Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Teaching Respect

We’ve all heard the adage: To gain respect we must give respect. How do children learn to be respectful? We all know that children learn from the adults around them, so what are we modeling? Are they seeing that mom, dad and nanny are treating each other respectfully? Are they expected to be respectful themselves? Are they feeling respected? Respect is a two-way street

Although children may not put labels such as respect or disrespect to the behaviors they see around them they are watching . . . and learning. Is it the lesson you want them to receive? When children see adults they care about communicating in an open and valued manner they will follow those examples. And it’s not only what is said or how it is communicated but body language as well. Children are constantly interpreting what they are seeing and feeling.

Encouraging Respect:
1) Serve as role model of respect in your daily interactions; taking other’s opinions seriously and controlling emotions. You are also a role model when you correct children after they behave insensitively towards others.
2) Encourage appropriate group interactions. Children need practice with their peers and adults. Understanding individual uniqueness while having a feeling of belonging goes a long way in building respectful behavior.
3) Encourage self discipline. Individuals who are able to discipline themselves have an easier time managing reasonable social rules and expectations.
4) Provide decision making opportunities. Giving children a say in family or other group rule development empowers them to follow those same rules in various circumstances and to appreciate the authority of others.
5) Often showing respect means being tolerant. Cooperating with others in projects and conflict resolution helps build the values of sharing and tolerance.
6) Promote discussion and debate. Issues such as fairness, inclusion or exclusion, and following rules are part of a normal day for us all. Being able to discuss feelings and opinions in a constructive manner needs to be practiced and developed.

Show Respect:
1) Allow the speaker, adult or child, to complete what they are saying uninterrupted. Be a good listener.
2) Allow children to make mistakes – and forgive mistakes that are made by others, whether children or adults.
3) Allow and encourage civil disagreement. We don’t all agree on everything. Being able to accept differences is important. Civil discussion is a balance of expression and listening skills.
4) Transition time is necessary. While this is most often true of children it can also be true of adults. Being pressured can lead to disrespectful outbursts that could be avoided.
5) No means no. Being able to say no and stick to it. This is a good one for all of us to follow. Wheedling to get a “no” to turn into “yes” is disrespectful. If your “no” is easily turned to “yes” what message is that sending to others?

Respect is an asset worth everyone’s investment which has great return, not only to your family but to the community at large.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How to Keep a Nanny Long-Term

"We’ve had challenges keeping a nanny long term with our family. What are we doing wrong?"

The nanny employment relationship is very unique. For one thing it is very personal and intimate. This makes for a great foundation for caring for children and working with parents in a partnership. It also increases sensitivity about the daily issues that can come up and can make dealing with concerns challenging for everyone. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

MUTUAL RESPECT: This is huge. Respecting each other is critical from day one. Being cognizant that your nanny is a professional and her expertise can really be an asset to your family. Great nanny and family relationships rely on respecting each other.

WORK AGREEMENT: Establish a work agreement with details about the position that everyone is clear about and then follow through with what you’ve agreed to. If things aren’t working for whatever reason address them directly and specifically. Don’t wait until frustrations set in before talking together. Nannies from the Heartland client families receive a fill-in-the blank work agreement document to use as is or as a springboard for creating their own.

UNDERSTANDING THE NANNY: Nannies are nurturers. This is ideal for a profession centering on children and families. Their position with your family is very personal to them. It’s a very different environment than working in the corporate world. So a different approach is needed when discussing job related issues with the nanny. Put yourself in her shoes and see things from her viewpoint.

APPRECIATION: Everyone needs to know they are appreciated – in your job, with your family and friends. Appreciation builds a relationship and fosters loyalty. Letting your nanny know that you appreciate the care she is providing for your children and family goes a long way. A daily “thank you” is simple and effective. A thoughtful personal gift on their birthday or at a holiday will show that you not only appreciate them but have taken the time to know who they are.

