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Posts from the ‘Nanny’ Category

Modern-Day Parenting in Crisis

My last Huffington Post piece went viral and I can’t believe it’s now at over 1 million “likes”! I’m glad so many parents joined the conversation to discuss the state of modern-day parenting with me. This means we can start making a change and to quote the article, “straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we’ve made for them.”

Since it’s still getting a lot of attention I wanted to share it here, on my blog, to encourage more comments and open conversation. Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree that modern parenting is in serious trouble?

Here’s the full article from Huffington Post:

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I generally am quite an optimistic person. I tend to believe that everything will work out for the best unless the evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary, and anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not prone to drama. That’s why when I say that modern parenting is in serious trouble — crisis, even — I hope you’ll listen, and listen carefully. I’ve worked with children and their parents across two continents and two decades, and what I’ve seen in recent years alarms me. Here are the greatest problems, as I see them:

1. A fear of our children.
I have what I think of as “the sippy cup test,” wherein I will observe a parent getting her toddler a cup of milk in the morning. If the child says, “I want the pink sippy cup, not the blue!” yet the mum has already poured the milk into the blue sippy cup, I watch carefully to see how the parent reacts. More often than not, the mum’s face whitens and she rushes to get the preferred sippy cup before the child has a tantrum. Fail! What are you afraid of, mum? Who is in charge here? Let her have a tantrum, and remove yourself so you don’t have to hear it. But for goodness’ sake, don’t make extra work for yourself just to please her — and even more importantly, think about the lesson it teaches if you give her what she wants because she’s thrown a fit.

2. A lowered bar.
When children misbehave, whether it’s by way of public outburst or private surliness, parents are apt to shrug their shoulders as if to say, “That’s just the way it is with kids.” I assure you, it doesn’t have to be. Children are capable of much more than parents typically expect from them, whether it’s in the form of proper manners, respect for elders, chores, generosity or self-control. You don’t think a child can sit through dinner at a restaurant? Rubbish. You don’t think a child can clear the table without being asked? Rubbish again! The only reason they don’t behave is because you haven’t shown them how and you haven’t expected it! It’s that simple. Raise the bar and your child shall rise to the occasion.

3. We’ve lost the village.
It used to be that bus drivers, teachers, shopkeepers and other parents had carte blanche to correct an unruly child. They would act as the mum and dad’s eyes and ears when their children were out of sight, and everyone worked towards the same shared interest: raising proper boys and girls. This village was one of support. Now, when someone who is not the child’s parent dares to correct him, the mum and dad get upset. They want their child to appear perfect, and so they often don’t accept teachers’ and others’ reports that he is not. They’ll storm in and have a go at a teacher rather than discipline their child for acting out in class. They feel the need to project a perfect picture to the world and unfortunately, their insecurity is reinforced because many parents do judge one another. If a child is having a tantrum, all eyes turn on the mum disapprovingly. Instead she should be supported, because chances are the tantrum occurred because she’s not giving in to one of her child’s demands. Those observers should instead be saying, “Hey, good work — I know setting limits is hard.”

4. A reliance on shortcuts.
I think it’s wonderful that parents have all sorts of electronics to help them through airline flights and long waits at the doctor’s office. It’s equally fabulous that we can order our groceries online for delivery, and heat up healthy-ish food at the touch of a button on the microwave. Parents are busier than ever, and I’m all for taking the easy way when you need it. But shortcuts can be a slippery slope. When you see how wonderful it is that Caillou can entertain your child on a flight, don’t be tempted to put it on when you are at a restaurant. Children must still learn patience. They must still learn to entertain themselves. They must still learn that not all food comes out steaming hot and ready in three minutes or less, and ideally they will also learn to help prepare it. Babies must learn to self-soothe instead of sitting in a vibrating chair each time they’re fussy. Toddlers need to pick themselves up when they fall down instead of just raising their arms to mum and dad. Show children that shortcuts can be helpful, but that there is great satisfaction in doing things the slow way too.

5. Parents put their children’s needs ahead of their own.
Naturally, parents are wired to take care of their children first, and this is a good thing for evolution! I am an advocate of adhering to a schedule that suits your child’s needs, and of practices like feeding and clothing your children first. But parents today have taken it too far, completely subsuming their own needs and mental health for the sake of their children. So often I see mums get up from bed again and again to fulfill the whims of their child. Or dads drop everything to run across the zoo to get their daughter a drink because she’s thirsty. There is nothing wrong with not going to your child when she wants yet another glass of water at night. There’s nothing wrong with that dad at the zoo saying, “Absolutely you can have something to drink, but you must wait until we pass the next drinking fountain.” There is nothing wrong with using the word “No” on occasion, nothing wrong with asking your child to entertain herself for a few minutes because mummy would like to use the toilet in private or flick through a magazine for that matter.

