New Year, New Expectations: Having A ‘Reset’ Conversation

by cv harquail on January 28, 2015

[ Here’s one from the archives — We’ve been using the term “reset conversation” a lot this past year… here’s where it comes from, and how to execute one. ]

There are several times each year, and several times in each AuPair year, when it makes sense to reset your expectations with your au pair.201500002888

The start and end of school, the start and end of summer, when there is a big change in your family’s routine (like the end of maternity leave), or when there is a significant event in your family or community (broken leg, car accident) are great times to have a reset conversation.

The neat thing about the New Year (as well as so many of those other markers) is that it “makes sense” to have this kind of reset conversation.

The air is rife with talk of resolutions and changes, and you can sneak in a few adjustments to your family rules or a few clarified expectations under the guise of “starting off fresh in the new year.”

What’s a Reset Conversation?

A reset conversation is like a focused, more in-depth family/au pair meeting, where the point is not to discuss the past week or the upcoming week, but to discuss the ‘big picture’. You might need to go over a certain set of rules (like car rules) that need to be followed more closely, or ask your au pair to do something new (cook the kids’ suppers as well as make lunches).

Suggestions for a Reset Conversation:

  • Keep the conversation focused.You might not be able to make in through your entire au pair handbook (and let’s hope you don’t think you have to!).
    And, you may not make it all the way down your list of the crazy annoyances that you wish would disappear. So, pick the 3, 4 or 5 that matter the most.
  • Frame the conversation about learning and growing, not about ‘fixing’.

    Remember that your au pair, and you kid(s) have continued to grow and change over the year.
    Frame the change requests that you make as outcomes of this growth. For example, ‘now that Toddler2 is having playdates, let’s go over the handbook section on playdates so that you know what to expect and how to organize them.”

  • Add more ‘positive’ changes than requests for corrections.We hope that our au pairs have gotten more confident and more competent, and it might be time for you to relax a few rules and to offer an additional privilege.
    For example, if your au pair has become a great driver, you might let her/him have a larger driving radius, so that s/he can go to the fancy mall 15 miles away instead of the crummy one that’s just down the road.
  • Before you ask your au pair to reset, reflect on your own expectations.You might need to refresh your assessment of your au pair’s skills, attitudes and interests, to incorporate the ways s/he has grown and changed. Sometimes without a reminder to update, we keep on thinking our au pair can’t find her ay around, can’t use a map, doesn’t really understand English, etc.

    Make room in your beliefs about him or her for some of that growth.


Are you planning to have a Reset Conversation withy our au pair? What will you focus on?

What’s worked for you, when you’ve launched a reset conversation? Any additional ‘how to’ advice?


See these posts:

Take Advantage of Your Summer Re-Sets: Revise expectations
After the Honeymoon: Seasons of the Au Pair year

4 Ways to Reduce “Seasonal Schedule Shift Syndrome”
Image: Simple Owls calendar


JJ Host Mom January 28, 2015 at 1:45 pm

I know we have talked about this a lot, and I have tried to do it with all of our au pairs, with limited success.

I think the difficulty that I have is that fine line between member of the family and employee.

I start out strict. I have a crazy long and specific host family handbook, I interview hard and make it clear that it’s a tough job, I am choosy about who I hire. I have a pretty strict training regimen that starts the day they arrive.

But that said, our au pairs quickly become part of the family. They’re welcome to eat every meal with us (and often do) and I always make it a point to ask how they’re doing, what their plans for the weekend are, etc. We’re a pretty hands-off host family and don’t have a curfew, there’s a dedicated au pair car that she’s pretty much free to take when she wants, etc. We have two school-age kids so the schedule is a light split-shift schedule.

Then inevitably, something comes up where I need to redirect and ask her to change something she’s doing. It can be something as little as “I’ve noticed that you often take the kids to Starbucks on your shift, would you mind getting your coffee when you’re not working and taking the kids to a more kid-appropriate venue.” Totally reasonable request, right? But that one, and a similar one about not taking the kids to the mall every week, was apparently the start of a six-month long downhill in which our au pair decided that I hated her and was being completely unreasonable.

