Did you ever have one of those moments, when your heart stopped because the child you look after gets hurt? I’m sure this has happened at least once. It is like watching a film playing and you cannot press the pause button.
I looked after two children at the time, five year old boy and one year old girl. We just got to the park, me pushing a buggy and my little boy walking beside me, until he couldn’t hold his excitement any longer and decided that the best way to get to his favourite slide is to run pass the swings – And yes, of course he ran straight into the moving swing. It didn’t matter how many times we talked about it and me calling him back, he didn’t stop for one second until the collision happened. Once all the crying was done and I realised that apart from the split lip, there was nothing wrong with my little boy, my heart restarted and I took stock of what happened. Was there anything I could do to prevent the accident? Was I going to make five year old hold my hand everywhere we went? The answer was no. There has been a lot written about “helicopter” parents and wrapping children in the cotton wool.
What about us nannies?
I fully understand that every single nanny feels responsible for their charges; you are on your toes for 10-12 hours of your working day, always watching out for dangers and potential hazards and may feel frightened of a child being involved in any kind of accident and being injured. You may even believe that your job is in jeopardy and that you may be accused of not paying attention. As always, communication is a key here. Talk to the parents; ask them how they feel about children taking some risks, ideally at the interview stage, so you know that you are on the same page. If the accident happens, talk to the parents; explain what happened and how you reacted. If you keep a Nanny diary, write it down so you have a record of what happened. There are more benefits of “letting go” and allowing children to take some risks, then not. I’m not saying that you should allow them to do every single, crazy thing. Let’s be honest, children’s imagination is limitless and you should always make sure that the risks are worth taking.
- Consider the consequences.
- Set boundaries.
- Supervise constantly and let them play.
Children love to explore and if you allow them to do that, they will learn to be independent. They will learn consequences of their actions on their own, for example climbing up the front of the wet slide, will usually mean that the child will slip. Children will remember because they have experienced it themselves, they will learn to risk asses and notice the wet surface without you having to repeat yourself all the time.
Children will also learn to sort out their conflicts. Playgrounds can be a ferocious place, everyone trying to get to the top first, pushing and shoving along the way. Much like the real world, really. Allowing the children to deal with different situations, will prepare them to be strong emotionally, to become resilient, skilled communicator and negotiator. They will learn how to build and maintain relationships. You will be amazed, how child’s problem solving improves. They will easily figure out their way out of any situation. And if they cannot do it the first time, you are there to be a good role model, who can offer support and suggestions without doing it for them. There are so many more skills children can learn if you let them.
Just remember the face of the child when they make it to the top of the climbing frame or tree, their self-esteem gets a huge boost and their confidence will improve. We should encourage children to praise themselves and recognise their achievements so they can start valuing themselves. They will believe that they can do it. And they CAN! Confident child with good self-esteem = Happy child.
So keep calm and let them take some risks.