How to Deal With a Difficult Boss

In most cases, a nanny and her employer establish ground rules and expectations before they embark on a bonding relationship that is beneficial for the entire family. However, it is inevitable that you will encounter a difficult boss who is hard to please and even harder to work for on a daily basis from time to time.

The entire family suffers when working with parents who are inconsistent or unclear about expectations, and as a nanny, you are unable to create a loving home environment. Learn how to handle a difficult boss so you can focus on what’s most important – providing the best care for the children.

Clarify Parenting Strategies

When parents don’t have an intentional approach to their parenting and mutually agreed upon parenting strategies, it’s easy for them to flip-flop between a permissive and authoritarian parenting style, says Vicki Hoefle, Vermont-based parent educator and founder of Duct Tape Parenting, a proactive parenting strategy.

“When this happens, the nanny is left to guess which style the parent wants to be employed in any given situation,” she says. “As a result, the nanny may opt for lenience and give children what they want in order to make them happy, only to discover that is the moment the parent decides he or she wants to lay down the law.”

According to Hoefle, both the nanny and the children suffer when parents flip-flop and exercise inconsistency. As a result, your boss may become even more difficult to work with on the job.

The key to dealing with an inconsistent parent and boss is to identify the parent’s approach to parenting ahead of time. Discuss how the parents want to maintain and support their approach, recommends Hoefle.

Build Credibility

A difficult boss may also undermine the nanny’s authority, thus making the work environment challenging. “When parents let the nanny begin to handle a difficult situation with their children, but then step in and take all authority away from the nanny, the nanny loses all credibility with the children, allowing them to take advantage of the nanny, which only increases the power struggle between the two,” says Hoefle.

In order to satisfy both the parents and gain credibility with the children, Hoefle recommends that the nanny ask the parents to model how they would like her to handle difficult situations.

“The nanny can say ‘I will watch how you handle this situation, so that I can implement the same strategies next time.’ This will often get the parents to reconsider whether they really want to step in, especially if they know the nanny is watching in an attempt to learn how to parent the child correctly according to the parent’s wishes,” says Hoefle. “Often times, parents will relinquish control and return it to the nanny until they have had time to talk about it.”

When trouble or difficult situations arise with the children, Hoefle also recommends nannies ask parents about their goals in child rearing. Using phrases such as “Can you help me understand your goal in this situation?” prompt everyone to think. “This will help everyone refocus and may just point out to the difficult parents that they don’t know what their goal is,” says Hoefle. “This causes everyone to stop and think and allows the nanny and parents to work more cooperatively and collaboratively.”

Set Rules and Boundaries

When parents are not clear on boundaries and rules and leave the decision making up to the nanny, it can open a can of worms with a difficult boss. “It’s not unusual for the parents to later disagree with the nanny’s rules and begin to question them,” says Hoefle.

To avoid a difficult encounter with your boss, Hoefle recommends clarifying rules from the start and clarifying again if the parent decides to change them.

“The more specific the nanny can be in finding out what the boundaries and rules are in the beginning, the better luck he or she will have when establishing a respectful and consistent relationship,” says Hoefle.

If your difficult boss begins to question the rules you are enforcing, remind him or her of the prior discussion you had and ask if they would like to change the rules formally to avoid any confusion.

Explain to your boss that it is important for you to establish consistency with the children in order to gain credibility and build a healthy, trusting relationship with them. “If the child learns to trust, then the nanny can weather future interruptions by the parents,” says Hoefle.

Encouraging Your Toddler’s Independence

As your toddler develops and begins to experience the freedom to walk, talk and play, the need to express his independence is natural. The word “no” is often a common occurrence because he sees that choices exist in his little world.

A toddler’s independence doesn’t have to result in a constant tug of war, though. Instead of getting frustrated over the tantrums and “mine” attitude, foster his independence by promoting it and encouraging him to complete tasks on his own.

The Toddler Transition

Children who are two years of age are learning for the first time that there are other people in the world, but they don’t quite see them as separate from themselves, says Dylan Glanzer, who is a mother of two, has her masters in early childhood education and owns Parties by Miss Dylan and Company.

“They are still quite egocentric, but at the same time, they are beginning to understand that they have their own will, hence the need to say ‘no’ or ‘mine’ to everything,” says Glanzer.

Toddlers often get frustrated because they want to make choices and do things on their own, but there are still many tasks they are unable to do at such a young age. “They need help and resent it, so adults need to understand and sympathize with their plight,” says Glanzer.

