Helping You Become the Best Nanny – Wisdom from Career Nannies
Teaching Kids Manners – Making Imaginary Flowers Grow
I greatly appreciated a select handful of kids from both environments who really stood out: those who said, “Please”, “Thank you” and treated others with kindness and respect.
No matter what their background, if a student said, “Thank you, Mam”, I wanted to dance a jig of happiness and say, “YAHOO”!
Sometimes I did. Right in front of the whole class!
Let’s face it, many of us have had the experience of meeting children who act “entitled” and could use some help with showing appreciation.
Genuinely polite people make us feel loved, respected, valuable, important, appreciated
and NOT taken for granted. It’s a really important social skill our children need to learn. We are preparing children for life in school, at work, even for marriage! (How many marriages do we know where love grows cold because the couple do not tangibly show appreciation for the little things their mate does?)
People will treat you in the way you expect them to treat you. Kids feel a great sense of security when we set boundaries, and one boundary I establish firmly and lovingly from the start is saying “Please”, Thank-you”.
I couldn’t have survived teaching gang members without establishing that from the get-go. (I loved that season; even though tough, because the students sensed a genuine love and responded in kind).
So, how does one teach a child to be respectful and say “Please”, “Thank You” and “Excuse Me” in a positive, happy way? Experts say that a child can be taught this as early as 18 months. I have discovered that this starts by example even earlier!
Here is a method that I discovered kids really buy into. It still surprises me how effective it is.
The first time I engage with a child, and the parents are present to “get it” and reinforce the strategy,
I say, “Did you know that every time we say “Please, “Thank You”, “Excuse me” or act kindly toward another person, flowers begin to grow? That’s because being polite is a way of showing love. Pretend flowers begin to grow and a lovely scent fills the room. It’s the fragrance of love! Let’s try it, shall we?”
So, a child says “Please, may I have more bread”? I stand up using body language, pretend imaginary flowers are growing from the ground and say, “Oh, look! The flowers are beginning to bloom and grow!”
I’ll ask a parent, “Do you think you can help the flowers grow?” The parent goes along with the game and says, “Joseph, I need you to help me feed Spot his food after dinner, please?” When Joseph agrees, I get all excited and say, “Wow! You both are making flowers grow! Are they roses, dandelions, or pansies? It’s beginning to smell so GOOD in here! How ‘bout let’s grow some more!” Pretty soon, the kids and parents have a delicious time pretending flowers grow from being polite, giving hugs, showing appreciation. It’s amazing, but doing this actually changes the atmosphere into a joyful, sweet place.
If the child does NOT say “Please, Thank-you”, I cup my ear (as though I didn’t quite hear them) and whisper, “Would you please try that again?”. Usually, they get the cue, and respond with “Please, Ms. Connie”.
If they don’t, I cue again with, “Oh dear, we need the flowers to grow. What do we need to do to make them grow?” They get it.
Parents absolutely support this game! Instead of demanding and getting frustrated by being treated disrespectfully, they love the positive reinforcement they can give the child for making what I call “good choices”. It’s so much fun!
You can also extend this activity into a reward system by making construction paper flowers, setting a goal as attached flower pieces are added and they climb up a Polite Wall. Any act of kindness also makes the flowers grow. “Mary, you have made so many flowers grow with being polite this week that I think we should make cupcakes this afternoon!”
This is an ongoing process of reinforcement but well worth the effort.
The phone rang last weekend. “Please Ms. Connie! Sage is going through a demanding stage and has forgotten how to grow the flowers saying “Please and Thank You”. Please help us pack for California this weekend and give her some Ms. Connie flower growing time!”
I happily obliged.
Let’s make our homes a happy place and grow loving botanical gardens!
Connie is an endearing and professional nanny with three degrees and over ten years of childcare experience! She is everything a parent could want in a professional nanny! Her passion for kids radiates in her face and her resume comes with an impressive track record – having taught two children to read by the age of four in addition to having coached a two-year-old who was later accepted into a highly prestigious, competitive preschool in New York City. Constance is a joy to talk to and one of her references even raved that “we have all learned from her wisdom.” We are excited to now have the opportunity to share that wisdom with some of you!