How to win back control

Parents — want to get your life back in three days? Sue Leonard talks to an author and gifted nanny about her wining ways with children.

IS your one-year-old still waking at all hours of the night? Is your toddler refusing to eat? Is your three-year-old behaving badly, and ignoring what you say?

If so, you are not alone. According to Kathryn Mews, nanny extraordinaire, countless families struggle with such problems.

“It’s tough for mums today,” she says. “There’s so much pressure on them to get things right. I think many parents are saying, ‘What is the right way? What do I do?’

“When my mum was doing it 38 years ago, parents weren’t judged so much. There weren’t points of reference, or a right way of doing things. You just got on with it. You were a mother and that was that.”

Kathryn trained at the prestigious Norland College in Hampshire, England, graduating top, with distinction.

“I was fascinated with family structure, and not just with children,” she says.

“I noticed that when I asked a child to put on their shoes, they did so, but when their parents asked, they ran round the house. I wanted the parents to be empowered.

“After nine years as a nanny, I went to Australia. I had a friend there who had a child, and through her I met lots of mums who were experiencing difficulties. I found myself saying, ‘I’ll help you with that. I’ll move in until that is sorted’.

“I soon found that I could sort things out in three days. After two days the parents still needed reassurance, and if I stayed longer than three days, they’d start to rely on me.”

Kathryn’s methods were so successful, that in 2007 she decided to start up in business.

And Bespoke Nanny ( was born. Five years on, she’s written a book, so that parents everywhere can have their lives back in just three days.

The book details three-day plans which demonstrate how to help your child to sleep, eat and behave well.

But what’s her magic method? “It’s bringing things back to basics,” she says. “Norland was very old school — with that and my upbringing, I believe in giving children a routine, or pattern. I help children to make choices, and I praise and reward them when they make the correct choice. If they don’t make it, I help them to pause, reflect, and understand that there will be consequences.

“I start with a consultation,” she says. “I say, ‘I am here for your whole family, not just your child.’

You don’t fix one child, you go through the whole system, from bedtime, to food and behaviour problems. If children are not sleeping, you can guarantee they’re not eating well. And if they’re not eating well, they are probably not behaving well either, and that’s usually because there’s no control.”

Kathryn strongly believes that, if children are to thrive, they need a regular routine.

“This makes life easier for them because they know what to expect,” she says.

But with many parents believing in a ‘child led’ form of parenting, isn’t routine regarded as a dirty word?

“Certainly extreme routine has a bad name,” she concedes. “And parents are often resistant to the idea. They’ll resist until they’re on their knees. One mother said, ‘I wanted my child to guide me, but at 15 months, he’s still feeding every two hours at night.’ I worked with her, helped her establish a bedtime routine, with a bath, then stories, and after three days she realised that the routine was good for her child — and good for her, too.”

There are likely to be teething problems.

“When you instil a routine, your child will shout,” she says. “They will object and be frustrated, but if you stick to it, I can guarantee in three days it will work. I’ve had lots of emails from people, saying they used the book and it worked. One mum came up to me at a book signing and said, ‘This is Alice. She never slept until I read your book’.”

Are some children just too difficult to work with? “The most challenging thing is when a parent puts up resistance. I’ve had to say, ‘I can’t work with you because you’re fighting me too much.’ I’ve done that twice, and both times the families rang back, and I worked with them six months later.

“I want parents to enjoy their children,” she says. “And in the end, all parents want the same thing. They want their children to do what they are told. And it can be a matter of going with your gut instinct. Often, parents say to me, ‘You’ve helped us so much. But all you’ve really done is state the obvious.’ ”

¦ The Three-Day Nanny by Kathryn Mews is published by Vermillion at €18.60. Kindle: €12.37.

Nanny Kathryn’s top ten tips

Kathryn Mews, pictured, who has helped countless families struggle with problems with their kids, gives the following top 10 tips:

1. Ask your child to do something — don’t tell him. If you dictate things they are likely to ignore you or rebel.

2. Never bribe your child to do something. But do reward them when they’ve made a right choice.

3. Be consistent. Stick with a new rule.

4. The parent who starts a discipline should carry through, without interference from the other.

5. Try a marble jar. Put in a marble for every right choice — take one out for bad behaviour. When its full, plan a reward.

6. Keep to a regular bedtime. And instil a calming routine, ending with a bedtime story.

7. Set a good example to a fussy eater by eating well. And involve your child in food preparation.

8. Make mealtimes a social occasion. Eat together and have conversations.

9. If you’re about to lose your temper, leave the room.

10. Believe in your child and your own ability to teach them to behave well.


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