NORLAND NANNIES: A LOOK INSIDE THEIR WORLD

Why Nanny really does know best: Norland nannies are the Rolls-Royce of childcare, a new book distils decades of their wisdom

By Charlotte Kemp
Last updated at 7:57 AM on 31st March 2011

Norland nannies are the creme de la creme of British nannies, beloved of royals, celebrities, gentry and the super-rich alike — the closest thing to Mary Poppins we have in the modern world.
However, with an average starting salary of £21,000, they are beyond the reach of most parents — but their no-nonsense approach to childcare is not.

Two mums, Louise Heren and Susan McMillan, spent a year at Norland College in Bath, which has been training Norlanders since 1892, and have written a fascinating book divulging the tricks of the trade — and pointing out where today’s parents are going so wrong. These are their golden rules . . .

Hats and white gloves: Norland nannies are trained to the highest level

Hats and white gloves: Norland nannies are trained to the highest level

DON’T SAY NO

This is a difficult word for many children, so often it is best to give an alternative rather than an outright negative. For example, instead of snapping: ‘No, you can’t have it,’ try something more reasonable like: ‘You can’t have it now as it’s bedtime, but would you like to play with it after breakfast tomorrow?’ Explanations work, because they help your child understand the reasons why something can’t be done.

DON’T WHINE

Whingeing and whining drives most parents to distraction. But many parents don’t realise they are also guilty of using a whining voice every time they nag their children to do something.
Getting a child to behave is primarily about getting a parent to behave. Always speak in a calm, normal voice. If your child whines but his request is reasonable, state calmly that of course he can have what he is asking for but only when he asks for it in a normal voice.

DON’T RAISE YOUR VOICE

Shouting is a waste of energy. Children can drive you mad sometimes, but raising your voice makes a situation worse. If your child is in danger, of course you should shout a warning. But don’t use it for everyday discipline. The chances are your child will shout back.
You can be firm and stern, but keep the volume down. Even try lowering your voice. If a child is shouting, he will usually stop to try to listen to you. No-nonsense discipline is not about shouting or smacking; it is not about being horrid. It is about guiding a child to do the right thing.

DON’T USE THREATS

Many parents use threats of the ‘if you don’t behave, you’re for it’ variety. But intimidation and the threat of punishment are an ineffective way of dealing with bad behaviour, as the child usually carries on regardless.
Instead, train yourself to look for the positive. Then you can show your child good behaviour wins them praise and cuddles. For young children, one of Nanny’s favourites for rewarding good behaviour is the gold star chart.

Life-saver: Sarah Jessica Parker relies on a nanny to help look after her twins Marion and Tabitha

Life-saver: Sarah Jessica Parker relies on a nanny to help look after her twins Marion and Tabitha

CHECK YOUR BAD BEHAVIOUR LIST

If you understand why your child behaves in a certain way, you will be more able to manage the situation. So, if your child misbehaves, consult this checklist before you lose patience entirely or reach for the gin.
Is your child getting enough love and attention from you? A lack of quality attention is the cause of many behavioural problems.

  • Have you been feeling upset or uptight lately? Children often pick up on your mood.
  • Is your child getting enough sleep? Early nights and a strict sleep routine will help.
  • Are they getting food regularly? Have a range of energy boosting snacks available through the day.

STOP ANY TANTRUMS BEFORE THEY START

Some parents fuel tantrums by reacting to them, getting angry, being overly sympathetic or giving in. DON’T.
The way to defuse a tantrum quickly is to divert the child before the full-blown tantrum has set in — a technique which is particularly good with the under-threes.
If you can’t do that, ignore the tantrum. Never raise your voice or storm off. Maintain eye contact during tricky behaviour by kneeling or crouching down at the child’s level.
Avoid tantrums on shopping trips by involving the child in a game while you shop and keep the trips short.

MAKE SURE YOU COOL OFF

Lots of parents use ‘time out’ when a child has hurt another child or been unkind.
For most parents, this means temporarily separating the child from the environment in which the misbehaviour occurred — and leaving them on their own (some parents use a ‘naughty step’).
But this often makes the situation worse because the child will refuse to sit on their own or wander off. Instead, use this ‘cooling off’ technique:
Take the child to a quieter area and calmly explain why they have been removed.
Sit with them until they have calmed down, then ask them to explain what caused the upset.
If they are sorry, invite them to join in again. If they repeat  the behaviour, remove them and start again.

Suri Cruise also has a nanny - but she clearly doesn't make her stick to a strict nightly routine

Suri Cruise also has a nanny – but she clearly doesn’t make her stick to a strict nightly routine

IGNORE LAVATORY HUMOUR

Children at certain ages find anything to do with bottoms and loos is funny. They also pick up bad language from television, from adults (including parents) and in the playground.
If your child uses a word that would make a builder blush, don’t make a big deal of it, but explain that these are words that you don’t use at home. If the words are more playground than pub, just ignore them. The child will grow out of it.

USE DIVERSION TACTICS

Parents are often irritated by children interrupting their conversations. This is classic attention-seeking behaviour. The child may be bored or feel that they are being ignored.
Avoid this by giving them something interesting to do while you chat or talk on the phone. A ‘telephone box’ full of diverting treats such as crayons, notepaper and an old mobile or toy phone will work very well with a toddler.

MAKE LIFE FUN

Children can be really stubborn at times, so you need to be clever at making things fun. If your child hates being strapped into the car seat, pretend you are pilots or astronauts or take a teddy or doll and get your child to strap them into a spare seat before you strap them in.
Talking non-stop before getting into the car about where you are going and what you are going to do will keep a child’s mind on other things. If it’s hair-brushing that causes the upset, set up a hairdressers, starting with dolls and teddies first.
Make hair-washing fun by introducing swimming goggles that will stop the soap or shampoo getting in a child’s eyes.

BRING OUT THE NANNY WATCH

The same nightly routine at home or on holiday will trigger your child’s body clock to start slowing down and prepare for the land of nod. Introduce ‘sleep clues’ such as bath and splash time, followed by beaker or warm bottle of milk, teeth clean, bedtime story, kiss and lights out.
For children who are difficult at bedtime, introduce them to the ‘Nanny watch’. This magical timepiece has an alarm which only nannies and parents can hear, and it goes off when a child is late for bed.

STAY OUT OF SQUABBLES

Squabbling, baiting and fighting is another way children vie to get attention so the key is not to get sucked in by it. Keep calm. As a parent, you will be negotiating peace deals on a regular basis and bear in mind sibling rivalry is often at its worst between the ages of four and 11.

BE CONSISTENT

If you say one thing and Daddy says the opposite, it will take longer for your child to learn what is right. Children need guidelines.

NANNY IN A BOOK by Louise Heren and Susan McMillan, is published by Vermilion on 7 April, £12.99. To order a copy for £10.99  (incl p&p), call 0845 155 0720.