NannyTest

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:00 pm

My name is Yossi Pinkas and I am the founder of TakeCare.  NannyTest, TakeCare’s online personality and risk assessment tool, helps parents choose the best nanny, au pair or babysitter for their kids by providing better insight into a caregiver’s personality traits and potential risk factors.

How did I come up with NannyTest? My previous position was with a company that developed tools for investigations, truth validation and pre-employment integrity checks. During the three years I was working with the company, I became familiar with this world and the various tools and methods used extensively by both government organizations and corporations to screen employees, including personality tests. When my wife returned to work after my youngest son (now 2.5 years old) was born, we were looking for a nanny and it was then that I realized how useful such a test could be for parents.

Parents today already know they should interview applicants and check references. Some also perform background checks. Yet, all those screening measures have their limitations.

  • Interviews often fail to reveal important facts or problematic personality traits, and their predictive value is limited, even when conducted by properly trained interviewers. Most parents are not trained interviewers and are usually lacking the necessary experience to properly formulate interview questions, read between the lines of what the applicant says, interpret non-verbal signs and body language, etc.
  • Reference checks are highly subjective and in some cases past employers may even prefer, for various reasons, to omit certain details which may harm the candidate in his search for a new position.
  • The quality of background checks varies and may be affected by the scope and accuracy of the databases used. Furthermore, a clean criminal record does not guarantee that a person has no criminal tendencies and there is always a first time for every offence.

Personality tests help overcome some of the limitations of existing screening measures. They allow parents to learn more about the nanny’s personality and traits and highlight possible risk factors.

Looking for a suitable test, I found that all available tests were targeted at large customers and parents just couldn’t gain access to them. Also, none were designed for screening caregivers. This led me to found TakeCare and launch a service that would answer this need.

NannyTest was created for TakeCare by Psiphas Psychological Applications, which has been supplying computerized psychological tests for over 20 years to government organizations, placement agencies and corporate customers such as FedEx and IKEA. It uses the CPI (California Psychological Inventory) as the basis for its personality assessment. (CPI has been used in the US for many years and has been validated by many researchers in various studies).

Still, although it is based on a well-accepted standard, in several ways NannyTest is unique:

  • It is designed to be simple to use and the report is easy to understand – no professional background in Psychology or hiring is required, allowing the test to be used by parents themselves.
  • For the sake of simplicity, it combines both personal traits suitability and risk assessment into a single test, rather than two separate tests.
  • Being available on line means that any parent can use NannyTest, anytime and anywhere.
  • Finally, and most important – traits assessed are specific to the role of a caregiver.
    • Risk assessment includes issues such as violent behavior, drug abuse, drinking habits, truthful reporting, theft and more.
    • Personality traits evaluated are responsibility, obedience and discipline, self-control, coping with pressure, service awareness and positive attitude.

It’s important to note that personality tests will never be 100% accurate and have their limitations. That is why combining several screening methods together improves the overall accuracy of the process and helps parents make an informed choice, selecting the best possible caregiver for their kids.

NannyTest was launched only several months ago but has already received excellent feedback from both experts and parents. We still have a long way to go but we hope that one day NannyTest, or similar personality tests, will become a standard component of the caregiver screening processes and be used by all parents.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

When hiring someone to look after your child, know that:

  • No single screening tool is 100% accurate. Parents should combine several screening tools together to gather as much information as possible before making a hiring decision.
  • When screening a caregiver for your child combine interviews, reference checks, personality tests and background screening.
  • Never ignore your intuition. If something feels wrong to you, move to the next applicant.

You Have Better Things to Do Than Wait in Line

Last updated on March 29th, 2018 at 12:20 am

When you’re juggling work, household chores and a sick kid, it can seem like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. But don’t throw your hands up in defeat — the secret to fitting it all in is doing certain tasks or errands at specific times throughout the week. We turned to the experts and found out how to adjust your routine to avoid long lines and crowds, to help you get back home as fast as possible.