I think you’ll probably all say “it’s not you, it’s her” and tell me to move on, which I’d agree with somewhat, EXCEPT that this is a pattern with me. Things start out great. Over time, though, things disintegrate and there seems to be a critical point where the au pair now considers me to be her friend and is hurt and angry that I would correct her at all. Given the pattern I have got to have some responsibility for this. But I just don’t know how to avoid it, given that the au pair program, by design, teeters between friend/family and employee.

We’ve decided not to have au pairs again, mainly because I don’t know how to navigate this. If any of you have advice about how you handle this, I’d love to hear it.

Host Mom in the City January 28, 2015 at 2:07 pm

JJ Host Mom – your post really struck a chord with me as it is exactly the same reason we every year don’t think we’re going to get another AP (and then we do bc the flexibility can’t be beat, but the issue you raise starts it’s cycle again).

We interview hard, lay out our expectations in interviewing and again in training, model the behavior we want ourselves, and then really quickly develop a familial relationship. We too have no restrictions and a pretty cushy job, two easy kids and an easy split schedule with no weekends. We have dinner together every night, invite or APs everywhere with us, etc. really work hard to include her and be friendly.

We always do great for a month or two, and then she’ll start doing something that I should correct. In our case with this AP (as with previous), it’s cell phone use in duty. We come out strong with stories about cell phone use in the beginning bc frankly, every one of my APs have used it on duty way more than I think is appropriate. Our current AP is truly great in every way except that she’s always got her phone right there and will think nothing of stopping what she’s doing when in duty to send a text. It’s not what I want modeled for my kids – going through your life with your cell phone in your lap.

But I’m really hesitant to say something because every time I’ve tried to adjust behavior, it is received by our AP as de-motivating. One AP got very defensive when I brought things up and got more and more secretive instead of fixing the issue (should have rematched). Another complained to our LCC that I was “cold” to her and that she resented me trying to adjust her behavior so early in the year (she was our recent rematch). I’ve done great with two of our APs – bc they never slipped and were awesome in every way, so I never had to have any awkward conversations.

So not sure what to do wth my recent issue. Honestly I think in just going to let it go. She really is terrific in every other way and I can’t think of a way to adjust the cell phone use while maintaining the relationship and performance.

Also would love tips in what’s worked!

SKNY January 28, 2015 at 3:22 pm

I can relate. Our last (the bad one, yes..) au pair started closing the safety lock in every single door saying she was afraid one of the kids would leave the house while she took the other to the bathroom, or whatever (this was after my husband arrived unannounced and caught her on her phone while not with the kids).
I did not feel I could tell her to ignore her concern, but the reality is that we were unable to get inside of the house without her opening it (after we extensively knocked), and we knew she was probably on the net in between.
To be fair, my 63yo awesome nanny (a retired teacher who we LOVE) did make a post on facebook the other day during work hours (I am hoping kids were napping?), so I am thinking this is a lost battle

WestMom January 28, 2015 at 4:16 pm

HMiC- AP3 was ALWAYS on her phone, and always for a ‘good reason’, either looking up a recipe, translating a word, etc. It’s not until she left that I actually checked the phone text usage which was over 100 txts per day while on duty (and that’s only on our phone- I don’t know how much she was using her own iPhone for communication). We mentioned it many times while she was here, but probably too gently and the behavior never changed.

Since then, I have been a lot more clear about phone usage before matching and on arrival. But my best allies are our children who ALWAYS mention to a new AP that they were terribly annoyed that ‘a past AP’ was always on her phone and ignored them. I think at this point, the kids wouldn’t let it fly! And it must be working since APs 4-5-6 have shown a lot of self-control on their devices…

