Energetic Male Au Pair Lacks Judgment. Should we rematch?

by cv harquail on May 6, 2015

Dear AuPairMom —  Our family has had au pairs since 2008. We had some amazing aupairs some mediocre and some terrible experiences that resulted in rematches. So one would think that we went through so many situations, we now know how to pick the right au pair and we know when it’s time for rematch. But NO.

Right now we have our first male au pair. He came 5 weeks ago and so much has happened and right now we are totally torn whether to go into rematch or not.

5048572114_388c1dc116_mWe have 2 energetic boys, whose fights and behaviours are not always the best. One is very competitive and the other one struggles with school work (slow to learn how to read and thus doesn’t like school).

We could immediately see that the au pair is a natural when talking to kids and playing with them. The silly boys jokes that the girl au pairs couldn’t really handle didn’t bother him but he knew when to say it’s too much. The boys listen to him.

I had high hopes from the beginning. Interestingly, my husband didn’t like his energy. DH said that when we skyped, the au pair seemed a bot hyper and in a too good of a mood.

As usual I took my time to train him and talk to him about everything every night for about 3 weeks. Mistakes were made, but I felt that is part of the training. He would forget things that I wrote for him in notes, told him few times and even texted him to remind him.

Then spring break came and I started doubting the Au Pair’s judgment:

One of the biggest topic of training was that our boys who are 7 and 9 are not allowed to cross the street by themselves. I don’t even know how many times I said that, it’s in the HH rules, everywhere.    Recently, while the AP and I were talking about something completely different, I mentioned the rule against crossing the street alone. The au pair tells me he lets the older one get the ball from the street when they played baseball in the driveway. Red Red Flag!

A day or two after: I see that my younger has burns on his arm. How did that happen? The au pair brought the huge hot pan from the oven on the table to serve the chicken!

When they went to friends house who have a trampoline: I told him the trampoline makes me nervous, make sure they are safe and watch them all the time. He ended up joining them, but jumping so hard kids couldn’t control their movements; my older one fell weird on his knees and he was limping for more than a day.

Finally I told him that the kids don’t have to play sports all the time as they are very competitive with each other, but if they play the same sport to put them on the same team. After school they played soccer on different teams. Younger one pushed the older one and he broke 3 bones including a growth plate. I know it can happen anytime to anyone. But the fact that it happened while not even checking if this is ok, makes me very concerned.

There are other issues too.

Our au pairs usually work 30-35 hours: if I asked him to add 10 min to lunch time so he can wash the pans or pots, he said no I’ll do it in the evening and then nothing. Whatever I would suggest he had an opposite suggestion.

Any time we give him feedback he is very receptive, but nothing happens. So we ended up having a serious talk followed by mediation and he is really now trying hard: doing extra things in the house that I don’t care much about it. Trying to implement other things with kids, like arts and crafts… Still very nice to kids, very patient, needs to work on setting limits to kids etc, but that is ok.

But can I trust him?

Can I believe that once my son’s cast is off the kids will be safe with him? I don’t know. I’m nervous of something else happening.

Can someone without a common sense somehow find a common sense? I suspect not, but then it’s so hard going into rematch when the relationship with kids is one of the best.

I need some perspective from other host parents!    NervousHostMom


Image by Julius Vols on Flickr 


IntellectualMom May 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Wow. It sounds like a definite rematch to me. You seem to be very accommodating and have already stepped up to excuse him for tons of things. I’d feel much better rematching in your situation rather than trying to put a band-aid on what sounds like a problem!

Nina May 6, 2015 at 4:19 pm

You are right IntellectualMom and it’s so unlike me. We went into rematches before but it was always clear cut to me as I just didn’t like anything about those au pairs.

Anna May 6, 2015 at 1:55 pm

I already expressed my opinion (rematch) and the reasons for it in the earlier thread, but here is another suggestion. If you don’t want to appear to change you mind now that he is trying hard and thinks you are open to him improving, implement a “one strike and you are out” condition. Let him and let LCC know that you will rematch immediately if one more safety incident occurs. Although even waiting for a safety issue to occur is putting you kids at risk…

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 2:11 pm

From this admittedly narrow window into the situation, it doesn’t sound to me like the issue is the AP’s lack of judgment (ex: letting a 9yo fetch a ball in the street is something I would allow), but that he doesn’t respect the family rules. Whether the family rules are reasonable isn’t up to the AP to decide. If you’ve addressed it and he hasn’t started respecting the rules, it’s time to find an AP who can/will.

