Tools of the Mind

Unknown-1I just recently heard about this new (to me) preschool and kindergarten curriculum, Tools of the Mind. If you, like myself have not yet heard of this I highly recommend checking it out.  The differences from a typical classroom are subtle, but fundamental.

Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success by promoting intentional and self-regulated learning in preschool- and kindergarten-aged children.”-(Tools of the Mind site)

The differences are in the classroom set-up, schedule and activities.  The alphabet board is not alphabetical, as we know it, instead letters are grouped together based on their likeness to others, i.e., vowels and consonant. What we consider play-time can be the center of the days activity in a Tools classroom.  The curriculum recognizes and utilizes play to stimulate self-awarness. Before a set-up play activity children are asked to draw/write (in their own way) what their intention is for the activity.  While this “intention setting” might seem small and insignificant, what it does is offer children a chance to be reflective and self-aware, which give s them agency, and a chance to be autonomous.  These subtle, yet as I said above, fundamental differences have been recognized as having great upward impact.  

“The effectiveness of the Tools program has been the subject of numerous research studies in the field of early education and neuroscience. Tools has been shown to improve self-regulation skills in young children and predict later achievement in reading and math. Tools is currently expanding in many states and local school districts across the country. As a result, the Tools program is now a part of several, rigorous longitudinal studies examining the effects for special populations such as dual language learners, as well as, the program’s effects on teacher practice as measured by teacher and child interactions.” DC Public Schools: Tools of the Mind Early Childhood Curriculum, Empirical Research Review.

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Ear Safety

UnknownParents and nannies have different methods of occupying an upset baby.  Some talk to them, sing to them, or ask them to practice some new skill. (My personal favorite.) And others simply put earbuds (headphones) in their little ones ears, to keep them silent, occupied and…. possible deaf.

Years ago, I had to explain to a first time mother not to put q-tips in her infant’s ear. One year ago, I saw an infant, who couldn’t have been more than 3 weeks old at a blaring concert.  And now, with the accessibility and abundance of smart phones, I see babies listening to music via the mini-speakers shoved in their ears daily.

Parents and nannies seem prepared for various safety issues via experience, books, doctor’s advice, etc., but ear safety has proved to be widely overlooked.  The instances above have been replicated, especially the q-tip example, by literally all of my employers. It’s not that they don’t care, ear safety just isn’t thought about the same as real, possible cause-of-death scenarios, such as, drowning, falling or chocking.

If you look around any train, or on the street you will likely see adults and teens with earbuds in, listening so loudly to music you yourself, ten feet away, can make out the lyrics to _____ . This is our music and sound culture, i.e. loud is better, so of course parents and caregivers forget their child’s ear sensitivity, we disregard our own daily.

Why it’s important:

Ears are sensitive and incredibly important, not only for hearing and speech, but motor functions as well, like balance.  For infants, toddlers and kids the ear is at a much higher risk of damage because it has just developed, like the rest of their bodies and minds.  When we put too-small objects, such as q-tips into babies ears (and our own) we risk damaging the inner ear, which could cause hearing, speech, and motor function damage.  The same goes for too-loud noises, such as music from speakers or headphones/earbuds.  Setting the volume low does not necessarily insure that it will stay low, especially with our phone savvy babies.

Things not to do:

  • Don’t put music/TV up too loud around babies.
  • Don’t put earbuds in your baby’s ears or any headphones for that matter.  The volume may adjust and become much too loud.
  • Don’t let your baby put her/his fingers in their ears.
  • Don’t put q-tips in your baby’s ear.

Cleaning your baby’s Ears:

If you want to clean your baby’s ear, simply use a washcloth or tissue, and lightly clean the outer part of the ear.

Splinters

When your baby or toddler gets a splinter, first, don’t panic. It’s just a splinter. Second, deal with it, don’t let the splinter stick around.  Don’t force it out with tweezers, or dig at it with a needle the way you might with yourself.

Instead of digging around in your child’s skin with tweezers use a warm washcloth to ease the splinter out.  Tweezers can push the splinter and bacteria deeper in, and cause unnecessary pain.

Press a warm and clean washcloth over the skin where the splinter is, and try to hold the cloth there for 5 minutes if possible.  Repeat this multiple times in the day until the splinter emerges.  If your child gets frustrated from this, take a break.