TexasHM January 28, 2015 at 2:33 pm

JJ and HMiTC add me to your boat! We start out lengthy handbook, extensive interview process, clear expectations and guidelines and once they arrive (barring our recent burnout from this response) they quickly become family members and honestly, friends! We are in our 30s so our first AP was only 3 years younger than us so I don’t know if age gap adds to the complexity of the relationship but we have been lucky with the last couple of APs being great and not really doing anything that would qualify as more than a minor annoyance at best so we just let it go. Our first however, we did have to try to coach several times and like you, it damaged our relationship with her unfortunately.
I think I am getting better, I have a black belt in s%$ sandwich making at this point (compliment, concern, compliment) but we also tend to look at ourselves after each experience (especially after the recent 4 alarm fire failure) and ask if we are cut out for this! I think that is why I interview so hard. I guess I figure if I can find the best possible match (personality and skillset) for our family then hopefully the # of course corrections needed will be less over the course of a year. I also tend to discuss EVERYTHING upfront and during matching if nothing else, so I won’t feel bad bringing it up if it does become an issue!
We have always done the Sunday night check in meetings when the AP first arrives and then had them die off pretty quickly as everything gets mastered (and as they bond into our family) but I am almost thinking now a better tactic might be to have them weekly at first and then shift to a monthly format (ex – first Sunday of every month at 9pm) moreso to set the tone that we will have regular feedback for the AP and her for us – has anyone tried that? I have to think that it might lessen the impact of mentioning a course correction because if you have that feedback cadence already in place then you are also not calling a special meeting to discuss or giving a sensitive topic even more attention. I might even create a template (I know, I need help) for the monthly check ins and make it mutual – noting that everyone can and should improve themselves.
Topics like:
Educational Requirement (where are they at on this and do they need any help?)
Vacation Update (Do they have any plans, where are they at on using this)
Children Concerns
Schedule Updates (Holidays coming up, sports, summer shift, etc)
What can we do better? (HP)
What can AP do better?

I am sure there are things I am missing, thoughts anyone?

Host Mom in the City January 28, 2015 at 3:03 pm

TexasHM, I really like the idea if regular check ins, but have not been able to implement them myself for some reason. Usually because we’re all never home at one regular time. So Monday after kids go to bed sounds great, but half the time, something will come up for either me or the ap and we’ll have to reschedule, which seems weird. And also, with my two that were great, we didn’t have much to say to each other and we just naturally dropped the meetings. For my last two APs (current and recent rematch), I didn’t bring up the regular meeting concept at all.

But that said, a lot of this I link to my management and employee engagement training at work, and they do tell you to have regular informal meetings and give frequent informal feedback. I do really well on the frequent feedback (I say thank you a lot, am specific in my complements, and add in little treats here and there to recognize above-and-beyond and sometimes even just expected performance).

Like supervision, when everyone is plugging along just fine, it’s easy to get complacent and then when an issue does come up it’s like “shoot! I wish I had been doing those regular meetings all along and then this wouldn’t feel so odd to be having one!” A good lesson I think for our next AP. Although like every year, I am certain this will be our last :)

In other news, I am taking on my first supervisor role at work shortly and, although I would never admit this professionally, I am bringing with me LOTS of lessons learned from my years of “supervising” au pairs. Is anyone else a supervisor? Do you see any correlations between AP supervision and workplace supervison?

And finally, I’m 31, so a young host mom too. When we first started hosting, there were candidates who were my same age, which would have been weird. Ive never considered whether my age correlates with my inability to take in a coaching role and have always assumed it’s just my personality. But that’s interesting too.

Multitasking Host Mom January 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Congrats on the promotion! I took on a management role at my work about two years ago, and I do think having an au pair (I was on number two by that point) did help me with my job. At that point I was use to discussing issues with the AP and working on ways to problem solve, which was a skill that my new role at work called on to do a lot. It also helped me to know when to delegate…and when just to do it myself. But being a supervisor in a hospital where accidental slip ups made could potentially harm a patient, I had to learn to have the hard talks with employees about mistakes they made, how we can prevent these mistakes in the future and any disciplinary measures that might now need to occur based on severity (luckily these were few and far between). This definitely did help me with knowing how to talk with an AP in a friendly, but still firm way to get the changes at home with child care that I needed done. So I would say both hosting APs and being a supervisor went both ways in helping my job and in being a host mom.

Should be working January 28, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Me too. APs all tell me (later) how strict and intimidating I seem in interviewing, but I’m so nice once they are here! (Groan.) I resolve every time not to give away the store with niceness when they are settling in, but that is when we are all about warmth and family-member.

I will resolve again to maintain some distance with the next one because that protects my authority. I doubt I will succeed.

