The Five Actions of Gratitude

by cv harquail on September 27, 2012

Nothing takes the sting out of tough interaction with your au pair than a moment of gratitude for all that s/he does for your and your family.


Studies show that regularly reflecting on things that are good and that you can be grateful for help to keep you in a more positive place, no matter what your au pair did with the car.

If you’re not always feeling generous enough to be grateful in the moment (and I am often not, I admit) it helps to have a daily practice of expressing gratitude.

Some time ago I tucked this into my “APM Ideas” file, and since it popped out while I was looking for another old post. I think that I was drawn in by the ideas of appreciating the whole community as well as individual actions.

And, in addition to these actions helping us individually feel goodness, each of these actions makes our home life a more loving place for all of us.

Five Actions of Gratitude

1. Say Thanks Everyday.

Appreciate the contributions that each person makes.

2. Give Back.

Serve the people and communities who have made a difference to you.

3. Make Welcome.

Practice hospitality of openness and opportunity for people to make a difference

4. Honor Others.

Honor people and communities for their contributions and examples.

5. Create Goodness.

Foster an environment for creating goodness, by taking initiative to create goodness yourself.


Image: Gratitude, AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by shannonkringen


Should be working September 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Thanks CV. Is it a coincidence that Yom Kippur begins tonight?? Atonement seems not so far off from gratitude. I’ll try working on both.

cv harquail September 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

SBW- now, you know I’m not *that* organized. ALthough, whenever we are invited to our neighbors for Rosh Hashana brunch, I’m reminded how much I enjoy celebrating friends’ holidays with them — especially when they holidays remind me to be more appreciative. Plus, noodle kugle.

Laura Kennedy September 27, 2012 at 11:04 am

Anyone have good ideas for showing appreciation to an au pair? I sometimes give ours a thank you card with a gift card for a small amount ($10 to starbucks, $25 to Target, etc.) but more creative ideas would be helpful in mixing it up.

American AP September 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

Regular bonuses and/or days off definitely would do it for me. I also like being thanked for specific things by my boss

TexasFourTimeHostMom September 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Sometimes I like to give our au pairs a gift certificate for a pedicure at the local nail shop, it is really nice and usually about $25. They have all loved that :) Or, guest certificates for a nice gym, local event, etc. I have also done gift cards.

Daring Au Pair September 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm

How about treating your au pair to a cultural experience of her choice? (Ideally one that she can’t afford on her au pair salary.) Offer to take her to a restaurant, send her and a friend to a concert/play/ballet/etc, take her on a day trip to a nearby beach/city/mountain/etc. Just ask, “Is there anything you’ve really been wishing you could afford to do here?” That’s what would most excite me. Also, odds are there are a few dishes from home she’s really missing and craving, so as a cheaper alternative you could offer to let her choose what the family has for dinner one night.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm

I menu plan and the only AP who ever replied to “What would you like for next week?” with a dinner menu became our favorite AP. My cookbooks are still annotated with “X likes.” Most APs request sugary cereals, sodas and the like. I love it when an AP lets me know that she wants to have a particular meal again.

aline October 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

=D I hope I findi a hostmom like you hahah laura!

hm2 September 27, 2012 at 11:08 am

I sometimes give extra days off. Once I have taken one AuPair to a musical, which was staged two hours away from us and the AuPair had been wanting to go for months.

Karolina September 28, 2012 at 4:03 am

The simplest way of showing gratitude are the words of recognition. How much does it cost to say: “Anna, I really like the aeroplane you made with my son. I’m happy that you can spend a time in such a creative way. Thank you!” Not a cent! And your Au Pair will know that you notice her effort and value her work :)

You can also acknowledge the contributions of your Au Pair in a public way – among friends and family, on your blog etc. Who doesn’t love public praise? :)

Another idea for showing gratitude is “Thank you card”. Take 5 minutes and make a list of 10 or 20 things you love about her, or things she’s done for you that you really appreciate.

Actions speak louder than words, and doing something nice will actually show you’re grateful more than just saying it. Do your Au Pair a free favor – just something small. Get her a drink or a cake, do a house chore which belongs to her duties.

