I laughed at the comment by Taking a Computer Lunch, on rules in her family handbook:
As I look through our family handbook, there are some real doozies. My personal favorite is “In the evening, please do not play the stereo in your room at a volume over #12.”
[WTF, you say?]
Under that seemingly crazy guideline is some real experience– our au pair’s room is right above mine. Au Pairs stay up later than me, playing their radios.
After who-knows-how-many times asking if she could please turn it down, I experimented to figure out exactly how loud was loud enough to hear through the floor/ceiling. At #12, you hear the “puh puh puh puh puh puh puh puh” rhythm, but not all the actual words to Pokerface. I can deal with that.
I’m not crazy, I’m experienced. I have created a guideline to avoid future disappointments.
Rules have roots in Real Experience
Every “crazy” guideline has its roots in some real experience. You know that TaCl and I both have guidelines about candles because someone left a candle burning. So when you hear rules and guidelines like:
– “Never eat PB&J in the car.”
– “Car Mileage budget is 500 miles per week.”
– “Please do not move the bed in your room without checking with us first.”
– “Please wear a modest bathing suit to the town pool. Thong bikinis are not permitted there.”
Know that each of these rules came from some crazy situation, where an au pair did something that turned out to be a bad idea.
Review and Revise Your Handbook to Make Sure Your Rules Aren’t Too Crazy
Host parents should review and revise their handbooks with each new au pair… not only to update them for new schedules, new needs, and growing kids but also to remove guidelines that may now be out of date.
It’s especially important to remove guidelines that make you seem like “Evil Controlling Host Mom” to a new au pair, but are probably unique to the personality of a former au pair whose behavior you no longer have to worry about.
Remember that often the specific reminders that seemed necessary to keep one au pair safe and out of trouble might not be necessary for other au pairs. Each au pair will have his or her own unique challenges… and you can just make up new rules as you need them. < grin >
Your Host Parent Approach
We host parents also understand that we can’t legislate our way to a smooth, snag-free relationship with an au pair.
A rule-based, “here’s what you can’t do” approach is constraining. It may help to protect & prevent, but it also focuses us on the negative. Who wants to live in a world of “don’t do”s? A world of “no”? Not me, and not your au pair either.
Therefore, we need to identify, recognize and pay attention to the positive reasons behind any guideline and the overall principles underneath our rules. I’ll write a bit more about this in a future post.
in the meantime, I’d love to know:
What are some of the “crazy” guidelines in your Au Pair Handbook?