What is the right way to discipline your Au Pair?

by cv harquail on January 4, 2013

“Go sit in the corner.”

Over the holidays, someone told me that they’d heard about an au pair who was told by her host mom to “go sit in the corner” as punishment for doing something wrong with the kids.

I was appalled.

What did that host mom think she was doing, disciplining an au pair as though she were a 6 year old!

dog in corner.jpg

But the more I thought about it, the more I had to admit to myself that we probably all discipline our au pairs, in one way or another, when they break our written and unwritten rules.

I’ve disciplined au pairs by taking away specific privileges, by not being flexible or generous when they’ve wanted something, and by pulling back my warmth and friendliness.

(Yes, I admit it. I’ve gotten intentionally less nice when an au pair has broken a rule. I am small and petty. Sometimes.)

When is it legitimate to discipline your au pair?

It’s easier to imagine discipline being ‘legitimate’ when a rule has been broken — it’s clear that something s/he did is wrong.

When clear rules have been clearly broken, we can find a punishment that fits the type of disobedience. For example:

When the car has been driven too much over the mileage budget, it makes sense to take away off-duty car privileges for a while.

When an au pair spends her time surfing the web when he should be running after the toddlers, it makes sense to turn off the internet between 9 am and 4 pm.

Random punishment is ineffective.

When I’ve found myself ‘disciplining’ an au pair (or for that matter, a friend, a sibling or a spouse) interpersonally by being less flexible and less giving to them, I’ve recognized that this behavior (while temporarily feeling justified) is usually more about retaliation than about shaping her behavior in a positive way.

And, when I’ve refused to fold her laundry because she ate the yogurt I’d intended for lunch, I’ve realized that this random resistance is also pretty ineffective.

Punishment must fit the ‘crime’

Unless someone knows why a privilege has been withdrawn or someone is acting more cooly, it’s hard for them to make sense of it. The other party usually won’t see it as related to (or in response to) their own behavior. I just end up looking stingy or unkind (and I *hate* to look stingy or unkind. Don’t you?)

But what should we do when an au pair breaks the rules?

When the rules s/he’s broken are unwritten or unspoken, but rules nonetheless?

What is the right way to discipline an au pair?

Your thoughts wanted.


Image: Naughty Senji!, from Nomadic Lass on Flickr  Some rights reserved


Gretchen January 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I grew up in a family of plain-speakers. My freshmen college roommate did not. She was also a pretty quiet person who did not speak much. Unfortunately, when she would get angry about something I did, she would give me The Silent Treatment. The subtlety of this passive aggressive behavior was usually lost on me and I would blindly continue doing whatever it was that made her angry to begin with. Which she generally decided I was doing deliberately to piss her off because she had so clearly expressed her displeasure by not speaking to me.

Hmm. Yeah. That relationship did not go well. And I was clueless until 3/4 of the way through the year when she literally exploded at me and months worth of suppressed, seething anger came to the surface. It was eye opening. I literally had no idea that anyone could be that angry. Mostly because in my family we dealt with things well before it got to that level!

Wouldn’t it be easier to just say, “It bothered me when X happened. I’d rather you not do it again.” And if it’s really important they not do it again, let them know what the consequences are if it happens again. Say it plainly and without anger and follow through. It works well for us!

Seattle Mom January 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Wow, was I your college roommate? :)

Seriously, I grew up in a house where passive-aggressiveness was the norm and we weren’t allowed to say anything was bothering us, ever. Meanwhile everyone seethed and treated each other with contempt.

And then I got to college and roomed with my best friend my sophomore year, and she is from a much more direct and open family than me. Suffice to say we had a rough year, and our friendship almost didn’t survive. But it did, and we’re still friends.

Now I’ve been through a lot of therapy and self-help books, and I’m a lot better about being open and telling people when stuff bothers me. Still not great, but at least when I’m being passive-aggressive I’m aware that it’s what I’m doing and I should be more direct… it’s just very hard sometimes. I’m glad that I can be open with my husband, but I’m still learning to be more open with the au pair.

This post actually caught my eye because my thought was “Discipline your au pair? What?” — If she does something I don’t like I generally just let it go, because addressing it is too difficult. But that is painful too. Our last au pair never did anything outright bad or against the rules, but there were a couple of things I didn’t really agree with and I wish I had the strength of character to talk about (I seethed for a month after she bought my older daughter body soap from the Disney store, laden with chemicals. We only use natural products on the kids, didn’t she notice? But I couldn’t take away the “princess soap” from my daughter, and the AP’s intentions were good, so what did I do? I poured it down the drain, little by little, so it would not all go on her body. Gosh, I felt bad but I didn’t know what else to do. Should have just said something from the beginning. Argh.)

Taking a Computer Lunch January 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I try very, very, very hard not to discipline my au pair at all in front of my children. I don’t want to do anything to undermine her authority with them (mind you one is old enough that the AP has to earn it – and recently she pointed out how few years there are between them, thereby shooting herself in the foot).

I try to bite my tongue, so that the only time I speak up in front of the kids is when the AP does something that might physically harm a child (like sneezing into her hand and then motioning to prepare food for a medically fragile child – really!). I try to keep my tone mild and as free from anger (or disgust) as I can. “Please wash your hands after you sneeze into them, so you don’t make X sick.”

For 10 1/2 years of the 11 3/4 years we have been hosting, we did not take away privileges. AP #8 changed that, but neither child knows that we took one privilege away (although one child knows about the event that led to the withdrawal of the privilege).

And yes, I’m guilty of the warm and friendliness “punishment.” For APs who work hard and go the extra mile, the world is their oyster. I’m free with my time, bring home little gifts, and welcome friends and family into my home. Those that require constant job coaching months into their stay get the roll of the eyes, the sigh, and a lot of push-back on my part when they ask for extra time off.

Nicole January 5, 2013 at 11:39 am

In three years of hosting an au pair, I have never had to think about taking away privileges for my au pair, until now. this article came at a perfect time and I really look forward to reading everyones responses. I have always felt that disciplining an au pair seemed degrading and childish. I felt that having a mature discussion and “showing” my disappointment ( as stated above) should be plenty to get the behavior to change. Our 22 year old au pair has a lot of perks and privileges. Smart Phone, access to a nice safe car, sat radio in car, Gym membership, horse to ride, housekeeper for her room and bathroom, basically anything we have she has. She had a very nice Christmas with us too. We treat her as an equal and up until the last month or so things have been fine. She is almost 9 months with us. However, it seemed as soon as her relationship with her American boyfriend became more serious, her job and judgment became less serious too. Weekly and now daily the lack of judgment and overall forgetfulness is so frustrating. Our talks are not seeming to help either.

A few examples: we live in the mountains of Colorado. We get big snowstorms and sometime stretches of sub zero temps.
The night of a big snowstorm even though we were all getting accident alerts on our cell phones and we have spoken to her about not driving in bad weather, she took my brand new car out without asking to her boyfriends. I came home after having been driving the au pair car ( Subaru Outback better in snow) and my car was gone. My husband had no idea she had even left. When she finally did come home, she managed to leave a 6 pack of beer in the back seat that exploded in the cold ( we have had long discussions about. Not leaving cell phones, sodas, juice boxes, ect in freezing cars overnight) and managed to leave the door Ajar and the dome light in the car rain the battery dead. When I discovered this the next morning you can imagine how upset I was.

The next week (again bad weather and sub zero temps) she lets me know she is going to take my 4 year old to the car wash to wash the car! ( my four year old likes the spray car washes in summer time and he likes to put the quarters in the machine). Hello, it s -10 below zero! Not only is this a safety issue for my child, but does she plan to incase the car in ice! Countless times she puts my 3 year old down at night without a pull-up on and he wakes me up at 2 am having wet his bed. I then have to get up,change and wash sheets, bath my child who is soaking wet and cold and then get us back to bed. The next morning I come dragging in exhausted and she bright eyed! This is one of her responsibilities is to make sure my son has a Pull up on for nap and overnights. We all make mistakes and can be forgetful, but this is now the 4 th time in two weeks. She always says sorry and that she just forgot.

Lastly, I am in business that requires confidentiality with my clients. I very seldom share issues with my family at the dinner table, but sometimes with my husband that she sometimes will overhear. I regret this now. My home office is unfortunately near the au pairs room upstairs, Thus on occasion I might be having a meeting in my office, a phone call that could be overheard. I found out from a friend ( who houses my au pairs boyfriend in her lock off) that she shares with her boyfriend details about my clients. He then shares them with his friends and in a small mountain town comes full circle back to me! You can imagine my embarrassment and shock when a client emailed me that I had breeched confidentiality with a beer truck driver! (my au pairs boyfriend).