Bath-time is a great opportunity to sneak this in; your child will be distracted and also isolated to the tub, making it easier for you.  If it isn’t bath-time, just plop your kid in anyway, they’ll enjoy just playing in the tub.

What’s Up Dogs?

I was recently asked by first time parents of a toddler how I, “deal with their [children’s] dog obsession?” I assumed (correctly) the question related to safety rather than the weaning off of dogs. Not all dogs love to be touched, poked and sat on by children.  So, here is what I do when that inevitable dog obsession takes over our little people.

As I’ve repeated in most of my posts, explain everything early, dealing with dog obsessions is no different.  Teach your kids early, meaning in the first few months of their life, how and how not to touch living things.

Before the obsession begins, I always show babies/toddlers how and how not to touch dogs, you can show this by using books, stuffed animals and real dogs.  I show babies to touch gently, by lightly stroking or patting an image, stuffed animal or real dog.  Most parents and caregivers have witnessed their baby/toddler smack, throw or be rough in some other way with stuffed animals.  I use these opportunities to correct, show and explain how “we touch animals.”

Like most things children learn behavior from watching the adults in their life and then copying that behavior themselves. Because I am cautious, I always approach the dog first. The steps involved are as follows:

  1. Ask the owner if the dog is okay with being petted and with small children.
  2. After a positive response from the owner I put my hand to the dogs nose, giving him time to give me his okay.
  3. I then pet the dog.
  4. After I say it’s okay, I tell her to repeat what she saw me do.

The toddler I watch knows how to approach a dog and how to pet the dog. She knows this from watching me and from practicing being gentle at home with her books and stuffed animals. She knows to ask me first (I assess by first asking the owner and then going to the dog myself), with my approval she knows to put her hand to the dogs nose and after a few “okay” sniffs she knows to, again, wait my approval and then go in for the nice gentle petting I’ve shown her.  She knows to do all of this from watching me and listening to my endless explanations of why some dogs don’t like to be touched, even gently.  And when a dog doesn’t want to be touched, or I say “No,” because the dog is barking at her stroller, she understands with abundant disappointment…that is, until the next dog appears.

Stay Calm

Parents, nannies, and friends often wonder at my “ability” to stay calm and patient when dealing with children, especially toddlers.  I’m commonly asked shyly, sometimes bitterly, by parents and nannies how I remain so calm when “They walk so slow…Ask the same question over and over…Have a tantrum.”

My ability to remain calm and patient isn’t because I have a super power calm/patient gene. To the contrary, I’m quite impatient in daily life, when dealing with adults.  I am calm and patient with children because I consciously decide that being calm, patient and taking the time to listen and explain is the best way to teach kids these behaviors.

First off, let me say I too get frustrated.  Even after my conscious, educated decision that this “is the best way of parenting and co-parenting.”  I have moments when I too would like to move at a reasonable pace. I think, perhaps we will make it one full block without 5-10, stoop-stops, pebble- stops, adjustments of exactly what she wants to carry as we walk-stops.

During these moments of frustration, I remind myself that we are moving so slowly, that I need to repeat exactly why we have to leave the sandbox, not because I’m dealing with a fall-over, incoherent drunk, but a small child, who does deserve patience and explanations as she learns how to walk and talk and everything else.  I remind myself how wonderful it is that she takes everything in, and then I too can look at the scenery and smell the flowers with her—because when do we do this as adults in New York City?

Remember that letting your child walk allows him to practice new skills, gives him independence and even tuckers him out for a later nap.  This isn’t an anything goes experience, if you actually have to be somewhere explain to your baby/toddler why you must carry him or put him in the stroller.

Here are some tips to get you through the slow walks, and repetitive conversations:

Every day, multiple times a day, remind yourself that everything is going to take two-times as long, and that is okay.

I learned long ago to never stress about time when dealing with toddlers (an attribute I do not maintain in my adult, daily life: I am known as extremely, and maybe annoyingly punctual.)  If you, like myself, have always been a punctual, quick paced person, the slow movements of your life with a toddler will be a more difficult transition.

Assess if you actually have to be somewhere, or if you’re just ready to leave.

