“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
My neighbor says this all the time, when she’s trying to make herself aware that the problem she’s complaining about might have its roots in her own behavior. That saying came to mind to me, when I read the email below.
Of course, the problem described is a serious one — the Au Pair can’t seem to keep the Host Kids in line. One child in particular is mean, and lashes out trying to hurt the au pair.
Whose “fault” is this?
- Is it the fault of the Au Pair, who is too much of a “pushover”?
- Is it the fault of the children, whose behavior is inappropriate and unkind (even for 5 and 7 year olds, who just *might* not know better)?
- Or is it the responsibility of the Host Parents themselves, who have established a family system that for whatever reason and in all its complexity allows this sort of behavior to happen?
When stuff like this happens with one Au Pair, my first thought is to consider what the Au Pair should do differently. Then, I consider how the Host Parents should back up the Au Pair’s authority and support her or his actions with the children.
When the same thing happens with a second Au Pair, I consider different places in the equation.
- Did the parents unconsciously pick a “pushover” au pair for the second time? If so, why?
- What are the parents doing that is inadvertently letting the kids get away with unkind behavior?
- What is the bigger picture situation that needs to be addressed here?
Not to be harsh, though I know it might sound this way, I think this is a situation where the Host Parents should consult a family therapist or social worker– someone who is trained to see the whole system in a family that is contributing to this constant problem.
‘Cause it’s not like getting a different Au Pair is going to fix this. Nor will the current plan of punishments and consequences.
Sure, when the Au Pair leaves the surface problem will be fixed. Without the pushover Au Pair to be mean to, the mean behavior goes away right?
I get that the Host Parents are really trying — it’s not like they are sitting back and letting this happen without any effort to curb their son’s negative behavior. But what they are doing isn’t working. And blaming the Au Pair, even though she’s contributing to the problem, will not fix the problem. There is something else going on here. It might be helpful for the whole family if the parents were to take a step back, get some outside perspective, and try a different strategy altogether.
This is likely not what the host mom wants to hear. Maybe you have other suggestions…
Dear AuPairMom, We are host parents for a second year and can’t believe we are on the same place we were a year ago with our first AP.
I probably should not be here writing this, experiencing the same anxiety I was under almost a year ago. We are hosting a very sweet, happy AuPair, the only problem she is a pushover, she always has been and things have deteriorated overtime making it almost unbearable for everyone involved.
My kids simply do not listen to her, we have tried to correct things since the very beginning introducing positive reinforcement and consequences for their actions, we think we have done everything humanly possible to help her. She can barely manage my youngest children (7 and 5) with a few tricks. However, not with the oldest (9), who is a sweet, respectful, kind kid with everyone else (i.e., teachers, coaches, CCD leaders, etc.). The stuff he pulls with her is makes us wonder where is that coming from?!? We have taken electronics away and school fairs, birthday parties, you name it, the kid always ends up in the same place.
Today he is facing loosing a week away with friends because he kicked the AP and said something mean about her in front of his friends before going to school. What did she do? She stood there quietly took it all in instead of marching the kid inside of the house and talk to my dh, who was home at the time.
We heard about the incident much later, so we had a discussion and we are making him apologize to everyone who heard the statement, tomorrow, long after the incident. My dh will be there to ensure it gets done or he looses the trip. But if history is any indicator we will have another occurrence soon after and it will be probably worse. DS gets consequences but she is simply not able to stand up for herself and take immediate actions. She has another two months in her contract and she has complained about pain on her stomach due to stress, summer is coming and she will be exposed to kids more than ever (we are still sending the kids to 1/2 camp not to overwhelm her) but her days will be longer none the less, with more time spent with them, 5-7 hrs as opposed to 3-5 now.
So today we thought maybe it we could send her home early – end of June – last week she asked us finish early anyway (end of July) which we were amenable to. (see #3 below)
We don’t want to prolong the pain and think it is best to part ways now – also FWIW we have decided to withdraw from the program all together – no incoming AP for us.
In any case we (dh and I) are considering these options:
1- She grows a bakcbone tomorrow and turns the situation around immediately
2- We contact LLC to terminate the contract and give her two weeks for travel arrangements and departs end of June.
3- We do not contact anyone let her stay with us until the end of July – AP asked us to let her stay until then because her sister is coming to town and want to show her around and they can return to their home county together (which brings me back to her request wanting to depart early anyway, she knew sister was coming and wanted to go back with her, but that was not fully disclosed when she first asked)
Her sister is not planning to stay with us by the way, she is coming with a group of friends and staying in a hotel downtown so is not like the sister was counting on a free stay here at our home, so going back to # 3: Let her stay with us for a month without pay (can we do that?) since we will be either sending the kids to full day camp or hiring someone to cover for her, until she goes back end of July with her sister.
Any thoughts, opinions, bring back to reality statements will be truly appreciated.
Image by Sarah Buckley on Flickr