Read an Excerpt
NANNY TO THE RESCUE!STRAIGHT TALK & SUPER TIPS FOR PARENTING IN THE EARLY YEARS
By MICHELLE R. LAROWE
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Michelle R. Larowe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWHO'S THE BOSS?
Scene 1: Take 1 At the Playground
Mom. Allie, it's time to go.
Allie, pouting. But, Mommy, I don't wanna go!
Mom. We need to leave in five minutes. (Five minutes pass.)
Mom. OK, sugar, time's up. Let's go.
Allie. No! I don't wanna go home!
Mom. OK, five more minutes. That's it. (Five minutes pass.)
Mom. Allie, time's up. No more minutes left.
Allie. I'm not done playing!
Mom, taking a deep, aggravated breath. Fine. You tell me when you're done. (Ten minutes pass.)
Mom. I've waited long enough. I'm going to leave you here if you don't come with me right now.
Allie, stamping feet. I'm not going!
Mom, walking away. Fine. Stay here, then. Bye!
Allie, screaming. Mommy! Mommy!
Mom, walking back, irritated. If you would listen to me the first time, we wouldn't have to keep going through this frustration! (She picks up Allie and carries her to the car.)
Why does it seem that parents today are afraid to be parents? When did it become more acceptable to be a child's best friend instead of her mom or dad? In our society, many parents have lost touch with the simple, profound commission of leading their children and confidently rising to the role of being in charge. In fact, some children have taken advantage of their parents' fear of authority and turned into pint-size dictators, having trained their parents to obey their every immature whim.
The Bible tells us that God only gives us what we can handle, and He will equip us to handle what He gives (1 Corinthians 10:13). So even though you may feel inadequate for this task, be assured that God has given you all you need to parent the children He has given you. You may need to learn some healthy parenting techniques and perhaps even overcome your own dysfunctional rearing, but within you is the miraculous making of the mom or dad who perfectly fits what your children need.
Build Trust with Your Baby
When blessed with a new child, most parents know the basics: you must feed, change, respond to, and give love to your new bundle of joy. Most new moms and dads grasp the basic fundamentals of infant care fairly quickly, but they often do not realize how important these fundamentals are for the future of their precious child.
When you meet all the needs of a new baby-feeding her, changing her, responding to her cries, and giving her lots of expressions of love-you are building trust with your child. Your new baby quickly learns that you are there to meet her every real need and that she is solely dependent on you. She begins to trust you from day one, and this trust gives her a sense of security. As King David, the world's most beloved psalmist, wrote, "You made me trust you while I was just a baby" (Psalm 22:9 NCV). When you show your baby that she can trust you to care for her basic needs, not only are you establishing your authority as a parent, but you are, at an even deeper level, preparing your child to someday trust in a good and faithful God.
Besides caring for your baby's basic needs, you can also give your newborn a sense of trust and security in the world through your body language and sound. I have learned over the years that the old saying is true: "It's not what you say, but how you say it." When you approach a baby with confidence, he will respond with confidence because he feels safe-and when a child feels safe, he also feels secure.
If you have ever witnessed someone holding a new baby for the first time, you may have sensed the adult's insecurity and nervousness. Now imagine being held in those same arms! How would you respond? Babies can sense nervousness and tension, and they respond to it accordingly. If someone was holding you and didn't seem to know what he was doing, how long would you want to stay in his arms?
So one way to build confidence in your infant is to learn to hold your baby in a way that helps him relax. He will soon trust that you are in charge and that you know what you're doing. Infants love to be held closely, often close enough to feel your familiar heartbeat. Sometimes all it takes to soothe your baby's crying is swaddling him in a soft blanket and cradling him in your arms, head near your heart.
Sometimes infants are overstimulated, and their crying means, "Take me away from all this chaos!" You will learn to decipher your baby's different cries. At times like this, turning the lights low, cradling your baby, and slowly rocking back and forth will do the trick. You can also gently rock him up and down while holding him. Babies usually respond to consistent, rhythmic movement. They also respond to consistent rhythmic sounds, such as "Ahh, ahh, baby," repeated over and over in a soft, reassuring voice.
