The Sitter Cafe Blog

A Conversation About Child Care
and the common challenges faced by parents

Thursday, August 16, 2007

By "Coffee Queen" from Hub Pages

Parents and often struggle with how best to have preschoolers spend their free time. Research has long found that home environment can make a huge difference in kids' cognitive and other abilities. And summer, particularly for toddlers and preschoolers, is the time that parents (and grandparents) have with children that can really help kids grow emotionally, behaviorally and academically while also having a ton of fun!

Below is a research-based list of recommendations for creating an educational environment for a toddler and preschool age child during the summer months.

Every day, parents/grandparents should:

1. Create opportunities for imaginative play. Some form of daily "pretend play" improves emotional/behavioral skills. And emotional/behavioral skills predict academic performance later in life. A couple of suggestions of how to create an environment that support imaginative play might include:

  • Fill a costume chest with dress up clothes and old kids Halloween costumes. You can get great deals on EBay for all sorts of kids' costumes!

  • Play the Magic Elevator. Spread a towel on the ground for your 'elevator.' Step in and push the pretend button to travel to different floors. Describe each step: 'The door is opening' (show with your hands). 'We're getting on the elevator' (step on the towel). 'We're pushing two' (push button). 'We're going up' (look up), etc. Get off at different floors and describe what you see at each one. Visit the whispering floor, the jumping/ flying floor, the eating ice cream floor, the walking backwards floor, the tiger floor, etc.

  • Restock your arts supply kits with scissors, markers, crayons, pens, paints and lots and lots of paper. There are tons of activities that go beyond just drawing that really helps kids stimulate their imagination and abstract thinking skills. Here are just a couple:
    Rock Family - Collect enough rocks to represent each member of your family. Paint the rocks either to look like each person. Place your new Rock Family in your garden or near the front door

    Life-Size Paper Doll - Take a long piece of butcher paper and have your child lie down on top of it (his or her entire body needs to fit within the edges with a good margin around the sides). Trace around your child's body with a Sharpie. When your child stands up, you will have an outline that you and your child can dress and decorate however you wish.

  • Have on hand some form of building blocks. Wedgits are great for any age - very young toddlers can mix and match shapes and colors. Regular old building blocks and legos are, of course, classics and instrumental in helping kids put their imagination to work. For older preschool age children, the Quadrilla Basic Set is an elegantly simple wooden block set that allows kids to create magnificent marble runs and understand elemental physics!

    2. Include physical play. Some sort of physical play helping children develop gross (ball throwing, bike riding) and fine (handwriting) motor skills matters too. There is a direct correlation between the gross motor skill development of a preschooler and long term health. Summer is wonderful since it just charms all of us outdoors. In addition to splashing in a pool, running on a beach, tumbling on a lawn and all the other great joys of summer there are some activities you can do with your preschooler that help them develop both those gross motor skills and fine motor skills on rainy days.
  • Make an obstacle course. For gross motor skills, creating an obstacle course within your own living room with arrows using masking tape - of chairs to climb over, tables to climb under, pillows, couch cushions, boxes, step stools, hula hoops (if you have them) - and using different movements - crawling, walking, climbing, walking backwards, tiptoeing - on a rainy day is an excellent way for children to learn how their bodies move though space and a sense of balance.

  • Bead necklaces. Beading necklaces is wonderful for eye hand coordination (for younger toddlers be sure to put a piece of tape around the end of the string to make it easier to bead!)

  • Play Operation. Playing the game Operation is terrific for helping kids master the precision and strength needed someday to write letters. And when this fun game prompts you to clarify for your little one that he doesn't in fact have a wishbone down near his belly button, then you've just found yourself an early biology tool too!
  • 3. Integrate the ABCs and 123s into daily activity. We know focus on cognitive areas such as ABCs and 123s matters enormously. For example, how well a child reads at the end of first grade predicts how well they read in later grades, graduation rates and even their income level as an adult. There are so many very simple ways that parents can reinforce those basic literacy and numeric concepts at home.

  • Count and count again. Research shows that toddlers internalize counting when this is closely integrated with daily living. So if your toddler is helping you cook, count the number of times you each are stirring and then hand off the wooden spoon "1,2,3,4,5 stirs; now it is your turn". When half the family is sitting at the dinner table, talk about joining the other three people pointing at each one "1,2,3 and you make 4" when your child sits down. You will be amazed at how quickly your toddler picks up this behavior and starts counting on his/her own!

  • Sprinkle your home with visual toys and cues - such as alphabet wall art, puzzles, blocks, tracing paper - for your child to just pick up and play with at will. The more they interact with the ABCs and 123s, and there are some wonderful tools to help them do so, the more quickly they will pick up these building blocks to later academic success. Some of our favorites are eeBoo wall art, Leap Frog's ABC bus and Melissa and Doug's ABC and number puzzles.