COMPENSATION: Appropriate compensation which reflects your nanny’s experience, background and education will help ensure a long term working relationship. This includes paying accurately and on time. If you are uncertain about the current market, contact us at Nannies from the Heartland, we’d be happy to assist you. The compensation package should also include how vacations, holidays or other benefits are handled. Following through on your work agreement in these areas is important to the nanny. Period performance and compensation reviews should be done to keep everything up-to-date. Nannies from the Heartland supplies a performance review document that is provided to both the nannies and families working with us.

GREAT PARTNERSHIPS = Long Term Positions: We have many stories of amazing nanny and family relationships which have lasted for years and years. The one common theme is the time they took to develop their relationship and really work as a team. Great nannies who are happy in their work truly value their job, the children and their employers. Great employer families support their nanny; treating them with respect and care. While not every nanny and family relationship is always long term, many are. Nannies from the Heartland are experts in helping both nannies and families find the best possible fit to build strong partnerships.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tantrums, Fussing, and Whining, Oh My!

Parents and nannies often find the most frustrating discipline problems during early childhood to be managing tantrums, fussing and whining. Here are some ideas to help get a handle on them.

Emotional Control: Most often these behaviors are caused by a child’s inability to express or control his emotions. Tiredness, hunger, boredom, frustration and other causes can frequently be avoided or modified. Observation of those underlying issues will help you get your child back to their happy self.

Choices: You may be able to avoid problems by giving your child more of a say in his life. You can do this by offering choices. Instead of saying, “Get ready for bed right now,” which may provoke a tantrum, offer a choice, “What would you like to do first, put on your pajamas or brush your teeth?” Children who are busy deciding things are often happy.

Eye-to-eye Communication: When you make a request from a distance your child will likely ignore you. Noncompliance creates stress, which leads to fussing and tantrums – from both of you. Instead, get down to your child’s level, look them in the eye and make clear, concise requests. This gets their attention.

List of DO’s: Instead of focusing on misbehavior and what you don’t want them to do, explain exactly what you’d like your child to do or say instead. Give simple instructions to follow and then praise results. Remember “thank you” goes a long way.

Validate Feelings: Help your child identify and understand their emotions. Give words to feelings, “You’re sad. You want to stay here and play. I know.” This doesn’t mean you must give in to the request, but communicating that you understand can help keep things calm.

Distraction/Redirection: Children can easily be distracted when a new activity is suggested. If your child is whining or fussing try viewing it as an “activity” that your child is engaged in. Since children aren’t very good at multi-tasking you might be able to redirect them with a recommendation of something different to do.

Call on the Imagination: If a child is upset about something, it can help to vocalize his fantasy of what he wishes would happen: “I bet you wish we could buy every single toy in this store.” This can become a fun game.

Prevention: Review desired behavior prior to leaving the house, or when entering a public building, or before you begin a playdate. This might prevent the whining or tantrum from even beginning. Put your comments in the positive (tell what you want, not what you don’t want) and be specific.

When It’s Over, It’s Over: After an episode of misbehavior is finished let it go and move on. Don’t feel you must teach a lesson by withholding your approval, love or company – or with a lecture. Children bounce right back, and it is okay for you to bounce right back, too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Taking Care of the Caregiver

Those who live or work with young children know how physically and emotionally draining it can be at times. For many child-centered people, one aspect is neglected — themselves. Here are some ideas to help you take care of yourself so you can be the best possible caregiver for the children in your life.
Set aside time each day for yourself. When children are napping or in quiet time, resist the urge to catch up on dishes, do laundry, or pick up toys until you have had 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted time for yourself. Remember, lunch hours are a standard in the business world because people need a break during the day.

Eat healthy foods that you enjoy. If the kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day for lunch, that doesn’t mean that you need to eat that, too! You will be happier if you eat your favorite foods.

Get enough sleep. Most people need at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night, but many people don’t get that much. An idea for parents: go to bed when your kids do. It will improve your physical stamina as well as help you keep a positive outlook.

Exercise. Go to the park and play with the kids. Push the stroller or pull the wagon around the neighborhood. Go ice-skating or sledding. Put in your favorite CD and dance. Not only will you feel better, but you will teach the children to enjoy being active.