The Teaching Trick

To avoid frustration from your little one, empower him or her through teaching. “We need to teach them to do as many things for themselves as possible so they can experience the satisfaction of doing something on their own,” says Glanzer. “We can help them by not engaging in their struggle as a direct threat to our parental authority – it most certainly is not.”

Begin teaching your little one to embrace his independence by offering choices whenever possible. Instead of telling him to sit down for breakfast, involve him in the preparations. Using phrases such as “would you like to help me set the table or stir the pancake mix?” offers your toddler a choice while still reiterating that you expect him to help with household tasks.

Instead of picking out your toddler’s clothes for the day, help him set out a few options and avoid wincing as he mixes and matches a purple shirt with green pants. “This way, when there is a choice, it may be less of a battle,” says Glanzer.

Avoid battles when you are in a hurry to get out the door, too. Questions such as “Do you want to put your coat on first or your shoes?” indicate that both tasks must be completed while still giving your child the power to choose.

The key, though, is to offer only two options. “Too many or open-ended choices will add to the toddler’s confusion and overwhelm,” says Glanzer.

The Self-Care Movement

The best way to facilitate your toddler’s independence is by helping him develop his self-care skills.

Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child, recommends encouraging your child to complete the following tasks on his own:

  • Dressing (Putting on shirts, socks, pants, shoes)
  • Brushing Teeth
  • Picking Up Toys
  • Feeding
  • Bathing and/or Wiping Down Body

Your child will most likely need your assistance at first to care for himself, but it’s important to allow him to try, stand by and only help when asked. If his shirt is on backwards, is it really the end of the world? Foster his independence by praising his efforts instead of fixing the shirt. Use this opportunity to teach your child about hygiene, personal care habits and health risks so he sees the value of taking care of himself.

The Independent Play Session

Many toddlers want to exhibit independence and even control when playing, but this can be a challenge when other children are expressing the same need. According to Glanzer, it’s important for parents, nannies and caretakers to show toddlers how to play with another person.

“I went to so many play dates with mommy groups when my kids were little and was a little surprised that the parents expected to be able to enjoy their time together and just let the kids play,” says Glanzer. “I was the only one on the floor with them trying to help them share or work out conflicts. This is why understanding child development is a huge help in raising children.”

To avoid disagreements during play sessions with others, Glanzer recommends putting away any of your child’s most favorite toys. “Tell your 2 year old that their friend won’t get to play with those toys, but the rest of the toys are for sharing,” she says. “They understand much more than they can ever communicate and good advice is worth repeating over and over to your little one.”

While your toddler is learning how to share and exhibit independent behavior, take the opportunity to show him the value of choices, consequences of behavior and the responsibility that accompanies independence.

“There are hundreds of opportunities for your toddler to practice independent play and activities throughout the day,” says Walfish. “The key is for mommy to catch those moments, reinforce them with praise and capitalize on them by expanding your child’s self-reliance.”

Friend or Foe: Activities for Nannies to Bond with Children

When you enter a new household, it’s common for children to be shy, resistant or even apprehensive to your presence. Finding ways to bond with the children is a key strategy to gaining trust and building a relationship with the little ones you will be caring for on a daily basis.

From games to interactive adventures, find the heart of each child through bonding activities that will leave an impression and have them begging for you to return the next day.

Working Through the Challenges

Before attempting to bond with the children in your care, it’s important to recognize the challenges you may face. “A child might try to see what he or she can get away with, which can be difficult for a nanny – especially a new nanny who is unfamiliar with the family’s routine,” says Robert Nickell, parenting expert and founder of Daddy & Co., a gift and apparel company dedicated to celebrating fatherhood.

A child might also be angry, disrespectful and unwilling to listen to you because he or she is upset by the new situation. Parents will need to provide the nanny with tips and suggestions to solve problems that may arise, build credibility and abide by the family’s parenting plan.

“Kids like to know their boundaries, so the nanny needs to be able to quickly instill the boundaries and at the same time engage the children in fun, inspirational and educational venues,” says Nickell.

Getting Active with the Children

Most importantly, nannies should engage the children by learning more about them and getting on their level right away. “Nannies should get on the floor, talk to the kids, see what they’re playing with, join in, ask questions and listen to responses,” says Nickell. “They should view whatever they are doing as the most important job of the day and immediately immerse themselves in the activity.”