  • Plan ABC and 123 Activities. Make time to do fun, creative activities that reinforce the ABCs and 123s. There are dozens of ways to do that. Here are a couple of our favorites;

    - Create your own ABC book. Start by cutting even size paper that will make up the pages of the book. Over the course of a week or so, create the pages in the book. Start with 'A', write a capital 'A' and a lowercase 'a'. Talk about an item (that you can draw - like apple) that starts with an 'A'. Draw the item next to the letters. Talk about the item and the letter, if you can find it in your house, find the object. Make it something special that your child can look forward to doing every day. Get stickers (with letters and objects if you can) and have your child decorate the pages with stickers and crayons. Do a letter or two a day. At the end of the alphabet, punch holes on the side of the paper and put ribbon through the holes to make a book that your child can keep.

    - Set up a room in your house like a grocery store. Put some of your kids' favorite foods on tables and other low pieces of furniture -- these will make the aisles of the grocery store. Then give your kids something to use as a basket. Then give the kids some money -- real or pretend -- to use to 'buy' their food. Not only is this activity fun, but you can use it to teach young children colors, shapes, counting, and food names. Older children can learn about making a recipe, finding food from all the food groups, and addition and subtraction. And, who knows, the next trip to the grocery store might be a little more fun for them!
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    By Jenna Forrest from Hub Pages

    Five year old Shakira is a brilliant interpreter of the voiceless, understanding the needs of plants, animals, babies, the elderly and infirm, even the organs in her own body. She sees and feels the energy and emotions in the room, evaluating others' intentions, moods, and their tone with precocious wisdom. She looks between words for the essence of a message by reading a person's posture, gestures, and facial expressions. This ability to feel what others are feeling makes her very slow, careful, anxious and sometimes highly reactive.

    At seven, Nathan still sucks his thumb. He appears to be clingy and needy. Nathan is the type of kid who will suddenly announce a startling insight which brings him intense love, awe or joy, then a moment later becomes deeply burdened with empathy or deep compassion for a person in despair, a character suffering on TV, an animal without water in his bowl or an insect that someone wants to kill.

    Some of Brennen's ten year old insights are adult-like in their nature. He may prefer to read rather than play. He might work intensely on a project rather than watch TV. He is very socially aware and he feels guilty about not being able to do enough to save the world. His deep concern for the world often makes him appear defiant and stubborn as he resists using products or participating in activities that may harm the Earth or its inhabitants.

    Like Shakira, Nathan, and Brennan, your child is quite different from most other kids, and it is troubling to you. In fact, your child's quirky behavior is starting to bring daily stress and frustration into your life. Your child of course is not being intensely sensitive on purpose. Still, you're frustrated. You've tried everything to help your child get along better in the world and in the family. You have consoled her, tried to make suggestions to fix his problems, avoided her tantrums, indulged his neediness, and when all of that didn't work you resorted to threatening and punishing her stubborn or emotional behavior, and that made everything even worse.

    You may be at the point where you're wishing for a magic wand to make everything better between you and your child. The good news is, there is a panacea: Let him or her feel your warmth and understanding. That's all. Sounds easy, right? Well, while real life often gets in the way of simple solutions like offering understanding, over time, parents are finding, with sensitive kids it actually works wonders.

    One parent writes, "Here's how understanding my child's motivations helped me win with my six-year-old sensory-driven daughter:"

    "The main thing I've found helpful with my daughter Julia is to work extra time into the day so I don't have to rush her. She really takes her time with things and once I put myself in her shoes, I've realized that she's not doing anything "bad," she just is very detailed, resulting in things taking a long time.

    "For example, when she eats, she takes forever. But if you watch her, it's not that she's not eating. It's that she is eating very slowly. She seems to really take the time to chew and taste her food.

    "When she puts her sandals on, she takes the time to really put them on correctly... readjusting both the toe and the ankle velcro so they feel just right.

    "The seatbelt... makes sure it's not twisted and is just right.

    "Feeding the cats... takes time to make sure they both get exactly the same amount of food.

    "Just tonight, I saw her staring at her dish during dinner (we were having spaghetti), and I reminded her "It's getting late, we need to finish up." She said, "Look Mommy, it's the breast cancer ribbon!" She had been looking at the spaghetti and noticed that there was a piece in the shape of the pink ribbon.

    "Building extra time into our day has made a huge difference. Instead of letting her "pokiness" drive me crazy, I just allow extra time for her to "smell the coffee."

    "That said, we were having an issue in kindergarten earlier this year with her teacher reporting that she was "not staying on task and not getting her work done in the allotted time." After watching her and talking with her, I figured out the problem!

    "If she had a worksheet that instructed her to color every picture that begins with the letter "D," she would REALLY color it! The dog would have a pink hat, brown body, blue eyes and red leash. I realized that she was coloring everything to perfection and that was what was taking her so long. It's not that she didn't know the answers or that she was doing "other things."

