Brenda Ashford was born in 1921 and worked as a Norland Nanny for 62 years. She cared for many, many children throughout her life and we at The Baba Blog wanted to pick her thoughts on parents and children. After all, who better to give advice then a real-life Mary Poppins?
Why did you become a nanny?
Well, actually my mother had wanted to be a Norland Nanny but her father wouldn’t allow it. Maybe it ran in the family, it was certainly engrained in my upbringing. When I was 9 years old my youngest brother was born and I realized just how much I enjoyed taking care of him. He was my pet in many ways, but then you do get that with siblings, the wish to care for and protect the younger ones.
What do you believe to be the most important thing in a child’s upbringing?
The main thing is love and affection. If a child knows that it is truly loved, through thick and thin and all the little and not so little troubles, that’s the best thing.
What do you think of the current generation of nannies and mums?
The Norland Nannies nowadays, they’re much more academic! I don’t think I’d be able to qualify now, everything is very strict and exact, quite impressive. I actually visited a parenting course recently to see what parents were learning these days and, you know, there was very little difference. Everybody of course has their own views on details but the basics haven’t changed much.
Do you have a parenting tip for us?
Explain yourselves to the children. When you tell them not to do something it’s important to explain why. If you are honest and true to what you tell them they will be able to understand and accept it easier. Don’t treat them like they’re ever too stupid to understand.
What about learning discipline?
Oh, the earlier they get taught to behave the better. If you have ground rules from the beginning and uphold them consistently, that really helps. Sadly these days there just doesn’t seem to be enough time together and that makes it difficult to create discipline.
What did you do about naughty behaviour?
If the child was being rude it was sent to its room. I personally don’t believe in the concept of the Naughty Step, it gives the child even more attention. Send him or her to their room and tell them that they can calm down up there and that when they’re ready to return, they can come back.
Modern parenting can be very busy and hectic, what is your advice to families?
First off, to stop watching the telly during meal times! Parents should take the time to talk with their children. Everyone is so busy and tired after working but it’s so important to speak with children, share their experiences. It’s a pity how little time some families spend with each other without distractions. I still remember spending evenings with my family, just sitting around the piano, nothing special really, but lovely nonetheless.
And has childhood changed as well?
A little bit I suppose. Children are so busy with all their extra-curricular activities, which of course is all well and good, but I wonder if they even have enough time themselves. I really think family time should be a big part of a child’s life.