Nannies can also come equipped with a binder full of creative ideas and activities. “Our nannies enjoy looking through the binder when they need a new activity or idea to keep our kids engaged,” says Nickell.

Get the kids active and away from technology periodically with exploration walks where the kids can count the number of bugs they see or collect rocks and leaves. Take a trip to the park so the children can release excess energy.

Make bonding an educational journey, too, with educational posters. “Our kids love to make posters with crayons, markers, glitter and glue,” says Nickell. “We like to make them educational by making posters of the alphabet or numbers.”

Nannies can bond with children by taking an interest in their favorite pastimes. Find out if the children enjoy dancing, sports or art and create activities that appeal to their interests. The key element is to engage in activities together so the children can get to know your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, and especially your personality.

Encourage the children to join you in any of the following activities:

  • Clean out closets in search of clothes and toys to donate
  • Create an impromptu story as a group to foster creativity
  • Play word games or word searches together
  • Host a hula-hoop competition with prizes for the winners
  • Cook a meal together – chocolate chip pancakes are always a hit
  • Solve a puzzle with everyone contributing one piece at a time
  • Bake cookies or sweet treats for neighbors or classmates
  • Host a play with each child representing his or her favorite cartoon character
  • Record a music video, switching roles as on-camera talent and the producer
  • Play dress up and host a fashion show
  • Volunteer at a senior center and encourage the children to show off their talents with a music performance or magic show

“Learning a new game or sport is always entertaining and fun, too, as is planting flowers or drawing with chalk,” says Nickell. If your teenager is a baseball enthusiast, spend some one-on-one time with him tossing the ball around or attending a game at a local high school or professional sports arena. If your toddler loves blocks, construct a giant skyscraper together to see how high you can build it before it tumbles over. If your school-aged child is an artist at heart, foster this love by creating crafts and masterpieces together.

“The ideas and opportunities for fun are endless,” says Nickell.

Tips for Conducting Video Interviews

In an industry where worldwide or cross-country hiring is common, video interviews offer a viable way for families to get a feel for a prospective nanny and nannies to get a sense for their potential new employing family.

While a video interview is similar to a face-to-face interview, you should use these tips to ensure you are expressing your best self and appear ready to take on the job in a capable and confident manner:

Be Prepared

Rather than fumbling for information or rambling on for most of the time you could be personally connecting with your interviewer, email or fax over any pertinent background information or credentials for their perusal. It will show you are professional, proactive and organized – and allow them to ask any follow-up questions to clarify items of note and cut back on extra interviews or the need to touch base to double check things that could prolong the hiring process. Make sure your power source is secure and reliable; it looks unprofessional if you have to scramble for a cord mid-interview because you’re laptop is dying. You should also fully understand the technology you are using; you want to be able to relax and concentrate on the interview.

Dress the Part

Just because you’re connecting online doesn’t mean you should be any less professional. Skip the pajama pants you’re sure won’t even show (imagine if the smoke alarm goes off or you suffer a sudden coughing fit and need to hop up for a moment) and take a few minutes to dress the part. Not only will you appear more professional, you’ll also be in a more professional mode during the conversation. (Additionally, be aware of the angle of the camera in case your top appears to be more revealing than it otherwise would.)

Do a Background Check

This doesn’t mean run your own background check or even one for your potential employers. Just turn around and take an objective look at what the interviewer will be seeing behind you. If it’s a cluttered mess, facing the bathroom or the wall features a poster from your visit to the Guinness Brewery, you might not make an ideal first impression. Clear any personal items and set yourself up in a well lit area with a plain, uncluttered background. Use a picture-in-picture option so you can see how you look to the viewer.

Make Eye Contact

Although it might seem slightly awkward, be aware of where the camera is and make eye contact with the lens when responding to questions. You can then glance down slightly at the screen to the viewer’s face as they respond or follow up with further queries. You are trying to create an atmosphere of transparency and trust as you connect for a potential relationship that will involve sharing their children’s lives, and making eye contact exudes confidence and can make everyone feel more comfortable.

Keep Down Ambient Noise

You are trying to convince prospective families that you are capable, confident and a person of authority who can handle the job. The camera’s audio will pick up every little noise in the background, so if you are nervously tapping your pen, kicking your chair or rustling papers, you may come across as nervous or less trustworthy. (Obviously, ensure you won’t have televisions or music from another room invading your interview – or pets or small children distracting you or the interviewer.)