    "What solved the problem was explaining to her that sometimes when you color, it's to make things look pretty, like when you're making a picture or a book cover. But other times, you're just supposed to quickly color it to show you know the answer... those don't have to be "perfect." The problem cleared up immediately and I received a phone call from the teacher within just two weeks that she's doing much better with not having "unfinished work."

    While this mother's advice may not help you the next time your sensory-driven child comes home from a sleepover party sobbing with overwhelm, it may help you prevent it from happening in the first place. By following her example and practicing the tips below, you and your sensory driven child are both poised to win.

    Tip number one - understand.
    Get informed. Once you start to learn about the inner struggles that sensory driven kids experience, you begin to realize that your child feels terribly guilty about her heavy emotions and wishes she could just be "normal." He also knows he is more clever, wise, and perceptive than most. You'll learn that behind your child's anxious or defiant behavior is a deep and nagging need to have his or her intense feelings acknowledged. Spend time talking with your child where he or she can open up. For example, plan for spending time with her in nature or work together with him to create a calm uncluttered quiet environment that's free from chemicals and other subtle annoyances. As you spend time together, let your child know that you know he or she is wise and special and has very important things to offer the world.

    Tip number 2 -- validate.
    As you have likely found in the information-gathering stage suggested in tip number one, some children find their senses so overwhelming that they truly believe their presence in the world is a mistake, that they don't belong on earth because nothing feels right and nothing fits right. It can be life-changing for your sensory driven child to hear and experience two main messages repeatedly: "You belong in the world" and "you belong in our family."

    Tip number 3 -- accept.
    What works for most children most likely will not work for super sensory kids. Your sensitive child's reasons for doing what he does runs deep. Punishing that behavior can cause your child to lose confidence in himself and feel helpless. Rather than rushing your child to make a decision, for example, you might say, "I know that choices might frustrate you and take you longer that others, but it's because you're weighing countless outcomes and looking at all the details." That tells him you realize that being thoughtful or picky about his choices, (his clothing, his food, or his friends) is part of who he is and that it's ok. This allows him to accept the sensory-driven part of himself that's telling him what does and doesn't feel good. Letting him know that you understand it's his nature to feel things deeply and consider things slowly tells him that you are there for him and that you two can work as a team to deal with any decisions, challenges or upsets that may come in the future. While it may seem that this form of patience encourages slow behavior, it actually builds confidence towards his making quicker decisions in the future.

    Tip number 3 - empathize.
    Sensory-driven kids have a hard time finding enjoyment in life because their senses are often rubbed raw. When they finally find fun, sometimes they can't bear for it to end. When enjoyment is quickly taken away from a young supersensory child, it can be especially traumatic, because he or she doesn't know when the fun will return. Before punishing the temper tantrum that sometimes starts when the fun ends, try to empathize by saying, "I know you're mad and I know you want to keep all the toys, because you're having fun and sometimes fun seems far away." Make an effort to enlist your child in consoling, enjoyable and nurturing activities where no strangers are present to balance their anxiety and soothe their senses.

    Tip number 4 - relate.
    "Everybody hates me." "I feel so alone." "I hate the world." No matter how extreme and unrealistic your child's declarations sound, try to relate by sharing a time in your life when you felt the same way. Without offering suggestions or changing the subject, remember out loud how you felt the world was against you and then simply listen to your child, allowing him or her to explore and express his or her feelings freely.

    Tip number 5 -- empower.
    At every single moment, your child is paying very close attention to every word on television, every song lyric, every sigh between you and your spouse; analyzing it, evaluating it and searching for the meaning behind it. It is your child's choice what he or she will do with that information once it's processed. In the four steps above you've taught your child through experience and circumstances that she is safe, that he isn't alone, that she can trust her nature and that he can process is feelings out loud. With this foundation in place, you can empower your child to make healthy choices based on the sensory information they have collected.

    All in all, setting a goal of having compassion for how your child experiences things, your consistent effort and presence will pay off for both of you, stimulating a parent-child bond that relieves your child of the anxiety that lies at the root of his or her over-the top behavior.

    JENNA FORREST, B.S.A. is the author of Help Is On Its Way, the first memoir written specifically to unveil the shocking secrets that sensitive kids keep hidden.

    By Katie Moseff - from Hub Pages

    What can you do for your child?

    No one truly enjoys conflict. When that conflict centers around our children, it is particularly uncomfortable. Parents of learning disabled children may feel especially vulnerable when conflicts come up at school through the teacher, administration, or other students. Not only do parents want to protect their child, they also want to maintain the school as a safe and positive environment for their child-conflict may seem to threaten that security.

    You may find that your child has been labeled ADD or ADHD. This would truly show itself at home as well as in school.