TexasHM January 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm

HA! I get the same thing (you were so organized and intimidating in interviewing but here you are so funny and laid back – groan)! We struggle with the niceness too. They are young women in a foreign country and the mom in me does try to mother them a bit in the beginning and I think we all want happy APs so we also have to resist the urge to play tour guide at the sacrifice of learning the role but I think I have found a balance there. Ex – dinner out first night to celebrate their arrival (we celebrate everything with food I swear), up next morning to start driving and getting acclimated and then I closely watch the first couple weeks and when I get the vibe they are getting tired or down we do something fun to keep their energy/spirits up. It’s a balancing act for sure.
Well, I only mention the smaller age gap because our first AP said it! We were 30 and she was about to turn 27 when she arrived and when she started breaking the rules she accused me of trying to mother her and pointed out we were almost the same age! :)
I don’t know, I aim for the aunt role. The one that is fun and a friend but will also knock you upside the head when you are making bad choices because she loves you and wants the best for you and expects you to be another adult in the household. Our first was our first, second and third loved and embraced the aunt relationship and our burnout definitely wanted a mommy. Our next AP coming in April actually on her own has started calling me an affectionate term for a non-relative from her country that translates to “aunt” so I am praying we are back in the right boat!
I agree that we too have struggled with the regular scheduled check ins but I guess I figure its better to put them on the calendar and then cancel a few due to conflicts than to not put them on there and wish for them. And like I said, position it to benefit the AP as much as the HP too and then hopefully you are both invested and open for feedback. And you hit another point I was trying to make – if you don’t have meetings for 6 months and then ask for one its automatically going to seem serious/possible remediation worthy and really it might not be that drastic of an issue (Starbucks example). Hmm.
I think it might also serve to remind the APs and HPs that at the end of the day there is a job to be done. I think having that monthly meeting if nothing else might be a reminder of that and their duties and how important their job is, but maybe I am psycho-analyzing that too much. :)

Multitasking Host Mom January 28, 2015 at 6:10 pm

I do keep up weekly check in meetings with the AP. We have them every Friday night once I get home from work (since that is the time of the week we do not have any other scheduled activities). I normally give my school age kids some other task to do so my AP and I can give our talk our undivided attention. We touch base about the schedule for the next week since occasionally there are changes. I pay them. If needed I get out my calendar and we plan a vacation time they want to take or time for a class they want to schedule. I try to work into the conversation at least one thing that I think they did great that week, and if needed mention one thing that needs to be tweaked with their duties. Then I always ask if there is anything they need to discuss. In the beginning, I often have to ask this a few times since they are still a little nervous to bring things up. But every once in awhile the AP will bring something up that I didn’t even know was happening or was bothering them, and we can discuss how to fix it or at least find a solution that we can both agree on. Every once in awhile I need to bring up a big issue I am having, but since we normal have this time to talk about issues, I think it prevents the AP from feeling like I am dropping a bomb and thus get defensive. Some times (actually most of the time since for the most part all is going well) this check in meeting lasts about ten minutes at the most. And this is our probably only employee/employer type of talk all week…as oppose to when our APs are hanging around the house off duty or eating dinner with us and we are normally talking about a funny thing that happened that day or the kids are holding down the conversation. I think or at least hope that the APs appreciate these weekly check in meetings because at least once a week I will be able to give them my undivided attention and let them feel like they are being heard. And, I hope I am saying this right, it does remind all of us that while we are very friendly and definitely include the au pair in all things just like they are a member of the family, the AP is still here to do a job, one that is not always easy.

TexasHM January 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Awesome this is exactly what I was thinking! Our meetings tend to die off because they do become two or five minute long meetings when things are going well but I hope by adding some structure to the conversation we can continue it throughout the year naturally. I am definitely going to try to do this when we start again in April because there’s always some little thing that could be better and with our rock stars I just let it go because I didn’t want to make it a big deal and mention it but I am almost positive if we had maintained the weekly meetings I could have casually mentioned it and they would have resolved immediately!