Be Yourself

Part of the unique nature of a nanny-family relationship is that it is both personal and professional. Don’t be so buttoned up that you are afraid to crack a smile or show your personality. While your background and skills are certainly important, it’s also important that you are a good fit for the family and vice versa. If you have a funny, appropriate story that demonstrates your love for kids or enjoyment of being a nanny, feel free to share that or other common interests that may help you connect to the parents or the kids and up your chances of making the top of their list.

Splish and Splash: Infant Bath Tips

Bath time can be one of the most precious bonding moments with your infant. As she splishes and splashes in the water and smiles up at you, it’s a moment to remember. However, not all babies and toddlers are eager to get in the tub. If you find that your infant is resistant to bath time, it may be time to get creative with games and soothing techniques to keep her calm and clean.

Schedule a Routine

Just as it’s important to prepare your child to wind down for bed time, it is also important to prepare her for a nightly bath. Show your little one bath props well before it is time to jump in the tub. Lay out a towel, wash cloth, baby soap, lotion and any bath toys, such as a rubber duck, to indicate that bath time is nearing.

According to Salley Schmid, mother of twin daughters, family therapist and positive discipline parent educator at Enrichment Training and Counseling Solutions, bath time should never be hurried. “Bath time was built into the routine chart, which enabled them to be empowered about it when it happened,” she says. “They helped me make the chart, they read the chart (picture based at first) and named what came next as we progressed through the routine.”

Make Bath Time Fun

Although the purpose of a bath is to clean your child, it is possible to make this experience fun for your little one. Begin with silly stories to keep him or her engaged. “Use bath wall stickers or bath toy animals or characters to animate a story,” suggests Meg Akabas, author of 52 Weeks of Parenting Wisdom: Effective Strategies for Raising Happy, Responsible Kids and founder of New York City-based Parenting Solutions consulting firm. As you create the story, encourage your child’s participation by asking “where is the elephant?” and “what sound does a cow make?” Mix bath time with an educational lesson, even at an early age.

Get your little one active by creating wild hairstyles with shampoo and water. Your child will not whine or cry about getting his hair washed when he can shape his hair into a Mohawk. “Help your child create silly hairstyles with the shampoo suds in his hair or play beauty parlor,” suggests Amanda Mathews, pediatric occupational therapist. “Bring a mirror for him to look in to check out all of the different crazy styles.”

If your child is apprehensive about swimming in the summertime, you can help ease her fears by creating a pool party in the bathtub. Have siblings put on swimsuits and join your baby in the tub for a beach time pool party, suggests Mathews. “Bring a beach ball or beach toys, such as a bucket or watering can, into the bathtub to help promote splashing and pouring water,” she says. This way, your child can see that water is not scary and pools and tubs can offer a fun and wet experience.

Show off your vocal talents while bathing your child to help eliminate his resistance to bath time. Make up songs that include words about scrubbing your arms, washing your hair and rinsing off so your child is soothed by your voice and knows when to expect water to be poured over his body. If your baby is resistant to water being poured over his head, break out a headband, visor or goggles as dress up toys to help him get ready for the waterfall. If necessary, Mathews recommends having your child hold a washcloth over his eyes to prevent soap or water from getting into them. This is also an ideal opportunity to play peek-a-boo with your little one.

Break out the Toys

A tub filled with toys will help your little one adjust to the dreaded bath time each night. Toys can be comforting for your baby, so invest in water-friendly squirt toys that will aid in the cleaning process. “Have your child get his own hair wet using squirt toys,” suggests Mathews. “Squirt toys allow for a small stream of water to come out, rather than dumping a lot of water all at once. Squirt toys also allow your child more control over the situation, which can help him to feel more comfortable.” If you go this route, be sure to wash or replace those toys often though, as they’ve been found to be breeding grounds for mold and mildew. A detachable showerhead on a gentle stream can also be used as a fun bath time toy. Cups that can be thrown into the dishwasher after playtime make for great bath toys, too.

When Sally Schmid, family therapist, got her children ready for a nightly bath, she made sure bath time was a fun experience with lots of toys in the tub. “Bath time was always fun when my kids were small,” she says. “The bath tub looked like a picture out of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ book. There was a lot of splashing in my house and they also helped clean up the water that ended up outside of the tub.”

Seeing Green: What to Do if You’re Jealous of Your Nanny

Even though you likely appreciate that your children adore their nanny and are in the best of care, it’s natural to feel a little ping of jealousy when they run into his or her arms instead of yours at times. It is not unusual, though, for a mom to feel jealous of the bond a nanny has with her child or children, says Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child.