    In school they sometimes label normal students as learning disabled. Sometimes that student may just have a problem with behavior. Teachers have problems dealing with bad students, so they want to judge them and place them in a special class with (LD) classification. This in turn hurts the student because they are now placed in remedial classes with students that are behind because they have behavioral problems. This will put the student behind while creating that mental theory of them not being able to learn. In truth they can learn, but because of behavior problems, and over crowding classes causes people or teachers to misrepresent students with this classification.

    Unfortunately, because of their close emotional attachment to the child, parents were often seen by the professionals to be less than helpful to the process and consequently, even their legitimate concerns were essentially ignored by professionals.

    If you feel that you child is not learning because of behavior problems and not learning problems. The government has in place a testing system that can judge the grade level of the student. The government also has implanted IQ test for grade school children. These kind of test can tell whether the child is developmentally delayed, have learning problems, or just a bad student in the classroom. The school normally gives the texts every so often but a parent can request that the school test their child with an IQ test before labeling them as a child that has (LD).

    It is important for parents of labeled children to remember that "normal" children also have conflicts at school. Sometimes conflict may come up as the school year gets started, while your child is adjusting to the new routine and the teacher is getting to know all of the children. Be sure to keep a folder or file box with all of your child's learning plans, progress notes, past report cards, doctor's reports, and anything else related to academics or the learning disability. If you are called for a visit due to a problem, it is good to have this file handy so you can share information the teacher may need to meet your child's unique needs.

    The school will need to provide basic services for your child as outlined in the legal document, the IEP or the Individual Education Plan. This plan is a legal document and does bind the school to deliver needed services as outlined in the plan, it is created after careful testing and consultation with professionals and educators. Keep your copy handy for any problems that may arise.

    If the problem is related to something your child did or said, make sure you do hold your child accountable. Children with learning disabilities who are placed in a public school do best when parents expect good behavior from them. Explain to your child what they did, talk about the effects this behavior had on others, and be clear with consequences. Get a good reading on whether your child understood the rules or whether they were not clear for them.

    One of the most common conflict parents with a disabled child face center around the education plan (IEP.) When these conflicts arise in the classroom or in the school it is important to meet them head on-remaining firm, clear, and calm about the services your child needs, referring to the plan that was agreed to, and continuing to expect the school or teacher to make the agreed accommodations. There are multiple channels you can follow if the expectations of the education plan are not met. It is important that you remain very involved in your child's education when an IEP is in place, sometimes certain provisions of the IEP are not followed, and the consequences to your child's learning can be profound.

    Again, remain involved, urge on behalf of your child, and hold your child accountable for problems they can control.

    Monday, August 13, 2007

    NANNY 411:
    Make The Right Call
    Jean Chatzky Monday, July 23rd 2007 © NY Daily News All Rights Reserved
    Relationships are always complicated, but the one between parents and a nanny can be stickier than most.

    With reality shows like "Nanny 911" and "Supernanny" on TV, "Mary Poppins" on Broadway and "The Nanny Diaries" movie due out this fall, nannies have never been more in the spotlight.

    In the real world, the profession is getting a push from the fact that so many parents need to work or want to work after having kids. Nannies aren't just for the well-to-do.

    "This is increasingly a middle-class choice, because so many women are in families that require two incomes," said Lucy Kaylin, author of the new book, "The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies."

    "For many people, this is simply a more reasonable solution than day care," Kaylin said. As a working mother myself, I know first-hand how hard it is to leave your kids in the hands of a veritable stranger. The list of qualities you want in a nanny is already a mile long, and when you add in feelings of jealousy and guilt it's hard not to succumb to all-out nitpicking.

    But the truth is this:
    Julie Andrews is not going to show up at your door.

    Here's what you should keep in mind when hiring a nanny:

    Set your priorities
    Before you start the interview process, you have to know what you're looking for. List the duties of the job, the hours and how much you can afford to pay (the norm is $10 to $15 an hour). Keep in mind that their first responsibility is your child, so you don't want to distract them with other chores. Next, take some time to jot down qualities you'd like to see in a candidate to narrow the pool. Experience, flexibility and a calm demeanor all come to mind.

    Ask around
    The best way to find top-notch service, whether it's a nanny or a dentist, is word of mouth. Try co-workers. Some will be able to recommend one or, at the least, a referral service, said Pat Cascio of the International Nanny Association. If you use a service, check it out it with the Better Business Bureau. A good one will supply references, a background check and employment history.

    The interviews
    A couple of tips from Cascio: Have candidates name several different activities they'd suggest for your child, and ask how they feel about your parenting philosophies. A good nanny's answers will be age specific where applicable, and will indicate a desire to follow your guidelines. Instinct will tell you when you've found the right one. A good plan is to hire on a trial basis for the first few weeks.

