never used it, and I have never had the feeling that I needed to resort to it.

The way I explain my position on it is to ask how you would feel if your boss whacked you every time you made a mistake? I imagine you would be devastated, and might follow-up by resigning and taking legal action against your (now) ex-boss.

I am often told that the bible says "spare the rod and spoil the child" as a justification to use corporal punishment. Actually, the bible does not say that anywhere, it's a myth, and my usual response is to ask how many children do you think Jesus caned? It's equally hard to imagine Buddha bashing up a kid.

Another thing I hear is "I was caned as a child and it didn't do me any harm". Well, maybe that's true (who knows), but study after study proves what many of us have always known intuitively - that violence begets violence. Not only that, but it also damages the bond between parent and child. It's not normal to love someone who hurts you.

The world is changing all the time and what we as parents, nannies and child carers are trying to do is raise the next generation in a loving and secure environment, where they learn cooperative behaviour and how to resolve conflict effectively without resorting to physical means.

Time Out

Time Out

Managing naughty children can be difficult and I realise that parents often hit their kids out of frustration rather than out of a belief that it is the right thing to do, but there is a better, much more effective way. It's called giving time-out.

It is not a harsh punishment, but it does show who is in control, it won't leave lasting psychological scars and it can be very effective.

Before giving time-out, you should give a stern verbal warning explaining that what she is doing wrong, and that repeating the behaviour will result in time out. If the behaviour is repeated, don't give a second warning.

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Setting a Schedule or Routine for your Children

Routines and structure are good for kids. It helps them feel secure, it reduces feelings of uncertainty, and it goes a long way towards minimising the struggle to get your kids to do what you want.

ChildsActivityChartIt is a good idea to have a daily schedule pinned up in the home where everyone can see it. Each child can be mentioned by name, and it's not a bad idea to put the mothers and fathers schedule in there too, if only to show to the kids that everyone has to live by one.

The next thing to say is that you shouldn't become obsessed in keeping to the schedule. Most days will have some minor variation from it and on some days you'll wonder why you ever bothered to make one at all.

When drafting you schedule up, start with the most important fixed points of the day. The time to be out of bed by, breakfast, lunch and dinner times, followed by bed time.

Filling-in the intermediate steps will be relatively easy. Just remember the basics of meal-time: Make them too early and the child won't be hungry enough to be interested in  keeping still enough to eat. Make them too far after the previous meal and their blood sugar will be low and they will become irritable and uncooperative. I like to make the evening fairly early to give then enough time to wind down for bed.

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Bullying: Ideas for Parents & Childcare Professionals

The Damage from Bullying
The Damage from Bullying

The Damage from Bullying

People can be cruel, you only have to watch news programs on television to realise that evolution has endowed us with a potential for viciousness which still simmers beneath the veneer of civilised behaviour. All parents and childcare professionals need to be  aware of the damage bullying can do to our precious children. No child should be a victim of bullying as it can lead to lasting psychological problems including depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and thoughts of suicide.
Let's define bullying: A bully exhibits repeated aggressive behaviour which causes another person hurt or distress. Bullying can be physical, verbal or more subtle actions such as cyber-bullying using the Internet or mobile phones or other digital technologies to harass. The person being bullied usually cannot defend his or herself, and in most cases does nothing to cause the bullying.

Bullying can happen anywhere, but often it will be in the school building or yard, the school bus, the child's neighbourhood or on the Internet.
I have heard some people saying that bullying is inevitable and is just an experience children have to go through. But it should not be tolerated, it is not a passing phase that children will grow out of. It can and does cause lasting and serious harm.

As parents, nannies and childcare professionals we have to be  aware of the warning signs of bullying. The signs that a child might be the victim of a bully are:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost, missing or damaged personal possessions
  • Frequent claims of illness. such as headaches.
  • Pretending to be sick in order to avoid school
  • Falling academic results and general loss of interest in school work
  • Listlessness, the appearance of helplessness and loss of self esteem
  • Negative and self-destructive behaviour such as harming themselves or talk about suicide
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Sudden loss of friends.
  • Change in socialisation habits.

More often than not children do not ask for help. bullying can make them feel helpless and may be telling themselves that they can manage the situation on their own so that they will be able to feel in control again. Also children may fear reprisals form the bully if he believes that his behaviour has been reported to an adult. Being bullied is very humiliating to the victim, they often do not want to repeat the things being said about them and they may be worried that it will appear trivial to an adult.

What should you do if you suspect you child is being bullied?

Immediately contact your child's teacher and explain your fears. She may have noticed some bullying behaviour but is unaware of the extent of it. The teacher may recommend that your child sees the school counsellor, or you can make that request yourself. If you feel that you are not getting satisfactory answers take it further by contacting the school principal or even the Department of Education. If you feel that you are not getting the full story from your child, talk to his friends and the parents of his friends. Do listen to your parent's intuition as the damage caused by even relatively brief episodes of bullying can last a lifetime.

Questions for a Nanny to Ask at an Interview

You are off to visit a family for a nanny's job interview, of course you will be feeling hopeful and perhaps a little nervous. You will already have a list of questions you will need to ask, and hopefully you have these written down so that if your nervousness makes you forget some, you can pull out your slip of paper to refer to.