When you are asking your toddler to move faster because you “have to go!” assess what exactly you need to leave for.  We are in the habit, especially as New Yorkers, of going places, doing things.  Because of this on-the-go-mentality, we often assume after being somewhere for 20 minutes that we “MUST” leave, but maybe that isn’t true. If you don’t actually have to be somewhere, like a playdate, or doctor appointment let your toddler walk. He has just learned this amazing new thing, so be patient and take your time.  Remember that when you are calm and patient, you are simultaneously teaching him calmness and patience.

Getting ready to go:

So, you do have to be somewhere.  Allot two-four times the amount of time to get yourself, and baby/toddler ready.

My ease with children and the reason I don’t stress about time is because I allot a significant, literally two to four times, more time to get myself and baby ready, and the same goes for getting to the place.  If we are going on foot to a play-date, doctor appointment, class, etc., I decide beforehand whether we are going to take the stroller, or just walk.  I try as much as I can to allow enough time for her to walk, at least part of the way.   A walk that would take me 10 minutes, I decide will take me, and toddler 40 minutes and I leave the house accordingly (Yes, I know I tacked on 30 minutes for a one way trip-this gives us leeway, so I’m not stressed.)

Get everything you can get ready while baby/toddler naps.

I always get her diaper bag stocked with the things I’ll need, or might need.  If we’re out for the day this means any of the below:

-Water/milk bottles.

-Diapers.

-Wet whips.

-Bib.

-Extra cloth bib, for other cleanups.

-Change of clothes.

-A book or 2.

-Food (If you’re out for lunch or dinner.)

-Blanket.

-Hat.

-Sunscreen.

-Bathing suit.

-Sweater.

*Have yourself ready too!

Prepare them for the activity.

While you’re getting your baby/toddler ready to go, explain what you guys are doing (As I describe in my previous post “Baby Talk.”)  Prepare them for the activity, this will help them understand they are apart of it and can also be a motivator for them to move more quickly.

Ask them to keep walking with you and explain why.

If we are in a time-crunch, I’ll ask her nicely to “come along,” and I’ll explain to her why we need to move faster, with information that will likely excite her. “We have to get home to see Mama and Dada…We have a playdate with (name of good friend).” Filling them in on the details is always helpful, especially if what you’re doing is fun.

If you need them to move faster, be fun and make a game out of it!

Another nanny, and mother, I know sings a cute song while marching, the kids love it and always happily follow along.

Remember that like everyone, toddlers are going to be less likely to be motivated by an irritated tone. Stay calm and relaxed. Speak to them kindly, not only for their benefit, but for yours as well.  If you speak in a calm voice with some excitement about what you are doing, it will motivate them, and also, amazingly, make you excited and will rid you of your irritation.

Baby Talk

Most parents have read enough baby books to know talking to their baby while in the womb is crucial. This communication, the sound of your voice, will be a future comfort for your infant (even though your voice will sound distorted.) But what about once the baby is born?  What do you talk about?  It’s easy to see the discomfort while parents attempt to talk to their infant; by trying on different tonal patterns, speaking in baby-talk and searching for conversation topics which might interest their baby. The discomfort largely has to do with the fact that infants are terrible conversationalists, the other end is that we just don’t know what or how to talk to our infants.

I think there are two major things parents/nannies are unsure of when talking to their infant.  The first order of business is how to talk to them; do you talk in your normal voice, or do you raise the pitch? Do you speak in proper sentences with proper pronunciation, or speak in “baby talk”? Second, what do you talk about? Do you talk in long personal monologues or pointed conversations involving your infant, or both?

How to Talk:

Tip: Think about how you want to talk to your baby.

While it can be tempting to talk to your infant in a higher pitch and baby-talk nonsensical “sentences”, I try to avoid this form of communication.  We, as parents and nannies, are their model for verbal communication. Don’t we want to teach them the proper way to speak, form sentences and communicate at large?

Tip: Say words correctly.

I fight the urge to talk like this, “Who’s a tubby-wubby tummy flubber?” because I think pronouncing words correctly is important for our future talkers. I make sure to annunciate, use short and concise language and I even raise my pitch on occasion. I say, “I love you.” Instead of, “I wub you.”

Tip: Break your language down.

Remember to break your language down, so that words will be more accessible to your child when they are able to talk. Use words they will be able to say, don’t say she’s “flabbergasted” say she’s “shocked”. If you are a linguist remember that “big words” will be more difficult for your baby to say, so save your vocabulary for adults.