“If the mother works full-time, for instance, and employs the nanny to provide quality care for her children while she is away during the days, this mom understands that it is healthy for her child to be warmly attached to a loving, nurturing, responsive nanny,” says Walfish. “Without this, the child is likely to miss mommy even more. Still, it can be very painful to any mom if or when her child reaches first for the nanny and then toward mommy.”

Recognize the Cause of Jealousy

If you are feeling jealous of the nanny, it could be based in guilt, says Christina Steinorth, California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.

“No mom ever wants to leave her child and go to work and moms usually feel guilty when they do,” says Steinorth. “A mom feels that she’s the one who planned to have her child and took the necessary steps to provide a stable life for her child and then there’s another woman who – even when it’s a mom’s choice – comes in and in essence gets to ‘do all the fun things.’”

The jealousy could stem from feeling as if you are missing out on special moments while away from your child. “Being a working mom is tough – there are many emotions we go through when we need to be apart from our children,” says Steinorth. “Jealousy is a very normal emotion to have toward someone who gets to do the things you want to be doing.”

How to Cope With Jealousy

You can cope with the jealous feelings by recognizing that you indeed do feel jealous, says Walfish. “You are less likely to act your hostilities if you are aware of your feelings.”

When you identify and acknowledge your feelings, you’ll also be better able to cope with the feelings because you will be able to manage them, says Steinorth. “Many times feelings of anger, resentment or sadness cover up feelings of jealousy because sometimes we feel it is safer to feel angry, for instance, instead of jealous,” she says. “Know that it is okay to feel jealous and quite normal.”

It may also help to make a list of why you have hired a nanny. “Sometimes seeing the reasons we make a decision helps remind us why our decision is a good one,” says Steinorth. “If you see that your child has a good relationship with his or her nanny, give yourself a pat on the back for raising a child who is well socialized and doesn’t have attachment issues – that’s a good thing.”

Parents may also want to find ways to feel closer to the children to help them cope with feelings of jealousy. “Do one special thing with your child every day,” suggests Steinorth. Read a favorite bedtime story, sing a song together, or if your child is older, do an activity, a simple craft or even cook dinner together.

“Do something your nanny wouldn’t typically do with your child to help foster the special bond that you share as parent and child,” says Steinorth.

If you are struggling to find time for one-on-one moments with your child, ask your nanny to help out more with housework and chores so you can have more one-on-one time with your child when you get home from work.

Joining a support group of other working parents can also help you find strategies to cope with jealousy. “There is comfort in hearing that other moms feel the same way you do about their nanny,” says Steinorth. “When we hear others share similar feelings to us it helps because it normalizes our feelings and we stop feeling we ‘shouldn’t feel the way we do,’ which leads us to greater feelings of acceptance.”

How to Keep Your Nanny

Finding a great family-nanny match can be a stressful endeavor, but it’s one that pays off in spades when you’ve found that perfect addition to your household and your children’s lives. Once you’ve found your ideal caretaker and the children have started to bond with their new nanny, it’s important to keep the employee/employer relationship strong to ensure a long and harmonious alliance.

Here are some tips to keeping your nanny happy:

Don’t be a Creep(er)

Upon hiring your nanny, you should devise a written work agreement that details duties, hours and expectations. If you don’t execute a formal contract, at least have a conversation to discuss what duties she is responsible for and the hours she’s expected keep. Then stick to the plan. Don’t be tempted to slide in what you see as minor favors without providing proper compensation. Respect her off hours and days and don’t infringe on them with your needs. And don’t assume she’ll be fine covering you for an extra 20 minutes at the end of the day – she might have her own plans or other obligations.

If you find you need an extra hand with household cleaning or running errands as time goes on, discuss if she’d like to take on those extra responsibilities and what a satisfactory raise might be to cover her time and energy– but make it clear it is just an offer, not a demand. If she feels bait-and-switched or pressured into doing things she’d rather not, you could end up with her frustrated and leaving the position altogether. If she hesitates, just opt for another solution. (It is far cheaper and less disruptive to bring in a maid service once a week than to lose your nanny.)

Be Thoughtful

Be a great example to your kids by taking the extra time to be thoughtful to your nanny and show her she’s not just an employee but also an appreciated member of your household. Check her application for her birthday and celebrate it. If giving her the day off doesn’t work for your schedule, buy a nice gift and have the kids make a personal card. The cost will be minimal compared to the impact it will have.

