x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Psychologist plans 'Nanny Academy'

Training course will teach nannies how to encourage positive behaviour in youngsters.

A child development psychologist in Dubai plans to offer a training course for nannies.

The six-hour "Nanny Academy" will teach caregivers how to encourage positive behaviour and instil discipline, said Naeema Jiwani.

"Nannies in general are very much involved with children's lives in this part of the world," said Ms Jiwani, who works for the Human Relations Institute (HRI), a psychology consultancy in Dubai.

The academy is an extension of a 20-hour course HRI offers for parents called PREP, or Positive Resourceful Effective Parenting. About 40 mothers have completed the programme, according to Ms Jiwani.

"It's something completely different to the traditional parenting style that we all know," said N Khoury, an Abu Dhabi resident from Lebanon who took the course last year.

"We were amazed, learning about the techniques.

"They have rules about play, and for me that was the most important chapter."

Ms Khoury, 32, said she saw immediate results in her 14-month-old son's behaviour.

"You can teach him how to tidy up and clean his toys, at such a young age."

When HRI solicited reviews of the PREP course, they found that many parents wanted to show their nannies what they had learned.

"My nanny spends so much time playing with the baby," Ms Khoury said.

"I'm the main caregiver. I feed him. I put him to sleep. But if I'm busy, they spend time playing with him."

In a study published in 2005, Hala Babili Roumani - the principal and academic adviser at Gulf Montessori, an early education programme in Kuwait and Dubai - estimated that about 58 per cent of children under the age of three in the Gulf were cared for by housemaids for 30 to 70 hours per week.

Ms Roumani said untrained caregivers were a "big concern".

"I know a lot of children are suffering because whoever is looking after them, they have no clue about how to deal with them, so they encounter quite a lot of problems throughout early childhood and later in life," said Ms Roumani.

Gulf Montessori also offers classes for parents, and some send their nannies, she said.

"Because they are the ones who are looking after the child - and the mother has delegated their duty to the nannies - they need to know," Ms Roumani said.

"At least intuitively, the mother knows what to do with her child. But the nannies, they don't know."

To design the "Nanny Academy" programme, Ms Jiwani simplified the course she teaches parents, condensing it into two sessions.

At Dh590 per session, the course will cost Dh1,180.

Ms Jiwani said she will start teaching it once about five participants sign up.

"It will be much more focused on discipline, as opposed to how to spend time with your child," Ms Jiwani said.

For example, she will teach nannies how to give effective commands to children. At the end of the course, HRI will award nannies a certificate.

Louise Osborne, a Dubai resident from the United Kingdom who has a five-year-old and a one-year-old, said she would be interested in enrolling her nanny.

"I think it's a very good idea," she said. "It's good for everybody - parents and caregivers - to have all the information they need."

But Ms Osborne, 35, cautioned that parents and nannies should share the same ideas about parenting.

"A carer cannot be told to do something, and then the parents undermine them and go against what they're saying," she said.

vnereim@thenational.ae

* For more information, contact the Human Relations Institute: 04-365-8498