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HomeTop Global NewsParenting tips from a traditional British 'Mary Poppins' nanny

Parenting tips from a traditional British ‘Mary Poppins’ nanny


A Norland trainee nanny in formal uniform. Graduates are not expected to wear their uniform once they start working for a family, unless requested for a special occasion.

Norland College

A small college in the historic city of Bath, U.K., is the place Britain’s royal family calls when they need child care.

Norland, which was founded more than 130 years ago, puts candidates through a four-year academic and practical training program where they spend around 1,300 hours caring for young children and newborns.

At the christening of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge in 2015 — the second child of the Prince and Princess of Wales — nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo was photographed in a formal Norland uniform, speaking to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Norland nannies — who earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in early childhood education and care, plus a diploma when they complete a year as a probationary nanny — are highly sought after and well paid. For every nanny who graduates, there are around 8 to 10 permanent jobs available via the Norland Agency.

Nannies are known as ‘Norlanders’

Norlanders, as they are known after graduating, usually prefer to be known publicly by only their first names to protect the identities of the children in their care, as well as their employers.

But while training, they’re noticeable to residents of Bath thanks to their formal, brown uniforms — which have been likened to what Mary Poppins wore — a dress and hat for women, a suit for men, and a gender neutral option of trousers or a dress with a tweed jacket.

Alice, a Norland nanny who was raised in Bath, used to see the uniformed students on the bus when she was in high school, but at the time had “no idea” who they were, she told CNBC by phone. Knowing that she wanted to work with children, Alice explored teaching via a school internship, but felt a less structured setting would better suit her.

Students at Norland College, whose uniform has been likened to Mary Poppins’ outfit.

Norland College

Top tips

Alice has more than a decade’s experience as a nanny, starting her a career with a military family in the U.K., where the father was deployed in Afghanistan.

Her longest role was in New York City, where she looked after a girl and her twin siblings for nine years, starting her job when the twins were 18 months old and the girl was three. Their parents worked in real estate, and Alice was in sole charge of the children from 7 a.m to 7 p.m.

“One really, really important tip for any … parent is every child is different and grows and learns at different speeds,” Alice told CNBC.

Norland nannies complete more than 1,300 hours of child care during their training.

Norland College

“It’s very easy, especially for a first-time parent with a baby to think oh, well, my baby isn’t crawling yet. Why are all of these other mums telling me that their baby is crawling?” she said.

“But one child who isn’t crawling might be able to build a tower of blocks sitting up,” she added.

“Don’t compare other babies, just go with what works for you to keep the child happy and healthy,” she said.

Comforting a crying baby

Prince George’s nanny, Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo, in a formal Norland uniform, talks to Queen Elizabeth II at the Christening of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge on July 5, 2015.

Chris Jackson | Getty Images

“Babies are like adults who wake up in the night. Most of the time we go straight back to sleep. But sometimes, you just can’t get back to sleep. And that’s so frustrating for us as adults, let alone as babies [for whom] the only communication … is crying,” she said.

Dealing with tantrums

Alice described her role for a child having a tantrum as a “safe space.” “I’m on the floor around them … to give them some comfort while they’re going through it,” she said.

“With a child who has started to communicate verbally, they don’t want to listen to what you have to say, that’s not the right time to be talking about it,” she said. Instead, she suggested, speak to them afterward, when they’re in a better frame of mind.

Instead of saying ‘no’ — do this

If a child is doing something you don’t want them to do, consider “redirecting behaviors,” Alice said.

“If they are throwing a ball at the wall, and you really don’t want them to be marking the wall … [you can say], ‘why don’t we play a game of who can get this ball in the saucepan?'” she said.

“Redirecting the same behaviors instead of a constant ‘no, don’t do that,’ I have found in my experience, children will respond much better to,” Alice said.

Making sure you respond to children regardless of their behavior is also important.

If you’re cooking dinner and a child wants to play, “You can say, ‘give me five minutes and let’s throw the ball in the saucepan.’ … That might not necessarily work the first time, but they will know that you will always come back to them,” Alice said.

“If you’re not giving them the attention elsewhere, but you are giving it when you don’t like them doing something, they’re going to really focus on those behaviors,” she added.

Give children a choice

Norland students have a practical uniform for child-care activities.

Norland College

If you have a child who refuses to get dressed, let them choose their outfits.

“That gives them the feeling of control,” Alice said. “But really, you’re you’re saying [these are] the warm weather outfits that you can wear, so you’re keeping them safe, while so allowing them to be in control,” she added.

Dealing with bad behavior

If a child’s behavior is dangerous or harmful, such as if a toddler attempts to bite another child, try to understand that this comes from “frustration, or it’s curiosity,” Alice said. Ask “How do you think that made this other child feel when you bit him?”

“They don’t necessarily have the words to say how that made them feel. But then you say … I think that probably made him really sad, that probably really hurt him, I don’t think you would like it,” she said.

Also suggest that if they feel like biting again, say, “Maybe let’s get an apple that you can bite into or a pillow or a block.”

Avoid the ‘naughty step’

“I don’t really like to label a child as ‘naughty’,” Alice said, and she doesn’t use the “naughty step” as a punishment for little children or send an older child to their room.

“If they are in that moment where they just cannot regulate their emotions, you say, right, I understand you’re upset. I’m going to do something else. When you’ve had time to calm yourself down … we can talk,” she said.

Tablet time

Other tips include being consistent and as good as your word.

Time on devices such as iPads can be negotiated by setting limits or allowing only educational games, Alice said.

To limit screen time, say “Sorry, we can’t do that today. Let me plan some time for tomorrow,” Alice suggested, or “Why don’t you play that game for five minutes and then we will turn it off.”

School days

Settling a child into school is often done gradually, with shorter days to start with. Reassure them that they will make friends there, and try to have playdates with classmates before school starts, Alice said.

“Maybe find out what they’re doing on the first day, so you can say [for example]: ‘Let me know how the painting goes when I pick you up. I can’t wait to hear about this.'”

Alice also said to do something fun after their first day or week at school, like going to a favorite playground or to a movie they’d like to see.

Alice acknowledged that being a nanny is different from being a working parent. “You have much more patience because it’s your job,” she said of her role.



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