I don’t think it matters whether his difficulty in compliance is related to ADD or something else because the family rules need to be followed and it’s not really up to the HPs to diagnose or treat these kinds of things in their AP. Besides, I haven’t heard many stories of kids whose parents got immediate compliance as soon as they suspected ADD and googled how to deal with it. These things probably take more time, knowledge of the individual and professional guidance than HPs have to devote to someone who needs to provide child care now.

Host Mom X May 6, 2015 at 2:25 pm

This is kind of related to the discussion of APs with chronic illnesses going on in the open thread right now (or overweight APs who have trouble with physical activity) – maybe some of us wish we could overlook or accommodate, but if the condition interferes with the particular job (which is caring for small, often helpless human beings, and is a physically and emotionally demanding job), sometimes it can’t be accommodated.

CAhostMom May 6, 2015 at 3:29 pm

I agree. I don’t think he has bad judgement. Maybe the trampoline was a bit reckless, but other than that I think i would be more concerned that he’s not following the rules you have set.

SKNY May 6, 2015 at 3:16 pm

I don’t agree to say that this au pair has a disability. We do not know it. And being a physical therapist in a school setting, I feel that the term ADD/ADHD get used way to often, to excuse what really is just bad behavior or attitude.
While I also don’t feel that those were specifically unsafe actions by the au pair (by my rules) they were against host parent’s rules in this case. Your kids, your rules. period.
So i would sit au pair and give all rules again in writing. Have him read with you and sign. He fails to follow again without a good reason, rematch

Nina May 6, 2015 at 4:17 pm

OP here: I did email Au Pair Mom before the open blog and then posted on the open blog. Responses helped a lot.

I think what’s hardest is that aside from obvious “lack of judgement” he is really great with the kids, probably the best since 2008. At the same time after mediation he texted me once while I was driving home if he can just kick the ball around with my son in cast. I did it the day before with my son and I wad curious what the au pair would do. I know this is a bit unfair, but it was a kind of test as well. Being that we just had the mediation where we specified we want him to be cautious and that there might be situations where we allow kids to do some things with us (like crossing street and in this care kicking the ball) we might have a different rule for him. Just want to clarify: we usually don’t have different rules with us and au pairs, except in the beginning where we need time to see if we can rely on the au pair.

So, as I didn’t reply to his text he decided to let my son kick the ball and even throw baseball. I would prefer if he just waited for me to come home, which was in about 10-15 minutes. Aaaahhh! And then I hear him how nicely he talks to my kids, see how patient he is with my younger one doing HW, see kids enjoy being around and I am thorn. But I realize I might have to break their hearts a little and go into rematch.

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 5:04 pm

1) Your children’s health and safety is your primary concern.
2) Your house, your rules.

You’re not looking for the cool counselor from summer camp. You’re looking for someone reliable who will ensure your children’s safety and follow your rules.

The au pair sounds like a child himself. Being “swept up in the moment” while on the job is a sign of immaturity. You don’t need another child in your home.


Seattle Mom May 7, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Very well said.

This is kind of what I was getting at in my comments in the open thread, but not as succinctly. He doesn’t have good judgment “in the moment,” though he’s super fun and a nice guy. He would be great working in tandem with someone else who has good judgment. Or maybe with kids who are more naturally cautious (example: the pot on the table- my kids would never touch it).

Former Au Pair May 6, 2015 at 6:34 pm

OP my advise is – Follow your gut! do you really feel like he can step up, try harder and keep kids out of danger? if you do, i think he deserves a second chance, we all know how hard it is to find an au pair that genuinely has a connection with the kids, and all the instability rematch brings to the kid’s routine.

But at the same time if you’re unsure, like everyone said, safety is number one priority! there’s a WHY host families have rules and those should be respected no matter what.

Wish you the best of luck!

Nina May 6, 2015 at 8:18 pm

OP here again: We decided : rematch. This discussion board helped me see things clearly, which for some reason I was not able to. Btw: I was searching through rematch stories but didn’t find how do you approach your au pair to tell them it’s rematch time?

We are telling him tonight. Hope we can find someone more mature who our kids are going to like as well.

Host Mom in Paradise May 8, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Yay! Good for you for making a tough decision. Let’s hope for a speedy rematch with an au pair who can establish firm boundaries for the kid’s safety (yet still be a blast to wrestle with).

Nina May 9, 2015 at 12:17 am

Yes, lets hope:)

TexasHM May 6, 2015 at 10:39 pm

I would highly recommend your LC be there for that conversation. I had to tell our last AP alone and it was horrible. There will be questions, you need everyone on the same page and the odds of miscommunication are high. Just my two cents. Good luck!

