Nanni-sode #1:Disabilities

I have always had a place close to my heart for people with disabilities. Not because I feel sorry for them or pity their hardships, but because I have met some pretty incredible individuals who have touched my life. They just happen to be a little different. My interactions with kids with disabilities began in Elementary school where I was part of  a group of mainstream (the term for normal class) students that were allowed to go into the Special Day Class (SDC) room. We played with the kids that had disabilities ranging from Autism to Cerebral Palsy. This was the first time I saw these children in a different light. I think often times kids are scared of differences. These “differences” can range from a disability that alters someones appearance (like Down Syndrome) to differences in religion, culture, political affiliations.. Even as a fifth grader, I remember coming home upset because my friends were against playing with “those special kids”. I didn’t start looking into why elementary school age children don’t like playing with children with disabilities until my first college English final. It was a paper on marginalization and stereotypes.

When a child is born, they are totally reliant on their parents. As they grow up, start learning language and how to process thoughts, their parents are the main contributor to their growth. Parents teach their children right from wrong and how to act in public. But they also teach their children discrimination, intolerance and how to comprehend differences with social stereotypes. Let me back track by saying this is not always the parents fault. Every generation is different. It looks like we are shifting to a more inviting and less discriminatory society in America but 50, 60, 70 years ago this was not the case.

My grandfather’s brother was born mentally retarded in the early 1930’s. Back then, disabilities were frowned upon. People with disabilities were basically a disgrace to the family because they wouldn’t be productive, would never reproduce and were essentially just another mouth to feed. He was locked in the back room of my great grandparent’s house and was not allowed to participate in social gatherings or go to school with normal kids. My great grandmother was his caretaker since they didn’t have the knowledge the have today about disabilities. Eventually it became to much for her and he was sent to an asylum. The family only saw him a couple times a month. When my grandfather married my grandmother (who became a teacher), they were exposed to more kids with disabilities. In turn they taught their daughters (my mom and aunt) how to be kind to people with disabilities. My mom grew up to obviously be a mother but she had a job as an aide in a SDC preschool classroom. She came home with cute stories about the kids she worked with. She was just as proud of them learning their ABC’s as she was of me earning honor roll. It gave my sister and I the perspective that these kids aren’t as different from us as other kids make it seem. They go to school, they learn stuff, they have recess on the playground. My generation, unlike that of my grandparents, has learned that people with disabilities aren’t diseased or less human that the rest of us. They are individuals with differences that can be embraced and that have a positive impact on society.

In future Nanni-sodes (my ode to an episode) I will be posting how to teach children tolerance, how to care for children with disabilities and what it is like to have a disability.

Bad Behavior

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Parents are the sometimes the most blind about how their child really acts. I can say this because I have seen it. I go into a home and the parents assure me their kids are well behaved, respectful little angels then BOOM! the second they leave, all hell breaks loose. On the other side of the coin, I can say I KNOW how easy it is to walk all over babysitters because I was that evil little girl who went through five babysitters in one month. (No that is not an exaggeration…) So what is a teenager supposed to do when an eight year old breaks his mother’s favorite vase, or the five year old paints the house in pretty shades of pink lipstick?? How do you punish a child for saying a bad word or hitting their little sister? And at what point does bad behavior go beyond your (as the babysitter) control? I don’t know. A lot of your leeway in discipline comes from the parents. A lot of it comes from what you feel comfortable with. Some of it will be instinct. Some of it will be a mistake. But ultimately, you have to set the boundaries from the beginning so the kids know what to expect from you. We have all heard the saying “if you give a kid an inch they will go a mile..” ITS TRUE!! You could be the carefree sitter who doesn’t care if the kids eat nothing but ice cream and stay up til midnight when the parents say not too…or you could be the fun loving sitter that allows dessert if chores are done and the kids behave. Just know, if you are too buddy buddy with the kids they will take advantage of it and your job will become 10x harder in the long run.

Here is a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to disciplining kids while on the job:

  1. DO sit the kid aside and explain why their action is unacceptable immediately after the action has happened. If you try to explain it 3 hours later, they will have forgotten what the bad behavior was.
  2. DO NOT lecture them for long, their attention spans are short and they won’t remember why they are sitting down to begin with
  3. DO sit them in a quiet place (like their room, bathroom or corner) for the # of years old they are. I.E the max punishment for a 4 year old is 4 minutes in time out at once
  4. DO NOT answer the child while they are in timeout. For older kids, if they ask if they can come out restart their time in it. Once they can answer their own question, let them out.
  5. DO keep track of bad behaviors. If repeated multiple times, it could be a sign of behavioral disorder or action is triggered by a specific thing. This should be reported to parents. ( Jay flipped out whenever Jo-Jo would hum during homework time. He needed complete silence. We found that this was one of his ADHD triggers)
  6. DO NOT use capital punishment as a way to give out punishment.. if the child runs breaks his sisters hand by running over it with a scooter, it won’t end pretty if you try to do the same to him.. PLUS then there is two kids in the ER, two sets of hysterical crying, two angry parents..the list goes on..
  7. DO give rewards for good behavior. I created the Pinkberry Contract with one of my families. If the kids had a good behavior day they got a star. If it was a bad day they got a strike. Three strikes and no treat for the month. If they were good, they got frozen yogurt. It worked for that family. There are other reward systems out there. See future post about rewards.
  8. DO NOT give incentives to calm down once they are riled up. Candy, cookies and ice cream are among the worst but toys, games or t.v. time is just as bad. If the kid has been bad consistently bad during the day, there is no need to add a reward like dessert. It only tells the child that bad behavior is ok.
  9. DO set boundaries early. Let the child know what is acceptable and unacceptable when you are in charge. Make a chart with the rules spelled out clearly or make a fun song that can help them remember it.
  10. DO NOT make up fake punishments like calling their parents when you don’t actually do it, or calling an imaginary police man who will take them to jail if they don’t straighten up. These methods lead to more problems down the road when Policeman Jones doesn’t actually come to take them to jail or mom can’t remember giving her “punishment” over the phone.

I have always set the standard for myself that I will never hit, spank or grab a child that I watch. I will not scream in their face or talk down to them. I will not use “capital punishment” on a child of any age for any punishment. And I will work hard to stay calm and stay in control of every situation that arises. 

What happens when a parenting style collides with your standards and ways of operating?

It sucks. I have been with a family for almost a year now we have never been on the same page as me when it comes to disciplining the children. I am with the family for the majority of the week but between the parents lack in co-parenting and adding me to the mix, the kids can basically get away with murder since there is no consistency. I hear “well dad lets us drink soda” from the kids and turn around and the mom is banning soda. Or “mom hits us if we talk at the dinner table but dad lets us eat in the family room”. I am constantly battling the mom said dad said syndrome. For the most part, I tended to lean with the mom’s standards of disciplining until one day when Jay’s consistent bad attitude had reached its breaking point for all of us. What I witnessed that day will haunt me forever, as I have never seen a parent discipline a child so ruthlessly. I could NEVER treat my kids or any other kids in that manner regardless of if I had “permission” to do so.

My advice is this, every family has their own disciplining methods. Don’t get in the habit of using time outs or taking items away. It can make escalating to more severe punishments easier. Talk openly with the parents you are working for and ask what works for their kids. Some children don’t like small spaces so shoving them in the closet for 10 minutes will not help them calm down. It will have the opposite affect. Other kids NEED a space to decompress and separate from their surroundings and the closet may be the only place that is possible. Tell parents your comfortability level with discipline. If you don’t mind shoving soap in their mouth when they cuss, make that clear. Bottom line, the more consistency and transparency between parent and sitter the better. You have to do what you feel is right and trust that the parent’s chose YOU to watch their precious children for a reason. They TRUST you.

Easter Games!

I am heading out to help a with a community Easter Egg Hunt with some friends later today. There will be games, food and of course the Easter Egg Extravaganza!!! As I began thinking about all the kids’ faces who will light up when they start opening their eggs to find goodies inside, I am reminded that not all families think and believe in the same things. I have families who are very religious and don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, they think Halloween is for worshiping the devil, and don’t celebrate Christmas with Santa and his elves…On the flip side, I have had families who go over the top on Easter Egg Hunts, Halloween Costumes and decorations, and Santa-fying Christmas. Regardless of my beliefs, it is important to honor each families wishes when it comes to holidays and religions.

My rule of thumb for holiday crafts/games is, only bring them out a week before. (Except for Christmas..if the stores have decorations out in September, I’m pretty sure the kids start getting excited around…July. When time comes closer we can talk about the Do’s and Don’ts about Christmas gifts n’ such.)   Ok, so a week before Easter I start playing games and doing crafts like the ones listed below.

Easter Cookies

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Around Easter time, stores sell super cheap duck, bunny and egg shaped cookies that are great for decorating. A lot of the kids I watch also like to bake cookies so I have acquired lots of randomly shaped cookie cutters over the years. Store bought or homemade, these are a cute, cheap and yummy way to get in the spirit of Easter.

Easter Egg Wreath reposted from BusyBeeKidsCrafts.com

Here’s what you’ll need…

• Piece of cardboard cut into a doughnut shape (you can also look at your local craft store for a wreath base made of sturdy cardboard or thin plywood).
• Easter Grass
• Plastic Easter eggs that split vertically (although any will do)
• Glue
• Embellishments to decorate your eggs – we used glitter, self-adhesive foam shapes, and other self adhesive decorations (have a look at your local craft store)

Here’s how you make it…

1. Glue Easter grass all around your wreath base. Split your eggs in half and place them around the wreath so you will know how many you will need to decorate. Split the eggs evenly among a group of children to create!