Go to the gym … on Sunday mornings.

“You’ll avoid waiting to use your favorite machines, since a lot of people go to church or use this time to be with their families,” says Mark Di Vincenzo, author of Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon and the upcoming book Your Pinkie Is More Powerful Than Your Thumb. And because you won’t be twiddling your thumbs while some guy finishes four sets on the pull-down machine, you’ll speed through your workout in record time.

Pick up groceries … early on Wednesday.

Not only is this when supermarkets are the emptiest, meaning no long lines at the check-out, but it’s also the day chains usually start their weekly sales. “The shelves will still be fully stocked, so you won’t miss out on the deal,” says Di Vincenzo, who also recommends avoiding Sunday afternoons. People often clip coupons on Sundays and shop for the week, so stores are usually packed.

Schedule a doctor’s appointment … at 1:00 in the afternoon.

You have better places to be than a waiting room, so show up right when the office reopens after its midday break. “Physicians see their morning patients before they go to lunch, so when they return, they usually have a clean slate,” says Michael Kaplan, author of The Best Time to Do Everything. “And you also miss the a.m. chaos, when people who woke up feeling sick get squeezed in.”

Go to the DMV … on Wednesday around 3:00 p.m.

“Many people try to get this errand out of the way during lunchtime early in the week or right before the weekend,” says Di Vincenzo. “But during the afternoon on Wednesdays, it’s a lot emptier.” And head there around the 15th of the month. Di Vincenzo says that many state workers are pressed with deadlines near the end or beginning of the month, so going to the DMV smack in the middle is best.

Go to the bank … 30 minutes after doors open on Wednesday.

“If you actually have to talk to a teller, try not to go on Mondays, when people take care of weekend business, or Fridays, which is when paychecks come out and get cashed,” says Kaplan. Why not go right when the doors open? Believe it or not, people are often waiting then to get in, so there’s an immediate line. Kaplan says to give those early birds half an hour to disappear.

Ship a package … half an hour after the post office opens.

Similar to what happens at the bank, Di Vincenzo says that people want to get this task out of the way and are there bright and early. Show up after that rush — but before lunchtime — and you’ll probably be able to walk right up to the counter.

Get your car repaired … first thing on Thursday.

“For some reason, auto mechanics are less busy on Thursdays,” says Di Vincenzo. “So not only will you be seen faster, but since the repair shop is so anxious for business, you might also be able to negotiate a better rate.” Drop your car off in the morning. “If it’s a more complex job and the mechanic needs a part, they can order it and have it included in their afternoon shipment,” says Kaplan. That means you’ll get your vehicle back sooner — so you can get on with your day.



STOP! Please Don’t Shake A Child

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:01 pm

The day dawned at 6:00 a.m. with a diaper change and feeding. You were up several times through the night either changing, feeding or both. You are still trying to get used to having a newborn in the house- trying to get used to not sleeping through the night. A good solid night’s sleep sure would be welcomed. The first couple of weeks you were able to catch a nap in the afternoon and that helped. Lately though it seems the baby is crying most of the afternoon and evening. It is just after lunch and it is finally quiet- perhaps time for a few precious moments of sleep. God please just a few moments sleep. Your eyes close and sleep begins to take over.

The screaming starts from the crib next to you- startling you awake. God all I wanted was a little sleep- is that too much to ask. Yesterday she cried for four straight hours. She just could not be comforted- she just would not STOP. “I can’t go through this again today.” Desperation rises- so too does anger. With just a few steps you are at the crib…the screaming seems louder…you pick up your baby…the anger grows…the desperation…with tears streaming down your face… you would do anything to get the crying to stop…you cry out, stop…please stop…why won’t you stop crying.

Your anger, your fear and your tone are reflected in the baby. The crying gets worse, grows louder, more shrill. Barely aware of your actions you begin to shake your precious child.

STOP-Don’t Do It.