Tristatemom January 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Count me in as well as coming off as intimidating during the interview but I am actually a very nice person when you live with me.
We have had APs for 5 years now and I am really down on the concept at the moment. As noted by others, it is very hard to balance the employment/part of the family concept but I have to look at my fault in this. This is what I struggle with:
One, I always take on too much and then resent the AP for taking advantage. For example, a snow days happens and I work from home. AP is not a good cook and I know from experience that it is hard to cook and care for the kids at the same time. So I take on the cooking for lunch for everybody. Then, because we have 3 kids and that is a lot to deal with, I go out sledding with the AP and the kids. Result, I don’t get my work done, I am exhausted and feel I have done at least 50 % of AP’s job and she sits back and then is off at 5 (because we can’t go over the 10hrs/day).
Two, I have this concept of family that if I let you in my inner circle I can expect loyalty and honesty. Not that I expect that the AP should give me an organ but I do want to feel that we are a team just like family. What I have seen is that the APs sneak around, they want to know everything about us but disclose very little about themselves and are very judgmental.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 28, 2015 at 7:34 pm

So this is all very interesting to me, because, while in the past I have tried to be friendly and welcoming from the start (including in interviews), for this current AP, I thought I should be more businesslike, and emphasize the au pair “job” more, then relax as we went along. I don’t think that’s a model that works for me! We ended up with an AP-HF relationship that is far more detached and stilted than is comfortable for us. Also, I find it more difficult to discuss problems with current au pair in part because our relationship seems very job driven. With our prior 2 au pairs, we made a big effort to be warm and welcoming and show lots of casual friendliness during the interviews, and i think it really helped us pick personalities we could mesh with well.

With our last AP, we often had impromptu discussions in the evening after my son went to bed. Sometimes they were just chats about family and friends or life in general, but if there were work things to discuss, that was when it happened. With our first au pair, we didn’t chat as extensively, but we definitely had easy conversations about things that were going well or not well. With both APs, the discussions were open and collaborative.

It probably does help that I am the age of some APs’ parents. But also, when I have thought there may be any confusion, I’ve used the words “okay, putting on my HM (boss) hat”, or “putting on my mom (or friend) hat” just so it’s clear. Without the established relationship though, it is much more difficult for me to communicate with current AP in a way that can be well-received about what is going well and what isn’t.

With that said, we’re having a(nother) reset discussion tonight. Sigh. I’m feeling a little like the boy who cried wolf…

TexasHM January 28, 2015 at 8:09 pm

So when we interview we ask A LOT of open ended questions and we have a defined process that’s very extensive but we are still warm and friendly and we joke around a lot we just also make it clear that this is a very big responsibility and that we’re basically interviewing for our next family member/roommate/nanny which is almost an impossible task and it may take us a significant number of conversations and time! Our best APs had no problem with this and seemed to actually get comforted by the fact that we had a thorough/defined process and discussed everything you could think of upfront. (I tend to ask hard questions via email and then throw them softballs – reviewing/confirming their profile info, talking about food, etc on the early Skype interviews until they are more comfortable.). You know what does blow my mind though – there are candidates all the time that we will talk to and decide for whatever reason that they are a great candidate but not the best possible fit for our family and we release their profile and then a day or two later their profile will be gone and they are on their way to the United States! It’s unreal!
Always hopeful do you feel like you have the 4 things mentioned to be successful in the reset conversation post from before? We tried it with our recent burnout AP several times but it didn’t work because she had no awareness (safety or otherwise and that can’t be taught – we tried!). I’m just curious if you feel like you do have the success factors and what is causing you to have more than one reset conversation do you think?

AlwaysHopeful HM January 28, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Oh, I didn’t mean to suggest that others aren’t friendly in their interviews. It’s just that in our most recent round, I think we came off as more structured and boss like than is really true, and we started the year with a more work-y feel. So now it feels kind of like we’re stuck.

As for the multiple resets, honestly, I think the first of the 4 points hangs me up, because there are numerous things, so we don’t cover them all, and it’s really hard for me to say “okay, if these three things can change, we’ll be good.” This AP is VERY literal, so he needs me to tell him exactly what to do and how to do it, and to remind him that yes, it needs to be done tomorrow, too! So, in the past when I given a couple of areas, with some illustrative examples, the example things get done (with prompting), but there’s no extrapolation to similar things. Why do I keep trying? Among other reasons, hope springs eternal. I just keep thinking the next conversation will be the one that helps us turn the corner!

AlwaysHopeful HM January 29, 2015 at 7:07 am

Ohhh! I just realized you meant the 4 factors from the turn around discussion back in November! I would say we kind of have each factor. AP seems willing to listen and try to change, and he has madenprogress, but he starts to slide. I always think I’m being very clear and explicit, but that sometimes backfires because he then only does the spelled out thing and doesn’t make the connection to “and other things like this.” Our LCC has been supportive, and we all would prefer not to rematch (although I go back and forth on that).