2. Decorate the half eggs with fancy embellishments (fancy doesn’t have to mean expensive). We put different colors of loose glitter in paper plates and had the children make designs with white glue and then roll the egg in the glitter. We also you self-adhesive shapes which made it easy and fun to decorate! Be creative!

3. Once all the eggs have been decorated and dried, glue the eggs to the wreath. You can use regular school glue, but to make it extra sturdy you (an adult) can use hot glue!

Hide the Egg

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After Easter families have tons of plastic eggs. Craft stores, Walmart and Target also have major discounts on Easter themed decorations. I pick up a giant egg from the store (usually as cheap as $o.50) per child. Before Easter we fill it up with cute cheap gifts (I try to avoid candy) then we play hide and seek with the egg. When the children have found their egg we sit down and play with what is inside. After Easter we decorate the egg to look like rocket ships or treasure boxes.  Kids love playing this game year round, so it is reusable and fun!

Things to add to the Egg for Cheap Easter present:

  1. puzzle
  2. costume jewelry for girls
  3. small racecar for boys
  4. crayons
  5. rubber duckie
  6. small stuffed animal
  7. stickers
  8. erasers
  9. silly putty
  10. random little toys that you can pick up in a bulk treasure set (from sites like Oriental Trading)

Easter Play

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*Ask parents which skit they would prefer their children to act out. I have a Christian religious one where one child finds Jesus and they act out the scene of the resurrection. The other skit is basically jumping around dressed up like bunnies or chicks or sheep.

WILL POST SKITS AND COSTUME DESIGN TONIGHT

IMPORTANT: Easter is a religious holiday.. some families don’t believe in the Easter Bunny as it takes away from the religious significance. Others don’t believe in Jesus’ Crucifixion and Rising so the merriment of Easter Bunnies and Peeps is A-ok. Gage your families religious-ness and be aware of any  Easter Egg with-holdings.

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I am always looking for feedback to help improve this site. Tell me what you are looking for in this site and I will do my best to make it happen! Check back once a week for a poll question about being a sitter. 🙂

When you are the most hated individual on the face of the EARTH!

313038I love my job. I don’t know of any other jobs where you can play, take naps, color, dress up AND get paid for it. However, there is a reason not everyone is a nanny. I am currently employed by seven families on a part time basis. That’s 20 children, 20 different personalities, 20 different routines, seven different houses, seven different house rules.. Not to mention, 20 possible encounters with kids that have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Yes. There are those days when nothing you do (even if it involves ice cream) is good enough to top a bad day. You would be surprised at how many objects (ranging from food to chairs) has been thrown at me. There was one day, shortly after I started a job with a new family that stands out. Jo-Jo is a super sweet girl but it would be an insult to the mule if I said she was as stubborn as him. We were getting ready for a Friday movie night  but showers had to be taken, the kitchen cleaned and chores done before we could start the movie. To expedite the process, I told Jo-Jo and her brother that the first person to finish everything on our checklist would be able to pick the movie. Both agreed. Shortly after starting her chores she was sidetracked by a toy and Jay took the lead. He eventually “won” and picked the first movie. Jo-Jo could not believe I let Jay pick the movie! She huffed and puffed, yelled, screamed and stomped to the office. When I asked her to join us, she came out screaming and holding the computer chair that she had been sitting on. It ended up in my lap. Lets just say Jo-Jo spent enough time in timeout to realize how bad she had acted. The movie was nearly over when she came out. We have not had a problem with movie nights since and I am happy to report that was the last time a chair was thrown at me.

Lessons Learned:

1) Don’t offer rewards that can put siblings at odds with each other

2) Set a time limit. If the children can’t complete a simple list of chores to complete, stand by your word and don’t give in to let them have a reward

3) If a child is upset, suggest that they have quiet time in their room or other secluded safe area where they can calm down.

4) Unacceptable behavior (especially when it endangers your health or their safety) cannot be tolerated.

5) Have an open line of communication with parents. Behavior like the one displayed by Jo-Jo can be a sign of possible behavior disorder that needs to be diagnosed. Anger management/medication/therapy may be needed to help curb the outbursts.

The Bored Jar- Reposted from The Vintage Wren

The kids I nanny for are on a strict schedule. We come home, eat a snack, do homework and finish chores. If they finish all of that I often hear “I’m Booored”. So we sat down and made a Bored Jar. Inside were things the kids could do if all of their stuff was completed with good behavior. The catch was, whatever they picked out, they had to accomplish it. Here are some examples of a similar jar made by The Vintage Wren at http://thevintagewren.blogspot.com/2011/12/our-bored-jar.html.

bored jar

The jar can be made from any jar or plastic cup. The kids had a fun time decorating their Bored Jar.

