Perhaps one of the most useful bits of advice for managing an au pair relationship is "be creative". Creative in terms of how you see things, how you respond to challenges, how you integrate your priorities and your au pair’s abilities, and how you develop a relationship between your kids and your au pair. It has always helped me in my relationships with au pairs to get them involved in a larger goal for our family, something in addition to taking care of or minding the kids. When the au pair participates in this larger goal, with me and my husband, she is not only helping us and aligning with us, but also is often learning something about herself.
While this blog isn’t about childcare advice, I see a lot of good stuff that seems to fit with my family’s larger goal of approaching the world in a can-do, creative way. I found this post about "Everyday Art: six steps for boosting kids’ creativity" on the blog at Common Good magazine, by Christine Carter.
The entire article is well worth reading, and since I can’t fairly reproduce it here, please go look at it on the Common Good site. Here is a quick summary:
"Researchers have also identified steps we can take to help kids tap into their own creative potential. Drawing on that research, here are some ideas for fostering creativity in kids.
1. Provide the resources for creative expression. The key resource here is time.
2. Make your home a Petri dish for creativity. … The focus of creative activities should be on the process—generating (vs. evaluating) new ideas.
3. Allow kids the freedom and autonomy to explore their ideas. …
4. Encourage kids to read for pleasure and participate in the arts, rather than watch TV. …
5. Resist the temptation to reward kids for their creativity. A study led by child development researcher Melissa Groves has found that incentives interfere with the creative process, reducing the flexibility of children’s thinking.
6. Try to stop caring what your kids achieve. … we can emphasize the creative process by asking questions: Are you finished? What did you like about that activity? Did you have fun?
Christine Carter, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Greater Good Science Center. For more parenting tips, visit her blog, Half Full, at www.GreaterGoodParents.org.