Loving Your Charges So They Can Learn to Love

Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ed Yourdon
Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ed Yourdon

By elizabeth connor.

My three-year-old charge, Bear, stopped mid-run, turning around to pull himself up into my arms. “I love you,” he whispered, giving me a quick kiss and in a flash he was down and running again. I can’t remember where he was running to, or even how long ago this was, but I do remember the overwhelming feeling that sunk deep within my heart. This little man loved me.

To be honest for a moment, most professional nannies are pretty opinionated (and to be real honest, quite judgmental) about those kids at the playground who don’t seem to have a nice bone in their body or that group of gossipy girls at the mall (who hasn’t wondered where their parents are?). Now I am not Bear’s parent, but I am with him at least 8 hours a day almost every day. It seems to me there is a whole lot of responsibility that comes in the wake of this fact, much more than simply changing diapers and steering him out of harm’s way. With the memory of his quick kiss and gentle whisper I am reminded of the responsibility to teach him how to love.

So how do I do it? How do I teach Bear and his little brother Bug to love? In midst of cleaning up toys, making meals, helping with homework, folding laundry, wiping down counter-tops, rinsing dishes,  surviving irrational tantrums, and arbitrating the fifth fight of the day, how in the world are you supposed to teach your NannyKids to love?

By showing them. When we become intentional in showing our charges that we love them, we teach them how to love others.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Toddlers have a way of melting your heart to mush one minute and making you want to pull your hair out the next. They have a way of undermining every emotion you thought you had control over. These moments where I have a split second to decide to answer Bear’s 100th “why” with a frustrated “BECAUSE” or take a deep breath and answer with a calm “I don’t know, Bear, why do you think that is?” are the moments that I can teach the boys how to love the most. When Bug throws his cup of milk on the floor for the third time that day, Bear is watching how I act. Will it be out of anger or firm love?

Put the Phone Away

MomBoss is a teacher and recently we have had many conversations about how addicted her High School students are to technology. She did a test and asked her students to put their cell phones away while she set a timer. Three minutes is all it took for her first student, who was supposed to be working, to pull out a phone and check a message. Lately I have been struggling with the same thing. When both boys are playing nicely together, why not check to see if I have a text message, an update on social media, or a new view on my latest blog post? What is wrong with checking on my best friend’s wedding plans or seeing the latest update on the big event this weekend? None of these are inherently bad but what are we teaching our charges if we do it too often during the day? When we focus on our phones more often than we get on the floor and play with our charges, we are teaching them that technology captures our attention more than they do. We are teaching them that it is easier to love technology and harder to love them.

Get on the Floor

While I am a firm believer that children need to learn to self-entertain and should have set times to play alone, I am an even bigger believer in adults taking time to get on floor and play with the kids. Whether we realize it or not, children look up to the adults in their lives. They want to know that we see them, want to be near them, will play with them, and if we love them. One of the easiest ways to show them this is to get on their level. Getting down on the ground is a way to physically tell your charge, “Hey, I care about you enough to come to you, to play on your turf and on your terms.

Appropriate Physical Touch

Every family and nanny has a different genetic make-up. Some families are extremely touchy-feely; for them, the nanny giving hugs and kisses to their kids is totally acceptable. Other families are more reserved and prefer that physical touch be limited to hand holding or backrubs. Whatever is appropriate for your family, do it and do it often. Looking back at my childhood, never do I wish my parents hugged, held, cuddled, and kissed me less. If anything I wish they did it more. Even a simple shoulder squeeze or letting the children sit on your lap goes a long way. There is something super comforting and reassuring for a child when they know they can reach out and hold your hand.

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And lastly…

Tell Them – Every Day

“I love you” might possibly be the scariest yet most powerful words we have in the English language. Unfortunately it has begun to lose its meaning due to its over-usage. For this reason, I look to agape for new ways to tell Bug and Bear that I love them. Agape is the highest form of self-less love in the Greek language. It means to be kind, patient, forgiving, and gentle. It means not being rude, arrogant, irritable, or resentful. In practice, this means trying to remain patient wile Bear throws a tantrum because he can’t have a third cookie. It means asking Bug to forgive me when I accidently pinch him while placing him in his high-chair. It means saying “I love you” every day at least once, as well as showing it.  Especially on days when they have done nothing but fight and I feel like saying it the least.

Why?

Because that is my job… to teach these boys that they are loved so that they can love others in return.