Take time for the things you enjoy. Just as we can’t fulfill all of our children’s needs, they can’t fulfill all of our needs. Listen to music, enjoy a hobby, call a friend, or do whatever it is that you enjoy.

Hopefully these ideas will help parents and nannies take care of themselves. In turn, we will be better companions to children.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Full disclosure: what does this mean?

by Mary O'Connor

Full Disclosure: What does this mean? Why is it important?

I recently did a Google search on this term and found many definitions:
• The need in business transactions to tell the “whole truth” about any matter which the other party should know in deciding to buy or contract
• The requirement to disclose all relevant or material facts to a transaction
• The need in certain situations for both parties to tell the whole truth about all information relevant to the transaction
• The act of providing all material information about an article or property intended or proposed to be transferred, which may influence the decision making of the buyer.
While some of these definitions are geared to certain business transactions, the principle of full disclosure is extremely critical in hiring a nanny to care for your children. At Nannies from the Heartland, we have a policy of full disclosure when working with families and nannies.

We’ve had several experiences that concern me about the business practices of some other services when screening nannies and making referrals to families.
• One nanny came in to interview with our service and had worked as a nanny for two different families where her duties in both jobs involved transporting children. When we ran her driving record, we found four recent moving violations. Two of which were alcohol related - careless driving and implied consent. I seriously doubt that the families using this nanny’s services through an agency they had paid to screen her were aware of this driving record.
• Another nanny was very upset that we would not represent her and refer her to client families. Although she had some previous nanny experience, she had an eight month gap in her employment history which she explained was due to working with a family that was “not a good employer” so she didn’t want them contacted for a reference. When I explained that we couldn’t consider her as a candidate if she didn’t provide a complete employment history with contact information, her response was that several other nanny services locally were accepting her as a candidate. They had told her not list this employer and/or alter her dates of employment so there was no gap. They apparently took at face value what she told them about the employment situation. Eventually, she reluctantly provided us with the name of this employer but said she had no contact information for them. What she didn’t know, is that this family had since become one of our clients and I knew they had terminated a previous nanny. When I contacted them, they explained this was the same person they’d terminated and for some serious infractions. I’d be very surprised if any family would consider hiring this person if the agency had done their due diligence, learned what I had and then disclosed this to the family.

We would not have considered referring either of these nannies to our client families. However, there are occasions where the nanny has excellent credentials and good references with perhaps one exception. I feel confident referring the nanny but would never consider concealing this reference’s comments. It may hurt her chances of getting a job and I know we may lose out on a placement, but our commitment to full disclosure is important to us.

Not only can families rest assured that we provide complete information on the nanny, but nannies can be confident that we are working with their best interest at heart. Full disclosure to nannies can be illustrated in several ways.
• Sharing with the nanny candidate anything we know about the family employment history that would impact placement consideration.
• Providing complete details about the position expectations and duties, hours and benefits offered by the family prior to interviewing with the family.
• Being assured that we work with families who agree to pay legally and provide appropriate compensation.
We’ve hear stories from nannies working with other services that concern us deeply. Agencies providing sketchy descriptions of the family, misrepresenting job details or appearing to give the “ok” for the family to pay under-the-table, are just some of the experiences nannies have shared. Telling the nanny one thing and the families another only leads to frustration, confusion and a waste of everyone's time during the interview process.

Nannies from the Heartland, is committed to providing complete information to both families and nannies so that the interview, selection and placement process is a positive experience for everyone. For more information please visit our website at

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fitness Party!

Being Active is Fun!

Several years ago Family Fun Magazine had a great article about encouraging healthy fun. The Fitness Party was their focus. Of course, I tweaked it to meet our needs but the essentials are all here. The following is how we hosted our own party!

Neighborhood Invitations
We made our own invitations to our Fitness Party for all the neighborhood children in and around the ages I was caring for. I also asked a couple of older children if they'd like to help run the event with me - they were 12 and 14. They wanted to be involved but didn't want to be considered a "kid." Our invitations were simple - made from colored construction paper and colorful stickers they included date, time (start and end), how to RSVP, what to wear, sunscreen reminder, etc. We hand delivered them so we could explain a little more about what to expect or answer any questions.

