I have to admit that while I don’t currently desire to have any children of my own, I do enjoy being a nanny. I watch two boys Monday – Friday and while they have great days most of the time, occasionally we have bad ones too. I’ve picked up a few useful tips on how to deal with these days because at 6 years and 9 years old, I can’t cope with the behavior the way I would out of an 2 or 3-year-old. Both boys have different disabilities and it makes dealing with the behavior an interesting maze of actions and reactions.
- Listen – Sometimes all they really just need me to do is listen to what they are saying and sympathize with them about it. A lot of the time I don’t even have to say anything. Sometimes they talk about school or their dreams of becoming a motocross star or game system creator, but other times they talk about food they like or how rough their day was. No matter what they talk about, I try to listen and sympathize.
- Consistency People really underestimate how much children need consistency, especially kids with disabilities. It gives them something dependable in their life. I try to always have dinner ready at 5pm. We always do homework at a specific time. Things like this make it easier for them to anticipate what I’m going to ask them to do and it makes it easier for me when I have to tell them what to do.
- Discipline – I am never going to tell you to physically discipline someone elses child. I would never do that myself. When I talk about discipline I am referring to actions and consequences. Allowing children to grow up in a world without consequences does nothing for their moral compass or for their ability to learn about responsibility. Example: The 6-year-old that I nanny decided he would try to deceive me yesterday and not come do homework when I told him to. He likes to come home and watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. Normally, I let him finish his video before doing his homework – it’s annoying as an adult to be interrupted from a video, so I imagine as a child it’s harder to focus. Today, however, when I picked him up from school he came in and asked me where his Ipad was – I told him “You tried to decieve me and not be responsible yesterday. The consequence is that you lose the right to decide when we are going to do homework until I see responsibility again. We are going to do homework right now.” He was less than pleased to say the least. However, now he knows that he can’t do that.
- Find Something Special – As a nanny, you have to know when to have fun. You also need to know when to find something that can be special for you and the kids. While consistency is awesome and very necessary, on the really bad days (most of the time it’s because it was a bad day at school) I do something a bit different. We’ve made cookies, french toast for dinner, roasted s’mores over candles, and decided on a small party for christmas.
- Teach Independence – This doubles with discipline as they have to learn to do things on their own. The 9-year-old is my best example – each day I pick him up from school and we talk about what homework he has for the day and what is due for the week. He has 1 book report each week so he can have special privileges at school on Friday. I might ask him each day if he wants to do it but I tell him “It’s due on Thursday, so you decide what day you will do it and which works best for you.” I also tell him that he has to do his homework before dinner and shower after dinner. He has the capability of choosing what time he does those and by the time I leave each night – he has them done. This allows him moderate responsibility and teaches him to be independent and rely on me and his mother less. I find this to be very important especially when they are young because the world is not going to remind you of what you need to do when and your mom will not want to take care of her adult son. For the younger boy this might look like me telling him to take a shower and wash his hair – I choose the time but he does it himself.
Overall, I try to have fun as a nanny. We joke and laugh and have a good time, but at the end of the day – their parents are paying me to not only take care of the boys but also to give them life skills. I honestly believe that each of these tips helps me be a better nanny and helps the boys grow. Being a nanny can be like a dictatorship but most of the time it’s really more like a democracy and a bit of give and take.