I am just not sure what to do. I don’t want to send her home, because my children adore her and overall she is a good au pair minus some recent judgment issues.

Do I take away the car because she gossips? Do I cancel sat radio because she forgets, do I tell her poor judgment calls mean I need to take away her privileges? It just seems like disciplining a teen and she is 22.

Thanks for your thoughts and listening to my long description.

HRHM January 5, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Actually, I think having a reset conversation where you let her know that you are thinking of rematch may give you a lot of leverage. Since she seems pretty attached to the boyfriend, it should be the ice bath she needs to wake up and get back to reality. If not, then you should go ahead a rematch. As much as our kids may love our APs, if they don’t make our lives better/easier, then there is NO reason to spend 24000+ dollars a year on them!

I would say that the car breeches warrant taking away privileges but really, it sounds like your issues are much bigger than that.

I also think that the next time your kiddo wets the bed, you ought to roust AP out of bed to take care of at least the sheet changing and washing while you get him cleaned up and back in to bed. It might make her a little more diligent!

Boys Mama January 11, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I learned a great trick on this website once- “you wake ’em, you take ’em”. I think in this case she is waking ’em.

American AP in Europe January 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Put her on notice that you’re considering rematch. There is no “punishment” you can give her. She is an adult and an employee.

DO NOT enter her room to change your child’s sheets or ANYTHING like that. I am horrified that people are suggesting this. If my bosses entered my room in the middle of the night for any other reason besides an emergency, I would tell them, “I am not dressed and that whatever they need can wait until morning and to not to enter my room again without knocking.” If they did again, I would be the one to initiate rematch, simply because I wouldn’t tolerate “punishments” like this from my bosses.

Of course it’s important for your AP to remember to put the pull-up on the baby, but the goal is for her to remember, not to punish her. So you could leave notes, call, text, and double check yourself. Other than that, there is nothing you can do to “make” your AP remember. If you’re so unhappy about it, consider a rematch, but do not “punish” your AP.

As for all the things she did, talk to her as a friend or peer, explain how you feel. Tell her that it seriously compromised your professional reputation to have her repeating things and then ask her to sign a confidentiality contract. Nothing legally binding, but just so she understands that the things she sees and hears in your house, stay in your house and that it is important because you live in such a small community.

I’m also sorry to say but the thing about taking the 4-year-old to the car wash is just poor judgment. Au pairs aren’t childcare professionals. It is certainly a stupid thing to do, but a mistake that people who don’t have kids could make.

I am truly sympathetic to your situation, but it doesn’t sound like any sort of “punishment” will achieve the desired results. Be direct. Tell her everything you posted here and tell her how you feel and be honest about where you stand considering a rematch. Give her a written review and list of things you want changed. Be clear about the confidentiality contract. It can even be a piece of paper that just says, “Nothing you hear coming out of this room is to be repeated” and hang it on your office door. Have her sign it.

Good luck to you.

German Au-Pair January 6, 2013 at 2:51 am

Waking someone up to fix a mistake they constantly make is not a punishment but a consequence. I agree with the not entering part because if the au pair wants to sleep in her undies she should feel comfortable to do so.
But I would certainly knock on her door and make her get up or call her so she wakes up. Of course that would mean that her work time would be reduced the next day, because you cannot break the contract for something like that (or maybe she’s not working the 45 hours? Then it would be fine.)
It’s not a punishment but learning to take consequences and responsibility. If feeling bad for your host mum who had to suffer from a mistake you made not once but FOUR times in a row, is not enough to keep your mind on it, then maybe you need other reminders.
And even if you don’t wake her up, I would certainly not wash the peed in sheets at night but leave them for her to wash in the morning.

Punishment for a grown up is probably not a good thing, but letting someone take the consequences for what they do is just right.
For taking your car without asking in weather conditions you told her not to drive in would result in the loss of the car privelege for me. I would clearly say “Since we cannot trust your judgement on this, you are not allowed to drive in snow or with temperatures under x degrees anymore.”

American AP in Europe January 6, 2013 at 7:15 am

I think that saving the sheets to be washed in the morning would be appropriate and effective.

Perhaps you’re okay with your employers coming into your room at night, but privacy is very important to me, no matter if I made a huge mistake during the day.

I think that if the host parents still value the relationship with their AP, it is more important to respect her time and space than to get their point across.

Melissa January 6, 2013 at 11:47 am

I don’t think anyone is advocating that the HM barge into the AP’s room or not give her reasonable notice to get herself together. But it is comparable to an employer calling her employee in the middle of the night if there is an urgent problem that occurred as a result of that employee’s job performance. As an example, in my company, we have an IT person who is responsible for setting up systems tests that are scheduled to run overnight. If the system shuts down or has a critical error because the test was set up incorrectly, that individual will be called by his boss to come back into work in the middle of the night to fix it. Because the au pair is in the unique situation of living where she works, the HF can knock on her door. But, they could of course call her cell phone instead, which would be exactly what would happen in a traditional employment situation, if the job called for it.

German Au-Pair January 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Please read what I have said before ;) : “I agree with the not entering part because if the au pair wants to sleep in her undies she should feel comfortable to do so.
But I would certainly knock on her door and make her get up or call her so she wakes up.”

Seattle Mom January 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Maybe she shouldn’t barge in to the AP’s room unexpectedly. But if she tells the AP in advance, “Hey, next time the child wakes up wet in the middle of the night because you forgot his pullup, I’m knocking on your door and you can get up and help deal with it.” That might help the AP remember to get the pull-up on. If she forgot 4 times in 2 weeks then she isn’t feeling the consequences of her actions.

Personally, I don’t know that I would do that, but I also have never been in that situation. It doesn’t seem that unfair, after the pullup has been forgotten so many times in such a short period.

Georgiapeach January 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I’m one of those passive people. Not passive aggressive. I worked for a company that promoted extreme PC ways to handle employee problems so I still find myself in that mode. May or may not be a good situation, depending on the employee being reprimanded.

Anyways, with the pull up issue, as dumb as it would sound, I would tell the 3 year old to say, I need my diaper at night. I’ve experienced that kids are pretty good at that. I’d teach the child to say, I don’t like a wet bed etc….

The car situation, I’d take away the keys, forcing her to ask you or your husband. Then, you can lower the boom with a no. Of course, she’ll ask why, then I’d give the laundry list of her disrepectful actions with regards to the car.

The privacy is a HUGE issue for me. Our company is very very strict on protecting the privacy of clients because we get some high profile clients. I would fudge a bit and mention to her, I heard from my client and they were pissed on information x,y,z was found out. I know you told your boyfriend because you were in the house with me. I will report you to the agency and they will report that to the government, it will cost you your visa. Shake her up at that moment in time. Then I’d call the LCC & tell her what happened. Have her turn up the flame too.

May I ask what country she’s from? I may need to turn to you for advice if she’s from the same country as mine.

DarthaStewart January 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I think you have several issues.
First- explain to her that it confidentiality is a condition of employment. Period. You WILL break the match, no matter how far she has gotten in the year, if you find out that she has shared any other pieces of confidential information with her boyfriend- explain to her that it HAS gotten back to you.
Second- I would have taken the car away for at least a week for leaving the beer in it, and having it explode.
Third- I would tell her that I’m going to wake her up in the middle of the night the next time she forgets to put on a pull-up, to demonstrate WHY she needs to put on a pull up, and ask her to change the sheets. Natural consequences. Right now, she has none, and probably doesn’t get what the big deal is. IMO, if she does something like that, that causes a mess later, she needs to help get up and clean up the mess.

German Au-Pair January 6, 2013 at 2:52 am

Oh, should have read this first. You’re absolutely right!

Julia January 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Ok I had a hostmom who tried to discipline me and her “punishments” were so ridiculous that I did do the punishment but it didnt really help. Per example I had to clean the car out before I went on my vacation and I did clean it and she then sat in the car 10 days later and found dust in it and a candy wrapper so the next morning she called me on my cell to tell me to clean out the car when it was 10 degrees outside. Did I do it, yes but I didn’t learn anything out of it.
I was once home alone and somehow the butter dish felt out when I opened the fridge door and it broke. I was very sorry and didnt do it on purpose but I got the silent treatment for 4 days.
Afterwards I would say the right way in punishment is communication. Tell your au pair what she did wrong, why it was wrong ( yes there are the cultural differences and maybe even the generation conflicts) and what the consequences are. I see it similar to discipline a child. First offense you tell them what was wrong and give out a warning about the consequences, second time the rule you did the crime you do the time is on.
And yes there are those crimes that require immediate punishment and then do so but still give an explanation why.
Again communication is the key word here

American AP in Europe January 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Honestly, I am really taken aback that the title of this post is about “punishments”. There is even a debate about whether to “punish” or “discipline” a child. You certainly discipline employees, not punish them. I’d like to request “punishment” be changed to “discipline”

First and foremost, I am an adult and an employee. If my employer is unhappy with my performance or personal conduct, I expect her to speak to me directly about it. I would also prefer a written review, that way I can look over it and remind myself.