I fear that if we don’t start to correct these five grave parenting mistakes, and soon, the children we are raising will grow up to be entitled, selfish, impatient and rude adults. It won’t be their fault — it will be ours. We never taught them any differently, we never expected any more of them. We never wanted them to feel any discomfort, and so when they inevitably do, they are woefully unprepared for it. So please, parents and caregivers from London to Los Angeles, and all over the world, ask more. Expect more. Share your struggles. Give less. And let’s straighten these children out, together, and prepare them for what they need to be successful in the real world and not the sheltered one we’ve made for them.

You can see me elaborate on the subject on this HuffPost Live segment with Alyona Minkovski!

Twigtale Books: Mama Always Comes Back.

Twigtale offers parents an innovative way to work through common early childhood transitions smoothly. Twigtale books are personalized stories, scripted by experts, which help your child know what to expect. This covers a variety of issues and topics, such as: starting school, using the potty, moving, a new sibling and many others. They also have an option to create your own book from scratch, so you can cover literally any topic. It’s quite brilliant!

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Storytelling is one of my favorite activities to do with children, and it is a helpful way for them to understand bigger situations and life events, but Twigtale makes storytelling that much more effective. Why? Because it’s all about them; your little one.

My favorite Twigtale book is, “Mama Always Comes Back!”

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In all my years working with children, separation anxiety is something every child faces at some point. I’ve personally used this Twigtale book and recommend it to every family I work with. I fell in love with “Mama Always Comes Back!” instantly because this is something ALL children need to be reassured of.

Twigtale books are truly customizable in every sense of the word – right away, you can pick to title the book with the name your child calls you (mum, mama, mommy). You can also customize this to be daddy, papa, etc., so don’t worry dads, you’re included too. Then add a photo to match and voila, your child is the star!

Let your child help you make suggestions for what you’re putting in the book. Ask them, what does mummy like to do? Exercise, read, go out to dinner, spend time with Auntie Jenny – things that you need to and like to do for yourself – that they need to learn are “adult” times.

One of my favorite pages is, “When Mummy says “goodbye”, sometimes I feel sad. Sometimes I cry. This is okay.” – Because it IS okay. They will cry and be upset but as long as they know you will always be back, it will help them cope with the fact that sometimes you have to leave them.

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Twigtale is also an excellent tool for your nanny or teacher. Keep it in their cubby or backpack so they can look at it whenever they get scared or are just simply missing mum! It isn’t a security item like a blanket or lovie that they may not be comfortable taking to school. It’s a cool book that all their friends will want to see and make one of their own.

Believe me when I tell you, your child will want to read their book over and over again because it’s all about them. I’ve seen this with the kids I nanny for. They always go to the shelf and pick out one of their Twigtale books. They love the fact that they can look at pictures of their grandparents who live all the way in New York and relive their special moments with mum or dad, brother or sister, and other special family members.

If you’re leaving for a night out remind them, “I always come back! Have fun and I’ll see you soon”, and leave the book out for a special nighttime reading. They will love showing their sitter or nanny the fun book all about them.

Be sure to check out their website!

TV-Tipping: An Avoidable Accident

Do you have your flat screen television mounted to the wall securely? If you still have an older model, is it secured by brackets or tethers? Parents regularly take precautions such as tethering large bookshelves or dressers to walls or locking cabinets, but television safety is often overlooked.

An annual average of 17, 313 children are injured by tipping or falling television sets each year, one study finds. The median age of children hurt was 3-years-old. Kids this age are very probing and don’t quite grasp cause and effect. Climbing on top of an entertainment system or standing on the edge of a table to reach the television can lead to disaster.

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NPR recently highlighted the dangers of young children pulling televisions down on themselves, noting that “every 30 minutes a child ends up in the emergency room with injuries caused by a television.”

Head and neck injuries are very common with television accidents, as TVs are generally set up high… just out of an inquisitive child’s reach. Most of the children in the study suffered from bumps, cuts and bruises but some even ended up with concussions, which can be very dangerous to a young child.

A 2012 report by Safe Kids Worldwide said that one child dies every three weeks from a television-tipping related injury. This is shocking considering there are so many ways to prevent this type of tragedy.

Caregivers know that a determined child will make persistent attempts to touch or grab things even when they are told not to. To keep children safe we must take extra safety precautions. Mounting hardware and tethering kits are available at almost any store that television sets are sold as well as many baby stores. The extra effort it takes to install safety straps is well worth it when there are curious climbers in the house!

After drafting this post, I actually found a blurb about this problem in the new issue of Parents Magazine. I snapped a shot of it because it has helpful tips for keeping your child safe. TVsafety.org is also an excellent resource for simple solutions!

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Beat the Heat with My Favorite Frozen Treat!