Be concise with your sentences, and avoid complicated grammar.  Don’t say, “Although when the temperature is appropriate this would be a lovely toy to utilize, today a storm is forecasted, so let’s just play with the ball.” Instead say, “It might rain, so we will stay inside and play with the ball.”

Tip: Be consistent.

In order for your child to understand, and eventually use words, they need to understand the words: both how to say them and how to use them. Be consistent with your words, decide what word you will use to describe something and continue to use that word, repetition is the best way for your baby learn language.  If you decide to refer to your baby’s stomach as “belly” then use that word every time. And use repetition, “This is your belly, can you touch your belly?  Can you show me your belly?”

What to talk about:

Tip: Involve your infant in the conversation.

A lot of your communication with your infant will be talking about whatever comes to mind.  A running monologue of your daily activities together is great, keep doing it, but also involve her in the conversation.  Ask your baby questions, even though she can’t respond, this shows her that you’re interested. “How was your nap? Do you want to eat? Do you like this book?”  Your perceived patience and willingness to involve her will give space for her to communicate when she can verbally or physically do so.

Tip: Take time to describe and explain.

I believe asking questions, and taking the time to describe and explain things in detail will promote verbal communication, and makes for “good-listeners”.  Babies learn communication skills through us, they learn listening, and verbal techniques by watching and hearing us listen and talk.

They will replicate our actions, so pay attention to their moods, and ask them questions about how they are feeling, even if they can’t verbally respond. Ask your infant/toddler why she is upset, happy, frustrated, etc., then repeat what she either shows you or tells you. “You’re upset because you can’t touch the stove?  I understand, but the stove is a thing for big people…” Acknowledging how they feel and giving them language to describe their feelings shows them you care, and will be patient with them, characteristics I’m sure we all want our children to have.

Tip: Explain EVERYTHING.

Explain everything, how things feel, the purpose of objects, safety, etc. It’s easy as adults to take for granted all of the things we know without ever consciously thinking about it.  Remember that your infant, baby, toddler does not know how to describe things, what things are and what they are used for (windows, fans, stoves, etc.,) so explain everything. Instead of ignoring your child’s screams explain why you are lathering her in sunscreen for the 5th time, “I know you don’t like this but sunscreen is important, it protects our skin.” It will be soothing for your baby because you’re acknowledging their frustration, but you’re also filling them in on what’s happening.

Tip: Think about what can be a learning opportunity for both your child and you.

If your infant pulls your hair, bites your nipple, or does something that is too rough, take this opportunity to explain how to be gentle.  This is not a moment to reprimand your infant, because she does not know “right” from “wrong” but begin to teach her these things when they happen. Explain being gentle both with words and show her with your touch what “gentle” means; lightly touch her arm, or the place on her body where she was rough with you and say the word “gentle” or “soft”.

This is also an important learning opportunity for the parent/nanny, because you will need to learn how to explain and show your child acceptable vs. unacceptable behaviors, so start early.  Beginning conversations of safety and behaviors early will prepare you for when you will have to do it daily, when your baby becomes a toddler.

Baby Proofing: Is it Fool Proof?

Most families I’ve worked for have hired professional baby proofers.  Parent’s choose the baby proofer option rather than do it themselves, because, like all families they fear something in their home will do irreparable damage to their child.  Safety aside, professional baby-proofers offer a convenient service to those with money and little time at home, why do something someone—a professional can do for you?

What I’m concerned with is what happens after the baby-proofers leave? Do all of the door, cabinet, toilet, window and faucet locks help protect your child? While some of these preventative measures could help protect your child from scalding water, jammed fingers, etc., this form of baby-proofing is restricted to the house and to the things where child-locks can be installed. What about everything else?  What about the parents and adults who despite (or because) of the baby-proofing still don’t know what could be hazardous for their child both in and out of the home?

Tip: Do the baby proofing yourself so you can assess what could be dangerous. This will make you a more aware parent and nanny when it comes to safety in and out of the home.

Most families I’ve worked for have gotten sloppy after baby-proofers come either by leaving potentially dangerous things at eye level or by neglecting to use the safety materials the professionals installed.  Professional baby-proofers do provide a convenient service, but they don’t teach or inform the parents why these things need locks or what parents should look out for around the house.  The baby-proofers don’t (rightfully so) account for all of the things that lay around any given home, because that’s the parent/caregiver’s job.