There will be the typical questions regarding the hours of work, whether live-in or out, salary, the expectations the family has of you and the expectations you have of them - for example, if you need to pick up your own child at a certain time each day, it may mean it will be impossible to do any overtime and you must leave punctually at the appointed time.

  • What are the family's expectations regarding play dates? If their child's friend calls up and wants to come over, or to meet in the park, is this OK? Or does the family generally need to know more details, and make decision's case-by-case?
  • What activities do your children like to do? Do they enjoy an afternoon in the park? Or do they prefer indoor activities? Is there a play gym I can take them to? Is there a food court they sometimes like to go to for lunch?
  • Do your children have any special talents which I can try to cultivate? Music? Badminton? Swimming? Acting? Drawing?
    • One of our friends had a nanny who liked to organise the kids into producing a one-act play of a scene from a fairy story. They were loads of fun, and kids got really excited and enthusiastic about doing them, especially the dressing-up part!
  • What primary language should I speak to them in? Would you like me to also sprinkle in some phrases from my mother tongue?
  • Do any of your kids have any dietary restrictions? Are there some foods which anyone really hates to eat? Do you have rules about eating too much candy?
  • What are your kid's favourite foods? How often can they have them?
  • How much television, video gaming, Internet access do you allow each day?
  • Is any of your children struggling with a particular subject in school? Is there anything I can do to help?
  • Do you celebrate birthdays in a special way? Can I help you plan and prepare?

Being full of questions shows that you are a professional child-carer, and you take your job seriously and are keen to do the best you can. It will also mean, of course, that you will have as much information as possible to help you make a decision about working for a particular family, or not.


Changing the Behaviour of a Difficult Child

Want to be His Nanny?

Want to be His Nanny?

Different people may well have different opinions of a particular child. Typically an  assessment by the child carer or nanny will not be the same as the child's parents who usually think that their angel can do no wrong.

It may be useful for everyone who is working with a particular child to use the same set of criteria when doing an evaluation. Here are some signs to look for to determine if a child falls in the "difficult" category:

  • They throw a tantrum whenever they cannot have something they want. They may fall on the floor, scream, and even hold their breath to the point of turning blue. Although the breath-holding can be worrying, the child cannot actually harm himself by doing this.
  • They constantly dissolve into tears and unruly behaviour. They may hit and bite you when you punish them.
  • They hit, push, or bite other children when they cannot get their way.
  • They ignore your commands or instructions.
  • They will not share things with other children, and bully them by taking away their toys.
  • They constantly show-off, and try to be the centre of attention, which may well point to a lack of attention at home.
  • They always want what whatever anyone else has, often they take it by force, and once they are in possession of it, they want something new.
  • They have frequent crying spells for no apparent reason.
  • They refuse to settle down in bed and take naps. They cry continuously until you come and give them some attention.
  • They defy you frequently and often stubbornly say "no" when you give them instructions.

If a child under your care acts in any of the ways described above, don't worry too much. Here are some strategies that will definitely help:

  • Firmly and resolutely discipline children when they show disrespect. You must demonstrate that disrespectful behaviour towards you, other adults and children will not be tolerated. the method of discipline may involve time-out, a firm and louder-than-normal voice command, or removal of a favourite toy. In my view, it should not involve any physical punishment, like smacking. That should not be necessary and has the potential to get you in all sorts of trouble if you are the nanny.
  • Develop a routine and stick to it. Children feel more comfortable and secure with routine in their lives and need adults such as their child care provider and parents to establish it.
  • Teach them gratitude and piety. Difficult behaviour is a symptom of selfishness. when kids learn the importance, and feel the rewards of helping others, they are more likely to be thankful for similar behaviour directed at themselves.
  • Do not over-indulge their every whim. Let them know that not everything in life comes easily upon demand. When they do cooperate, give copious praise and perhaps a sticker to display prominently somewhere. Don't ever offer candy as a reward.
  • Difficult behaviour in children is often a way to attract the attention the child craves. Every child needs a certain amount of special attention, where he feels that he is important to the child care professional or parent. Do give that one-on-one attention for some time everyday. It helps the bonding process and makes the child feel special.
  • Compliment the child when he or she does the right thing. Be genuine in your praise.

You may need to discuss these strategies with the other parties involved in caring for the child. Nannies and parents must work together if you are to improve the child's behaviour. If nannies and parents work together consistently  you will notice an improvement in behaviour, sometimes dramatically so.

Keeping it Professional. Tips for Child Carers

Daily Diary or a Child Care Logbook
Daily Diary or a Child Care Logbook

Keep a Daily Diary or a Child Care Logbook

Whether you are a nanny or babysitter or a domestic worker who looks after children, all professional child carers should keep a daily logbook as a record of their activities. It sounds like a real pain, and it is. It also seems like a waste of time, but it isn't. It's the professional thing to do, and when parents notice that you keep a log, it will reflect positively on you.

It's a sad thing to say, but child abuse is found everywhere, in every culture and every country. The term "abuse" may be used for quite mild omissions, such as not changing nappies quickly enough, or leaving a child unattended for too long. To be accused of improper child care can be a real career killer, and you need to take every step which you can think of to make sure you are not a casualty.

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