Here’s a way to mess up your relationship with your au pair, your au pair’s relationship with your child(ren), and your child(ren)’s relationship with you, all at once: Break your own childcare rules.
Have a rule that no candy can be eaten before dinner?
How about not letting the kids watch tv before homework, or not letting them skip soccer practice because they don’t feel like going today?
Do you make your au pair follow these rules?
Do you feel free to break them whenever you want? Maybe even because you know that most of the time your au pair is holding the line and keeping up the standards, so of course it won’t do any damage if you break the rules just this once?
(please note: I’m talking here about rules about what the children can’t do ( watch adult tv, eat more cookies)… not about what the caregiver can’t do (use computer, drive while texting). Important difference.)
Consider: It is profoundly unfair to ask your au pair to uphold rules, guidelines and principles with your children that you are unwilling to uphold.
Sure, if you break your own rules once or twice you can make your kids happy – temporarily. But, you are teaching them a few things too– like that the au pair is mean, that rules don’t really matter, or that rules only matter for some people.
(Note that breaking your own childcare rules is subtly different from disregarding an au pair’s authority. Still, it has the same overall negative effect.
There are times, of course, when you do need to break your own rules for some larger reason (e.g., you get a massive headache and/or last minute assignment mean you need some ‘passive entertainment’ (aka tv) while you are ‘on duty).
If you do break the rules, make sure that you are clear to your children why you’re doing this, that it’s a rare occurrence, and that you au pair is right when she refuses to break the rules.
And, keep in mind that the next time the kids want to break this rule themselves, you and your au pair are going to have to work doubly hard to get things back in order.