    Lose the guilt
    It may take a bit of time to adjust, but eventually you've got to come to terms with your decision to return to work. If you let it get to you, you'll be miserable, and you'll probably make the nanny and your kids unhappy, too. "At a certain point, you have to accept that you're not there and you've hired someone else to be there. That's when you can move forward," Kaylin said.

    Don't micromanage
    If you look for mistakes by your new nanny, you'll find them. As a parent, you might even make the same ones. I'm not a fan of nanny cams or other snooping devices. Instead, drop by from time to time.

    If you've chosen well, you shouldn't have to leave a million lists or require a daily log of every feeding and diaper change. ---

    With Arielle McGowen
    Jean Chatzky is the author of the best-selling book, "Make Money, Not Excuses." She hosts a daily show on "Oprah & Friends" on XM Radio and writes columns at She also is the financial editor of NBC's "Today" show.'

    How To Know If You've Snagged Mary Poppins
    from MSN

    1. Your child lights up at the first sight of her. Kids look forward to the time they spend with their nanny if she's warm, caring, and patient. And you're doubly in luck if it's not just the kids who like having her around. "I consider myself very lucky to have my nanny," says Toni Lewis, a Los Angeles architect. "If she weren't my nanny, I could see being friends with her."

    2. Your kids can't stop talking about all the wonderful things she says and does. You may find a caregiver who can do everything well, but if she truly enjoys being in the company of children, your kids will know it. Her love will shine through every day she's with your child.

    3. She comes up with creative solutions to problems and works with you to provide the best possible care for your child. If your child has run out of paint, for example, she'll find some household supplies your child can use to fashion an objet d'art. If your child isn't sleeping, she'll turn to you for advice and help. It shows that she takes her job seriously when she both takes initiative and collaborates with you.

    4. She arrives on time. Other signs she's reliable: She gives you ample warning when she's unable to care for your child because of an emergency, and even helps you find a substitute caregiver. She's considerate of your needs and respects the terms of your contract. "My nanny was always there at our agreed-upon time," says Kirsi Tikki, a professor from Port Washington, New York. "If she was sick, she let me know right away."

    5. She makes an effort to stay connected. A nanny who takes her job seriously will keep you informed of daily activities by writing you notes, filling out a daily report, or setting aside some time for the two of you to catch up. She'll understand that you'll want to know how your child is doing, and will keep you abreast of any problems, big or small.

    6. Your child volunteers new songs and words, and shows off his many projects. The best nannies are aware of and cherish children's curiosity. They'll try to answer questions, elicit imaginative responses, and think up creative ways to teach new skills. And because his activities are so much fun, your child will want to display his prowess.
    7. Your child's room is clean, and so is your child. Excellent care includes cleanliness and good health. Your nanny will practice good hygiene around your child if she truly has his welfare in mind.

    8. Accidents are infrequent. A good nanny makes safety a priority at home and on the road. She'll hold your child's hand when they cross a street on the way to the park, keep the safety gate to the kitchen closed at all times, and buckle up your child in the car seat.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007


    By Jonathan H. Gerard, PhD

    Taking Aim At Night-Time Fears

    It is a common phenomenon of childhood to develop a fear of monsters for a brief period of time, usually between the ages of three and eight—inevitably at bedtime. Parents need to be careful, when responding to this fear, not, inadvertently, to reinforce it. As we think about a solution to this “problem” we want to be careful not to create an even greater problem.

    This means that you should not seek to ameliorate a child’s fears by doing anything that will encourage that fear. For example:

    1. Do not tell a child that, if he or she is afraid of a monster, he or she may delay bedtime and come sit with you, the parent, for a while. This will just teach a child how to get to stay up later with you—without helping to reduce his or her fear.

    2. Do not sit with your child in her bedroom, keeping her company until she falls asleep. Over time, you’ll find yourself a prisoner of her bedroom.
    3. Do not let your child sleep in your bedroom. That, too, will become a problem that outlives the “monster.”

    Also, do not deny your child’s “reality” by denying the existence of monsters. You won’t convince him and in the process you’ll only make yourself seem ignorant and irrelevant in his eyes. But at the same time, do not openly lie to your child, confirming a belief in monsters that you do not share.

    We have found these two solutions to be of value—the first for younger children, the second for older. Try them in this order. With luck and pluck, you won’t even need the second one—so you can hold it in reserve in case a fear of monsters returns.

    1. With a gleam in your eye and a smile on your face, tell your child that she has nothing to fear. You have a can of “Monster Spray” that your mother (father) used when you were her age. Say, “Wait here while I get it.” (Only adults will note the irony of the command “wait here”. What else would a child in bed do?)