The summer is a great time to let the little ones enjoy a frozen treat. I absolutely love popsicles but the kind you can buy in stores are often packed full of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. It can be hard to find them just made from whole fruit, but I think they taste much better this way! They’re pretty simple to make yourself, so why not? Here are a couple of my favorite recipes!

Jamie Oliver’s Yogurt Pops – How good do these look?! The color is brilliant!

jamie-oliver-300 Makes about 6 pops.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 small ripe & peeled bananas
  2. 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries OR 1 cup frozen blueberries (I like to mix a little of each)
  3. 2 cups nonfat plain yogurt
  4. 2 tbsp. honey

Directions:

  • Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth
  • Divide mixture evenly into molds (amount will vary depending on size of molds)
  • Freeze for 10 minutes, remove, insert popsicle sticks
  • Put back in the freezer for at least 3 hours; until frozen solid
  • Run mold under warm water for a quick second, gently pull each pop from mold and serve immediately!

You can find popsicle molds at most grocery stores or drugstores. Here’s a great list of BPA-free molds, too! I personally like stainless steel molds. They’re a little more pricey but work wonders at keeping them cold and no plastic involved. You can also find 100 popsicle sticks for about $4 on Amazon.

Watermelon Whole Fruit Popsicles

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Makes about 12 pops.

Ingredients:

Remember to use seedless watermelon. You can use honeydew, cantaloupe.. really any fresh, organic fruit you have on hand! This recipe can be altered to fit your child’s tastes.

  1. 3 cups watermelon puree (about 1/2 a watermelon)
  2. 1/2 cup blueberries
  3. 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  4. 1 kiwi peeled & sliced
  5. 1 peach or nectarine diced small
  6. handful cherries pitted & chopped

Directions:

  • Puree watermelon chunks in blender until smooth & set aside
  • Fill molds with the chopped fruit
  • Pour in watermelon puree until each mold is full to the top
  • Repeat freezing steps from above and serve after 6-8 hours

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Hope you enjoy these sweet and frozen treats! Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Emma x

From Emma: A Letter to William & Kate

This is a letter I wrote to William and Kate that was originally published by the Huffington Post. You can find the original article here, on the Huffington Post Parents blog.

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Dear William and Kate,

Congratulations! The whole world is celebrating with you as you prepare for the birth of your first child.

How amazing to see pictures of the international press gathered outside the duchess’s room at King Edward VII Hospital. Already, the two of you are on a pedestal, looked to as models for handling a pregnancy.

Soon, the international throngs will also be scrutinizing your every move as parents: How you hold your children, how you dress them, where you take them for fun.

I imagine you will hire a nanny, or several. We English know that there is absolutely no shame in this. Our culture regards childrearing as a noble and complex profession, and our nannies are the stuff of legend, commanding salaries of up to $250,000 abroad. I remember, William, how close you were to your own nannies, particularly Tiggy Legge-Bourke.

I am an English nanny myself, with 17 years of experience caring for families in England and America. In fact, I had my own show on TLC, “Take Home Nanny,” in which I showed parents the best principles of English parenting.

The English are truly great at bringing up resilient, well-mannered, brave, and kind children. Too many parents — in our own country and across the Western world — have lost sight of what we’ve always done right.

As you step into your role as international ambassadors of English parenting, I do hope you’ll remember these 5 reasons we parent so well:

1. Parental dignity is non-negotiable.

Open up any tabloid in California, where I live, and you’ll see photo after photo of poor young celebrity mothers torturing themselves to regain their “pre-baby body” immediately after childbirth.

Meanwhile, outside of Los Angeles, many other new mums feel guilty taking time alone for so much as a haircut. Shouldn’t they be taking all this time to enjoy their new baby?

By the standards of the American media, parents are not doing a good job unless they’re martyring themselves somehow. How dreadful not just for them, but their children. The truth is that they cannot be loving or effective parents unless they are well-rested, put together and sane.

Young children do not notice how much Mum and Dad weigh; they notice whether Mum and are happy and calm. Once you have made provisions for your children’s basic needs, personal dignity should be your top concern.

2. We understand the necessity of a “boring” night at home.

In a busy household — be it a San Francisco split-level or Kensington Palace — even the most well-meaning parents can fall behind on sharing quality time with children. Remember that proximity does not equal quality; 20 minutes talking or coloring together is entirely different from 20 minutes in the car, frantically shuttling to soccer practice.

This is a principle both of William’s parents seem to have understood well. Whether it was fun time at an amusement park with your mother or hacking through the Scottish countryside with your father, William, both of them understood the importance of unencumbered quality time.

Quality time is also a great opportunity for parents to model proper behavior. Between Mum’s impeccable manners and elegance and Dad’s easy charm and commitment to humanitarian causes, there are many things your child in particular can look forward to learning.