Things families leave at eye/reachable level after the baby-proofers come:  Wine corks, guitar picks, pens (potential choking risk), hot coffee/tea (burning risk), computer cords (both a tripping and strangulation risk), and breakables (cutting risk).

I believe professional baby proofing should be avoided because it stops the parent/nanny from thinking about what is safe and what isn’t. A lot of people who have never or rarely been around babies don’t know what, daily, household things could be dangerous.  Without driving yourself crazy with paranoia think about what she could get into, is that dangerous? Is that too small, could she choke on it?

Tip: First time parents should especially take the time to think about what is ok and what is not: learn, decide and trust your instincts.

The parent’s who are first timers, not only with their baby but, with babies in general, should not feel any inadequacy or embarrassment for not knowing these things. You learn with experience, by watching your child and the environment she’s in. Having a baby-proofer come install things removes you from the process of thinking about safety, it puts safety issues aside and allows for parents/nannies to think, “well, that’s taken care of.”

Tip: Think and assess what’s in your cabinets- you might not need to block everything off.

I recommend doing the baby proofing yourself so that you can assess what is dangerous and what is not, where to put cabinet stoppers and where you might not need them.  The process of baby-proofing, of looking at the objects in your house that are at eye/reachable level will make you safer in the home and outside the home.

YourBabyNanny Baby proofing guide:

General: Put all potentially hazardous things up 3.5 feet or lock in cabinet/closet.

What’s hazardous?

  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Small objects: I took a continued CPR class a while back and the teacher suggested using a toilet paper roll (the cardboard part) as a frame of reference- so anything smaller than that should be out of reach. (Ex. pens, guitar picks, wine corks.)
  • Breakables.
  • Sharp objects.
  • Heavy things that are not secured.
  • Cords.
  • Laptops.
  • Remotes/things with batteries.

Tip: Let your kids explore safe cabinets.

Drawer/cabinet locks and stoppers: I think drawer/cabinet locks are useful if you have breakables or potentially dangerous things in them, if not don’t use them. Look in cabinets, drawers and closets, than decide if there is anything dangerous.  If everything looks fine than it’s ok to leave it unlocked. Let your kids explore these safe places with you, show them that not all things are blocked off, just certain, unsafe places.

What to lock:

Tip: Remember to explain to your children why these things are protected or off limits so they learn to be carful when outside of the house.

Kitchen:

  • Oven door guard: YES.
  • Stove burner guard: YES.
  • Cabinets: You decide-safe cabinets let your baby/toddler explore the mixing bowls while you cook.
  • Fridge: No/you decide: It takes a good amount of strength to open a fridge. But keep glass bottles on the higher shelf just in case.

Bathroom:

  • Toilet seat lock: No, but keep the lid down or door closed when you aren’t in there!
  • Bath Faucet lock: No, unless you have scalding hot water.
  • Shower rod safety: Make sure to have a shower rod that is drilled into the wall.
  • Razors: keep in a cabinet or out of reach meaning at least 3.5 feet up.
  • Cabinet locks/stoppers: You decide.

All Rooms:

  • Outlets: Make sure NOT to get removable outlet blockers these are a choking hazard.  Instead replace the face of the outlet with one that covers the outlets with a swivel piece.  Look at KIDCO  outlet cover.
  • Table Corners: I do recommend getting some to cover sharp corners.
  • Doors: I don’t think door “finger pinch guards” are necessary. I think they actually deter door safety because the parent/nanny forgets to explain door safety to their children when the door is protected.  Start showing door/finger safety in the house, but keep an eye out!!
  • Windows: I think window guards are good if the window is low to the floor or if you are in a high-rise.

Notes on Boundaries

Notes on Crossing Boundaries:

No, I don’t mean the predictable and unlikely scenario of Dad hitting on the nanny (i.e. first season of Girls and every other TV show/movie with a young nanny.) I’m talking about boundaries that are crossed when employers unfortunately, and inevitable, ask their nanny to perform some additional job duty which has virtually no connection to the job titled “nanny.”

As a professional nanny, I have come across some interesting, albeit offensive, requests. My favorites have been: “Can you wash our sheets… Clean the master bathroom… Bartend our party…Iron my shirt…” While these incidences make for interesting conversation points, they are incredibly offensive to us nannies. Being a nanny is an intimate job and lines will likely be crossed—so how do we deal with this as nannies and employers?