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We made ours more personalized, like “go to Pinkberry frozen yogurt” and “Shop at Dollar Tree for 1 item for someone in the family”

 

Hope it works for you!! 🙂

10 Tips to Being a Better Babysitter: From Interview to Bedtime

Often times I forget how unique my job is. I started working for a family with a five and three year old about six months ago. Nichole is a full time stay at home mom who had never asked for anyone outside of the family to watch her children. But after moving, her parents could no longer assist in raising the kids. She went to the local elementary school and asked the front office if they could recommend anyone. She just happened to go to the elementary school that I attended. (It does help to have gone through the school system but not required). Since my mom works at that school and I help out there when I can, the office staff knows me.

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Tip 1: Network. PTA moms, teachers and doctors offices are great ways to spread word of mouth about your services. Volunteer to help in a classroom, attend PTA meetings or hand out business cards at the school carnival. 

We met at Chick-Fil-A for lunch one afternoon so I could meet with her before she invited me to her home. This was her way of teaching the kids that strangers are not allowed in the home. I thought it was pretty awesome of her to be a role model for her kids.

TIP 2: Always make the parents feel comfortable. If they want to meet with you prior to letting you interact with their children, be accommodating. 

Our meeting was essentially a job interview. Yes, even babysitting jobs require a hiring process.

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TIP 3: Dress appropriately. At the very least wear a nice blouse, clean jeans, and comfortable shoes. This isn’t an interview for a FORBES 500 company so suit and tie isn’t appropriate. You are dealing with children. Messy, unpredictable, MESSY children. Don’t look like a slob however. An interview isn’t the time to wear a painting smock and old sneakers. 

During the interview I was very open about the families I had previously watched, what my typical schedule was, and how much I charged.  Since I didn’t meet the kids on our first interview, I offered a free two hour “sample” session to see if the kids liked me and how Nichole felt with me alone with the kids. She agreed and decided to do it on a morning when she could do school work in her room while I played with the kids in the play room.

TIP 4: ALWAYS ask for letters of recommendation from previous families (you can never have too many). It will make your resume look more professional and provide backup for what you say you provide. 

After she officially hired me, I handed her a form that I asked to be completed before my first night with the kids. On it was important information that every babysitter should have.

Babysitter Info Sheet

TIP 5: The Emergency Information Sheet: bring with you EVERY time you watch the kids, even if you have been with them for a while.. you never know what you will need should a real emergency occur. 

What to include:

  1. parents name (it is possible that you will forget it in the event of a crisis)
  2. cell phone numbers (should be programmed in your phone prior to starting)
  3. home address (in case you have to call 9-1-1, they ask for it)
  4. emergency contacts (at least 2, one related and one nearby neighbor that they trust)
  5. primary care doctor/pediatricians number and location
  6. urgent care location and number (for broken bones or cuts)
  7. location of ER (for allergic reactions or other serious illness)
  8. any allergies
  9. any medications (include dosage and when to administer it)
  10. bed time routines
  11. eating habits (if the child doesn’t eat a lot, it should be noted so you have peace of mind)
  12. bathing habits 
  13. any important house rules
  14. What is allowed for disciplining (some parents are very adiment about time outs or soap in the mouth for bad words)

SEE NAPTIME TRAUMA blog post for a real life example

I always arrive at their house 5 minutes before I am supposed to so I can be filled in about moods, naps, what they have eaten, if dinner is prepared or what to prepare, new bedtime routines etc.

TIP 6: Remember this quote: “If your early you are on time, If you are on time you are late, and If you are late your dead.” Parents have places to go and people to see! If they schedule you for 6 pm its for a reason.

Usually when a new person is introduced into a child’s life they are going to want to push buttons. They want to see how you will react if they don’t follow rules or listen the first time.

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TIP 7: NEVER let a child get under your skin. If they sense that you feel defeated they will walk ALL over you. 

TIP 8: Actions deserve Consequences, don’t feel bad for putting a child in time out or telling the parent about excessive bad behavior. However, it is not a babysitter’s place to spank, hit or cuss at a child. (I say this and you may question it but I have seen some boundaries that were crossed by other babysitters.)

Parents do not pay a babysitter to sit and watch t.v. or sit on their phone all night. They are paying for a companion to stimulate creativity and offer a safe playing environment.

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TIP 9: You can really impress parents by bringing a craft box or special toys to play with while you are with the children. They don’t have to be expensive or store bought. Showing initiative and creativity are definitely pluses when it comes to qualities in babysitters.

If nothing else, here is my final and most important tip.

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TIP 10: Love the children. Be positive. Offer words of encouragement and praise. Get to know the child’s mood, if they are having a bad day make an extra effort to turn it around.