Advice Wanted: Untruthful and ungrateful — what to do?

by cv harquail on January 24, 2009

One of our moms has an au pair challenge that combines two of the most frustrating au pair-related problems:

(1) Her au pair doesn’t always tell the truth, and

(2) her au pair doesn’t seem to appreciate what the host mom & family have to offer her.

To top that off, our host mom hasn’t had a great experience (yet) with au pairs as a concept– so she has more hope than proof that au pairs can be great.

(Dawn, how old is your ap, and what country is she from?)

Here are the elements of Dawn’s situation:

little-white-lies-fingers crossed behing back


We have our 4th au pair. I have 3 little girls 8, 5, 2.5. Our AP has been with us since Sept. (4 months now).

We have not had much luck with au pairs: 1st went home after 6 months to go back to get her Masters. 2nd: from Maldova and was fostering an immigration ring (but it did not work). 3rd was a rematch and was a nightmare and now this….we do not have any great feelings about this whole AP deal.

Problems with untruthfulness:

My biggest issue is she lies–she busted the van and we questioned her about it for 2 days until she fessed up–it was a hit and run…not good. We did not approach her in a threatening manner. This was not quite 2 months into the contract. Since then, she has done other things–more lying, that I am having a difficult time with. She bold face lied to me again today about an incident, her story does not add up. Now I am getting a taste of having a teenager..ugh.

Problems with generally being inconsiderate:

The first couple of weeks, I went with her to a couple of churches as we did not have a young adult group. We found her one. I dropped her off at 7pm and we discussed picking her up at 9pm sharp. I waited until 920 then called her phone. She was “talking with some friends”. I told her I was waiting and had much to do at home. 10 minutes later, I called her phone again and she told me she had found a ride home. I was furious!! The next day she told me that I treated her like a teenager. My response was, I would expect more of a teenager.

Not particularly appreciative:

We take her to Taekwondo with us, as it is our family activity, and we pay for her to attend. She really enjoys it but just does not see what we have done.

At Christmas, we got her a leather binder folder for when she goes to school. She immediately started going through the pockets to see if there was anything more in it…We also got her some other gifts but she just seemed like “so”.

And ..

She comes from a strong Christian family (as are we) and so I would expect some of these behaviors would be non-existent.

She is good with the kids, to the best of our knowledge but is lazy and will leave things despite my instructions.

Your thoughts?

Anyhow, not sure what we should do? any advice? I am ready to pull out my hair. Dawn


cvh January 24, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Dawn, I’m jumping in with a thought about using what I call the “faith connection”. We have had mostly (what I call) “Christian with a capital C” au pairs — girls from explicitly religious backgrounds. My family and I are liberal lower-case christians.

I do think that it’s appropriate to approach these issues with your au pair within a “Christian” framework… meaning, to talk with her about what it means to be Christian, what the expectations are for truthfulness and respect within this religious tradition, and to ask her as a fellow Christian to be honest & forthcoming with you.

Also, and relatedly, if it is important to your au pair to behave in a Christian way… she may be influenced by being asked to think of herself as a “good Christian role model” for your kids. Your older two girls are old enough to be watching your au pair’s behavior and learning from her.

Of course you need to be careful with this strategy — not thump the Bible too much, or get too heavy, or set yourself up to be criticized for being holier than her — but if there is already a shared religious-values-based language, you could try using it.

Mona January 28, 2009 at 9:48 pm

They say that the more you give the au pair, the more the au pair expects…but this au pair just seems like a spoiled brat.
I’m an au pair myself and i would never expect my hostfamily (or ANY hostfamily) to put up with me if i acted like that.
I’d try to talk to her and be as honest as you can. (who knows, maybe she’s not aware of it) and if she seems ashamed and that she regrets her behaviour, that’s probably a good sign and maybe she will try to change. but if not, i would seriously consider replacing her if i were you.

Dotty January 30, 2009 at 2:23 am

Well looking outside of faith or beliefs. In respect to not telling the truth is never acceptable in any way shape or form. Especially when caring for children. As ultimately, white lies lead to….poor decision making & safety concerns for your kids. As hard as it is to change au pairs & go through transition sometimes you don’t have a choice. To me lying is the ultimate immaturiy item & can not be excused or overlooked. As this poor lack of judgement will spill over into everything she does………

I totally believe to give your au pair lots of freedom to make her own schedule & develop her own accountabilty for what she likes to do. So for her developing sense of time & schedules….is something she needs to be responsible for herself. (ie…if she wishes to have a courtesy ride anywhere…she better be on time or have no ride at all) After all they are in an adult position caring for children. All host families have children to care for that take a lot of time last thing a host family needs is yet another teenage child causing disruption. They are here to help & cause peace.

