I have received several “Dear Nanny” types of messages in my email inbox lately. Here are a couple of them: “What’s wrong with teaching good behaviors? Isn’t your job as a Nanny to teach a child to behave appropriately? Like teach them to say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’?” “Children are savages. They need guidance, and rules; otherwise, they will be manipulative, and out of control. It’s our job to teach them so they can be successful in school, and in life.”
I appreciate the commitment of having children grow up to be responsible, and productive. However, the basis of these comments seem to be coming from the notion that childhood is preparation for life, childhood is a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life, and that childhood is a period of preparation (see John A. Taylor, Notes on an Unhurried Journey).
To respond the comment that my job as a Nanny is to teach children how to behave, I first have to examine the word “Teach”. If “Teaching” is giving answers to children, i.e., telling them what to do, what not to do, or instructing them as if there are answers or a fixed reality in the world, then no, my job as a Nanny is not TEACHING. My job is not even to manage and control a child’s growth and development. Through my observations and experiences, the highest state of learning is often through exploration. You can say that we learn not because someone tells us what to do, but through a process of discovery—finding answers for ourselves.
One of my commitments as a Professional Nanny is CREATING opportunities that allow children to develop the capacity that is already within them. What does that look like? It might look like asking questions, presenting situations—questions and situations that leave them to explore and discover answers for themselves. Confession: there are many times I do have an urge to give children the answer or take over the situation simply because the view that children are lacking of something, and I must “teach” them how to.
What else does CREATING opportunities that allow for development look like? It’s quite interesting that the definitions of “develop” suggest that something is already there (capacity): come into existence; take on form or shape; grow, progress, unfold, or evolve through a process; be gradually disclosed or unfolded; become manifest. Maybe the way photographers develop a snapshot could provide an insight. They process a material in order to make an image visible. The image is already captured, and with solutions and chemicals (think “creating opportunities”), the picture will emerge regardless.
What if my job as a Nanny is just like a photographer—presenting opportunities or say setting up environments that allow what is already in children to be expressed and developed? What if they are already turned out? I see children are born with love, joy, contribution, and many other qualities. There is no need to TEACH children how to love (or be joyful, be responsible, be contribution) because they are love. My work is to give them the opportunity to express who they are. If who they are is love, then give them the opportunities to express love—kisses, hugs, giggles, whatever that may be. If who they are is responsibility, then give them the opportunities to express responsibility—picking up toys or choosing which shirt to wear in the morning. A child is a human who is living life through expressing who he/she is!! As John A. Taylor says the best, “How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice.”