To Employers:

Tip #1: If you’re not sure the job you want to ask your nanny to perform falls into her ‘duties,’ than it most likely does not, so don’t ask her to do it.

If you’re considering asking your nanny something and you hesitate for just one second because you aren’t sure it’s okay, than DO NOT ask her to do it. You should never ask your nanny to perform duties that have nothing to do with your child, unless this has been previously discussed.

Tip #2: Hire a cleaning service.

If you need your house cleaned, don’t ask your nanny to do it, and please refrain from offering her $50 extra a week to clean. While you might think she would be interested in the extra money remember that cleaning houses is not the job/career she chose. *If she wants the extra money she will offer to do it, but never ask. The money tactic does not make you respectful or considerate, because you are associating our chosen career with all other service-based jobs and assuming they are interchangeable. We are nannies who watch, care for and educate your kids. If we wanted to clean houses we would clean houses.

So, how do you get your house clean if you don’t have time and your nanny isn’t doing it? I recommend that working mothers and fathers hire a cleaning service, they aren’t that expensive and will allow you time to relax after work. You will be able to play with your kids and enjoy your night without the worry of cleaning or scheming a way to “respectfully” ask your nanny to do it.

To Nannies:

Tip #1: Bring up job duties either in the interview or set up a meeting to discuss this topic.

If you’re starting a new job make sure to address this issue immediately. In your interview, bring up all of the great things you will do. After you do this, say something like “My duties will be limited to your children, I will clean up the messes we make throughout the day.” And maybe give a couple of examples of jobs you will not perform. Start your job off with open communication and clear boundaries.

If you are currently at a job where the parents either ignore these boundaries or the boundaries have not been discussed, ask for a meeting. In the meeting list again all of the wonderful things you do and follow up with a more detailed list of the things you do not do.

Tip #2: Stop yourself from saying “yes” the next time your employer asks you to perform an out-of-bounds job.

At first you might say ‘yes’ because the job requests are simple enough and some can even be traced, perhaps somewhat illogically, back to an origin of child-care—something like: Clean master bathroom sink>Sometimes you wash the baby’s hands in the sink>Therefore the sink needs to be cleaned for the baby. However, soon the requests will get weirder and you will find yourself struggling to make any logical connection between the task and your job as a nanny.

If you, like myself, have been guilty of performing out-of-bounds jobs, take a moment to respond the next time a parent asks you to do one of these jobs. Give yourself time to process the job they have asked you to perform. Is it related to the kids? If not, come up with another answer such as, “I’m not comfortable doing that…Maybe we should talk about my job duties at a meeting…I’m not sure I’ll have time (list all of the child-related things you are doing!)” If saying no and being upfront is not difficult for you, than this process will be easier, but if you are more timid, or worried about your job, then take your time moving toward a more aggressive “no.”

Stop yourself from saying yes, replace “yes” with “I’ll try to” and slowly work your confidence up to a point where you request a meeting to discuss your job duties. It can actually be pretty hard to stop yourself from immediately saying “yes” because we want to be good employees, to help out, and because we as nannies become so much a part of the family that odd jobs feel okay sometimes. Remember to take a second to respond, consider the job they are asking you to perform because the sooner you start to say “yes” to weird jobs the harder it will be to stop.

Tip #3: Remember to stay calm and respectful.

While it might be tempting to hand your employer the card of a cleaning service every time they cross job duty boundaries, try to avoid this tactic. However, there is an exception to this rule: if your employer keeps bringing up that the house needs to be cleaned, and you feel, through their subtlety, that they are hinting that you should do it, here I think it is perfectly fine to say “Well, I know of a cleaning service, do you want the number?” *Only use this if they directly say the house needs to be cleaned, do not use this if they say, “our house is dirty!” These are two very different scenarios. In the first, they are allowing for suggestions, and hoping for your willingness to clean. In the latter they are simply making a statement, so there is no need to respond.

To All:

The moral of this: Communicate with your employers and employees: both parties should bring up job duty expectations and limitations. It makes for a happy home and pleasurable work environment.

Say “Yes” to the Word “No”

*It’s hard to say “NO” to your kids, because of those adorable faces, vicious tantrums and sometimes because you’re just a “yes” kind of person.

