Today, I was sitting on a bench in the wind as I watched Alex, the 6 year old boy I nanny, at soccer practice.
In LA, life tends to feel like the “nanny diaries.” You might think that the practice was full of soccer moms, rooting for their little ones. Instead, it’s just lots of soccer nannies…myself included.
Next to me on the bench was another nanny, caught up in conversation with her “kid.” My heart broke as I listened to this little boy, probably about 6 years old, talking to his nanny:
I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to play soccer. I don’t like soccer. Dad makes me play. I want to play roller hockey, not soccer. He never listens. He doesn’t believe in me.
Unfortunately, there are never enough good, affirming words a nanny can offer. Yes, we can try, but what these children are craving is the love, attention, and support of their parents.
I was blessed to have the kind of parents who believed in me and supported me no matter how crazy my dreams were. But most children in our generation, and especially in LA, have parents who would rather talk on their iPhones than talk to their kids.
I believe that God has called us (whether you are a mom, a nanny, a babysitter, a teacher, or a volunteer at your church’s kids group) to provide these children with the right tools to help them flourish.
Just as you’d care for a plant to keep it from shriveling up, we have to take special care of God’s children to ensure that they grow into healthy, happy, supported adults.
How to care for God’s children:
We all need a strong foundation. We need something to believe in and people who hold us to our ideals and encourage them. Try “kid friendly” virtue building questions like:
“If you had to make everyone in America follow a new rule, what would yours be?”
“What could you do tomorrow at school to help someone (a friend, a teacher, etc)?”
What kind of seeds are you planting in the lives of the children around you? Are you instilling values and morals in their lives? Plant seeds of:
-The love of reading (the kids I nanny LOVE to read. Find good, age appropriate books for your kiddos. The way I get my kids to love reading is by making reading their reward. They get to stay up later if they read, they have a sticker chart for finishing chapter books, etc.)
-The love of people. (I grew up volunteering in children’s hospitals, assisted living facilities, and helping with hurricane victims at a very young age. Volunteering helps kids learn to care for others, no matter what their age or circumstance.)
-Seeds of joy and trust. (My boyfriend has actually shown me the importance of learning to be joyful no matter what life throws at you. Even if life is crazy, don’t act out and throw “adult tantrums” in front of kids. It isn’t fair to them, and it teaches them that panic is a normal reaction.)
Watering your plants…
Once you’ve instilled these values and planted these seeds, the tough part is, you can’t just give up. They aren’t done growing yet. Children need consistency and DAILY affirmation. A lot of people think kids have nothing to say. I have learned that if you ask, they will tell. Be a listener. Watering and keeping those ideals in their lives means asking them daily about their dreams, fears, and ideas.
Plants don’t grow without lots of light. Realize that to the kid you’re working with, you might be the only light they get all day. We don’t always know what these kids’ home lives are like, and you might be the closest thing that resembles Jesus in their lives. Shine His light on them.
No matter what kind of relationship you may have with the kids in your life (moms, nannies, teachers, etc), remember that God has placed you in their lives to help them grow.