I have a very direct communication style and I don’t read into little tips and hints and passive aggressive “punishments”. If I had a boss who did that I would start to wonder who the children in the family actually were…

I was very careful to screen for this quality in my employers when I was interviewing. I told them, “direct communication is the most important quality in a family I am matching with.”

I would advise NO ONE to “punish” their AP. Why? Because “punishing” sets the precedence to the young adult in your home that she is a child. If you treat her like a child, she will act like one. If you treat her like an adult, she will act like one. Part of treating her like an adult is to directly communicate to her that you’re unhappy and let her know the next steps that will be taken.

Melissa January 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I have never felt comfortable with the terms “punishments” and “privileges”. They feel to juvenile and a bit demeaning to me. Maybe it’s just word smithing, but you get the same meaning by saying disciplining or counseling, or just framing it in a different way.
That being said, it’s perfectly reasonable to correct someone regarding their performance and also indicate and carry through in consequences that relate to the issue (don’t follow car rules, you can no longer drive car). With the whole dynamic of someone living in your household though, that is sometimes easier said than done if course.
But I agree that “punishing” sounds very childlike and I DO NOT want my AP to think that I see her as a child. We very much expect her to be an adult in our household. However, unfortunately even if you treat someone like an adult it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to rise to the occasion and act like one.

Georgiapeach January 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I never use the words “punishments” or “discipline”. When we go over things with our AP, and especially before I agree to things (such as late evenings out or car usage), I tell them to not disrespect me with bad actions (ex; taking your car without permission) I would never disrespect you like that if you were the HP, and I think it is a slap in the face for you to do that to me.
For my AP, it helps her not feel like a child, per say, but like a person who should treat others the way she’d like to be treated. It helps but I know not all AP’s respond well.
Good luck!

cv harquail January 6, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Um, the title of this post is “the right way to discipline”.

But semantic preferences aside, the truth is that we/everyone responds to someone else’s behavior when that behavior breaks a rule.

And, we punish/discipline adults, children, peers, superiors, subordinates, you name it.

The challenge I’m posing is–
Can you face the fact that your response to a broken rule is rarely if ever neutral, and
Once you are aware of your responses,
what would you like them to be? and

Posie January 5, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I think if you get to the level of feeling the need to “punish”…it’s gone too far. As someone above stated, natural consequences are good life lessons. I would have the AP clean up the exploded beer on her own time. Then sit down and explain that she’s getting a final warning about leaving liquids in the car and taking the car without permission. One more strike…no more car for personal use. She may be an adult but its your car, not hers.

As for the pull up…I would again tell her if it happens again you will knock on her door in the night to have her change the bed. Not enter her room, but knock to wake her and have her clean it up. Again, adults with jobs sometimes have to work in their off hours to make up for things they didn’t do properly while working!!!

The breech of confidentiality just sounds like immaturity and lack of understanding the importance of it. Let her know that it’s gotten around and it’s not acceptable and if it happens again you will have to ask her to leave your home, as her lack of discretion threatens your career and livelihood.

I feel fortunate that we’ve not had this really come up yet with the exception of an unpaid parking ticket that our AP thought would just go away. We insisted she pay it immediately or not use car until she did…so she did :)

Indiana hostmom January 6, 2013 at 2:35 am

We have certainly missed the boat in disciplining my Au Pair, mostly because we had no solid proof for violation of our rules

(example 1: odometer shows 1200 miles driven in one month although we designated the car she drove a town car – she told us she drove with boyfriend’s, now husband’s, car to a large city about 270 miles from our town;

example 2: Do not go to the mall shopping with our son was set as rule, then my son tells me where what shops are in the mall and I had not been there with him!!;

example 3: Do not take our son to your room, now that she left an unbelievable mess for me after a quick move-out to her husband, I find stickers that my son surely placed on her walls and window and I find his toy cars;

example 4: do not feed our son things not approved by us since they may be harmful to him, well he had been fed icecream that likely contained the allergen he cannot have I learned).

We had not explicitly phrased rules for things that go without saying (do not hang out with your boyfriend – now husband – during working hours, do not let the toddler alone to call your friends or browse the internet in preparation of your travel, your wedding, your giving gifts for a particular holiday, your purchasing of homemaking items). But then our son was aggressive, because of neglect we assume, we hear from our son how he sat in the coffee shop her boyfriend works in or I see an itemized telephone bill with calls all through the day during the time she should have worked, leave alone that I even paid for all of this calling (in the last 3 month adding up to more than $200).

So we never disciplined because we were either too shocked or felt that we cannot solidly prove what we allege. Our son is 2 1/2 and yes toddlers make stuff up but if he points to the coffee shop that he knows so well or correctly describes the shops in the mall then that’s probably not made up.

The latest and last thing was that our son was on the edge of becoming sick and we said he should not be out for more than 15 to 30 min in the snow and yes we were snowed in. What did AuPair do? She was out with him for more than 3 hours to shovel herself out so that she can go to the cinema that night with her husband. Our son got severely sick to the point that we thought he has pneumonia. Then she informed us that she had lost our car key and rushed off to celebrate New Year with her new family two states over without any effort put into finding the key.

We so often looked that other way when rules were broken. We ignored that she did not help one bit in the house as long as the childcare was okay. We overlooked her super dirty room and cleaned the car up for her several times. We helped her with legal issues and sure treated her like a daughter. We overpaid her.

Well she ran off a few days ago not even saying good bye to our son leaving behind trash and a mess in her room, broken furniture, and a broken car door on our car.

How can you discipline this? You really can’t. Our resolution is never an Au Pair again. We are hiring a nanny since our child has severe dietary restrictions and cannot easily go into centralized childcare. For us all went downhill when we renewed with her and she had a boyfriend whom she now married. She took care of her personal life during working hours with our son in tow or being neglected.

Why did we ignore all of this so long? I do not know. All I know is that my son, and we refrained from saying anything bad about her in his presence, says he does not miss her. This shocks me. I thought he loved her. I take this to mean that he did not appreciate the times in the coffee shop or alone with his crayons while she was doing her thing.

CA Host Mom January 6, 2013 at 2:56 am

I am SO SORRY that you had this horrid experience! And I can’t blame you for jumping off of the ‘having an AP as childcare’ wagon. I would agree that very early on you should have seriously and directly addressed the things you saw slipping. Maybe that could have helped. But it also sounds like your AP might have had one goal (finding a husband) in mind and perhaps never would have cared about doing a good job with your son and in your home … hard to tell I guess.

I thank you very much for posting your story here because it reaffirmed my new approach (not to overlook and mention things to our AP right away before they get to be too frustrating). Other people might also learn from your story and decide to take action in their own situations early to avoid ending up so horribly disappointed.

We are on AP #3 and 2 out of the three have been wonderful. The third was a child (and NO amount of treating her like an adult, as suggested in a post above, would have cured her!) and we ended that match after 10 weeks — 8 weeks too late in hindsight.

Best of luck to you.

Indiana hostmom January 6, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for your thoughts. I know we made serious mistakes in not talking early on when things began to slip. We created a host family handbook last month when we still considered to have an AuPair. We will know give it to our nanny. We have spelled out absolutely everything (21 pages, weekly schedule, house rules, medical information, downtime work etc. etc. and I am happy to share what I did with anyone who wishes to start from this document). We put in things that “go without saying” as well, just to make very sure. And this time we promised ourselves that we will not be shy about critiquing our caregiver, who we always see as part of the family besides being an employee, which makes it harder to critique I feel.

Former NOVA host Mum January 7, 2013 at 7:40 am

Wow, sorry you had such a horrible experience.

We had bad experiences with the first Au Pair whom we sent packing. 2nd was amazing and stayed a year, still in contact with her. 3rd one was just a spoilt little princess and lasted 6 weeks and the 4th one(came from a previous family who has intiated a rematch)lasted 8 weeks and was a few shillings short of a pound!

We rapidly left the Au Pair program, went into part time day care and have never looked back!

CA Host Mom January 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm

I would love to see your handbook! Sounds like a lot of hard work and thought we into creating it!