Soothing your baby when she's upset is another good way to build trust. A gassy baby is usually soothed when you rub her belly in a circular motion while she is lying on her back. Moving her legs as if she is riding a bicycle often helps too. Don't be too quick to label your baby "colicky." I am sure that some babies genuinely have symptoms that at the time seem inconsolable, but colic has become a generic term for infant crying-ranging from tiredness and general fussiness to real tummy aches. I believe almost any baby can be soothed, and holding babies in the way that they feel most safe and secure usually does the trick (eventually).
Talking lovingly and softly to your baby and holding her in a way that comforts her provide safety and security that lays the foundation for your future interaction with her. If a child feels safe and secure in the arms of her parent, why would she waver from what the parent teaches? If she knows that her parents have met all her needs, why would she begin to doubt that they will now? (Well, there is the normal toddler testing period-often called the "first adolescence"-when your child will pull at the reins. The point is, your kids may throw a fit, but ultimately, they will know from their earliest memories that you love them, and if you set limits or have to say no, you are only doing so to protect them.)
The family system has been orchestrated with great wisdom. Each stage of your child's development is like a building block. As babies move through infancy with a sense of trust and toddlers arrive at preschool secure in their parents' care, they will continue this process to adulthood and hopefully extend that sense of trust to include a solid faith in a good and loving heavenly Father.
Create a Routine That Works for You
As all parents know, having a new baby in the house quickly turns life upside down! Suddenly you are completely responsible for someone who is utterly helpless, while being more sleep deprived than you could ever imagine. Your former life as you knew it no longer exists. Your well-planned schedule is now thrown into what seems to be unpredictable chaos. And it may soon get worse.
So what type of parent will you be? Will you parent the way your parents did? Or will you choose your own style?
There are several theories on meeting the needs of infants, including responding on demand, crying it out, and scheduling. (We will look at each of these methods more closely in chapter 6.) Although I believe that you can never spoil a baby, I also believe that the calmest, most content babies are those who come to rely upon some type of schedule. And the most content moms are the ones who follow the baby's schedule too!
The best basic baby schedule I have found goes like this: awake, feed, change, sleep, awake, feed, change, sleep. At this age, the timing isn't as important as following the basic order. In other words, it doesn't matter if your baby nurses at exactly 2:00 p.m. as much as it does that he always eats after he wakes up. Having a consistent routine lets your baby know what is going to happen next. Talking to your baby about what comes next is also a great way to bond. Although he may not understand what you are saying, he loves to hear your voice and interact with you.
In later chapters, we will cover in depth the importance of a structured routine and how it changes as baby grows. But for now, relax and be confident in your abilities.
Show Your Toddler Who's in Charge
Showing your child who is in charge is even more important when she becomes a toddler. It has always bothered me to hear people talk about going through the "terrible twos" and the "treacherous threes." Children are never terrible or treacherous-though, at times, their behavior can be.
One of the most important bits of advice I can give parents is that discipline starts at birth. Webster defines discipline as "training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement." If this is true, then (as covered more thoroughly in chapter 4) we discipline our children, in the purest sense of the word, when we teach them to depend on us for their basic needs.
The first time you do something-anything-starts a pattern. If you don't want to have a tyrant toddler on your hands, then the most important rule is this: be consistent. Even if you are consistently wrong, be consistent. For example, when I first started out as a nanny, I insisted that no toys be allowed in the car, because I did not want to keep track of, search the floor for, or get hit with toys while driving. This worked well because the kids knew what to expect: toys do not belong in the car. There was never a fight about it, and I never had to endure repetitive pleadings on the issue because they knew the rule. Yesterday, toys didn't come in the car; today, toys won't come in the car; and tomorrow, toys won't come in the car either.
Looking back, I now know that allowing the kids to bring toys into the car would have been a great way to teach them responsibility (and keep them from bickering!). It is one of the few rules that I no longer enforce. But I was consistent with the boys in their early years, and that was more important overall than the rules I chose to set. The same is true for you. Your kids probably won't end up in therapy because they couldn't bring a toy in the car, but they might end up in a counselor's chair someday if there is a long-term pattern of radical inconsistency in your parenting style.