Shaken Baby Syndrome is the name given to a variety of signs, symptoms and behaviors. Shaking a crying child can lead to blindness, lethargy, permanent developmental disability, seizures and death. Shaking a baby is a crime. It may be inflicted by males or females though most often by males. All babies cry and understanding this is often helpful. That a baby cries does not equal bad parenting- not even unrelenting seemingly inconsolable crying. In the past such crying has been called colic. To many, colic sounds like a disease or an illness and the name does not lead to understanding. Now many are referring to this as the PURPLE period. The PURPLE period may begin at 2-3 weeks old and may last until 3 or 4 months of age.

PURPLE stands for:

P:  Peak of Crying- again perhaps beginning at 2-3 weeks and lasting till age 3-4 months

U:  Unexpected and you don’t know why

R:  Resists Soothing

P:  Pain like face- appearing as though they are in pain though they really are not

L:  Long lasting- perhaps up to 5 hours in one day

E:  May cry more in the late afternoon or early Evening.

Many hospitals are providing training to new parents on crying as well as methods to manage both the baby and the stress. They are also providing education about the dangers and hazards of shaking a baby. There are many ways to cope but when the stress and frustration get to the level where an injury may occur:

  • Take the baby to a grandparent or responsible neighbor.
  • Get away- get out. It is better to move out of earshot than it is to harm the child.
  • If you are a grandparent, friend or coworker of a new parent let them know you are willing to help. If you are a parent yourself- tell them you went though some pretty bad times- help them understand they are not alone. Look into hospitals that offer training and education on crying and shaken baby syndrome. Talk to your pediatrician, obstetrician or personal doctor.

Take action before tragedy strikes.

For more information please go to:

Is Sitting at a Computer Hurting Your Child?

Last updated on October 5th, 2015 at 11:10 pm

I ache. Frequently. You’ll understand if you’ve ever had it. Back pain. More debilitating than you could have ever imagined….until you’re actually experiencing it. And then there’s the treatment and coping strategies, sometimes painful and difficult, other times seemingly goofy but necessary. I particularly remember the spectacle I was at the office for several months – scaring colleagues when they discovered me lying prostrate on the floor in an empty cubicle, hiding in small meeting rooms to do pelvic exercises and surely defying some corporate dress code with the fluorescent orange crocs I wore when standing at my computer.

But back pain is just the jumping off point for this story….where it led me is on a journey into the world of office “ergonomics.” Significant and increasing numbers of workplace injuries are related to poor workstation ergonomics – or, said another way, computer stations and desks that don’t properly fit the person using them. The field of ergonomics is full of technical terms and fancy equipment but, in the end, it’s really about the kind of common sense advice you used to get from your grandmother: “don’t slouch,” “sit up straight,” “keep your legs in front of your chair and your feet on the floor” – and its relevance unfortunately goes way beyond the world of factories and office workers.

Although a focus on “ergonomics for children” is relatively recent, we know that children are subject to many ergonomic stresses – from heavy backpacks to long periods of study or play in front of computers, often at desks that are not set up for their size. Data is currently limited on the immediate risks to kids for injuries like neck and back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, but given that it takes several years for these types of injuries to appear, can we afford to take a “wait and see” attitude?

What can Parents, Schools and Child Safety Advocates Do?

Know what good looks like. Can you recognize healthy computer posture? Do you model these habits at home? Despite all the knowledge I gained at work, I realized I wasn’t following the advice at home because I didn’t have the same set-up and equipment. But a little education and some simple, inexpensive “fixes” can help get your family on the right path (see box below for tips on healthy computer use).

Teach your children. Mastering proper computer use will be of life-long value to any child in today’s high-tech knowledge economy. Children should know how to work safely at the computer and be aware of the risks of poor habits. However, many children learn better visually. In addition to discussing good posture, consider placing photos of good and bad computer ergonomics next to your home or school computers. Some sites provide examples you can print (see International Ergonomics Association / Cornell photos and comic), but you can also have your children be the models. They will find it fun to have their photos on the wall and might learn more by having to demonstrate both good and bad habits!