    Then get a spray bottle with some water in it or a plant water mister or some such. Wait 5-10 minutes before returning. Bring the can or bottle into your child’s room. If she is asleep (this often happens while she’s safely waiting for your return) save the solution for the next time she complains and proceed as follows. If she’s still awake, do this now:

    Say, “This Monster Spray ‘repels’ all monsters. They can't get past it. I’m going to spray the windows and doors with it so that they cannot come into your room. But I have to tell you, It only works for three days. Remind me to spray again in three days.”

    Then spray the entire outline of every window and doorway into the room. Remember to spray a line across the the bottom of the doorway and both around the closet and under the bed! Spray lightly, though thoroughly so your child can see the spray being applied. (Obviosuly, don't spray anything that will be toxic to your child. Do not use a cleaning spray as these usually contain harmful chemicals.)

    Your child will now feel safe and affirmed and fall asleep. Note that the gleam and smile we mentioned at the start are important. In her fear your child may not notice this body language and will, instead, respond to your verbal cues and real actions. But with hindsight, once the fear is outgrown, your child will recall your affect and come to understand this response of yours as making a fun game of a problem while totally detoxifying it. In this way you will not risk losing the trust of your child.

    Also note that the point is to allay the fear without inviting it back. Let your child remind you when it's time to spray again - don't bring up the subject unless she brings it to you.

    A SECOND SOLUTION for older children or to use if the first one fails—is this: After you tuck your child into bed, tell him that you, too, worried about monsters when you "lived in _________" (make it a different place than where you live now so that it seems as far away as possible). Give him the bottle of Monster-Spray (or a water-pistol filled with monster-spray) and explain that "this enabled me to sleep safely. No monster ever made it out of my house alive."

    Your child will soon fall asleep, quickly loosing his grip from the monster “weapon”, knowing he now has some control over his fear. Leave the weapon in his room for as long as he needs it. Do not remind him of it or initiate a discussion of monsters.

    Do not remind him of his fears. Do not risk embarrassing him of a fear that may only recently have been real, but which now is outgrown. Never take credit for helping your child overcome his or her fear. This diminishes self-esteem. It is your child who found a way through the fear. If he or she brings it up at some point in the future, praise his ability to overcome it relatively quickly. Normalize it by pointing out that all children have a fear of monsters “when they are young.”

    You can spend a lot of energy trying to figure out why your child suddenly developed a fear of monsters. We recommend you spend your energy on more personally useful tasks. It does not matter what the origin of the fear is, so long as you can help your child overcome it without raising your own anxiety level and without replacing the problem with a greater one. The tools we recommend (spray, golf club) are the implements by which your child will overcome his fear by himself.

    © 2007 The Sitter Cafe LLC - Childcare Solutions – All Rights Reserved


    By Jonathan H. Gerard, PhD

    It is not unusual for children to fall out of bed at night. (It is not unusual for grownups to fall out of bed at night but this is not a column of sex advice.) The problem for your child inevitably comes during those first few nights or weeks when you have transferred him from the safety of a crib to the initially more dangerous environment of a bed.

    Here’s what many parents do to try to prevent their children from falling out of bed: They say, “Don’t fall out of bed.”

    At first blush this seems like pretty good advice. Why, then, do so many children decline to take it? It has nothing to do with bad memory or rebelliousness or inexperience in a bed or even with a disinclination to take advice. (This latter comes only with increasing adulthood.)

    The reason that children do not seem to listen to your heartfelt and useful advice has to do with the way you say it. First of all, you are telling your child to remember something. Remembering is a mental activity that is hard to do during the day and that one rarely does in one’s sleep. Secondly, you are asking your child to remember NOT to do something. This amounts to a second order abstraction that may seem easy but is really hard—for adults as well as for children.

    It is rarely good advice to tell someone to remember not to do something. Remember not to burn the toast. Remember not to let the toilet paper run out. Remember not to overdraw your checking account.

    Do not tell your child to do any of these things. Here is what you should say, in order for you to help your child remain safely on the bed all night: “Remember to sleep against the wall.”

    © 2007 The Sitter Cafe LLC - Childcare Solutions – All Rights Reserved

    Friday, August 10, 2007


    A nanny is NOT a housekeeper. These ads posted for a nanny/housekeeper are ridiculous! It's like hiring a nurse/gardener! Would you ask your landscaper to reorganize your garage? If so, that's ridiculous! He may use tools that you keep there, but his skill set and work is not related to organizing a garage. Similarly, just because a nanny works in the house all day does not mean she should be cleaning it. I realize some people want to limit the amount of "outsiders" in the house, and while that is understandable, it's ridiculous to ask your nanny to clean the house.

    Many of you want someone educated that can help develop your child's mind. You'd like someone cultured that can encourage your child(ren) to explore what New York has to offer and who can teach them proper etiquette. You'd like this person to help your child with homework and school projects. Often these people are college educated. You're hiring people with Bachelor's and Master's degrees, often people with educations not far off from yours (maybe they didn't go to an Ivy League School because they didn't come from advantage, but they are well educated, nonetheless). It is an insult to ask these people to scrub your toilet. I don't care if you add $10,000 to the yearly salary. It's ridiculous.