Nina May 7, 2015 at 7:08 am

Our LCC told us to tell him before she comes. It actually went well. He was surprised but understanding. Even suggested to tell kids he is leaving for personal reasons. He still has a lot of good qualities…

Seattle Mom May 7, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Is he going to look for another family? It sounds like he could work out in the right situation.

Nina May 9, 2015 at 12:27 am

Yes he is looking for another family. He is online Seattle mom.

A Dad May 9, 2015 at 11:43 am

Does he have a profile posted somewhere? He sounds like he could be a good fit with my family.

Should be working May 7, 2015 at 12:36 am

Thread hijack–open thread closed before I had a chance to post. And the thread about disruptions is also comments closed.

Background: Anorexic teen daughter is in hospital. This is a relief, actually. We had some very bad weeks and now she is getting good care and nutrition. I have been beyond exhausted, anxious and miserable trying to re-feed her and seeing things just fall apart.

While she is inpatient I’m trying to rest up, come up with better strategies for when she is discharged, and spending time with DS.

The other night when DD got admitted to hospital the AP had to stay late with DS and miss some plans while we were getting DD settled. AP was understanding and flexible. We gave her the entire next day off plus all mornings since then (getting DS off to school on his own is easy enough for me to do and it’s on the way to the hospital). She works about 35-hr weeks mostly. Since then I have asked her to do things like go buy DD’s favorite jeans in a bigger size, she sent me some photos from the clothing store, etc. (I also stuffed as much of myself as I could into DD’s wet, favorite teeny-tiny jeans after washing them to try and stretch them out a bit so she wouldn’t get triggered by noticing they are tighter when she gets discharged from hospital.)

We aren’t sure when DD will be discharged, but we’ll need AP more around then. It might be this weekend. It might be later. AP has indicated flexibility but how bad should I feel about not being able to tell her precisely when we’ll need some extra help? Basically with a kid in the hospital it’s sort of a day-by-day thing and we might just want her help when we need it. We can reward her later with more time off, etc., although once DD is home things will likely get harder again so that might be postponed. We’ve told all this to AP, she seems understanding but is it wrong to say “We might need you some time this weekend but we can’t be sure if or when”? It’s not an emergency like a heart attack, but it is dealing with a kid in hospital.

AuPair Paris May 7, 2015 at 5:38 am

As for the original post – eh, my thoughts are that the actions of the AP aren’t that questionable *until* you take into account that it’s actively disobeying your rules – and that’s not acceptable in any job. I don’t think it matters if he has ADD or not… I don’t know, I hate assumptions like that… “He probably has ADD so no way can he be competent and sensible” or “she’s overweight, so that’s why she’s lazy and detached”… No way. Those are personality traits – rematch for them alone, not for whatever you think the cause of them is! (I was sensitive about that when I saw it on the other thread because I think I’ve tipped over to officially “overweight” with all the French wine and cheese. I’m not bothered about my own appearance because of it or anything – but I’m still flipping great at looking after my kids! I’d hate for people to think otherwise, just because I’ve gone up a dress size!)

Nina May 9, 2015 at 12:26 am

I agree. And just for the record we had one overweight au pair who was great!

Brooklyn_HP May 8, 2015 at 9:34 am

Paradise wrote, “You’re not looking for the cool counselor from summer camp. You’re looking for someone reliable who will ensure your children’s safety and follow your rules”

I think this is interesting – we had to do some coaching early on when our AP arrived last year about truly being the boss/in charge of the kids, I think AP thought that her role was more like “cool big sister” than very responsible adult caregiver. I agree that your rules need to be followed so not an excuse, just wondering if some APs have a mindset that needs changing?

UKAu Pair May 8, 2015 at 10:21 am

In fairness, some families are looking for a ‘cool big sister’ AP. I think you need to be clear when matching about what you’re looking for, otherwise you have to reset expectations after they’ve arrived.

Nina May 9, 2015 at 12:24 am

I think our au pair had this mind set, although I reiterated during interview we are looking for a responsible adult.

Brooklyn_HP May 8, 2015 at 10:37 am

I agree, and think defining what exactly is meant by “cool big sister” is key. Cool big sister that endangers the safety of little sisters who are only in kindergarten is not likely what any host family wants. We are a first year HF and learned early on that we cannot assume anything, no matter how obvious some things may seem to us.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 8, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Brooklyn HP, I think that is what is so exciting (and frustrating ) about the au pair program. I’m constantly learning– about our family and its needs, about young people, about other cultures, about how other families operate, etc. There truly is not one model! Understanding your own expectations and communicating them clearly is so important. For the record, we like a responsible, but cool older sister/ brother. ????

