My Love is a Lighthouse

 At every job interview, whether it be through an agency or a family, a nanny will be asked “what’s your parenting style?” Sometimes I’ll bring up RIE, Positive Discipline, the Respectful Approach, Attachment Theory, or some combination of them but the truth is every family is different, and every child is different. So I guess if I had to boil it down to just a few words, I’d say Lighthouse Parenting. Pediatrician Dr. Ken Ginsburg defines it perfectly:

“You should be a lighthouse for your child - a stable force on the shoreline from which they should measure themselves against. You should look down at the rocks and make sure they don’t crash against them. Look into the waves and trust that they will learn to ride them, and it’s your job to prepare them to do so.”

Does this mean I’m hands-off? Not at all. I’m always close by, observing them, ready to play with them (ONLY if they want me to!) and helping them see possibly dangerous situations. For instance, if I’m at the playground with a toddler, I don’t yell out “be careful!” or physically restrict them from an area for bigger kids. I also don’t lift them up into spots they can’t get to on their own. I might say “hang on, look down. Do you think going down the slide this way is safe? Is there another way you could get down?” Obviously I’m not going to just let a child in my charge get hurt, but I’m there to shine a light on a potentially harmful situation. I’m like the spotter at the gym: I don’t lift the weight for them, but I’m there to guide the barbell if needed.

I am a safe space to return to. I tell my charges “there is always time for hugs.” If they’re having trouble keeping their hands to themselves, or having big feelings, they can sit with me until they’re ready to talk about it. If you’re thinking, what about time-outs? How do you discipline children? I would respond with something I’ve heard in many classes: the word discipline comes from “to teach” not “to punish.” I am teaching them that I am always here to comfort and take care of them, but also to help them learn how to be respectful of others and what they can physically and emotionally handle.

Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building (don’t worry, no spoilers here!) has a great song that encapsulates this, and it’s sung by the awesome Meryl Streep. She’s even portraying a nanny in this scene:

Hush little one, let me sing you to sleep
Moonlight has come, now drift off to a dream
Sail from the day to the wonders awaiting you out there
In the deep
Off little one, chase the wind on the waves
Adventure is calling, so go and be brave
But if you get lost and you’re tossed in the dark of the sea
Look for me
I will wait at the shore for you
I will weather each storm
Standing by 'til
Safe you return from the night
My love is a lighthouse
So darling, my darling
Look for the light
The light