Georgiapeach January 14, 2013 at 3:25 am

CA Host Mom, I agree on your last comment of no amount of treating her like an adult will work. When I was a manager, we would have employees who deliberately give push back and break rules because they knew it made the whole work environment difficult. We would have repeated conversations with no luck.
It’s all in the AP’s character and attitude. I once heard an employer say they would rather hire someone with a good attitude and little experience because, as he put it, he can “teach a monkey to do the job, but you can’t teach good attitude”.

American AP in Europe January 6, 2013 at 6:51 am

I applaud your decision to hire a nanny. It sounds like your son’s dietary issues should be handled by someone who is trained to handle them, and considers him a high priority.

Anna January 6, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Seriously? So many of American kids have allergies it is not beyond au pairs qualifications to deal with it. We host parents deal with au pair special diets and likes and dislikes. And any responsible au pair should consider her job a high priority.

spanishaupair January 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

an aupair is not usually specially trained or even has any knowledge of different diets for allergies, if you dont have studies related you should not have. And i think is important that families give training and instructions of how it works and what and not can the kids have, im not meaning that you dont do that, sorry if you think that.
But i absolutely agree with that the aupair first priority in her working hours must be the kids: their safety, happiness and well being

Dorsi January 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Most nannies do not have any special training to deal with allergies (or anything else). Neither do most parents. It is not that complicated — while the burden is certainly on the host family to carefully educate the child care provider, even a complicated food situation (gluten intolerance, for example) can be covered very thoroughly in an hour and a grocery store visit.

American AP in Europe January 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Depends on the severity of the allergy. Some are changing and life threatening. My sister has a bee allergy that is likely to kill her if she doesn’t have her Epipen on her when stung. Other allergies are mild and not serious at all. It sounds from the post that her son’s is the latter.

Indiana hostmom January 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

My son has Celiac disease, which means that for an acute exposure in his case he will feel very ill. But the little and trace long-term exposures will show in mood swings, stunted growth and development, increased cancer risk later on in life etc., which means yes, he does not have to be rushed to the hospital if exposed but exposure still has severe impact. Most importantly, we wouldn’t know, if there was a trace exposure.
We informed our Au Pair thoroughly that also many cosmetics are harmful. And now we see that her shampoo, conditioner, creams (left behind with the trash) say in big letters wheat protein, barley extract etc. We also said no food other than ours because the ice cream vendor will in most cases not really know if his ingredients do not have hidden gluten…
So, I think we did our job but our Au Pair was careless or very distracted.

aspiringaupair March 23, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I think that an aupair should know how to deal with children who have an allergy. My brother has Celiac disease, along with multiple other allergies. As one of his primary caretakers, I HAVE to know how to take care of his diet, because feeding him is PART of my job. And, honestly, if the HP allow research to be done on the different types of allergies, and the HP give information and guidelines on what the child can and cannot eat, then it is the aupair’s RESPONSIBILITY to abide by that!

btw, I know that I am responding to a thread that hasn’t been active for a while, but this is something that I am very passionate about. Anyone can learn how to abide by dietary guidelines! ANYONE!

Nicole January 6, 2013 at 9:37 am

Many Thanks for the feedback.

My gut was not to “punish” because it just felt counterproductive. I remember when I was a teen and myarents removed my car privilege for something ( I cannot remember). I was mad as a hornet and it taught me nothing. I felt it unjust. Although my parents had full right to do this, it was not effective parenting on me and I learned nothing from it.

I kind of see it the same way with our au pair. Let me add I love our au pair, but just don’t love her actions. None of her frustrating actions were deliberate and she did seem sorry.

I finally broke down and we spoke at length yesterday. It’s been hard to find time during the holidays.

Our New Yetas resolution is to meet weekly, remind each other of things (even if we forget and remember later on) due to where we live I will not remove her car privilege. She would be stranded in the middle of nowhere, however have revisited rules about anyone driving in dangerous weather. She has agreed to pay to get the beer smell out of my new car…as I do think she feels very bad about this. Interesting enough my husband of all people who is a lot more stern than I left a soda in his car and it eluded as well. I really would like to punish him, but he is an adult and my husband…I feel my au pair deserves the same respect after all it was a mistake and we all make them. I think I will leave the sheets for the au pair to do if this happens again and it’s her forgetfulness.

I spoke to her at length about what “confidentiality”. I used the suggestion of the contract to keep I info private. She was horrified to find out about her boyfriend and vowes to never speak of private issues.

Thanks for the feedback. Sometimes we just need a differing perspective. Lucky for me I have a mature AP who when I told her how hurt and frustrated I was, she reacted and seemed to feel bad. This helps me know she cares and will try to be more diligent. Communication is key.

I agree we should call it discipline and not punishment. I don’t punish my children, I discipline them. Discipline means to teach.

American AP in Europe January 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

So so happy to read this. Glad it’s working out.

Seattle Mom January 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I completely agree with your approach to discipline, and I’m glad that your AP is genuinely trying to do better!

Nicole January 6, 2013 at 9:38 am

Pardon my spelling errors and typos in post above

American AP in Europe January 6, 2013 at 10:52 am

Here is also another problem I have with this entire subject in itself- the idea of the term “privileges”. When I matched with my current family, everything was spelled out in our contract. What some families define as a “privilege” is to me, a term of my contract that yes, I am entitled to, because it influenced my decision to accept the position or not.

For example, it is in my contract that she pays the equivalent of $20 USD for my cell phone. She has no grounds to take this away no matter what I do.

I don’t drive a car, my Metro card is included in my contract, but if I did, I would make sure that the details of who pays what were put into the contract to so my bosses couldn’t “take it away”. I would never ever agree to a situation where there were “privileges” that could be “taken away”. I am not a child, I am an employee and an adult member of this household. I am also 25, which certainly changes things, so reading these discussions knowing they’re referring to 18-20 year olds girls is really disturbing.

When my family is generous toward me, it’s that- being generous. Taking me out to dinner with them, getting me small gifts, ect. It’s part of our PERSONAL relationship. Transportation, money, working hours and benefits are part of my EMPLOYMENT. There is no wiggle room for the terms “privileges” and “punishment”.

If my (single mother) boss is unhappy with something I did, she tells me. She speaks to me either as my boss or as a(n older) friend. There is professionalism in the first instance and respect in both. The level of drama on this site is really disheartening.

It seems as if some people really do exploit their APs, by taking advantage of how naive they are, and that they’re not aware of their personal rights. Every AP has the right to not be disturbed in the middle of the night by host parents. As mentioned in the example above, sure our jobs cause us to work late and compensate for a mistake, but no job allows a boss to come knocking on your bedroom door, or shake you awake from a dead sleep. I can’t believe that people are actually suggesting that.

Just my $0.02

aupairmom101 January 6, 2013 at 11:41 am

I doesn’t sound like you are an actual au pair. What contract are you talking about? Here in the US, au pairs are not employees nor do not get an employment contract that defines benefits such as additional allowances/car use, tv/internet/phone use, etc. Au pairs are here on a J1 visa for a cultural exchange with child care and education requirements and are paid a stipend, not a salary. Their contract defines stipend amount, working hours, limitations on job requirements, vacation accrual, education requirements, the sleeping/bedroom requirements, etc. No where does it include benefits such as car use, cell phone, etc. If a parent mentions these things in the family letter or manual prior to matching, that does not mean they are guaranteed to you; they are privileges that the family is offering. If you do not like what you get when you arrive or if it is not what was presented to you in your initial match information, you are free to rematch with another family at any time or go home. What you are describing sounds more like a nanny contract rather than an au pair contract and those are 2 very different things.

American AP in Europe January 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I am an AP in a European country that doesn’t have the same guidelines as the US.

didis January 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I am au pair in USA, and yes, I agree we do not have contract that says what are ours privileges, but I completely agree with Au pair in Europe. During our Skype conversations with potential Hosts. we say what we want, can’t, what we are willing to do, and Hosts are the one who are telling us about positive and negative things that can occur if we end up as a match, including all the things we will have as a privileges if we decide to match with them. So having my Hosts taking away from me things that we agreed I will have as their au pir in order to show me that I made mistake, instead of talking to me, will not make me understand and behave better. It will only make me resentful and angry, and even after my privileges are returned I will not have any interested in having good relationship with them as I used to, because for me, that is not way to teach me, nor I am teaching their kids to behave better that way.

To explain myself, I am 25, responsible, and so far I hadn’t any problems with my hosts, so what I wrote here is just my opinion.

Communicating means a lot, especially because so many of aupairs are not prepared or realizing what this job means. It’s not partying and just seeing all this great things in USA, but it is also huge responsibility to take care of kids and do chores we are required to, so we need you, as an adults, to sometimes just remind us, help us, guide us and be there as our guardians, no matter how adult we are.

