August 28, 2009
I haven’t had cable TV in eons. Well, ok, over year, but that’s practically its own geologic age in TV years. I’ve seen Jo the nanny on whatever show she’s got, and thought it was kind of redonk, but that was a long time ago and before I started nannying full-time. So, tonight I’m sitting on the couch while my partner is jury-rigging my computer back together so that I can type something other than just a continuous string of the letter “z,” and there it is. Nanny 911.
I was somehow biologically compelled to watch this. Like if I didn’t watch at least one full episode of Nanny 911, my kidneys were going to go on strike. I was expecting to roll my eyes back into my head to the point of requiring surgical removal, but I did it anyway.
And actually, I really kind of loved it. The episode I saw featured Nanny Deb and a family with three sets of twins. Three sets of twins who were all trying to kill each other. The typical whining and hitting nightmare. Nanny Deb had a week to “fix” things, which of course, sounds impossible.
But lo! At least as far as the viewing audience at home is concerned, she prevailed! Who knows what happened after that week, but we saw a few tearful shots of reconciliation and a nice denouement over a peaceful dinner. What magic did she work? What was in her bag of tricks? What did she put into their water?
*Of course* there’s a Nanny 911 game.
I swear it’s almost becoming like Rule 34: If you can think of it, a video game exists of it.
Here’s Nanny Deb’s super-magic secret: She talked to them. She got down on her knees and looked directly into the kids’ eyes and kindly, but firmly, TALKED to them. I heard so much of myself in her, it was frightening. My partner made a joke “Oh look, that’s you in ten years!” but seriously… that’s me in ten years. I heard the same words that I say all day long coming out of someone else’s mouth, ON TV, and it was a bit jarring.
What amazes me more is the fact that this show probably does help a *lot* of parents, and not just the ones who are on the show, because there are so, so many parents who honestly do not know how to talk to kids. So many adults in general don’t know, and just kind of assume that once you have kids, you’ll magically be aware of how to talk to them. And it’s just not true.
If you want well-behaved kids, there are very few things that you need to do, but you need to do them all the time. You need to talk to the children, you need to LISTEN to them when they talk to you, and you need to be consistent. And that’s what Nanny Deb got these parents to do and their lives! They improved! Almost instantaneously! Just talk to them! I know it sounds corny, but phrases like “I need you to use your words.” and “I’m sorry that made you feel upset.” go a LONG WAY. Also listening to children and understanding that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you that Jojo got the blue fork – it is a big deal to kids. And most of the time – more than anything else, they just want this acknowledged.
I could go on and on, but really, it just amazes me how little some truly caring parents understand about talking to kids. Be calm, be firm, be kind. Be consistent. If you say No, that has to mean no. That can’t mean “No, but if you keep screaming, I’ll say yes.” But truly, if you talk to a child about what’s bothering them, you really won’t have to say no very often. I honestly only ever give firm NOs to dangerous behavior. Everything else is negotiable.
Also, I try to instill in children the Golden Rule that my mother taught me: No whining, no crying, no begging. It was mostly in the context of the grocery store, but it’s a pretty good rule.