We have an AP who is great in most respects–responsible, friendly, truly cares about the kids, she goes out of her way to be part of the family and keep things smoothly rolling along.
With the exception of tone of voice, sometimes. It sounds like a small thing, but it happens relatively frequently that she gets all ‘tough’ with the kids in what seems to me (when I’m in earshot) to be the wrong moment. Like they are exhausted after a long day of swimming and the zoo, it’s clearly just not the time to insist that they empty the dishwasher or help put away clothes.
And it’s not even the insistence on the task, it’s more that she gets a ‘tough tone’ that could even be considered sarcastic or mean, although I know she really isn’t sarcastic or mean. I can use a pretty tough, even angry tone, but I feel like I do that when it’s called for and appropriate (mostly).
E.g. my teenager is nervous about a trip to the mall with new friends, spends too long trying on different outfits, is all bent out of shape about her hair–and after everyone is in the car with all their gear, the AP says in a grumpy voice, “don’t you need to go get your purse?” It’s just unnecessarily b*tchy.
Is this part of the kids (who are all over 8) learning to get along with different types? They really like her. I just hear this tone, sometimes, that makes me feel for the kids. I know the AP has a really tough mom and grew up in a strict house, and we’ve talked about how in our house we try to be patient and supportive, and structured rather than ‘strict’ per se. She also has said how much she loves how nice we are and how relaxed we are compared to her family.
How can I help her with building the sense of judgment for when to use that tough tone and when not?
I am not at all a super-gentle, patient mom, but I feel like I try to model restraint and judgment as to when to be harsh and when not.
I realized the mall example doesn’t quite capture the problem, it’s not harsh to remind the teen about the purse and even to make her get it herself. It is just this very sarcastic or angry tone of voice–that I believe the AP doesn’t even feel, she actually was pretty relaxed about the whole preparations.
I can’t wait to hear the advice you get, SBW, because I think I have the same problem that your AP does (or at least I could improve as a parent in the same way you would like her too!)
In my case, I know my harsher tone (at the times when it isn’t necessary, bc sometimes it is necessary and/or appropriate) is usually due to my stress level at the moment, or feeling that my gazillion children are whirling dervishes and my world is slipping out of my control.
I know that having an AP helps me in this regard as I am more restrains and try to model (more) ideal parenting/child management when I have an “audience”! (I’m a PT-WAHM/SAHM, so AP sees/hears me in action a lot!)
Emerald City HM
On the surface, possibly because of her upbringing, it sounds to me like she might lack empathy. Which is kind of a difficult skill to learn, particularly if you aren’t given good guidance. You might look up how to teach empathy to adults or kids and see if that’s maybe a path that is helpful.
Should be working
ECHM, well, it’s more that she lacks in-the-moment empathy. Oftentimes she has shown great empathy in a larger context, explaining to me how my daughter feels when I’ve misunderstood or made a wrong call; and she notices moods and reacts accordingly some of the time. It’s this harsh tone that comes up in the wrong places or is just a little TOO harsh even if the kids are being obnoxious.
Taking a Computer Lunch
I put in my handbook that I’m the grouchy disciplinarian and what my teenagers need is more of a friend. Sure, I want the AP to figure out how to make them do what needs to be done so I don’t end up fighting with them over it when I get home, but I want them to engage.
If your AP is young and hasn’t really worked outside the home before, then she may not have a lot of experience cajoling kids. What I tell APs is that they are role models, not moms. (My extra-ordinaires have tended to have more experience with kid motivation and have a few tricks up their sleeves that I don’t have.)
The most inexperienced AP was the one most likely to meet at the door whining she couldn’t get my youngest teenager to do what needed to be done. The tattletale mentality annoyed me endlessly, and made me curt with her. She was also more likely to have inappropriate conversations with that child – like which rock band singers had dropped out of school or had drug overdoses.
So, with your sharp AP, tell her that she’s a role model. You want her to help your teen and tween navigate their way to adulthood. Telling a teen that she’s forgotten her purse when they’re all the way in the car, is too late. Tell her, that the teenager would learn to pay attention if she said at the moment of the sale, “You don’t want to forget your purse.”
If she likes to bake, urge her to bake a cake with the kids or teach them how to make a treat from her country. If she’s sporty, have her work on a sport with them. Tell her the more she behaves like a favorite aunt and pays attention to them, praises them, and urges them to stretch their wings, the more they’ll trust her and do what she wants them to do.
Ask your LCC to provide tips on how to talk to big kids.
I am interested in hearing this also.
A jocular, sarcastic tone is OK with my older teenager,but is often too harsh for my ( frustratingly) anxiety prone preteen.
Not sure how to explain the nuances.
DE in NZ HM
Don’t have good advice to offer as I am struggling with what is probably a very similar issue in my relationship (with UK DH), but I had a slight grin on my lips when I read Sbw’s post. First thing that came to mind: Is your AP German (or middle to Eastern European)? I’m originally from Germany and at home have often been told about / been accused of my ‘not nice’ or even ‘angry’ tone of voice that apparently I use in quite regular (English) conversations. It’s something I am not aware off most of the time (and usually I am not anywhere near angry) but have tried to work on for a number of years – not easy!
So it might just be her ‘professional/ business’ voice. I am not trying to excuse anything and I think it’s fair and important to address the issue with the AP/ help the AP. A first step might be to tell her how she sounds to you – she might not be aware and that (sarcastic or otherwise) message you pick up on might not be intended…
And, like others, I am also interested to hear from others for my own benefit!
MidAtlantic Host Family
Also German decent and accused of the same. I am not sure how to describe it but much more direct in communication without sugarcoating, which sometimes people read into it things I do not mean.
I agree with DE in NZ, but likewise it is something to work through. I much prefer someone to say something or ask than not.
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