PA AP Mom January 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

We explain right in our host family handbook and in our Skype and email conversations that having the car for personal use is a “privilege”. We would never keep an au pair from using the car to go to au pair meetings, classes, important appointments, the store, etc. That said, if an AP showed blatant disregard for our car rules then we would suspend weekend use for “pleasure” for a short period of time.

We have never had to take away the “privilege” because we have always discussed the rules up front with agreement before matching, but it has always been presented as a possibility.

Reb January 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Well said PA AP Mom. As many others have already identified, being clear and honest is the best way forward. Host parents should make privledges clear in the inital stages of interviewing, but also what happens when rules are broken.

I remember when I was an au pair, my host mum never wrote any rules as it was her first time having an au pair. Sometimes I felt that the rules were unclear in particular around “curfews” and fuel… Luckily I was in a position where I felt able to ask my host mum about any confusions, however not all au pairs feel comfortable doing this (depending on their personality and the relationship they have with their hostfamily).

Whatever you chose to do, CONSISTENCY is essential! Do not change the rules whenever you feel like it — how is the aupair ever going to learn if the rules are changed?

Au pair January 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I totally agree with you!!to the host mom that had this idea with knocking on the door, does your boss come and wake u up in the middle of the night if u made a mistake? It sure sounds like she is not a great au pair! But if u already know she forgets to put on pull ups, then I would call her at the time she brings the baby to bed. You can also write reminders on little post it notes! If necessary put them everywhere in the house!! I would be embarresed about this, that I would learn super fast not to forget the pull ups!! Good luck!!

Dorsi January 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

If I make a big mistake in my work, I absolutely get contacted during my offtime (which can be while I am sleeping) to deal with it. My spouse has (in certain positions as well) I think the Au Pairs commenting on this thread may have worked in few positions with significant responsibility/autonomy. There are many jobs where a significant error will result in intrusion into your personal time.

Also, until I was a chronically sleep deprived parent, I would never have had an appreciation for exactly how angry I would be to get up several times in a few weeks for someone else’s mistake. A wet kid, wet bed could be a huge disruption for a parent and the child. More than once would make me furious.

(I had an Au Pair do this once on purpose — she thought it was time for my child to try underwear at bedtime, even though she had never once woken up to use the bathroom at night and never woken up dry in the morning. Of course, she woke up cold and wet. We had an amicable chat and it never happened again. As an aside, this AP was a preschool teacher who thought she knew more than I did about child-rearing, but had never dealt with the household tasks of childcare. I am a little leery of matching with another preschool-teacher.)

CA Host Mom January 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Well stated, Dorsi. I too, could be contacted (possibly while sleeping) if I made a mistake in my work environment. I am glad that you brought this up because it is clear that some of the posters here really don’t understand that a part of life is being responsible and accountable all of the time.

We do everything possible to respect our AP’s time off and she goes out of her way to be helpful (even if she is off) — we have a mutually respectful relationship that way.

But in this position, where something like this is happening over and over again … I would seriously consider waking her if it happened again. I would, however, warn her that I was going to do it (ahead of time) and would give her credit for working the time that she was awake and dealing with the wet bed.

German Au-Pair January 7, 2013 at 2:08 am

I am an au pair in the US and I had the same idea ;)
You know, I really would hate it, if my host parents did that. I also agree that having a car is part of what I agreed to when I came here (I would not have matched with a family that doesn’t offer the au pair a car, especially in an area like this, where you simply have no other way of getting anywhere).
But I have also agreed to be responsible about it. It would never even OCCUR to me just to take my host mum’s car without asking. Ever. And I if was allowed to, I sure as hell would make sure I don’t leave my beer in it -exploding in the cold! Taking the car privilege away completely would be unreasonable, but if you cannot be trusted with it in cold weather, then you cannot drive in cold weather. Just a natural consequence.

And I would hate being up in the middle of the night. But I would understand that I would be required to take care of the mess I have produced. Maybe not at the first time…but that happened 4 times then obviously the au pair doesn’t care enough. And I agree that many jobs require you to make up for the work you messed up -some even in the middle of the night. As long as no 45-hour rule is broken, I think that’s totally legit.

I say it again: I am a grown up and I don’t want to be punished or disciplined like I am a child. But dealing with the natural consequence of a behavior is a very big part of being a grown up.
When I read all the au pairs here who claim they are so grown up that they would not want to be woken up at night, I cannot help but feel they’re being a little bit hypopcrite. “I’m so grown up, you cannot discipline me, but I’m just a young au pair and don’t have to take the consequences either.”

JJ Host Mom January 7, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Thank you for posting this, German Au Pair. And while I’m at it, I really appreciate your posts here in general. Your host family is lucky to have you.

German Au-Pair January 8, 2013 at 12:30 am

Thank you so much, it’s nice to hear that!
I had a rough patch with my host family last summer because they were bothered with some small things over MONTHS and didn’t tell me about it. Boiled up, exploded and was really bad. We still extended and I am doing my very best to improve and take the criticism (some was justified, some wasn’t) seriously and learn from it.
This website is so helpful to gain perpective on days you are just frustrated with some little things. I think if you are open to it, this site can help you grow a lot!

Georgiapeach January 14, 2013 at 3:45 am

Thank you, German Au Pair, for being fair. I think you would make a great mediator! :)
I kind of see it as a respect thing. HP’s should respect AP’s and not carry the “punishments” too far. AP’s should respect the HP’s requests of child care preferences and lifestyles.

Seattle Mom January 7, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Being an AP is not the same as being an employee for a company that has regular business hours. You are not just an employee, you are a member of the family. So you are affected by what happens in the family life, both the positive and the negative. When your mistake causes the HM to be woken up at 2am to change wet sheets 4 times in 2 weeks, you are not being woken up to help because it is your employment, you are being woken up to help as a member of the family who caused this problem, and to help you remember to not do it again. I think if the AP is warned in advance that she will be woken up next time it happens, it is very unlikely to happen again. But the warning needs to be made and followed up on if it does happen.

HRHM January 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I too get called in the middle of the night for issues that arise that come from my work during the day. As others have said, it’s part of being a grownup and taking responsibility for the natural consequences of your actions (or lack of same!)

anon January 7, 2013 at 11:09 pm

In addition to a maturity factor, I think there may also be a cultural component to how some APs view the “waking the AP in the middle of the night to deal with the sheets”.

In the USA employees are not so strictly “protected” in a paternalistic way as they are in other parts of the world (I have lived and worked in 6 Central European countries and as a general statement, employers there are far more (legally) constricted in what they may demand of their employees, and when they may demand it — even among professionals.

Professionals in the USA are most often “at will” employees without a contract, and salaried professionals are expected to do whatever it takes, whenever it is needed. Many APs may not realise that this is the lay of the land in the USA, and that their (often salaried, professional) HP have this perspective and approach work responsibilities and the fact that they can encroach on your “personal time” from this perspective (and not from that of an environment where a 37 or 38 hour work week is standard, and where there are dozens of public holidays and an expectation that one will take several weeks of holidays (in addition to public bank holidays) each year). I do NOT work in a lifesaving/on call job (like that of a physician or EMT) but I still get work demands imposed on me at 1am because my boss needs to discuss something then, or someone else in a different time zone needs to have a call that requires me to join it at 3am or 4am my time; and I get work calls/emails (that require my participation/response) and demands on vacation, religious/national holidays and Sundays…and that is when things are going well and no mistakes have been made!

Dorsi January 8, 2013 at 1:21 am

This is a very insightful comment and I think gets to the heart of the disagreement here. Thank you for posting.

Posie January 6, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I own the car, computer, and cell phone that our APs use. If she isn’t doing her part to take care of them as she has agreed, I will take away the “privilege”…sorry if that seems unfair or breech of some contract to some of you. If the AP wants to purchase these items for herself she can trash them all she likes.

And I worked in a retail job in my early 20s. If the closing procedure wasn’t done properly, the “closer” was called in the middle of the night to come in and fix it. I only did it wrong once. :). Nothing I do in my current job would warrant a middle of the night call to fix, but I have been contacted in my off hours to fix things. It’s called being a grown up….

Taking a Computer Lunch January 7, 2013 at 2:01 pm

In the nearly 12 years (ack! really?!) that I have been hosting, I haven’t thought much about discipline in regards to an au pair. Training? Yes. Redirecting when the training went awry? Yes. For the most part, the APs I have hosted have truly lived their lives as adults, and blossomed in the freedom away from cultural conventions and close family communities.