It’s that time of year again when we start to lather our children with sunscreen, adorn them with hats and miniature sunglasses. The days are longer, the air is fresh with flowers and rotting trash confusing our senses, and in the distance we can hear the ever-increasing din of ice cream trucks. These trucks will bring out the inner monsters and sweet angels in our children, the fate of which rests upon the acceptance or rejection of the sweet delectable treat. Ice cream trucks are just one of the many delights the warmer weather brings.

What’s that New York Parents? You don’t want ice cream trucks?

Tip #1: Don’t blame ice cream trucks for your problems with the word ‘no’.

Around this time last year, Brooklyn parents petitioned to ban ice cream trucks, some claimed obesity fears as their cause, others admitted they just didn’t want to say no to their children. I know the “No to the word, N.O.” parents.
Some don’t want to limit their child’s options, believing the word ‘no’ hinders the decision-making process and does not properly address issues of behavior. Other’s may claim these reasons, but in reality are horrified of an embarrassing public tantrum.

Tip #2: Be okay with the N.O. word and use it sometimes. We don’t always have to be accepting of our child’s actions.

At first glance, the “No to the word N.O.” parenting style makes sense. It seems kind, non-judgmental, and most significant, other parents are doing it. But maybe it’s not as simple as being a kind, nice, approving parent, maybe your kids need to hear “no” sometimes.
Let me be upfront about where I stand on this issue, you may have guessed but I am a big proponent of using the word “no.” I always try to couple the N.O. word with explanations, but sometimes a simple “no” is just fine and warranted, especially when your kid is old enough to understand.

Tip #3: Let your kids hear “No” from you first.

While the theory behind eliminating the N.O. word proclaims more opportunity, better decision-making and the belief that a stand-alone “No” doesn’t properly address issues of safety and boundaries, the reality is your kids are going to hear the word from the outside world; other parents, kids, teachers, etc. They are going to face rejection. They are going to cross boundaries and these situations will often be coupled with the word no. So, my question is, why not have the first person they hear “no” from be you, the person they love?

Tip #4: Couple the N.O. word with explanations.

I understand why parents think saying “No” is final and harsh, but “No” coupled with explanations is a healthy way for you to show boundaries, unacceptable behavior and to teach your kids their own personal boundaries. Children should know that the word ‘no’ can help fend off harmful and coercive behavior from others. Children should know that a verbal “no” should be treated as a finality, especially for personal, physical boundaries. If your kids never hear the word no from you, I fear they will never respect the implications. They may be the kids who push others’ boundaries and be weaker to coercive behavior from others.

Tip #5: Don’t run away from issues as a way to avoid saying “No.”

Your kids will be tougher if they don’t always get what they want-if they don’t always get the ice cream cone. They won’t be tougher if you just run away from the truck and you don’t face them with a “No, you can’t have that because its dinner time… No, you can’t have that because you smacked Sally in the face”. Without learning the importance of the N.O. word your kids may become people who are either peer-pressured or the peer-pressurer’s.
So, use the word no and explain to your kids why you are saying “no” to that action or thing, prepare them for the real world, isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents and nannies?

HOW TO…

Become comfortable with the word “No”.

1. First off become comfortable and confident that saying ‘no’ to your children is sometimes necessary and that your limitations will provide them with future awareness of boundaries and unacceptable behavior.
2. This means accepting the fact that tantrums will occur: when the tantrum happens simply ignore it-if you think other parents are watching and judging, remember that they have kids too and have likely dealt with tantrums.
3. Saying ‘no’ does not hinder your child’s decision making-process as long as you discuss the issues with her. Make your child apart of the discussion.

Successfully use the N.O. word.
1. Always couple the word ‘no’ with a follow up explanation, even if your child is an infant (they understand more than we think.)
2. At the point where you and your child can converse, I recommend asking your child why he thinks he can’t do or have a certain thing (if this action has previously been discussed.)
3. Make sure the people in your household (you, your partner and nanny) are consistent with acceptable and unacceptable behavior and treats. You will see quicker response and acknowledgment from your child when everyone is on the same page.

WHY…

Remembering why the “N.O.” word is important:
1. Teaches your kids boundaries for others and themselves.
2. Your kids will hear ‘no’ from other people, so prepare them for the real world.
3. “No” is a quick way for your kid to set boundaries, now, in the sandbox, and later, in high school and college.