If she goes above and beyond on the job, note it and thank her. A small gift card for a coffee or a movie is a nice touch, but if you’re leery of creating expectations simply express your heartfelt gratitude and make her feel valued.

Benefits

Factor in the cost of a nanny search in terms of time, angst and money and you might find it a smart move to extend some benefits to your caretaker to ward off potential poachers or dissatisfaction that could make her consider leaving. You should already be paying mileage if she uses her own vehicle for transporting the kids, but it might make financial sense to acquire a vehicle for her to use while on duty so she is covered under the family automobile insurance policy. Some healthcare, parking and other benefits can be tax deductible or count as non-taxable income. Add on extra personal days or increase vacation days annually to inspire loyalty.

Perks

If you’d like to offer impressive benefits but the budget just isn’t there or you are already financially overextended in order to meet your nanny’s salary needs, there are other ways to add perks to the position that are easier on the wallet. Check with your existing family memberships to see if the nanny can be added with little or no fee. Gyms, state parks, museums, swimming pools, beach clubs, and media memberships like Netflix or Hulu might add up to a great benefits package without you taking a serious financial hit. Some urban transportation cards can be transferable, so handing it off with the child could work for every day travel. If that seems too complicated, hand it off for the weekend for her to enjoy her time when you don’t have commuting needs.

If you have a family vacation home, consider lending it to a responsible nanny for her off week or a long weekend. Use your air miles to cover an annual flight home, or offer to allow her to bring a friend or family member she can hang out with during her free time on your vacations when suitable.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It should go without saying, but maintaining a high level of respect in how you approach your nanny about potential conflicts or even just in every day guidance about how you’d prefer things done in your absence is crucial. Yes, you are the employer and a nanny is a professional job, but it is also a very personal position, so a more sensitive approach is called for to avoid hurt feelings that could sour the relationship.

Come from a place of teamwork. For instance, you might say “Joey loves your baked treats and lemonade, but I think the extra sugar is making it a little tougher for him to find room for his veggies at dinner and to wind down at night. How can we make sure he eats healthier?” Find a moment to chat when the kids are not present so as not to endanger the nanny’s place of authority in their eyes. Avoid discussing the nanny in front of the kids or where they might overhear. Kids are notorious for repeating embarrassing comments that may be taken out of context, and if they pick up on a less than united front you will be making life harder on the nanny and the kids (and eventually you!).

Raising Children without a Sense of Entitlement

In this age of blowout bar mitzvahs and sweet 16 bashes so over-the-top they rival celeb weddings, it’s no wonder many kids think they should wake up on their landmark driver’s license birthday with hands held out for an obligatory set of shiny new car keys (BMW or Range Rover preferred, thanks).

Dr. Nancy Berk, clinical psychologist and author of College Bound and Gagged and Secrets of a Bar Mitzvah Mom  explains the problem. “Most parents want to make their children feel special. Perhaps that’s how the whole ‘everyone gets a trophy’ happened in kindergarten soccer (I’m guilty!). While an inflated sense of entitlement can be socially damaging, in a material world marked by financial challenges, it can also become fiscally dangerous. With respect to special events and milestones like b’nai mitzvahs, special birthdays, holiday gift giving, college search and admission, family communication is critical.

Parents need to practice what they preach. Honesty is the best policy. Keeping up with the Joneses when you don’t have the same priorities or bank account can be dangerous. Discuss your long-term goals, family priorities and financial limitations. Look for ways to find fabulous cost-effective options that are equally as special or good. Demonstrate and remind your children that a great celebration, gift and even colleges come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. Being proactive is one of the best steps for maintaining family harmony.”

So how does a parent raise a child in this bright-shiny-gotta-have-it age without a sense of entitlement?

Use the Media

Sure, the media is half the problem. The media, and advertisers who promote on it, are the reason many kids feel it’s so necessary to have more and more and that their happiness or worth is measured by the “stuff” they possess.  So use the same medium they are comfortable with to show them how lucky they have it. Sit and watch inspirational reality shows like Secret Millionaire together. Exposing your kids to these little forays into a much tougher world than they are used to can help open their eyes to what the world is really like outside of their privileged environment. They might not have the millions the undercover agents of change do, but each segment of the hour centers on different charities where hard workers quietly volunteer to do something to help those less fortunate.