We had a good talk last night. We’ve had good talks before…we’ll see how it goes!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 29, 2015 at 5:24 pm

I’d like to introduce the concept of the 3-minute meeting. Take advantage of the switch-out time that naturally occurs every evening. Ask your AP about her day, what the kids did (important when your kids are young), and then give her a couple minutes on another topic. Sentences can start like this (in March, for school-age kids), “I know summer seems so far away, but your schedule is really going to change in June. If you want to schedule vacation plans with friends before summer, now is the time to finalize your plans. If there are special things you’ve been holding off on doing during the middle of the day, now is the time to do them. You won’t have much free time to yourself during the day during the summer.”

Take these two minutes to remind her about classes, the driver’s license, booking vacation time, special events in your city. If the kids are around, then don’t use the time as a “reset.”

With a reset, keep it firm but gentle. I’ve actually used the phrase “I’m asking you to reset your attitude” to a mediocre AP. I’ve written extensively about the slide of a fantastic AP at the end of her year. There, I say, “You’ve been doing such a great job all year that I now consider you more of a friend than someone who does a job for me. I understand you may feel differently, but I want to end the year on a positive note, and part of that means that you continue to do the same excellent job that you did at the start of your year.” Cite some examples of great things, ask gently what has changed, and always keep in mind that the last 8 weeks are hard on everyone. It blindsided me at first, but with the help of my LCC I began to see the “goodbye” pattern and worked to stay on top of it. Part of that work includes explicitly stating “I know you’ve probably been saying goodbye to a lot of friends and it feels really different than the ‘see you later’ you told family and friends before you came to the U.S., and I want you to know that it’s just part of growing up. People will enter and exit your life….” If you label it for them, the you help your exiting AP to understand and acknowledge feelings, but you also have the opportunity to talk about the kids and how they are feeling confused, too, when she doesn’t bring a positive attitude toward the job.

The bottom line – always try to be bigger than your AP. She’s younger and hasn’t been through as much. We all have our “calling it quits” moments, but they don’t have to happen with a good or great AP.

WarmStateMomma January 29, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for this advice. Our AP leaves in March and we will be sad to see her go. Her culture’s biggest holiday is next month and I think she will start to get sad or anxious missing out on that when she feels her AP experience is already pretty much over…. I’d be ok with her leaving early since my maternity leave covers the rest of her time, but she hasn’t asked and I don’t want her to think we’re pushing her out the door.

Old China Hand January 29, 2015 at 7:20 pm

This is such great advice as we are just starting out a year with our new AP. Thank you!

NJ Mama January 29, 2015 at 9:44 pm

As always, great advice from TACL.

I’m one of those who starts out strong and then forgets or doesn’t find a comfortable time. I think the reason is that after awhile, the AP has plans on Friday nights and so we’re both rushed, and then she comes home late Sunday after we’ve all gone to bed. When things were falling apart with my last au pair, I started to send emails over the weekends when I sent her the schedule for the upcoming week, b/c she darted right out as soon as I’d get home and I wouldn’t see her at all until Monday. At the time I also thought that emails were better b/c her English wasn’t great, and I could spend time on how I could state what I needed to say.

But I think the key word that TACL uses is “gentle.” I’m from the Northeast and we are very blunt. It’s a good reminder for me to stop, take a breath, have the conversation but in a gentle way.

Multitasking Host Mom January 29, 2015 at 10:25 pm

I know the AP bolting as soon as you get home (and they are then off-duty) can be a problem when things need to be talked about. I do schedule our weekly meeting time as part of the APs schedule. (I have school age children and normally do not use up all of our allotted time anyway.) I schedule 30mins on a Friday evening that the AP will still be “on the clock” after I would normally be home from work…if our check in meeting last just 10 mins. the AP is of course free to start her weekend a few minutes earlier, but if we need to have a longer talk the time to do it is there.

JJ Host Mom January 29, 2015 at 7:14 pm

I think you’re right, TexasHM, that keeping up with the weekly meetings would have helped in this situation. I always start out strong with those and then when they become less necessary I stop doing them. I really like the idea of tying them with the weekly paycheck. I usually do an auto-transfer for those but including the paycheck would be motivation for both the au pair and for me to make it a point to meet, and I think the conversation would follow naturally after that.

