It's Okay to Micromanage the Kids (In this One Area)
My last post was about how it's okay to ignore kids because they need free time to play without input from adults. That's true. But after really thinking it over, I believe there's one area where it's okay to micromanage.
Kids interactions with each other need our close attention.
How they talk to other kids. Do they call names? "You meany." Use threats? "I'm not going to be your friend anymore." Do they speak up for themselves respectfully and ask for a turn on the playground. Make eye contact? Say so when they're scared?
While kids interact, they learn how to be kind. Or not.
It's emotional intelligence and social skills kids develop when we stay close and coach them to be kind. And those are skills I want kids to get lots of practice with. While kids are in my charge, I hope they get confident about what to say in a whole bunch of social situations. I'd love their kindness muscle to become crazy strong.
Kind kids become awesome adults, people you want to hire or hang out with.
I'm playing the long game with my (nanny) kids and I know you are too. Learning social skills and emotional intelligence will help them have brighter futures. Dr. John Gottman says in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child "researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life." Success and happiness. Yes!
Kindness is learned. We have to teach it.
Folks see character traits as fixed, like we're born brave, or smart or unkind. On the contrary, I see kids develop these characteristics through practice. When they try things that scare them, they become more brave. Persevere through homework, they "get smarter at math." Say please and thank you, even to their siblings, they grow their kindness muscle.
The best way to teach kindness is to model it.
Our choices have such influence on our (nanny) kids. It's humbling, isn't it? Do we say please and thank you to them? Use a kind tone of voice when making requests of them? Avoid calling names "what a messy eater you are", avoid threats, "if you don't stop, we're leaving." Sometimes, to keep myself honest I like to think, would I speak this way to the kids if I was around a bunch of other nannies?
A soccer coach shouts reminders during practice. We're kindness coaches.
If we're paying attention when kids are playing together we can remind them to be kind. Prompts like, "speak kindly please" or "try telling her how you feel" or "have you asked for a turn? try, can I have a turn please?" We can offer these reminders softly without scolding, modeling as we go.
Kids will start being kind on their own.
It's weird to tell kids exactly what to say, I know. As they grow, they need scripts less and less. They start to speak kindly spontaneously. And kindness becomes part of their self identity (I'm a kind kid).
I'd love to hear from you!
How do coach your (nanny) kids to be kind? Tell us about it in the comments! Your insights are just what other nannies and parents are hoping to hear. So thanks for adding your voice to the conversation!