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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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Find a Nanny’s Resource Section for Child Carers

infantcprFind a Nanny has a resources section for parents, nannies and professional child carers with emergency information, children's videos and colouring-in sheets and with more to come.

The Emergency Information contains the phone numbers you are likely to need in an emergency. They are highlighted in a red banner at the top of the page and are for police, ambulance, fire and poisoning information.

Immediately below are a series of ten videos showing how to perform infant CPR, child CPR, what do do in cases of infant choking, poisoning, burns and loss of consciousness. The videos are only a few minutes long and could end up being a life-saver. It would be a really good idea to watch each one at least once, and then come back and watch them again in a couple of week's time as a refresher. Really everyone should have a knowledge of CPR and note that infant CPR techniques differ from those performed on an adult. For a professional child carer it is absolutely essential to know basic first aid and, preferably, to have gone through a certified training course. Parents who intend to employ a nanny or babysitter should ask to see first aid certificates of any adult they hire to look after their child. I remember one tragic case a few years ago of an infant who suffocated by choking while her grandmother, who didn't know what to do, rubbed medicated oil on her forehead.

The next section in the resources library is for kids videos. The top row contains flash-cards for the alphabet and word-picture associations. Some people seem to think that flash-cards are a great way to start early childhood education. I actually have my doubts about that, but they ARE a good way for an adult to engage a child in a fun filled two-way communication session and many years after using them I can still remember the smiles and giggles of our evening flash-card times together.

bigbuckbunnyAmongst the videos there are some delightful ones, perhaps the most famous one being "Big Buck Bunny". The main character is a loveable (though hardly cute) bunny who is being pestered by the bratty behaviour of an assortment of rodents, and who kill a butterfly which he was admiring. The rest of the video is about retribution and contains scenes of "cartoon violence" that kids always seem to laugh at.

"For the Birds" is a simple but funny tale of a flock of birds trying to settle down for the night on a wire but who end up squabbling amongst themselves until they are distracted by a goofy looking bigger bird whom they make fun of. The story ends with the smaller birds being in an embarrassing situation.

"French Toast" is a wonderfully quirky story with some "off-the-wall" characters, which addresses themes of snobbery, dishonesty, and judging people by their appearance. I would spoil the story if I summarised it here, but do take a look.

If you think your child might be lonely sometimes, do sit together and watch the video titled "Short Film by Wes Ball". It is an interesting mix of film and animation and has a lovely theme of how imaginative story telling can overcome loneliness.

At the bottom of the page is a collection of lullabies and if you are lucky, one of them might be just the thing to send your baby off to sleep. The video titled "Chinese Lullaby" lasts for an hour. I wouldn't bother watching the images on the screen.

On the previous version of this website we had some classic children's nursery rhymes and children's stories. We will be bringing them back as soon as we find a nice way to present them in a flip-book which works on iPhones, iPads and everyother device out there.

Don't you think iPads (and other similar devices) are great for entertaining babies and children? I do. You just have to be careful that kids don't become addicted to them and prefer them to real human company.

Child Safety for Parents and Child Care Professionals

Exploring is Part of Growing Up
Exploring is Part of Growing Up

Exploring is Part of Growing Up

Obviously the safety of the children in your care is your top priority. Parents, nannies, babysitters, and indeed anyone who has been entrusted with a child’s welfare should be keenly aware of the potential dangers in the environment. Here are some guidelines to help you ensure that your home or child care facility, is safe and child friendly.

Different studies from different countries consistently show that the kitchen is the number one area where children can be injured. It is wise when preparing meals or cleaning up after a meal to keep children out of the kitchen.

Although a kitchen seems to be a magnet for children, it is actually fairly easy to train even toddlers that they cannot go into the kitchen when food is being prepared. If you place this rule in effect early, your children will learn that this area is not for play. To prevent injury, follow these steps:

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After School Child Care and Homework

Homework Calendar
Homework Calendar

This is our homework schedule for today. Note Dear Daughter has corrected my grammar (green) and expects me to write out each correction three times! (notice I ignored my own advice about rewards!)

An issue that all parents will face soon enough is after school child care. No matter whether both parents work or only one, what to do about child care will no doubt be the focus of many intense family discussions.

Whether you are a Stay a Home Mum or a nanny looking after one or more kids, these tips may help you to deal with the homework part of after school child care.

A dedicated study place.

Ideally this will be the child's own desk. This adds a sense of "grown up-ness" to the task of doing homework. Children are great imitators and sitting down at their own desk with the articles of stationery they need and their reference material close at hand will give them a sense of being on the way to adulthood.