So if the house rule is "We only eat in the kitchen," the first time you allow your toddler to eat outside of the kitchen, he will begin to doubt the validity of that rule. Obviously, it is not a crime to eat in the living room, and some families are comfortable with more flexibility. The point is, whatever your rules and routine, keep to them. (If you realize that a rule is no longer working for your family, there are ways to change your mind without giving up authority. But those special circumstances will be covered in detail in chapter 2.)
Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say
Follow-through is also essential at this age. For example, if your daughter misbehaves at a restaurant and you tell her, "If you do that again, we are leaving," and she does it again and you do not leave, you are teaching your child that you do not mean what you say. Only tell your child, "We are going to leave" if you are prepared to follow through. This means you are leaving-even if you are in the middle of your meal and are still hungry! (Have the waiter pack up your meal, and you can enjoy it in peace later.) The first time you do not follow through with what you say, you open the door for doubt in your authority. I can guarantee this, although it may sound extreme. It only takes once to teach a child that you don't mean what you say.
I remember when one of my charges was three years old, he had a pair of plastic toy pliers that were part of a building kit. One day he used them to snip at a friend's nose-hard! I warned him, "Pliers are for building. If you use them to hurt again, they are going in the trash." Sure enough, he did it again. I took the pliers, broke them in half (so I wouldn't be tempted to give them back), and threw them in the trash. He cried and cried. I felt like a horrible nanny, but I knew that if I did not follow through, especially on a safety issue, the next time he would doubt that I would do what I said.
Looking back, I have to admit, I didn't anticipate that I'd have to throw the toy in the trash; it probably would have been better for me to say, "I will put the toy in timeout." But the lesson on follow-through was worth the momentary tears and extra drama. My charge is now almost in grade school, and he tells that story to everyone. He is so proud that when he got a new pair of pliers for his fourth birthday, he knew how to use them appropriately and never hurt anyone with them again.
The boys are confident that I am a person of my word, whether it is while disciplining or making a promise. I always follow through. What trust and security this has built into our relationship!
Have Realistic Expectations
If you expect your child to do as you wish, you need to be very specific. If you do not clearly state your expectations, how can your children ever live up to them? You can tell your son, "Be a good boy." But what does that mean? He doesn't know how to meet that expectation. Tell him instead, "I need you to listen and cooperate today. This means I want you to come with me without throwing a fit when it is time to leave the playground." There is no room for doubt in that expectation.
Expectations also have to be age appropriate and realistic. You can't expect a three-year-old to sit on an airplane quietly and read a book. Knowing this, you board the airplane with lots of toys and treats in your carry-on bag and say to your child, "We are going on an airplane. If you can keep from kicking the seat in front of you for five minutes, Mommy will take something special out of her bag for you to enjoy."
You really do know what is best for your child. It may seem easier at times to say yes in the moment ("Yes, we can stay at the playground as long as you like") to avoid a tantrum, but in the long run, you're not teaching your child to know who is in charge. If you listen to your God-given inner voice of parenting wisdom, you really do know when your child is tired and needs to go home to rest-so why would you let her stay at the playground until she's tired and cranky? You would only be stalling the tantrum, not eliminating it.
At some point, expect that your child will say something like, "You aren't the boss of me!" When she does, be ready to affirm that you are indeed the grownup in charge-and that someday, when she is a mommy, she can be the boss.
Allowing your child to make decisions that you should be making undermines her sense of security. If you currently have a toddler, up to this point you have been making the decisions. She has trusted you to meet her needs, and she's likely arrived at toddlerhood happy and healthy. But just because she is one foot taller and starting to speak in short sentences (many of them punctuated with the word no) doesn't mean she is ready to take over the home. In this book, you will learn to empower your child by giving her appropriate choices that you, the boss, can live with. Each year, you will be able to loosen the reins, but no loving parent gives their preschooler the keys to the car and permission to drive it.
Who's the "Best" Boss?
There are several schools of thought on which parenting style works best. Child research psychologist Diana Baumrind has identified three basic parenting styles: authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, and authoritative parenting. Which style of parenting is right for you?