Extra money and additional time off will be appreciated by almost every Au Pair, too :)

Amelie September 30, 2012 at 7:14 pm

True about the public acknowledgement… one time my host parents introduced me some guests as their “wonderful au pair”. It was really great to hear that!

Daring Au Pair September 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Aw, what a heart warming post.

A few words of appreciation and encouragement from my former host mother really helped me get through a rough patch I was having with the children. They were really acting out for a few weeks – throwing tantrums, refusing to go to school, etc – and I was not only very drained and stressed from dealing with them, but also a bit worried I wasn’t doing a good job.

Then, my host mom said, “I so appreciate your patience and kindess with the children. I know they are giving you a really hard time, and I’m so grateful you’re trying so hard to work through this.”

It was a great moral booster! And made my stress and effort feel much more worthwhile.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 28, 2012 at 10:34 pm

AP #4 trained me (I’ve said this before elsewhere). Ask your AP about her day. If she gives you a list of things that she did with the children, say, “No, what I really want to know is how YOUR day went.” Listen. Ask questions.

Figure out what your AP likes. AP #4 had a thing for cashews and worked for us back in the day when calling cards were godsend. Easy rewards. You don’t have to spend a mint on rewards – make them personal. Buy a city map of a place your AP intends to visit. Buy a pair of silk long johns because your city is cold compared to anything in her country.

And finally, just say “Thank you.” When I do something special for APs, all I want to hear is “Thank you.” I want my little gifts to be noticed, too. Topping off the gas tank, buying a favorite food, making a favorite dish, including a friend on a family outing – just say “Thank you.”

And finally, even though I’m grousing about AP #8, I try to remember to begin each conversation with a list of what went right.

PA AP Mom September 28, 2012 at 10:41 pm

I have tried to do everything from saying “thank you” to giving extra time off to providing small gifts or gift cards. Probably the most appreciated by my au pairs has been the surprise afternoon/evening off.

I appreciate when my AP does an extra chore or something helpful without being asked. In my mind that is the best gift a host mom can get!

Taking a Computer Lunch September 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm

I’ll second that! Any AP who can see past the checklist of her duties and understands why she is being asked to do what she does and goes above and beyond gets far more than the one who pushes back all the time, complains about “housework” and compels her HP to finish her tasks so that the half-hearted start doesn’t get upended before completion.

The AP who doesn’t need to be reminded, does her tasks well, and contributes to family life is far more likely to get extra days off, extra treats, and flexibility in honoring requests than the sullen AP who treats every chore like an invasion of her personal time.

OpinionatedHM September 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Saying Thank you is the best way to recognize the value an AP adds to your life. The other day, our newly arrived AP left two snacks ready to go on the counter top with a little note saying that she was making herself a snack and went ahead and made a snack for the kids after school. (it was her day off) It was such a nice gesture and I realized that she thinks of us even when she is not working. WhenI saw her later that day I made sure to thank her and tell her how thoughtful that was and how it really made my day to see the snack already made when I left to pick up the kids. Whenever my husband and I go out and we come home and our aupair asks “did you have a good time?” i always make sure to say thankyou and to tell her that we wouldnt be able to have a “date night” if she weren’t here and we really appreciate it. Yes, we are paying her a stipend for her time, but she could do this for any family, being appreciated in ways that are not monetary can really make a difference in how we view our work. I try to help our aupairs see the value they add to our lives outside of the scope of their daily resposibilities.

spanishaupair October 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I really appreciate when my hostfamily said thank you after a special long day or simply because they simply appreciate my work. I have never thought of something bigger or expected that for example was a really nice when my hostmum brought me 2 chocolates (they could cost each 1€ or 2 de most depending where you buy it) as a thanks present for a special long week.

kat October 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm

i appreciate when i get a thank you for whatever i have done, be it washing the dishes after eating a meal together or something else. or when i get a bar of chocolate just for me from the shopping, once i got a book for my weekend trip to a city. or having a plate of food waiting for me when i get in from a day out.
when i am back home in my home country i love the odd texts saying ‘K. had her first swimming lesson today’ or just ‘ having a lovely time at the beach’.
as people said above, being appreciated and thought of.
any big gift would feel inappropriate for me.
also a card would feel a bit odd unless it was for something really special. i cant get used to the card culture even after twelve years of going to the UK :D

Comments on this entry are closed.