Monitor the situation. Kids aren’t as aware as adults of their body position, so you will need to give regular reminders about their posture. Also monitor their time on the computer – ensure they take breaks every 30-60 minutes. You can download free usage monitoring software that reminds kids when they need to take a break and suggests stretches to do – or you can always set a kitchen timer (click here for Cornell’s stretching exercises-scroll to #4).

Focus on schools. School districts worldwide are focused on increasing student access to computers; however, the majority of emphasis is on the quality of the computers, not the workstations. Check to see if your school or district has computer ergonomics guidelines and curricula. This is becoming a higher priority in education, as evidenced by last year’s ergonomics equipment and teaching resolutions passed by the California state-wide PTA organization. And just like at home, improvements don’t have to require lots of expensive equipment.

Healthy Computer Use for Kids

Start with looking at how well the computer station fits your child or students. Is the computer used for the whole family, or a range of different-sized kids? If your child is having to contend with a poorly fitting workstation, problems may be on the horizon. To ensure healthy computer use by children – by anyone – the most valuable thing to remember is the 90-degree rule: that key body elements should be at “right” or “90-degree” angles when sitting at a computer to maintain natural body alignment and not cause stress through over or under extension. A few useful guidelines:

 

Chair / Lower Body

  • Whatever your child sits on should position the keyboard at elbow height. Achieve this through an adjustable chair or by using a pillow to raise him up.
  • Make sure the feet are supported so that his knees are bent at roughly 90-degrees. His thighs shouldn’t slope up or down, or pressure is increased on the lower back. While there are specially-designed footrests on the market, you can also use a sturdy box or low child footstool. As I type this, my feet are resting on my Wii Fit board…at least this way it’s getting some use!
  • Also ensure support for his lower back via a pillow or rolled towel. This will help minimize slouching and support a 90-degree angle between his torso and thighs.

Keyboard and Mouse / Upper Body

  • Arms should be relaxed at the side with the elbows bent at 90-degrees and the keyboard should be positioned so that wrists are straight – not angled up or down.
  • A wrist rest may be useful for support. You can purchase one from any office supply store or fashion one with a towel (be sure it is sized to keep the child’s wrists straight).
  • The mouse should be placed near the keyboard to prevent strain from reaching.
  • If your child struggles with the size of the keyboard or mouse you may want to consider child-sized equipment (see “Little Fingers” keyboard). Also, some kids find trackballs easier to manipulate than a mouse.

Monitor / Head and Neck

  • The monitor should be placed so that your child’s head will be facing straight ahead and level – so the chin and neck are roughly at 90-degrees. You definitely don’t want him looking up or too far down.
  • Arrange lighting to avoid glare or bright spots on the monitor to prevent eye strain. To do this you may need to use overhead room lights and position desk lights away from the monitor.
  • Remind your kids to look away from time to time and blink…studies show that computer use results in decreased blinking. Make the computer a “zombie-free zone!”

8 Steps to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

Last updated on February 28th, 2018 at 11:55 pm

The best offense is a good defense. It’s a saying that holds as true for football as it does for cold and flu season. But fending off colds doesn’t just mean reminding your kids to wash their hands. “How much you sleep, what you eat and how you spend your free time all play a role in having a strong immune system,” says Dr. Alan Greene, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

Follow this eight-step plan to keep your little ones — and you — healthy, happy and sniffle-free:

Scale back on sweets. According to the American Heart Association, the average American gets about 22 teaspoons of added sugar in one day — more than three times the amount the organization recommends. Not only can an excess of the sweet stuff pave the way for weight gain, but it can also wear down the immune system. “Refined sugar causes blood sugar spikes, which compromise white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against colds,” says Greene. To scale back, swap out your kid’s soda for water and offer fruit instead of candy. The American Heart Association advises that children ages 4 to 8 who get about 1,600 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to 3 teaspoons — or 12 grams — a day.