Authoritarian parents use force to emphasize obedience, and they usually end up raising children who are withdrawn and fearful. These parents are overly aggressive, and their children tend to be unassertive and moody.
Permissive parents believe in freeing their child from restraint, allowing them to rule the roost. The children tend to be rebellious, self-indulgent, and impulsive. Children raised in this style often are subject to peer rejection due to the lack of discipline in the home.
Authoritative parents seek to "direct their children's activities in a rational manner, encouraging discussion, and also exerting firm control when children disobey, but without being overly restrictive. These parents recognize their children's individual needs and interests, but set standards of conduct. These children are the best-adjusted of the three groups; they are the most self-reliant, self-controlled, self- confident, and socially competent."
In short, the happiest and most secure kids on the planet have the winning combination of loving and authoritative parents-that is, parents who discipline consistently while letting their children know they are deeply loved.
I know it may seem odd, or maybe even old-fashioned, to talk about being the boss in such black-and-white terms-especially when parenting often feels more like varying shades of gray. Remember, you do not have to be a perfect person to be a fabulous parent. You don't have to do everything just right. We all make mistakes, even us nannies who usually have the advantage of a good night's sleep and who can more easily distance ourselves from emotion to see what is really best, long term, for the child.
There will come a day, not so far off, when you can communicate your own foibles and failures to your child to let him know you are human. The ultimate goal is that someday your adult child will be one of your dearest friends. I've heard so many moms and dads say, in wonder, how amazing it is when their children become enjoyable friends when they arrive at adulthood. That day will come. And it will come in stages. If your kids are preschoolers, that day is not here. Trust me.
At this young age, your child is better off with simple, clear lines of authority. The less fuzziness at this age, the better. You are the boss; your child is not. You are not on a campaign to be his best buddy.
Does this role as boss scare you a little? Think of all the times of transition in your past-when you had to rise to an occasion of leadership (ready or not), when you found yourself having to fill shoes that seemed too big for you at the time. What did you do? More than likely, you took on a role and then faked it until you made it. So imagine someone who represents a model of assured, kind authority to young children. Mary Poppins, perhaps? Maria von Trapp? Mrs. Doubtfire? Act as if until you are.
And pray, pray, pray for God's reassurance along the way. You need to be who you are, but sometimes it is so nice to pray something like, "Lord, I'm tired of being the grownup in charge. I feel like a little girl myself today. Thank You that You are bigger than me, that You are the Ultimate Boss of this family and my life. Empower me, teach me, and give me wisdom and courage to be a good representative of You by the way I parent my children today."
Knowing that stories are worth a thousand sermons, let's revisit the playground-this time with a mom who is comfortable with her role as a loving authoritarian and who doesn't use her adult-size power to intimidate her child but instead expresses empathy while remaining firm. See if you can guess some of the practical Nanny Tips she is using to build trust in her daughter, with loving authority, while teaching her child that, for this time of her young life, Mommy, indeed, knows best.
Scene 1: Take 2 At the Playground
Mom. Allie, we're leaving in five minutes. Just want to give you a little fair warning.
Allie. I don't wanna go!
Mom. I understand you don't want to go, and I'm sorry that we have to go when you are still having fun. But that's always the way it is with fun, isn't it? None of us ever wants it to stop. Don't worry; we'll come again soon. But here's the deal: we are leaving in five minutes. (Four minutes pass.)
Mom. One more minute, Allie, to finish up what you are doing.
Allie. Mommy, do I have to?
Mom. Yes. You know the rules. When I say we need to go, we need to go. No fussing. (One minute passes.)
Mom. OK, Allie, let's go. (Allie stands and walks toward Mom, taking her hand to go. She's not happy, but she's not pitching a fit or being disrespectful.)
Mom. I'm really proud of how you came with me without a fuss. What a big girl you are becoming! (Allie smiles.) Tell me what you liked the best today, and we'll put another play-in-the-park day on the calendar when we get home, OK?
Excerpted from NANNY TO THE RESCUE! by MICHELLE R. LAROWE Copyright © 2007 by Michelle R. Larowe. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.