You can also flip through the documentary collections on Netflix and HuluPlus to find age appropriate stories of other cultures where school, food and even water is not a given, but a luxury. Be sure to point out the smiles and positive attitudes of the children and people in these seemingly bleak communities.

Give them Relatable Role Models 

Volunteerism and a generous spirit doesn’t come factory standard. You might need to help children develop these interests and qualities by showing them how easy it is to help, even if it’s in a small way. Put role models that are relatable in their line of sight, like the kids on KidsareHeroes.org . Real kids, just like themselves, are featured using their skill and talents (or just plain hard work) to better the world around them. Whether it’s baking cupcakes to send epileptic kids to camp, creating paintings to gift to lonely seniors, or collecting used shoes to keep them out of landfills and turn them into insulation for houses, these kids are making their world a better place and bringing their community together.

Show them the ways you personally contribute to society, and point out how if everyone didn’t do their part things would go downhill quickly. Bring them with you to the recycling center, the blood donation center and the voting polls; being part of something bigger takes the ME-ME-ME down a notch.

Do the Math

Most kids have no sense of what things cost or how pricy the things they are clamoring for might be relative to the big picture. Do the math and break down what each coveted item, be it an iPhone or Nike shoes or a second week of horse camp, costs in relation to what that same amount of money could provide for the family, their future or for someone less fortunate (to put it in perspective, pick up a Heifer International pamphlet to see what small donations can do for buying seeds, goats, chickens, and other means of survival to be sent to needy areas).

Have them choose an item from their wish list and challenge them to truly earn the money for it instead of just slipping them a five here or there. Encourage them to put serious effort and thought into how they can save enough over time to acquire it. This is great for kids who constantly leave behind jackets, books, gloves, and other belongings; once they get a taste of how hard it is to work for something, they’ll likely take a lot better care of their things.

Show a Little Pride

Exchange a sense of entitlement for a sense of pride – and not for wearing the latest hot jeans. Find little ways every day that they can do good in their community.  Have them go through their toys and let them accompany you to the charity shop – the workers will surely praise their generosity. Take them grocery shopping for the needy during the holidays instead of just emptying the pantry of things no one will eat. At the store, when they see an elderly person struggling to put a gallon of milk in their cart or reach an out-of-the-way box while using a cane or scooter, have them step forward and offer to help. They’ll soon make the connection that feeling good is not about having the latest and greatest, it’s about being a respected and important member of their community.

Minimizing Mommy Guilt

By Marcia Hall

Take a look at any parenting magazine and you will see idealistic pictures of the “perfect” family. There are literally thousands of books and websites dedicated to helping parents with everything from arts and crafts to finding the right disciplinary style. You probably even know a mom or two that seem to always have it all together. With all these examples of perfection, it’s easy to find yourself suffering from a bad case of “mommy guilt”. Here are a few ways to minimize that.

Recognize that no one is THAT perfect. You know that mom that always looks like she has it together? The one who is always impeccably dressed and somehow manages to have a beautiful, organized house, who makes the best goodies for group functions and has the kids that never misbehave? The truth is that people who look like they always have it together rarely do. She might be really good at hiding her mess or may even have secret issues you would never suspect. In fact, she likely feels every bit as guilty about certain things in her life as you do.

Accept your failings. Admit it; there are just some things about being a parent that you are not great at. Though it is always possible to improve areas of your life, it takes a lot of work and must be done in small doses. The first step to improving an aspect of your parenting is to accept your weaknesses. Once you do that you will feel freer and more in control.

Work on your strengths. For every mommy struggle you have, there is also something that you are really good at. Maybe you are horrible at getting forms filled out and returned to your child’s school, but you are really good at making sure your child gets his homework done on time. Maybe you are bad at making sure your child cleans his room, but you have a strong focus on having one-on-one time with him. Maybe it is only after you yell at your child out of frustration that you go back to him and apologize for mishandling the situation. When you begin to feel the remorse, rise up and think of all the great things you do as a mom every day; you are certain to feel better about yourself.

Find ways to fill in the holes. So you have accepted your imperfections. Now it is time to find ways to fill in for your shortcomings. Perhaps your parenting partner has strengths where you have weaknesses. Be sure to allow your partner to help you in the areas you need it. Maybe you have a friend that is really good at the very aspect you feel weak in. Ask her to help keep you on track in some way.