And then came #8. She’s not stupid, far from it, but she absolutely lacks common sense and has been immature enough to push back on almost everything we have asked of her. We’re in month 6 now, and we’re going to make it work. I must say that because the first two months were a complete headache (almost totaled the AP car seven weeks in and then made herself so sick that she couldn’t work – on a day the kids were home from school). DH and I quizzed the LCC about rematching, but there were not special needs willing APs in the rematch pool, so we were going to have wait for an out-of-country candidate to arrive. And so we chose to make it work.

While I don’t discipline her, I do find myself being less warm & fuzzy (DH is irked by it, knowing how close I have been with her predecessors – not that he likes her any more than I do). I find myself less likely to stop what I’m doing to talk when she pops up during her free time.

We had a mediated meeting with our LCC, when #8 decided she wanted to finish out her year but under the condition that we didn’t push her to work harder than she wanted (she makes a minimal effort, and she does what we ask of her – and well enough that we don’t feel compelled to do it over). She seemed shocked, when at the meeting, our LCC said, “Well I guess you won’t be surprised when they don’t nominate you for AP of the Year.” And we won’t.

We’re not cold people and I don’t feel like I’m passive-aggressive in regards to her. The AP got to go to a destination Christmas with family (flight paid because she was working). She received nice gifts from us about equal to a week’s salary. She is invited to join us on family outings.

What I can’t do, is let go of that uphill struggle of the first weeks with us, as much as I would like to. It may color the rest of my year. Not punishment perhaps, but not giving of myself as much as I have to her predecessors.

Lisa January 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm

How can someone make themselve sick? Did she drink to much or what?

Taking a Computer Lunch January 7, 2013 at 10:19 pm

No, fortunately alcohol was not a factor. I expect it was embarrassment and worry about the consequences of $4,500 worth of damage to our car from an accident that was her fault because she ran a red light. In any event, she told my husband that she was too sick to work on a day that the kids had no school. Later she admitted that she felt guilty and unable to work, but that she had been physically ill.

The timing, for her, was bad, because we had so many kid-focused commitments that we were unable to sit down and talk about consequences until the following week (good for me, because I was able to calm down a lot).

Gianna January 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm

All this talk about consequences causes me to remember the time I spent working in retail when I was the same age as many aupairs are now. The manager said very clearly that if someone did not produce a pre-determined amount of sales in a given hour , he or she would not be given desireable hours. Sometimes ringing up a big total was completely beyond the control of the sales staff (very few customers in the store that day ). Numerous perks and rewards have been given to outstanding workers in every profession in which I have been engaged. It may not be nice but it is reality. And , in almost every job I have ever held, there has been a lot of talk on the part of management about ” this is a family ” . Sometimes the higher ups meant it and sometimes it was just spin but at the end of the day there were real life consequences for mistakes. In the end, it isn’t good business to treat employees or family unkindly but it is absolutely reasonable to establish rules and follow up with consequences.

Au Pair January 8, 2013 at 3:45 am

Could you perhaps offer a time to have a review of how things are going, ask for her feedback and then discuss the discipline issue? As has been said, share your wisdom of how and to what your children respond well to.
Has your au-pair had much experience in caring for children? All of this is likely to be a learning process for her too- which you can support.

If you employed your au pair through an agency, this is something they will likely be able to advise on too.

SKNY January 10, 2013 at 7:00 am

I am not sure where to post but I am having “interviewer anxiety” and need help.
My au pair is getting married to her American boyfriend and will be leaving in 3 months. Although my husband was initially against a new au pair, we decided to give it a try.
So there is this great awesome au pair that I loveD. She was so caring, looked so responsible and great with her kids. Her year ends very soon and she decided to leave. I asked my au pair if her friend wouldn’t want to extend and stay with us instead.
My au pair gave me a fast NO. She said that this apparent wonderful au pair tends to discipline the kids by pulling their hairs (so their mom wont see signs). She also said she’d place kids in day care if she was me, as many of her au pair friends do things that are not desirable, such as telling families they are going to park and going to friend’s house, or occasionally squeezing a child’s hand, or telling they are watching the kids but leaving the kids alone and doing something else…
Well… As a young mom of 2 under 3 kids, who won’t be able to defend themselves, or tell me if anyone did anything to them, I am starting to have interviewers anxiety.
How do you protect your kids? How do you scan for it? granted, I have times I want to smack my kids… But I don’t. Surely don’t want an au pair doing it. Do you place cameras? HELP PLEASE

New au pair mom January 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Your post made me kind of sad. We are 7 months in with our first au pair. We brought her on for our infant when I went back to work, but have older kids. She came in the summer months, so we had a couple months of her home with all the kids before she was left alone with the infant. (I was worried about the same things you are!). I figured my older kids would offer information if I should be worried. Anyways, 1) how does the au pair interact with your kids on and off duty? 2) how do your children react to the au pair? I know that on Saturday morning when the Au Pair sleeps in and our baby sees her for the first time, there is no doubt that there is a level of love there. They both light up. My baby is all smiles to see her and the au pair is happy to see the baby too. Trust your gut instinct! Good luck!

Any January 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm

For the holidays, our 17 years old live in au pair girl, who had been here for some weeks without problems (came in late November), had just arrived, and asked what’s appropriate to wear for such an event, as she had seen in some guideline that such questions should be asked. She usually dresses in sweater and sweatpants, but I said she would look really nice if she showed up in a white blouse and a black skirt, or a white blouse with some black, better-looking, pants. Being polite I thought, she said thanks to me for my suggestions, but said she declined. Thinking it was nothing more than a suggestion by me, she said she would wear her ordinary clothes.

I asked her why, and she said she hadn’t brought any such clothes with her. I said I can pay her. I allowed her only a little bit choice (it’s more a strict dresscode, not a uniform), just it was a real blouse with collar and pockets, but also told her some that I didn’t consider OK. After some arguing, we went to a shopping mall. Finally, we found an outfit, with me having the final words at the end. I told her to remember that it may be a little bit tight-fitting, and not as comfort as her own clothes, but that they weren’t intended for her ordinary work. After buying the clothes, she said how much she hated dressing nice. After some arguing, I made her promise to wear it for some special events (like holidays, going to restaurants with family and that stuff), and we made it an add in the house rules, written down. I also decided that having her wear the clothes for the meetings I have with her. To be sure if she spills on them, I bought her two exactly similar sets. I let her response for the clothes being kept neat and clean. I told her to put on the outfit again, and meet me in my home office. Afterwards, I presented her for our four 6 years old daughter, who thought she looked nice.

On the Sunday before Christmas, I told the girl to put her outfit on in the afternoon, and she could come eat a meal with us if she wanted, preparing for the Christmas celebrations. She started to talk back, screaming and crying, and finally ran to her room. We at the meal alone, and hours later, she came out, upset. I just told her to calm down, and put the clothes on. After another arguing, I raised my voice (never rude), and told her to put on the clothes and come back, apologizing her bad behavior. When she came back, I made sure she wore the clothes as I said (do all buttons, blouse inside pants, belt on). Finally, she apologized, and I said everything was OK again, let’s forget this and have fun together at Christmastime, laughing and talking together.

Christmas came, and the girl sat with us at the table, and said almost nothing. I had some guests over, and they all said the girl looked very nice in those clothes. I tried to talk with her in general, about stuff likes friends, time-off, interests and such like I usually do, but she didn’t answer, and talked as little as possible.

Finally when Christmas was over, I noticed the girl going into the kitchen in the evening, when thinking she was unnoticed and pouring water from the water tap all over the blouse collar, and even into one blouse pocket. I told her to go directly back to her room, change into another similar blouse, clean up and meet me in my home office. With a strict voice, I said I can accept a mistake (just she apologizes), but not this.

She apologized, crying, but I said that for the next day, I required her writing an excuse, and show up leaving it to me, while wearing those clothes, and also tell me she apologized. She did as I said, and the following days, I talked to her with a less friendly (but never rude) voice, and the conflict toned down day by day, but I told her to be prepared wearing these clothes again for New Year. I said that all this would be forgotten, if she just made a good impression on me for New Year. She promised, and for New Year, she came into my home office after the party, dressed in those clothes, and said she was very sorry and tries to do her best. She’s otherwise a very calm and friendly girl, easy to talk with, so I was choked when she heated up like that. I said she handled this great, and comforted her.

We had another party over the 12th Night (yes, there are many special events this time of year), just in family, when she sidn’t do anything, but complained a little bit, asking:
“-When can I take these clothes off?”
I just required an apologize, and she did it. Everything went normal again.