After invitations have been distributed and before the event gather all the equipment needed for each activity. We also gave out as a favor a water bottle to each child with their name on it. They weren't fancy and I wrote the names on in permanent marker including Fitness Party and the date as well. We then used these bottles throughout the day. I had a water station set up for everyone to fill up their bottle. We also had a snack break after all the events were over with fruit kabobs, whole grain crackers and a frozen yogurt cone. I think planning this for a morning rather then the afternoon when it gets too warm for everyone is best. Our party was from 9 AM to 10:30 AM. Also, depending on the number of children participating you may need or want to split into smaller groups to work through all the activity stations to limit wait time at each station and keep things moving.

Stretching Time - Start by spending a few moments with simple stretching motions like reach to the sky, touch toes, lean to right and left. This was led by our two "helper" children. They actually put them through a nice stretch before we got started with the main events.
Hula Hoop Whoop - This is a multi-functional station which starts with each person getting a hoop and giving it a spin around their waist/hips. There is a learning curve for those who are not hula hoop professionals so give everyone several tries. We had 5 hoops going at once here so you'll need some space. Next place hoops end to end (example: OOOOO). Children line up and take turns jumping from hoop to hoop. They get back in line and the second time around it is hop like a frog, next time it's walk like an elephant, etc. If you give the children the chance they'll come up with several ideas of their own.
Beanbag Toss-o-Rama - This station a great throwing activity. I like beanbags over balls just because they are often easier for young ones to toss successfully and don't take off rolling away from you. I made a target laid out on the lawn on a large tarp using painters tape in a simple grid. I had made enough beanbags so there was minimal waiting. My "helpers" encouraged everyone to try and hit every target area.
Mega Hopscotch - Rather than play a game of hopscotch we opted for a mega hopscotch course for everyone to try out several times. The course twisted and turned over our entire driveway. The course needs a little prep but once you have it down on the pavement you only need keep participants in line. Older children should one foot hop where indicated while younger ones can jump onto squares.
Knock 'em Down, Stand 'em Up - You will need a couple dozen small size cone markers. We had some for marking off our backyard soccer games and then I got a more at a discount store. They were packaged by the dozen. I've also seen them offered online in bulk. We found lots of uses for these cones over the years. For this event you place the cones in a random pattern over a large section of the yard - half the cones are standing upright and the other half on their sides. Split your group into two teams - one team will be knocking over upright cones and the other team is taking the knocked cones to place them upright. Children are instructed to run to the cone, bend over to use their hands rather than kick over the cone with their feet. This game is timed and I used a whistle to start them and then a whistle to stop them. This is a crowd-pleaser.
Obstacle Course - This was our final event and everyone cheered each other on to success. We laid out the course using hula hoops, beanbags, cones and the naturally occurring features of the yard (trees, swing set, etc.). Plan a course that includes running, jumping, over, under and through options if possible. We made a tunnel using a our tarp over the backs of a couple of benches which was great for crawling. While everyone was taking a water break . . . don't forget to encourage water breaks between each station . . . my helpers and I set out the obstacles according to a plan I had formulated previously. Then each child had their turn to run the course and cheer on their friends. Each child was offered two runs at the course.

We ended our party with a fresh and healthy snack bar. Everyone took home their water bottle as a souvenir. This kind of special party has so many options that can be offered and planned. We were able to use many of these activities for playdates or birthday parties. You might want to plan several Fitness Days throughout the spring and summer months. We'd love to hear your ideas or experiences with a Fitness Party or other special homemade activity - send us a comment!

Use Online Nanny Job Searches With Caution

What potential pitfalls do nannies need to look out for when using online job services? HomeWork Solutions has a great summary in this article.

We've heard from nannies who got caught (or almost caught) by these schemes. Working with a service like Nannies from the Heartland ensures that all of your potential employers are vetted and coached in being good employers. We meet the vast majority of our families in person before ever sending them a nanny's file.