WarmStateMomma May 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Totally agree, AlwaysHopeful! Just as my kids cause me look at the world in a new light, exchange students and au pairs do as well.

Knowing who you really are and what you really want in a caregiver is a big part of finding the right match and having a successful experience. Day care is a huge turn off to me because it’s a place where kids are exposed to a different set of values than HD and I hold (safety at all costs, bland/junk food, princess crap (from the other kids), etc.). The amazing thing about hosting APs is that you can choose the influences you bring into your child’s life instead of just accepting the current trends at the day care center.

Vanila ex au pair May 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Well, the case is closed, but I still would like to say that no matter how wonderful you are as au pair if parents don’t feel they can trust you the safety of their kids.
When I was au pair, once I left mi HK in the entrance door of his kindergarten because that’s a normal thing to do in México, but in the US, everybody considered that as risky and dangerous because the usual thing is to wait for the teacher to hold the kid by the hand and lead him to the classroom. The family told me how much they enjoyed my work, but they also said than felt nervous about leaving their kids under my care. So, they told me that no matter what, one more thing like that and I would be rematched. I think they didn’t send me to rematch directly, because at the end, the fault was not so bad. But, if I would have made a similar mistake, I would have been sent to rematch. That didn’t happen because I fully understood that safety goes first. Something that, maybe, this AP didn’t get.

Nina May 9, 2015 at 12:22 am

Agreed. I think he understands now, but not sure if he can act on it?

Nina May 9, 2015 at 12:21 am

OP here again: yes I told him we are looking for a responsible adult, but he probably thought he is!
Another question: how would you share this rematch news with your kids?This is not our first rematch, but first where kids really like the au pair. On one side I prefer honesty, on the other not sure what is better: I also don’t want the kids to have negative feelings towards the new person from the get go…

TexasHM May 9, 2015 at 8:38 am

They don’t need to know the specifics (imho). We had an AP that endangered the kids multiple times but they loved her (she never said no). I worried about telling them but they were fine. In that case I told my oldest “you know this is a hard job and she’s been struggling? (he nodded enthusiastically) Well we are going to help her find a new family with maybe fewer kids or that doesn’t need a driver”. So even though it was our decision we made it clear it wasn’t because we didn’t like or care about her and we expressed disappointment that we were rematching but also told them like it was done and over and ship had sailed (as not to get hopes up that it might change). Depending on your relationship with departing AP you could even ask for his support in this (please tell kids you are sorry to go but it’s for the best, please encourage the kids to embrace next AP – use your judgment here).

Stay out of the weeds (don’t give them a laundry list of what he did wrong that they can latch on and argue about). Assuming it’s true, say you’ve both tried very hard to make it work but it didn’t and now you and he are moving on and keep it positive. I think if you continue to show you care about departing AP and like him the kids will be less resistant. Show them you didn’t want rematch either but thats life sometimes and take the high road. Depending on their ages/interest you could even involve them in the search for his replacement to help get their buy in (into a candidate you already love of course). Good luck!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 9, 2015 at 11:35 am

I have a colleague who had a medically fragile daughter (she has since passed away) whom he had thought had a tight bond with an AP. The AP made one mistake too many – one that endangered his daughter, and my colleague decided that they needed to go into rematch immediately. As the AP was waiting for the LCC to come retrieve her, my colleague suggested she say goodbye to his daughter. The child said to the AP, “Have a great life – away from here.” (It’s now an office joke, but seriously, sometimes the bonds we think our children have with caregivers are not as tight as they appear.)

If you find that your children are angry at you, be bigger, and take it without developing a “laundry list.” Just sigh in relief when you find a great successor who doesn’t give you angst.

Nina May 9, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Thank you TexasHM and Taking Computer Lunch! Good advice as always!

anne May 10, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Common sense is not something someone can learn. You have it or you don’ts. As well, the passive aggressive behavior of the AP that says he understands but then not apply himself. It is tough to send a young AP home but we have them to help us and not raise them.

Nina May 10, 2015 at 10:48 pm

OP here again: just to give an update: we shared with the kids that the au pair is leaving and the older one cried and is upset, but at the same time I feel he’ll be fine. They both don’t understand and we didn’t go into specifics, as for them he is really fun…

Host Mum May 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Our previous “cool big sister” aupair resulted in my 5 year old becoming a complete brat over a period of a few months. We talked about her inability to set boundaries and she said she “couldn’t be that strong”. She initiated rematch and our 5 year old is now a polite child again. I also had niggling unsubstantiated fears about safety so was hugely relieved when the aupair found a new family.

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