Today, I told her that tomorrow she will wear these clothes again, at my daughter’s birthday. First, she promised, but when I told to check out her wardrobe if the clothes were neat clean, the au pair girl soon sat in her room again, upset. I tried to talk to her (not rude, but less nice, yes).

My friend’s has their young live in au pair girl dressed in a white blouse and a black skirt for special events, and that girl hates it too, but they never had this problem. My friend has the girl wear such outfits even every weekend (if on duty, since it still doesn’t require that much dirty work), something I actually also really want, but right now can’t even imagine that. I’ve not even said anything about it (and a skirt worn with the blouse would really heat up the situation even more).

Yes, I should maybe have written this in house rules from start, but forgot that. I don’t want to kick her out (she does a good job with my daughter, and my daughter likes her), but I’m tired of all this. Sure, she will never like this and I don’t want her to, but needs to respect me, and accept.

Any ways to discipline this girl? More to teach her about good behaviour (which I think is very important)? Is cornertime, as mentioned above, really OK (never in front of kids)? Since she’s not an employee. What I really feal I want to do sometimes is tell the girl to put on these clothes, and jump up on a high chair, and just sit there startring into the wall for hours, not being allowed to say or do anything (except breaks for eating or toileting when she needs), and finally apologize, and write lines. I know this would make her stop trusting me forever (and it’s not really realistic), maybe even leaving, but how about writing lines (or some shorter, less strict, cornertime)?

But of course, more serious attempts are welcome.

Should be working January 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm

I don’t think you can make the AP wear a certain outfit. And I can see why she would be insulted if she were told to go change and what she had to wear. To me it seems overly controlling to require white/black and buy 2 of the same outfit and make it a required item, when she explicitly expressed her dislike for the outfit.

If it were my AP, I would give general guidelines for the family event (like ‘no jeans’ or ‘skirt’). If she had nothing at all appropriate, I might give her some money to buy something or try to find something she thinks is ok. You can also say that she can’t come to the events if she is not dressed appropriately. But ultimately to me this is a case of ‘pick your battles’. A teenager showing up in casual clothes to a family event may be annoying but is not a tragedy.

HRHM January 10, 2013 at 1:31 pm


You are obviously not in the US. Sounds to me like the Middle East somewhere?

If you want your nanny in a uniform, then you should have that agreed upon in the contract in advance. And this IS a uniform, whether you call it one or not.

If you don’t like the way she dresses and it’s that big of a deal, then you should let her go and hire a new nanny.

In the US, we may occasionally mention to our AP if they are dressing too provacatively or more likely if their clothes aren’t appropriate for the dirty, on the floor work of childcare (high heels, short skirts don’t do well on the seesaw!) but beyond that, most clothing choices are left to the AP. If we are going out somewhere nice, we will mention to our AP that there is a higher level of dress that is appropriate and she usually will put on something appropriate – she will even ask in advance sometimes, because after all she doesn’t want to be embarressed by being underdressed at a nice event or restaurant. If she doesn’t want to get dressed up then she doesn’t have to come. If she’s needed to work and she doesn’t want to get dressed up, so what. As long as she does her job, I don’t care what she looks like as long as she’s clean and covered.

If anyone ever asked me (or my daughters as young adults) to write lines or sit in a time out, I’d be laughing to the point of tears as I went to pack my bags.

Any January 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

No Middle East. As I said, I just said it to tell my disappointment (had never said it to her). Not that she shall sit like that, or write lines. (a written excuse is not the same as lines. Lines are when children have to sit and write the same words over and over again promising not to do something, lasting long time. A written excuse is more like some kind of letter, apologizing a bad behaviour or something.)

HRHM January 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

I wouldn’t do either for not wanting to wear the clothes you pick.

Melissa January 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

At first I wondered whether this post is even legitimate. as HRHM pointed out, they are obviously outside of the US, but it seems odd the poster didn’t think to identify that — if they had looked at even a handful of the topics on this site it is obvious that this blog is geared toward US (and sometimes European) au pair situations and a very different type of employee/employer relationship and workplace dynamic than is the case in this scenario. This individual fits the category of nanny or domestic worker instead of of what we would consider an Au Pair in the United States.
But assuming this is real, you need to be clear that your expect this individual to wear a uniform as part of her job. Regarding how to discipline your employee, the punishments seem ridiculous but obviously there are some significant cultural differences going on here.

Shocked Au pair January 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Seriously, if I were your au pair, I would be out of your house in no time!! Poor girl! No wonder she is crying! I also think it is appropriate that you tell her to wear something nice, but not like this!!! Your basically force her into these clothes! Maybe you should hire a model, and not an au pair! Wow! I’m still shocked!

Host Mom in the City January 11, 2013 at 11:00 am

What a bizarre post. I would advice that poor girl to leave immediately. I hope this poster is not a US host parent.

CA Host Mom January 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Agreed – way out of line. I hope this AP finds a new family.

For Real? January 11, 2013 at 7:20 pm

You are treating the aupair like a domestic servant or willful child. The situation you describe reminds me a lot of master/slave relationships in during America’s shameful past.

Appropriate: suggest (not require) the au pair have a nicer outfit for special occasions and explain why it’s important to you that she look nice at certain times.
Inappropriate: requiring the au pair wear this uniform when it’s not required by the situation (like meeting with you in your office or at voluntary social events in the home).

Appropriate: helping au pair find a nice outfit she likes and feels comfortable wearing.
Inappropriate: selecting a specific uniform (white blouse, black pants), “allowing her only a little bit choice,” and “having the final words at the end.”

Appropriate: Suggesting (not requiring) that AP dress nicely if going somewhere nice dress is required–the theater, a restaurant, a school event. The point is not that your au pair looks like a well-groomed domestic servant, but that she doesn’t feel embarrassed for being inappropriately dressed. Informing AP of the appropriate dress code is for HER benefit, not yours. If she doesn’t feel awkward wearing her own clothes, then it is not your place to force her into clothing she clearly doesn’t want to wear.

Inappropriate: forcing AP to promise to wear this uniform, forcing AP to apologize when you are to blame and not she, shaming her in front of your child and friends by displaying her in the uniform and asking them to judge how she looks.

Utterly and absolutely inappropriate: shaming her by standing in a corner, humiliating her by having her stand on a chair in hateful uniform, humbling her by making her “write lines” like an eighteenth century school child.

I’m puzzled why this girl stays in your home. She must have a very high sense of obligation to her contract or your daughter. Or face a choice even worse that suffering humiliation at your hand. Poor girl.

Skny January 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Plus at 17yo is she done with high school? Where did this girl come from? This all kind sounds weird

German Au-Pair January 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm

With perfect timing for this topic, I’d like to hear what host parents think of the situation a friend is in right now.
She has a really hard time with her host mum right now (to the point of cancelling the extension). There is a lot of hostility going on and last weekend she was with a friend and did not have to work the other day. She was upset and just stayed with her friend over night without telling the host mum. She has admitted that she should not have done that.
As a punishment, the host mum took away her car for a week, which, in this area translates to being grounded (undless someone picks you up). We do not have any kind of public transportation here and sidewalks are a rare thing.
Clearly this is not a consequence but a punishment, because she did not have the car with her when she was out.
On top of that her host mum (who also happens to be the area director) seriously requires her to write down the names, addresses and phone numbers of whoever she meets now.
I am not looking for a solution here (she will try to survive the last month with her host mum and then go home).
I would just really like to hear other host parents’ opinions on this. Sure, a host mum might worry if the au pair doesn’t come home and I would ask her if she could please let me know the next time she’ll stay away over night.
But do you make sure you know where your au pairs are and when they come home all the time? I don’t mind sharing where I go, as I don’t have secrets and I would let my HP know if I planned on staying over night. But I am a grown up and do not want to be treated like a child. If you chat about what you are doing that’s one thing, if you have to be specific about that, that’s a totally different story.
My HP respect that I have my own life and just as they don’t tell me where they are going and whom they will be with, I don’t have to do that either.
I don’t see how either the role as being an employee or a family member would justify such requirements. I don’t have to tell me mother where exactly I am going all the time -just as she doesn’t tell me where she is going all the time- and I certainly don’t have to tell my employer.

I’d love to hear how other host families handle stuff like this.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I admit I’m pretty far over on the lenient side when it comes to hosting. My APs work their butts off caring for my special needs teenager. My handbook tells them that in my house they are adults and I expect them to rise to the occasion (and most have done this and more). Because my AP has a basement room with its own stairwell, we use an exterior light as a signal – light on = au pair out, light off = au pair at home (because quite frankly I turn my cell off when I get home and I don’t want a call at 2:00 am unless it’s an emergency requiring direct action on my part (only 1 AP has woken me up in 12 years for an emergency she couldn’t handle).