    I am a parent who has a wonderful relationship with the nanny who has been with our family for four years now. Before her, we went through several nannies. I believe we made mistakes in our search before, and I want to share our knowledge with parents I believe are making similar mistakes. Everyone should be as lucky as we are with Eva, our nanny.

    What I Learned (the hard way)...

    1. Separate the cleaning from the caring
    Hire someone to come in two or three times a week to clean. It's not expensive. I see parents offering 50K to their nannies. Take 7K out, and you can pay a terrific housekeeper to come in a few times per week. Most good nannies won't mind tidying (putting dishes in the sink or dishwasher, picking up after the kids - teaching them to pick up after themselves - and leaving a room generally neat after using it.

    However, you're better off paying someone to clean floors, windows, blinds, curtains, do laundry, vacuum, dust, and clean the kitchens and bathrooms. Your nanny will be able to focus on the childcare.

    We ask Eva to do general tidying (as mentioned above). We also ask her to do the grocery shopping and run household related errands. Trust me, she has PLENTY to do while the kids are in school. She grocery shops, goes to the tailor, the shoemaker, the drugstore, the library, the dry cleaner's, etc. She also cooks on nights when my husband and I work late. (We don't ask for gourmet meals, just healthy, tasty ones.) She uses the time while the kids are at school to prepare the meals, so that when dinnertime comes, only the actual cooking needs to be done. (Thus, she can focus more on the kids and less on cooking.)

    Some days she has free time while the kids are at school. This is not horrible, and I don't feel cheated. She works very hard and makes our lives a lot less stressful, so I'm content. Eva works 10- 14 hour days, so I think it's good for her to have some down time. If she ends up with three free hours, what does that mean? She only worked 7- 11 hours that day? I certainly do not feel cheated.

    2. Hire someone with a college education who speaks fluent English
    Before Eva, we had several people, and I noticed my children's speech and vocabulary getting worse and worse. I wasn't thrilled with the fact that when I couldn't be home to do their homework with them, they went into school with tons of mistakes on it. Eva sits with them and when they get something wrong, she explains why it is incorrect and guides them towards the right answer, never telling outright. My children do very well in all of their subjects. She helps them brainstorm to come up with interesting and exciting science and social studies projects. She reads to them in a great variety of voices and accents. Even though my third grader reads on a sixth grade level, he loves listening to her stories! We have a twelve year old, and Eva keeps a good eye on her. She tells us the "real scoop" on which boys our daughter is interested in, which kids move "too fast," etc. Because she's young, the kids don't put their guard up as much around her, and she sees and hears a lot more than most parents!

    3. Make sure you pay her enough so that she can live nearby
    Choose a nanny who CAN stay over with notice if you need her to, but is live out.

    After a string of nannies arriving late (not always their fault, sometimes the MTA IS unreliable), and being exhausted from the commute, we tried a live in situation. My husband and I missed the privacy. There are advantages to both live in and live out. So, we set up a space where a nanny could stay over if she needed to. Then, we looked at what rents were within a half hour commute of our house. We figured out the cost of living out within a half hour of our house, and based our nanny's salary on that.

    Suddenly, the quality of applicants improved drastically. Eva is a certified teacher. It just makes more sense for her to work as a nanny. Friends of ours saw how well our situation was working out, and they bought a studio twenty minutes away for their nanny. They subtracted 15K- 20K from their original salary offer. They have a great nanny too. Their nanny has a degree from Wellesley, and is very sweet.

    The point is, our nannies live close. They stay over if it's needed, but they have their own private space to have guests and alone time, and we have our space to have quiet life as a family (or on rare occasions when all the kids are out, as a couple). Everyone is much happier, and there's no underlying resentment on anyone's part.

    4. Treat your nanny as family
    You want your nanny to treat your kids as if they were her own (or better), so treat her like family. We offer Eva the opportunity to come on some family outings and trips (not all). We give her proper paid vacation time. She gets medical and dental benefits. She gets a cost of living increase (so that in [one year] she won't be making less than she was in [the previos year], which would be the case if we paid her the same amount). We offer her investment advice (she'd like to buy a home in a few years).

    But the thing that's made the MOST difference is accepting that she is a person with a life. My sister-in-law first gave me the idea. She said that she noticed she had less trouble getting Saturday night sitters when she said they could bring a friend over. I have gotten heat from people for saying this before. I realize that I don't know who Eva is bringing into my house. But I trust her judgment. Otherwise I wouldn't leave her with my children. So, occasionally (not frequently), she'll have a friend over for a tea in the afternoon. We've made it okay for her boyfriend to stop by briefly. When her sister was in town, she would stop by the house in-between sightseeing. As a result, Eva is in no rush to leave our house at the end of the day. She doesn't feel trapped.