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Child Care and Taming the Tantrum


TantrumAs a parent or child care professional the best thing you can do about tantrums is to prevent them from happening. They can be an incredible time-waster, emotionally draining and, if they happen in public places, embarrassing, too.

I've met parents who think that the way to deal with tantrums is out-shout their child, get furious, maybe administer a slap or two. It rarely works, and the resulting scene creates a space where nobody wants to be, except perhaps for pathologically angry people out there who enjoy confrontation.

Then there are the parents who take the opposite approach, even when a melt-down is inevitable, they carry on with whatever it was they were doing, allow the tantrum to happen and eventually blow over. Tantrums are an inevitable part of a child going through the "terrible twos" and whatever it is that the "threes" are called, but you can prevent most of them from happening once you learn the warning signs.

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Overseas and Local Maids, Nannies and Caregivers

Live-in Help, nannies, and Maids

Improve Maids Work Conditions

The headline you see to the left is from today's Straits Times and I couldn't agree more with it.

A maid, or foreign domestic worker's life here can be tough. Apart from the low wages and occasional shabby treatment from some employers, it is not easy to leave your own family, and then live cheek by jowl with another family which has completely different cultural values. Our maids work long hours and have very little time to themselves, or to spend socialising with friends.

Our household has employed a number of maids over the years and I really think there has to be a better way to solve the problem of getting nanny care, domestic chores, baby sitting and elder care than importing young girls, under-paying them, over-working them and under-appreciating them.

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New Treatment for Myopia Coming

Singapore Eye Research Institute

Singapore Eye Research InstituteBack to the topic of myopia which was the subject of a blog post a few months ago,  and can be read here . Singapore's high rate of myopia appears to be largely due to our lifestyle, and it would be good for all parents and nannies to be aware of what measures can be taken to reduce it.

The Singapore Eye Research Institute has just completed a study which discovered that applying eye drops containing a very weak solution of atropine managed to decrease the rate progression of myopia by about half. In some cases there was even an improvement.

This is great news, because even though we may now have a reasonably good idea of how lifestyle can affect vision, it is not an easy thing to get people to make changes to, even if they are motivated to do so.

Atropine has been used before to treat myopia, but the dosages were higher and it sometimes caused side effects such as glare and the loss of near vision. Interestingly, atropine is derived from the Bella Donna and Wikipedia explains that:

The species name "belladonna" ("beautiful woman" in Italian) comes from the original use of deadly nightshade as a way of dilating women's pupils to make them beautiful".

Apparently the new treatment won't be ready until the middle of 2013 after another round of trials has been completed.

Good news for us short-sighted Singaporeans, but while waiting for the eye drops to hit the pharmacy shelves... Go outside!

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten, Child Care or School

First Day at School

First Day at School

Starting to attend a child care institution is a major milestone for any child. Change, any change, is stressful for children who need the comfort and feeling of safety that is provided by routine and familiar surroundings.  To be separated from loving parents and the companionship of siblings is indeed difficult, and not just for the child, but for the parent too! There are actions you can take which will ease the anxiety and minimise the stress which will make sure the first few days are happy and tear-free.

Let's start with you, the parent or care-giver. Understand that your child can read your emotions much better than you realise, and if you are apprehensive or nervous about how your child will adjust to the school program, your child will pick up on that even before you are conscious of thinking about it. So you should really  start preparing your child very much in advance. Even as much as a year before induction, mention it in positive and upbeat tones. Do not express any doubts, at least not to your child, and at any cost avoid apologising to him about having to be separated for what, after all is only a few hours.

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How to Listen to Your Kids

Listening to Your Child
Listening to Your Child

Listening to Your Child

After writing and thinking about the post titled Listening with Interest I thought of more to say on the topic:

I have spoken with some parent friends who worry that their child is not talking to them enough. Not telling them about their day, their friends, and most importantly if anything is troubling them. I think the important thing is to get them talking to you from the very youngest age and then keep them doing it.

I once saw a funny Woody Allen movie in which a psychiatrist is talking to him while he is lying on a sofa. The neurotic Woody is rattling on about relationships which are troubling him, and in the pauses of his drawn-out monologue the psychiatrist inserts a brief emotionless "uh ha" or "and how did that make you feel?", or "and how did you respond to that?" or "and what did you think then?"

In the context of the movie it was funny of course and, although I don't really know how a psychiatrist or therapist operates, there is certainly some value in that technique when it comes to listening to children. You don't need to say very much at all, just demonstrate that you are listening, concentrating and thinking about what they are saying.

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