The 8 Best Parenting Lessons I Learned From Watching My Nanny
When choosing a nanny, it is so important to find someone you trust, respect and whom you can communicate with. Your nanny is on your team; helping to nourish and grow your children.
Many parents are stuck on the concept that as the parent, they alone should make all the rules. Yes, you will make the important decisions for your child, but it is beneficial to you if you are open to your childcare provider’s suggestions and thoughts on matters involving your kids.
Over the past four years, my nanny has taught me so much about being a parent and about raising kind, empathetic, confident children. She has been taking care of children far longer than I have and I welcome her knowledge about child development. Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned from her over the past few years:
How to practice positive discipline
One of the reasons my nanny relationship works so well is because we share similar parenting philosophies. We didn’t discuss this during any interview, but I follow her lead and watch as she disciplines with respect, empathy and kindness. She never yells, punishes or gives a time-out.
I watch as she gives my son freedom within boundaries.
I listen as she tries to understand the meaning behind his behaviors.
I notice that she does not let her emotions get the best of her when she is frustrated.
I pay attention that she is consistent with her expectations of my children.
I see that she gives attention to positive behaviors and redirects negative behaviors.
Don’t say “no”
At first glance, you may be thinking my nanny is a total pushover who doesn’t discipline. She is quite the opposite, actually. She explained to me that saying “no” to kids doesn’t teach them why they aren’t allowed to do the thing they want to do. Instead, she recommends saying “not allowed” and giving an explanation why.
“Sam, you are not allowed to climb on the chair because you can fall and get a boo-boo and that would make you sad.”
Saying “not allowed” also gives you the opportunity to tell kids things they are allowed to do as alternatives. Children model what you say and do so barking “no” repeatedly at them will teach them that this is how you speak to others.
Talk to babies all day long
One of the first things I noticed about my nanny was that she talked to my baby all day long. She explained everything she was doing out loud; she gave my baby a step-by-step guide of changing his diaper, described what clothes she was putting on and how she was making her cup of tea. As a new mom, I assumed it was because she was bored and trying to keep herself stimulated.
After a few weeks, she said to me “You need to talk to him more; it’s how he learns about the world.” You may feel silly talking out loud to a baby who does not respond at the very beginning, but speaking to your baby helps brain development, increases their language skills and has an overall positive impact on cognitive development.
How to manage the toddler social scene
Children aren’t born knowing how to navigate the complexities of the toddler social scene. What do they do if someone takes their toy? Or they want the truck another boy is playing with? Or a girl cut them in line for the slide? While your personal parenting philosophy (or inability to reel in your emotions) may dictate how you react in these situations, teaching your child the right way to react is what should take precedent. My nanny gives my son pep talks about what to do and say in social scenes and she models how to be polite and kind to neighbors and friends.
Self-soothing and calming techniques
Kids, especially toddlers, can get rattled quickly and easily. Something as simple as giving your child a red cup and not a blue cup may cause a meltdown so it is important to know how to remain calm in order to calm your child.
The other day my son was convinced about a certain piece of information which was not correct. My first response was to correct him and this caused us to go back and forth in a few rounds of who is right and who is wrong. My method triggered his anxiety, and only got him more angry and firm in his beliefs. He become more tense and almost started to cry.
As I saw him getting worked up, my next inclination was to just nod and smile, pretending he was right because I didn’t have the energy to argue. My nanny stepped in and told him to take a deep breath and explained that sometimes kids get confused and the grownups job is to explain to them what is correct. She explained that it is okay to not be sure or to be wrong. He understood, took some deep breaths and calmed down. With her help, he learned a new fact, learned self-soothing skills and I learned how to respond to my child when I see him getting worked up.
Talk to kids at their eye-level
Children respond best when you crouch down low and get to their level. This makes them feel less intimated and more likely to connect with you. I realized that when my nanny talks to my son at his level, he is more willing to hear what she has to say because it shows him that she is not coming from a place of power; she is coming from a place of respect.
Treat each child uniquely
My nanny has been a childcare provider for decades so she has seen many kids with many personalities and qualities. When I was pregnant with my second child, I had a hard time understanding how I could have a child with a different personality than my first. After I had my second child, I was constantly (and unfairly) comparing her to her brother. My nanny sat me down and said “She isn’t her brother. She isn’t going to sleep the same or eat the same. We have to treat her uniquely.” She was right. I still find it difficult not to compare my children (especially when the first was “easier”) but I make an effort to remember what she said. Every child is born with an innate personality and you can see it within the first few weeks of life. Be fair to each child and treat them based on their own habits and characteristics.
Always be teaching
When we are multi-tasking or in a rush, it is so easy to bark orders at our kids or give them one word answers without giving any explanation for what we are asking them to do. My nanny always takes the time to give explanations. Her explanation help my kids learn and grow. Explanations allow kids to understand why we are asking them to do things they may not want to do. Even if they cannot completely understand the reasons, giving them a calm explanation provides them with some feeling of control, decreases anxiety and lessens their whining.
My nanny is not simply a childcare provider; she is my child’s first teacher. She teaches my kids the reasons behind why we do things and how things work. She teaches them about the world and models how to be kind and have respect for others, while remaining confident and self-aware. Each day she takes the time to treat my children with respect and love. And in turn, they share those qualities with the world.
Thank you Maggie.
Jill Ceder is a psychotherapist, writer and mom of two in Brooklyn. You can read more of her parenting writing on Verywell.com (formerly About.com Parenting) or her website. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.