3. We take pride in good manners.

In English households, good manners should be practiced all the time, rather than performed on special occasions. If manners are taught consistently, they will remain intact even when your child is tired at the end of a long evening or stressed by her upcoming meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan.

While constant reminders to sit up properly, speak respectfully and say “thank you” can be as wearying for parents as they are annoying for children, making a habit of good manners can mean the difference between a lifetime of carrying yourself comfortably in social situations and being anxious about whether the wine glass on the left or right is yours — or worse yet, being left off the guest list completely.

4. We do not suffer bullies.

There is a reason Neville Chamberlain is a national embarrassment for us. We are not, on the whole, a nation of appeasers, of people who give in to brutes — even if they are pint-sized members of our family.

If Margaret Thatcher will permit me to borrow her phrase, our parents are not for turning. We explain rules and consequences to our children early on, and we enforce them, quietly and consistently, no matter what the inconvenience or embarrassment. Temporary peace is a coward’s value.

5. We strive to make our children not just happy, but noble.

Do not be fooled by our national tendency to self-deprecate. We might scoff at an American parent nattering on about the importance of “self-esteem,” but the truth is, we know how to give it to a child better than anyone in the world.

The key is autonomy. Within appropriate limits of maturity and safety, we let our children make their own mistakes and recover from their own disappointments. We do not cosset them so that they emerge from the parental home having never tasted sacrifice or failure.

C.S. Lewis, one of our great thinkers, once said that love was about more than a wish to see the people around us made happy and safe. There are joys in life far more profound than contentment: growth, strength, and a sense of meaning and purpose. This is the true prize we English pursue for our children.

Tips For Hiring a Nanny or Au Pair

First of all, when hiring a nanny there are certain qualifications and attributes they should always have:

  • Dependable – are they on time, have reliable transportation?
  • Trustworthy and responsible
  • Flexible – are they open to adding hours, working some weekends, nights, etc.?
  • Trained in CPR and First Aid – or other courses like Safe Sitter
  • Pro-active 
  • Playful – do they play and interact with your kids? Are they lazy?
  • Organized
  • Experienced – worked with families and kids before?
  • Knowledge of Child Development
  • Common sense

There are some definite red flags to look for during your nanny search. Check on their employment history. A good nanny will have standing positions of at least 2 to 3 years. The truth is, a nanny that isn’t in jobs for long isn’t very good.

Conducting an Interview

Have a list of questions prepared. What precautions will they take to keep your child safe? If the interview goes well, set up a trial so you can see how they interact with your child.

Trust your instinct, if you’re not 100% comfortable then keep looking. Wait for the nanny that puts your mind at ease and makes you feel comfortable about leaving your children in her care.

If you hire an au pair, please note: they are not a cheap nanny! They are mothers helpers and should not be left unattended for long periods of time. Plus, legal documents are something you’ll need to think about. They’ll need a visa and a work/travel permit, etc.

Establishing boundaries and expectations is key:

*Have a contract. Be very clear about hours, salary, pay increases (should be yearly), perks (heath benefits, car, gym) vacation time and paid holidays.

*Establish expectations. Make sure your nanny knows what is expected of them and that everyone is on the same page.

*Time. While flexibility from a nanny is very important, a  parent needs to understand the nanny has a life as well. Let them know plans and any changes as soon as possible.

*Communicate! Schedule a monthly meeting with your nanny. This gives both the parent and the nanny a chance to check in.

Birth & Baby Fair SF

Calling all San Francisco residents: Emma’s Children will be tabling at the SF Birth and Baby Fair at Fort Mason this Sunday, October 2, from 10 AM – 4 PM.

We’ll be raffling off a phone consultation with our amazing child development and behavior specialist Emma Jenner!


The Birth & Baby Fair is San Francisco’s premier event for new and expecting parents. If you live in the surrounding Bay Area, make it a point to check out the fair! You don’t want to miss out on the fabulous raffle, freebies and fun times to be had.

PLUS – General Admission is only $8 if purchased online, $10 at the door. Children 18 and under are free!

Arrive early! The first 150 families will receive a free gift bag with discounts and products from many of the exhibitors and sponsors.

The B&B Fair showcases local businesses and resources as well as independent designers.  Their aim is to educate and expose new and expecting parents & young families to unique, beneficial products and services.


Some of the highlights include local reps from: pregnancy, birth, parenting and baby-related sources. There will be doulas, midwives, massage therapists, fitness instructors, childbirth educators, lactation consultants, photographers and more on board!

Come out and see what all the excitement is about. You’re likely to go home relaxed with happy kids and some awesome swag!

Fort Mason Center Herbst Pavilion
99 Marina Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94123

Excite and Explore

One mom, one toddler and a passion for learning and adventure.