Make small changes. Often when people make changes they have great resolve and start on a new journey in a big way. Perhaps you started the school year thinking that this year would be different. Then, a few weeks in, all your new resolutions had fallen by the wayside and you were right back where you started. Instead of trying to make changes in a big way, start small. Find just one tiny area that you believe is important to make changes in and focus on that and that change alone for six whole weeks. As that becomes a habit, add another one. Remember, no small change is insignificant.

Forgive yourself. All this talk regarding imperfections and changes often leaves you feeling guilty about the past. The most important thing to remember is that you love your children and are doing the best you can for them. Years from now they will not care about your imperfections as long as they felt your love. Forgive yourself of your past mistakes and focus on connecting with your children. In the end, this is what they need the most. They do not need you to be a perfect mom, but they do need you to be a loving and forgiving one – even to yourself.

Detecting a Speech Delay: How to Help Your Child

As your child begins to express himself, it’s common to hear mispronounced words and sounds that are barely audible at a young age. However, as he continues to develop and does not correct the pronunciations naturally or exhibits signs of a stutter, it may be time to enlist the help of speech therapists in the community or within your school district.

The good news is that you can also help your child develop his speech at home. Through fun activities and lessons that will keep your little one talking and expressing himself, your child’s speech and communication skills will continue to develop.

Early Identification is Key

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), concern about a speech or language delay should occur if your child is not speaking by the age of one, if his language or speech is different from that of children his age and if the speech is not clear.

A speech delay can significantly affect your child’s social, personal and academic life if not addressed. Early identification is key. According to the LDA, a child can quickly fall behind in learning or communicating with others if speech and language learning is delayed. Early identification includes evaluation and treatment for children who are three years old or younger.

Generally, children acquire speech and language skills naturally through exposure and experience with the language in their environment, says Lori Heisler, assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at California State University – San Marcos. “They go through a series of developmental milestones, each of which are a necessary building block for progression to the next milestone,” she says.

Some of the milestones include babbling between six and 10 months, pointing and intentional communication through gestures and vocalization between 10 and 12 months, first words around one year and two-word combinations between 12 and 24 months. According to Heisler, after two years of age, vocabulary and grammar should continue to develop at a rapid rate.

“These oral language skills are necessary prerequisites to future literacy development and learning in school,” says Heisler. “Obstacles that toddlers face include late identification of delays and disorders.”

If you are concerned that your child’s speech is delayed, it is recommended that you contact your local school district for a speech and language evaluation. Although evaluations vary, it is likely a speech pathologist will conduct standardized tests, observe your child’s interactions with others and conduct follow-up visits for further observations.

If treatment is necessary, speech and language therapists may conduct home visit sessions to work with your child during play or at school where he or she can meet in a group session to learn communication, rules of conversation and language models with an expert.

Helping Your Child

Parent and caregiver guidance is crucial when your child needs speech and language treatment. Luckily, there are many activities you can participate in with your child that will complement the treatment your child is receiving by a professional.

Help boost your child’s speech development and offer a playful activity at the same time with these suggestions:

  • Read Books Together: From bedtime stories to afternoon fairy tales, reading to your child exposes her to correct pronunciations and language models.
  • Chatty Sessions: In order for your child to develop language skills, she needs practice. Begin modeling language by chatting with your little one on a regular basis. Offer phrases such as “Mommy is dusting the furniture right now” and “Daddy is cooking dinner” to prompt conversations and help your child identify daily tasks through words.
  • Nature Explorations: A walk to the park can quickly turn into a learning moment for your child. While taking a walk or a hike, point out objects, such as trees and leaves and ask your child to repeat your words. Your child may learn a few words and begin to model your pronunciations naturally when a fun activity doesn’t seem like a speech lesson.
  • Taking Turns: In general, most young children struggle with expressing their needs and wants when they cannot use their speech. Teach your child how to share and verbalize his needs and wants with turn-taking games. Help your child learn phrases such as “my turn” and “your turn” as you are playing cards, board games or blocks. This speech lesson may also help your child learn patience.

The key to helping your child’s speech delay is to employ patience while allowing him or her time to process words and pronunciation. When parents finish a child’s sentence or bombard him with questions, it can cause anxiety, frustration and eventually, temper tantrums that will only taint the fun activity.

By allowing your child to express himself during play and fun activities at home, he or she can explore and experience language in a natural environment, says Heisler. “These activities provide opportunities for parents to make vocabulary and language structures more salient for the child while he or she is acquiring language,” she says.