Clear the air. Here’s another reason to protect your child from secondhand smoke and chemical-based household cleaners: “These pollutants damage cilia, the tiny hairs in your nose that help block viruses,” says Greene. Declare your home and car smoke-free zones, and use gentler cleaners — or save the serious scrubbing for the times your kid’s in day care or on a playdate.

Let ’em laugh. When life gets hectic, it’s sometimes simpler to rush through your day without cracking a smile. But taking time to have fun and giggle with your family is crucial for your well-being. In fact, research from Japan’s Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine found that watching funny movies boosts the production of the body’s natural cold- and flu-killing cells. Try having a tickle-fest, or pop in a chuckle-worthy DVD.

Serve some bacteria. The good kind, that is! “Probiotics strengthen the immune system,” says Greene. “The trick is giving your child enough of these friendly bacteria.” He recommends looking for a product with 5 to 10 billion units from more than one strain of probiotics, such as a combination of lactobacillus and bifidus regularis. Most yogurts contain only 1 billion units per serving, so consider stocking up on fortified juices too.

Score some D-fense. Not getting enough of this vitamin, which the body converts from sunlight, can increase your odds of catching a cold by up to 40 percent, reports a recent study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Because it’s very difficult to consume that much from foods (good sources include dairy and seafood), look to supplement your child’s diet with a vitamin that contains at least 600 IU of D, the amount recommended by the Institutes of Medicine. Pick a brand with D3, the form that’s more readily absorbed by the body.

Stress less. Too much tension can trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that dampens your body’s defenses, says Greene. Of course, it’s impossible to rid your child’s life of all stresses, but teaching him coping techniques can help him better deal with them. The next time he seems anxious, have him lie down with one hand on his tummy. Ask him to take deep breath; his stomach should push against his hand when he inhales and move away when he exhales. Eventually, he’ll learn to take these “belly breaths” when he’s feeling frustrated.

Get moving. Freezing outside? Resist the temptation to camp out in front of the television. Staying active provides a number of healthy benefits, including a stronger immune system. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who worked out five days a week came down with 46-percent fewer colds than their couch-potato counterparts. So bundle up and go on a family walk or create an indoor obstacle course.

Have a set bedtime. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who logged more quality shut-eye were five times less likely to get a cold than those who tended to toss and turn. Experts recommend that children younger than 12 should log 10 hours of sleep a night, one- to three-year-olds should get 12 to 14 hours, and those younger than 1 need 14 to 15 hours. To help put your little one — and colds — to bed, create an evening ritual that signals it’s time for sleep, like reading a favorite book or doing a few easy stretches.



BAM! Body and Mind: Making health education fun for kids

Last updated on March 28th, 2018 at 11:52 pm

 As parents, we know it is important for kids to learn about health, wellness, and how their bodies work so they can lead healthy lives as kids and as adults. Schools usually include some health education into their curriculum but parents still have a responsibility to provide further instruction. The challenge lies in how to do that in a fun, engaging way so kids actively learn the information and can then actually apply what they learn. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has created an online educational website devoted to helping parents and educators teach health education in just such a way.

The CDC’s website for kids ages 9-13 years old is named BAM! Body and Mind and according to the website’s description:

gives them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. The site focuses on topics that kids told us are important to them — such as stress and physical fitness — using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features.

BAM! Body and Mind also serves as an aid to teachers, providing them with interactive, educational, and fun activities that are linked to the national education standards for science and health.

Using BAM!, kids can learn about various diseases, food and nutrition, physical activity and fitness, safety, how bodies work, and how to handle emotions and stress. One of the coolest features is the KABAM! Comic Creator which allows the user to make choices for the characters in the comic and solve problems the characters are facing, such as peer pressure and bullying. This interactive tool puts the user in control and helps kids learn how to make smart and safe decisions and learn problem-solving skills.

BAM! also allows kids a place to tell the CDC what they want to learn about on the site and their suggestions for improving the site. Kudos to the Centers for Disease Control for designing this excellent online learning tool for kids, parents, and teachers.