Teach Your Au Pair with Examples of Things Done Wrong– by Other People.

by cv harquail on August 14, 2015

When teaching an Au Pair, it’s better to show than to tell.  

Whenever you can, point out when something is being done well or done right by your Au Pair, by your spouse, or by someone else.2219132141_e5d2ebea5b_m

“I love that this nanny is putting the kids into the car from the curb, and not out in the middle of the street. Even if it means she has to go around and open the other door to make sure the kids are buckled correctly, at least there’s no chance of the toddler stepping into traffic.”

Even better is when you can show your Au Pair something that someone else is doing wrong.

“Look at that mom on the corner, pushing the stroller out in front of her like it’s a snowplow or something. Does she want to make sure the car hits the kid before it hits her? She probably doesn’t realize how she’s trying to part the Red Sea with that darn stroller.  She should keep the stroller right next to her and wait until she’s sure the cars have stopped before she steps off the curb.

People actually learn better when they look at someone else’s mistakes. When we look at our own mistakes, our defenses kick in and it’s harder to see what we did wrong or what we might have done differently.

No such problem when it’s someone else’s behavior we’re criticizing.

Just be sure to be kind when you criticize that other person’s behavior.

You want to model kindness in general, and of course you’ll want your au pair to think you’ll address his or her mistakes kindly when/if mistakes happen.


Image: Macadam, by Lucie Provencher on Flickr


TexasHM August 15, 2015 at 9:25 am

I actually do this a lot but reference previous APs mistakes. I hope it shows the new AP that we understand that no AP is perfect and expect her to make mistakes but also how to handle them – be honest and let us know right away and offer to fix. I explain how AP1 scraped the garage door frame with the car, how AP2 only really hung out with one other AP and then fell apart when she went home, how rematch AP3 worried about our kids bonding with her after her horrible first family experience and struggled to see how much my kids adored her at first (giving examples), etc.

After hosting for 5 years and having several APs there have been plenty of moments I can use as examples (AP2 leaving iPhone in a kayak, AP1 getting carried away with first American boyfriend and suddenly deciding she didn’t need to follow our house rules, AP2 calling us to pick her up when her friend got arrested, AP3 letting another AP book car rental for a weekend trip only to discover that AP didn’t have insurance and wouldn’t pay extra so they didn’t end up going – costing my AP the non refundable hotel she booked because other AP wouldn’t stay at a hostel, AP1 wanting to use gps to drive everywhere and that backfiring, plus ALL the stories from our burnout rematch AP who had more mistakes in 4 days that all my other APs combined in 4 years!)

I hope since the new APs know we are close with our ex APs and love them that they realize this isn’t me just bagging on the exAPs, it’s showing even rock stars have hiccups and often times I can help them dodge similar issues/ramp faster/get new ideas on how to tackle a problem they are facing or might face. Maybe wishful thinking but I’ve gotten positive feedback so far… :)

DowntownMom August 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Do you reveal the AP’s name? I do for the positive examples and don’t for the negative ones.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 15, 2015 at 8:44 pm

I never reveal the previous APs’ names, whether I’m setting an example or talking casually. I do try to keep my negative comments light, knowing that the current AP might think I’m judging her – or will talk about her in the future. On the other hand, with my closest friends – they know when things are going badly, because I gossip a ton or complain endlessly. They’re now my “it’s time to rematch” barometer. Some of my APs are FB friends with my previous APs. (I only FB friend previous APs – I just don’t want to know what my current AP is up to – or what she thinks of me!)

Seattle Mom August 17, 2015 at 2:18 pm

I do this.. carefully, because as you have said I don’t want to give the impression that I’m going to talk about all the bad things current AP did as soon as she’s gone. I also talk about the positive things each AP did.

I also sometimes talk about things I heard on this blog and on facebook.. keeping it light and conversational but also with a lesson in mind.

TexasHM August 15, 2015 at 8:54 pm

So I realize rereading it sounds like I do this nonstop which is definitely not the case. I do say the APs name but I’m also not sharing embarrassing moments it’s things we laugh about now. I also share a lot more positive than negative (AP3 had this same issue and tried XYZ and that seemed to work for her) and the mistakes I do share are in context. IE – new AP is super stressed about road test. I tell her all the previous APs were stressed and AP1 took multiple tries to pass so if she doesn’t pass we will try again.

FirstTimeHM August 16, 2015 at 7:14 am

We try to always point out the good things people do, and the good examples. That simply feels better for me. I will try to point out good examples as much as possible and simply tell the things I did wrong and what I learned from them. But sometimes we simply encounter a typical situation and then I will point out how she can prevent it from happening.
A week ago a toddler was angry with his mom in the grocery shop, she was putting her groceries away and paying and he got loose and ran out of the store, onto the street. I stopped him, I was just entering the store. The AP said she would never touch another child, not even to stop a toddler from getting under cars, for me that was a change to explain to her that it is expected behaviour here. She was astounded that the mother of the toddler didn’t threathen with law suits but nearly hugged me for saving her little boy and even more flabbergasted that I didn’t threathen the mother with reporting her but offered to get her a glass of water. No need to be anything but kind to a well meaning mother who’s practically in tears. Also in private I’ve never said anything negative about that mother and contradicted our AP that this boy should be taken away and that that mother was a bad mother anyway.

NBHostMom August 17, 2015 at 10:34 am

I love this technique when I feel like I’m telling our au paid something obvious, but I want to reinforce the improtance of something. For example, driving with our new au pair the other day, I noticed a toddler in a moving car that clearly was sitting on an adult’s lap in the backseat. I shared with my au paid how angry this makes me, how dangerous it is and how important using car seats properly is. Au pair has read in my handbook that using the kids’ car seats is non-negotiable, and is rematch material, but this gave me the opportunity to share just how important it is, in a way that allowed me to engage our au pair from a different perspective.

Seattle Mom August 17, 2015 at 2:22 pm

I wish this technique were used more in my own place of work! Sometimes I feel like there’s this culture of feedback where if you make one tiny mistake there’s someone dying to point it out to you. And always with a “don’t worry, it’s not a big deal, but I thought I should tell you to do it differently next time.” Yeah, right, whatever. I don’t take negative feedback that well (internally- I don’t let my feelings of anxiety & disappointment show), so I am really careful about giving it (and extremely judicious- sometimes to my detriment). I would rather hear a story, like “I once worked with this person who did x, and then y happened and it was a problem because z. So I think we should all try to do a and b instead.”

Boy Au Pair Europe August 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Personally, I’d rather my host family be more direct about things. I really don’t like it when I feel I am being treated as less intelligent than they are.

I would also be a little upset if I thought the host mother thought I was treating the pushchair like a “snow plough” and that I wanted to make sure that the car hits it first. I suppose it depends how it is said, and the general intelligence of the au pair, but I think if the au pair picked up on the comparison (which surely she would in the first example of commenting on another nanny…?) it would be less pleasant than a direct comment such as: “the drivers can be really crazy round here, I’d recommend you really make absolutely sure that the car is going to stop before pushing the pushchair into the road. I have seen some near misses before!”. It is directly saying what you want me without implying that what she has been doing is a fault.

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