For what it’s worth I do compliment, a lot, and I make sure to notice specific things. I think the problem was indeed that I hadn’t had anything negative to say for literally the first year and so when I did say something negative it had a bigger impact.

TACL thank you for the reminder and your comment. I could have used some of your specific wording in my last situation.

TexasHM January 29, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Good points. When kids were younger we used all 45 hours so the mtgs had to be super quick and the APs bought in because it wasn’t scheduled. Now that we won’t use all the hours I can definitely schedule it in. We autopay and will stick with that a – because I’m lazy and never carry cash and don’t want to reschedule a mtg and forget to pay her and b – because I like having the records in case ever questioned and c – checks take longer to clear but I’m definitely going to build in mtgs going forward.

Mimi January 30, 2015 at 7:09 pm

I’ve been lucky with my APs and up until AP #5 we really didn’t have any issues that needed a reset conversation. Most of what we’ve dealt with have been normal ‘course of adjustment’ or training issues, but I know it’s hard to be patient and deal with a temporary suspension of the things we expect and are entitled to as HMs until things get back on track. I’m a manager in a support position and I work as a supervisor for people who are in the typical AP age group so I have experience to draw on which has made me really proactive about things as a matter of course. The big things for me with APs in general are clear communication, clear expectations, and what I call the “assumption of benevolence.”

Like TACL, I do 3 minute meetings, usually three times a day – shift start, shift end, and end of day. Shift end is a big one for us to identify things that need to be worked on or addressed and end of day I circle back to how we’ve addressed issues and what the next shift/day will hold. I use a daily log for instructions that I review at shift start and that has info on the baby’s day and notes for the AP to make.

For the first month, we meet weekly to talk about how things are going and based on how quickly they’ve picked things up, we go to every other week and then monthly (usually around the cluster meeting time). This is outside of dinner conversations and any social context. The initial weekly meetings, I use to reinforce training and using the handbook and celebrate successes the AP has had. I remind the AP often that if I don’t know something is “broken” I can’t fix it and we want to resolve issues when they happen before it becomes a bad habit or the elephant in the room.

For the monthly meeting, I email them in advance the things I want to cover and ask if they have anything they want to include. To keep it from seeming too formal (or scary) my items usually include fairly benign things like HD’s upcoming travel plans, meal planning, scheduled car maintenance, etc. I send them back a summary of what we’ve talked about, including any issues discussed. Meetings last 30 minutes at most. Sometimes it seems like a pain to do this, but if you have problems down the road, this is the documentation you often need to demonstrate efforts during mediation or rematch.

I may have mentioned before how I use a bull’s eye concept to set expectations. Some things are center bull’s eye (close supervision, limited span of control) like safety issues, how often the baby is changed, etc. These are things that have to be done a certain way for a reason (even if it’s just for my OCD sanity). Outside ring things (low supervision, unlimited span of control) would be how clothes are folded, or what days they vacuum. Other things fall in between. Things fall into these levels based on end result vs method of delivery importance. I let the APs know where things fall on this spectrum to help them know where expectations are higher.

If something the AP has done is bothering me and passes the “hill I want to die on” test, I address it right away and try to determine the motivation behind what happened to see if I can’t redirect the problem in a more positive way. Like TexasHM, I also sandwich a lot and try to set a good example. I can’t tell the AP not to text or use her phone at the table if I do the same. On top of that I also try to compliment more than I complain. I’m all about the positive reinforcement! ?

The assumption is benevolence comes from my belief in an old saying that people do things that annoy us, not to annoy us. Everyone has a frame of reference for how they deal with life, and those of us with high expectations for ourselves sometimes forget that we are sometimes expecting our APs to handle situations that we’ve had years to master. I compare the AP experience to going to college; a college student’s main job is being a student, but the experience is about more than academic achievement. There is no doubt that there are APs who don’t belong in the program or who aren’t willing to work as hard as they should or could, but even for the rock star APs, there will be times that they take a mental lunch break or struggle balancing the demands in their lives. This is where we have an opportunity to put on our “mom/aunt hats” and offer our BTDT wisdom.

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