In closing, lying is never acceptable no matter what. :) Of course all au pairs need understanding & a chance to remedy situations that have occured by working together as mishaps happen or they are learning your household too. But if trust has been taken away by lying, thats a character flaw that won’t change.

I wish you LUCK!!!! Hang in there, there are lots of wonderful au pairs out there!!! Its wonderful when you have one.

Sara February 2, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Well I am an au pair myself and I am having a dilemma… The family doesn’t seem to include me in things. When I was first here, they did ask me if I would like to tag along and this was just the first week. After the first week they do not ask and it’s not like I said no because I did go with them when asked. The mother goes and hangs out with her family without saying a word. I thought it was strange since why wouldn’t she want to introduce her new au pair to her mother?

I hear them when they are leaving because I live downstairs. Never a word. They don’t say much to me either unless it concerns the job. I am beginning to feel depressed.

Kara February 2, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I had an au pair with a very similar profile who in retrospect I wish that we had terminated. We tried everything to get her to be honest, and were generous to her as well, but the lies continued on small things and large. For example , when she repeatedly left our front door unlocked, she blamed our house cleaner (based on timing and history, I knew it was not her). When she broke things (a not infrequent occurrence), she simply hid them or only told us when it became an emergency. When this would happen, I would explain that everyone has mishaps and I wouldn’t expect her to be any different, but that it was important she “fess up” so we could deal with a situation without having it become a nightmare. No effect. She was also a professed “devout Christian”, but her behavior really suggested otherwise. She did love our kids, and was good to them, and it is for this reason we kept her on. Now, however, I know from various sources (including the kids) about lies that never surfaced until she left. For one example of many I could cite, it turned out she had a boyfriend come over every single day while the kids were at school but never told us. When she first started, I told her friends and boyfriends were fine to have as visitors, but we would just like to meet them first. She told me she did not have a boyfriend and appeared shocked and almost offended that I would think she would invite a man over. During her tenure my diamond earrings disappeared. Despite her lack of credibility, I couldn’t bring myself to think she had stolen them, but now I really do wonder. Once your trust in the au pair goes, I think it’s time to say good-bye. Looking back, I think this au pair’s moral compass was simply broken and nothing I could have done would have helped repair it. We have had 9 au pairs and this one is the only one who behaved in such a compromised way. The majority have been tremendous assets to our family and I still have a lot of faith in au pairs and appreciation for their contributions to our family. If I ever end up with another one I don’t trust, however, she will be gone and gone quickly.

Anna February 3, 2009 at 2:35 am

Sara, from a hostmom’s perspective, I think you are an introvert, right?
I think the family’s invitations are implicit. They were explicit the first week while you were new, now as a member of the family the onus is on you to ask to join them. I think they think that you are a loner and don’t want to intrude on your privacy, and just let you be. They might be upset too that you don’t show much interest in joining them, you never know.

E2 February 8, 2009 at 10:44 am

Hi Sara,
A completely different host mom’s perspective…we know some families that really don’t want the au pair involved with their family. We’re the opposite and had an au pair that was not interested in us (she went to her room every night after dinner and didn’t come out until the next morning…when we asked her to hang out with us in the evening every once and a while, she told us to tell her which day and for how long and she would do it…then followed up with how it was a stretch for her to even eat dinner with us and that it was just the way she was and she wasn’t going to change!) So…we’ve rematched with someone that we think will want the family experience. I’d advise that you talk with your host mom about it…ask if they want the au pair to be part of the family and hang out with them…if not, and you crave that relationship, it may be time to look for a new family. Hope everything works out for you!

Calif mom February 9, 2009 at 10:21 pm

I agree with E2 completely. Nicely said.

Lina March 10, 2009 at 1:32 am

Anna… She´s probably a young girl in a whole new country and it´s much likely that she´s not american and has english as “her” language. I think she needs the family she lives with. I think it isn´t right that you put all the blame on this girl. Maybe she could have been more “out there” and asked. But at least where I come from (Sweden) it´s quite rude to ask the family to join them when she doesn´t really know them.

Anna, tell the family what you feel. I´m sure your hostfamily will support you!

VA Host Mom January 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Back to the original message for Dawn. We also had an au pair lie to us. Personally her lies were the icing on the cake. Not to mention that her personality didn’t match our family in the least bit. But once the lying surfaced, I could no longer trust her. In my opinion, you should rematch.

franzi January 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm

lies are never a good sign. the fact that hostparents cannot trust their AP because of previous lies shows that she did betray them and did not do much to gain back the trust.

i would be straight forward and confront her with her lies (when you initially find out) and see where the behavior goes from there. if there are no improvements or you notice that you cannot trust the AP again, it’s time for a rematch.

trust is the most fundamental part of your relationship with an AP, imho.

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