    The idea is, make the workplace a social, happy place, and productivity improves.

    5. Don't be jealous of your nanny.
    This is the toughest piece of advice. I sometimes am envious of all the time Eva spends with my kids.

    But because of her, I don't stress when there's traffic. I know she'll be there when I get home. I don't have to deal with details like whether my blazer will be dry cleaned for tomorrow's meeting. It always will. I don't have to worry if my daughter is off somewhere doing who knows what in someone's basement. Eva keeps tabs on her. When my husband and I come home, we spend quality time with our kids. We don't deal with the stressful details of daily life that we used to deal with. We talk and play and relax together.

    Yes, it costs us a lot more than it used to cost us. There are even some things we couldn't do because we have Eva. But our lives are so much better because of her.

    Thursday, August 9, 2007

    for posting at The Sitter Cafe

    It may seem easy and obvious, but we have found that many parents simply do not place ADs that effectively communicate their child care needs to the correct group of sitters or nannies. Please take a few minutes to review the information below; It is certain to help you craft an AD that generates the types of responses you want.

  • About Your Phone Number and Email Address

    It's never a good idea to put your telephone number or email address in an AD or Job Posting. Your subscription to The Sitter Cafe includes a secure, private email messaging system that allows sitters to REPLY to your ADs privately, and anonymously.

    A sitter may become very uncomfortable when your AD asks them to reply outside of the secure messaging system provided. Since it might force them to reveal personal contact information, sitters may be reluctant to reply to your AD if you request direct communication immediately.

    Parents and sitters use the private messaging system to communicate anonymously until they are comfortable with each other. This is particularly important to high school age sitters as they are taught to use extreme caution when communicating online.

    An additional benefit of using The Sitter Cafe secure messaging system is that all of the replies you receive from sitters are safely stored in your Sitter Cafe mailbox and are available to you from anywhere you have internet access.

    Keep in mind that you may always make your own email address and/or your telephone number available to sitters who read your AD by changing the COMMUNICATION PREFERENCES from your control panel. That way, when a sitter view's your PROFILE they will see the communication options that you prefer, in addition to being able to use our internal messaging system.

  • Timing Is Everything

    If you wait till the last minute to place an AD sitters will not have the opportunity to receive your email and respond in time. While many sitters check their email once a day, it can take others up to three days or more to review the messages in their mailbox.

    If you advertise for a position months ahead of time, great sitters who might otherwise respond to your Job Posting will ignore it because they are either not thinking out that far into the future, or simply do not know what their schedule will be three months from now. School schedules, sports commitments, band practice, other jobs - all of the things that make up the busy life of students and young adults have to taken into consideration.

    Put yourself in the shoes of the care provider when you decide to place an AD for a job; what would you want to know about the position - and when would you want to know it!

  • Understand what you're looking for and how to communicate your needs:
    A MOTHER'S HELPER Lives out and works for a family to provide childcare and domestic help for families in which one parent is home most of the time. May be left in charge of the children for brief periods of time. May or may not have previous childcare experience.

    A BABYSITTER is defined as someone who provides supervisory, custodial care of children on an irregular full-time or part-time basis. No special training or background expected.

    An AU-PAIR is a foreign national, usually high-school or college age, visiting the United States through the US Cultural Exchange Program for up to two years to experience American life. Lives as part of the host family and receives a small stipend in exchange for babysitting and help with housework. May or may not have previous childcare experience.

    A NANNY is employed by the family on either a live-in or live-out basis to undertake all tasks related to the care of children. Duties are generally restricted to childcare and the domestic tasks related to childcare. May or may not have had any formal training, though often has a good deal of actual experience. Nanny's work week ranges from 40 to 60 hours per week. Usually works unsupervised.

    Your Ad should state the hours of the job and the range of the pay rate. Even if you are very flexible, few adults (college kids) are going to answer ads that are vague about hours and salary. Care providers are looking for work - not something to do with their spare time. Put yourself in their shoes and think 'what would I want to know about the job?'.
  • What A Sitter Needs To Know From Your Ad:
    • Days Per Week
    • Number of Hours Per Day
    • Start time and End time
    • Hourly Salary
    • Do I Need A Car
    • Ages and genders of the children
    • Are There Any Pets to Care For
      (many people are allergic - especially to cats)
    • Do the kids have any special needs
    • Basic job responsibilities
    • Start Date
    • End Date
    Sitters do not need to know from an AD that you are a single parent or that your home is 'wonderful' or that your kids are delightful. Leave that kind of personal information out of your ad.

    Personal information should be shared with a sitter only once you are comfortable with them. Be Smart - Be Safe!