It’s interesting to get emails from host parents — and au pairs– where it seems that the very act of writing to us is helping them gain some clarity about how untenable their situation actually is.

il_570xN.609913982_ihwvThis seems especially true when there isn’t one prominent issue but instead several smaller ones that, when all pulled together, seems to demonstrate that this relationship cannot be saved.

As I read through this host mom’s email, below, it became easier and easier to imagine recommending that she move to rematch. After all, this host mom had a good experience with their former au pair and knows what kinds of challenges are reasonable.

And then there was one statement in her email that stopped me cold. (I put it in bold for you.)

Apart from all the other concerns this single statement said to me:

Not an au pair you want in your life.

What do you think?

What should this host mom do next?   [click to continue reading ...]

{ 40 comments }

Au Pairs Should Use Language that Host Kids Can Understand

by cv harquail on September 23, 2014

Many families look for au pairs who can help their children learn a language other than English.

The idea is that the au pair can speak to the child in the au pair’s first language, and teach the child the second language through everyday interactions.

2189089518_f1a797b9db_zConceptually, this makes sense. We do, after all, learn our original languages by being immersed in contexts where a certain language is being spoken. Since au pairs spend many hours a week interacting directly with host children, au pairs can create this language context around the child. This strategy works especially well when the child/ren are just learning to communicate with words, and when the host parents or other adults can also speak to the child in the non-English language.

I understand the desire of parents who want their au pairs to be responsible for teaching a language to a child– but it’s also important to prioritize the relationship between the child and the au pair.

When either the child or the au pair speaks in a language the other doesn’t understand, there’s an automatic block between the sounds that are spoken and the meaning that’s received. This means that their ability to create a quick, trusting relationship is impaired.

Sure, some people can adapt more quickly that others to being immersed in a language they don’t speak. They figure it out with pantomime, context clues, dictionaries, daily language lessons, apps, and google translate.

And, some people can cope better than others with the stresses involved in feeling cut-off, out of the loop, mystified, confused, frustrated, and mis-understood.

I’m worried that the child in the situation, below, might not be one of those people.    [click to continue reading ...]

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It’s the Parents’ Job to Teach Children Kind Behavior

by cv harquail on September 18, 2014

Au Pairs can reinforce discipline and expectations, but it’s Parents who remain responsible.

Many parents who are either new to parenting at all or new to host parenting specifically struggle with this issue.

14070424932_3cb77dbb4a_zWe all want our children to be kind. Full stop. (I’m assuming this is true. It’s true, right? We want our kids to be kind.)

We also want our children to treat others with respect as well as with kindness. So a child who hits, punches, gets aggressive, and is generally mean is a kid whose behavior we want to change.

We can ask our au pairs to help our children change their behavior, but we parents have to take responsibility for taking the lead in this.

Host Parents Are Responsible for Addressing Children’s Misbehavior

That means that the host parent has to decide on the strategy  for discipline, reinforcement, punishment when necessary, and rewards when appropriate (time outs? corner time? Candy rewards? 1-2-3-Magic?).

The host parent also has to decide on the standards of behavior, standards that fit the expectations of the family, the child’s developmental age and ability, the situations the child will be in, and the other children, adults, and creatures who will be interacting with the child.

(I’m adding creatures because I think that it’s important to teach children to be kind to animals. Sometimes I’ve seen parents teaching children to be kind to an animal as a way to teach them to be kind to any living things. And cats and dogs are so easy to cuddle!)

The host parent  has to teach the au pair how to discipline the child, as well as demonstrate this same kind of discipline in her or his interactions with the child too.

Even though we know that kids treat non-parent adults different from their parents, and that parents have additional authority with children that au pairs don’t have, the parent still has to set and demonstrate what’s expected.  We cannot expect our au pairs to discipline our children if we won’t.

And, we can’t expect our children to be kind to au pairs unless we parents teach them to be.

I emphasize this because I’ve gotten an email from a host mom who’s child is mean to the au pair, and the mom wants some advice. What’s key in this situation, I think, is that the host mom is new, the au pair is new, and the child is young. Seems like no one really has experience with coordinating discipline.

She writes:

We are new to hosting an au pair and she has been with us now for 3 weeks. She is a lovely girl, speaks excellent English and we get on really well. We have two young children a 3 year old boy and a 9 month old girl.
The boy is abusing the au pair constantly, pulling her hair, biting, pinching, etc and no matter how much discipline, time out etc we instill on him it continues when he is being looked after by her. We are so worried she is going to leave us because of his behavior.
We’ve had similar instances of poor behavior at nursery, but usually when he is over tired. When it happened in the first week we put it down to excitement and expected it to calm down by now, but its getting worse.
Parents, what would you advise this mom to do regarding discipline?
And everyone, what should the Host Mom discuss with the Au Pair to help sort this out and give the au pair the support she needs?

{ 32 comments }

If an AuPair is being exploited, is it okay for her to disappear?

by cv harquail September 15, 2014
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We’ve heard the horror stories of au pairs disappearing while the host family is at church, or in the middle of the night without warning. Although this is often selfish behavior by an au pair and intended as a slap in the face to the host parents, there are actually a few situations where I […]

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How to Get Your Au Pair Ready To Cook

by cv harquail September 12, 2014
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Once your host kids get past the ‘oatmeal and smashed peas’ phase, it’s time for an Au Pair to do some real cooking. Even au pairs who’ve cooked in their home countries find cooking in America to be a bit challenging. Au Pairs need to figure out: How our appliances work What each of the foods […]

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Smelly House: Host Mom Hates Air Fresheners

by cv harquail September 11, 2014
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Attention readers: This second post about smells and host parents is absolutely unrelated to the previous post.  The Au Pair in the first post and the Au Pair here are not the same person, and the host parents aren’t the same people. It was coincidence that TACL brought up this issue last week….I already had […]

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My Host Family’s House is Smelly. What should I do?

by cv harquail September 10, 2014
good air

Everyone’s house has a smell. Sometimes it’s “dog”, sometimes it’s “curry” and sometimes it’s just “ick”. We don’t usually notice the everyday smell of our own home because we’re accustomed to it. But when our au pairs walk in for the first time, they notice because the smell is new to them. Over time, they […]

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Should She Ask Her Host Mom To Read AuPairMom?

by cv harquail September 8, 2014
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Dear AuPairMom – I have been reading AuPairMom while I was deciding to become an au pair and I was expecting that what you have on this blog explains what an au pair should expect. My host mom seems to be having some struggles with having an au pair. I’m my family’s first au pair. My family is […]

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Improve Your AuPair’s Driving With an Online Driving Class

by cv harquail September 5, 2014
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An online driving course is an easy, inexpensive way to get both you and your AuPair feeling confident about her/his driving– before your au pair even arrives in the USA! Here’s a tip from TexasHostMom—  Our first AP was 26 when she arrived and had been driving for some time, so I never thought we’d have […]

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Host Mom Desperately Trying — Too Hard?

by cv harquail September 3, 2014
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What is it they say about choosing a third au pair after two huge disappointments: It’s the “Triumph of Hope over Experience”? OzHostMom writes with a quandary: She’s really trying, she’s really optimistic, except she’s lost her host mom mojo. I’ve reordered her story, below, so that you get the critical point near the start: […]

56 comments Read the full article →