There was only one AP who was required to give me a phone number of another contact when she took the car overnight, and that was #5, whose driving was abysmal – and I wanted more than her cell phone number in case she didn’t return when expected.

It sounds like more than “I forgot to call home” is going on between your friend and her HM, and of course you only have part of her story and only her side.

My advice – time for your friend to have a quiet evening chat with her HM. She gets to apologize for not calling in and telling her HM that her plans had changed. She also gets the opportunity to ask, “Are you angry at me?”

German Au-Pair January 11, 2013 at 1:41 am

Oh yes, as I said, there is so much going between them that they cancelled their extension together! And I know the host mum (she is my AD) and she has yelled at me before when she was supposed to mediate, so I don’t have a single doubt that all the yelling and hostility my friend told me about is true. There is so much going on in this family and the family’s personal life that talking will not do any good anymore. My friend will endure the last three weeks and move in our guestroom the second her travel month starts. That case is closed.

I really just wanted to know how other host family handle their au pairs social life. The only restriction I got was not to let strangers into our house -which of course I would never do anyway.

Host Mom in the City January 11, 2013 at 11:07 am

With regard to social life, I take the perspective that I have hired a responsible adult to take care of my children, so her social life is her own business. We don’t do curfews or require that our au pair tell us anything about where she is going or when she’ll get back as long as she shows up on time and ready to work. We have a lenient friends at the house policy, but we do require she ask us if she can have friends over so that we can make sure to get to know the people in our home. I feel like that’s fair – I just want to know who’s in my house.

We do have a talk at the beginning about safety – we advise our au pair that she should always tell someone (us, a friend) where she is and where she is going and always stay with a buddy. I tell her I don’t want to have to call the LCC or her parents to tell her I’ve lost her! Both have been concerned about safety and have happily told us approximately where they are going and when they’ll be back on their way out the door. I think they’ve seen that I don’t care where they go or have random restrictions and I’m not their mom, but they do appreciate having someone looking out for them so that if something does happen, we can get help.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

In my experience, things often go south in the HF/AP relationship in the last few weeks. Everyone is on tinterhooks, emotions are raw, and it can be very hard for both HP and the AP to remain adults as they prepare to say goodbye. Did the HM overreact by taking away car privileges even though the AP had not used the car when she stayed out overnight? Probably.

For the first few weeks, we ask the APs where they are going when they head out, but as they build a group of friends, learn their way around, and we become more familiar with each other, DH and I naturally relax.

We have hosted enough APs to know that the last few weeks of an AP’s stay in the US are full of goodbyes. Not the “see you next year” goodbyes she said to her friends and family back home the year before, but real goodbyes to other APs, to other friends she has made, and to us, her HF. She doesn’t know when or if she will see people again. It’s a really tense time. It can be hard, as a HP with a lot on one’s platter to rise to the occasion of being the better adult, and if things aren’t going well prior to those last few weeks, then they can be really lousy in the countdown.

I try to sit down with my AP 8-12 weeks out from the end of the year and have a “reset the attitude let’s finish the year on a high note” chat, acknowledging that they’re going to want to spend the majority of their free time with the friends, but that we’re going to miss them, too.

I would advise your friend to take the high road. To check her anger, and mind her behavior in her last few weeks. To remember that the kids will miss her if they’ve had a good relationship, and to focus on that. She may find that if she is willing to tell her HM, “I’m sorry that you’re angry, I wish our year together was ending better,” that it might.

German Au-Pair January 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

This situation is really a totally differnt one because the au pair has not been here that long (she come from rematch in November or so) and doesn’t really have a group of friends. She didn’t really have time to get close to the host family either. Things started to get bad with the host mum in late December, partly due to sever family issues that the host mum took out on her. Now everyone’s tense and crabby and they’re just sitting it out the best they can.
Sometimes things just don’t work out, even though you are right of course. This is just a very unique situation here.

HRHM January 11, 2013 at 9:14 am

With regard to the car, they didn’t “take away HER car” for a week! They took away THEIR car from her… important distinction. I wouldn’t call it a punishment. The car is an earned privelege and if you intentionally are staying away and not coming home AND not letting me know that you are doing so and are ok, then you aren’t earning the privelege of using MY car. Act like a child and you can expect to be treated like one. If she was having a rough week and didn’t want to go home on her free weekend, no skin off my nose. But at least have the decency to leave a note or send a text, because as annoyed as they may be with each other, the HM was still probably worried by the dissapearing act.

With regard to writing down where she is going, I suppose there is no way the HM can physically force her to do it. It seems extreme, but obviously things have gotten out of hand in this relationship. In our house, when AP leaves to go out, she stops by whatever room we are in to kiss the girls goodbye and say that she is going out. She will give us a rough idea of where she is going “to the gym and then to APfriend’s house” and we say goodnight. If it’s on the weekend and we aren’t home when she gets up, she leaves a note. And yes, if we go out while she is still asleep, we leave a note on the counter as to where we went and when we expect to be home. “went to the mall, be back before dinner – text if there is anything you need while we are out”.
It’s not a requirement, it’s a common courtesy.

German Au-Pair January 11, 2013 at 6:31 pm

For me it seems like a punishment because the car was not involved in her staying out. She did not break the car rules but the car is taken away, which makes her stuck at home. The “for a week” thing adds to that because it’s more like a “be stuck home for a week and you’ll see” than “I’ll let you use the car again when I see that I can trust your judgement”.
You know what I mean?

For me at home it was normal that my parents knew where I was but not when I’d get back (mainly because we loved to have movie-nights until like 5 in the morning and you never knew when you would actually end up going home.) I would not have just slept at a friend’s house without letting my parents know, though.

Your way of handling that seems absolutely fine to me. In the beginning it bothered me to wake up and see the house completely empty, not knowing at all where my HF was and when they’d come back. I will happily share where I am going if it comes up (and so does my host mum) but in general no one ever really knows where the other one is.
That is the reason why I was asking this question. The way the other host mum handles it seems really extreme to me and I know that my case is unusually relaxed, so I was wondering how other people do it.

Georgiapeach January 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm

With my AP, I requested she give us a heads up of where she goes. We don’t have a curfew for our AP, she’s an adult (21). But, I explained why: we are responsible for her well being. If something happened to her, how do we explain that to her family? My AP is close to her family, many of her cultural practices with family are similar to mine with my parents.
That said, I would be so sorry and ashamed to have to break bad news to her family that something bad happened. Naturally, they would have questions and I’d be ashamed to say “I have no clue”

HM Pippa January 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm

For our family, we consider it basic courtesy to let each other know where we are, with whom, and when we expect to be back. That goes for everyone–HPs, kids, and AP. The point isn’t to limit or control or impose a curfew. It to give everyone peace of mind, and show respect.

spanishaupair January 12, 2013 at 8:02 am

I agree with you, I think telling my hostfamily where and with who im going and more or less when I’m coming is simply courtesy and also like to be tell if they are going somewhere for not being surprised.
I have never been asked by a hostfamily (i have been an aupair 4 times) to tell that but i always do as well as i will do with my own parents

German Au-Pair January 12, 2013 at 1:07 am

I just asked my host mum because I am really curious. She said in the beginning she would want to know if their au pair stays away over night and where the car is. But as they gain trust further into the relationship, they don’t worry anymore.
She said they know that I wouldn’t make any bad choices so they wouldn’t be worried if they didn’t find me at home in the morning (and sometimes they THOUGHT I was one but I was just sleeping :D )
It just has never been an issue because I would not have stayed away over night (still wouldn’t) without telling. They did have an au pair once who needed to tell them when she expected to be home because they wouldn’t trust her.

I guess my host parents and I just fit really well together because we both don’t mind sharing where we go but neither of us would leave a note or go and tell every time we leave the house.

Georgiapeach January 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I have a question. Before I ask, I just want to say this is an awesome site. I’m glad for a forum where both sides (AP & HP) can get together and give feedback to one another!
Yesterday, I was talking to a lady at the girls’ playgroup and I mentioned this topic. She presented a point I never stopped to think about. It is in regards to the disclosure by AP’s to HP’s of where they go.
German AuPair, I’m not sure if it is this way in Germany but you may have heard our country is a litigation happy nation. That’s why there are warnings on everything (ex: do not let child play with plastic wrap, it is not a toy). So, the point she made was this: If something happens to an AP while she is in America, the HP’s have explaining to do to her parents about why she was in harms way on their watch. Of course the parents would be upset, and definately more so if the HP’s said they don’t know anything. I know as a parent, if my girls were harmed while in a foreign country, first I would ask the “chaperones” (in this case, HP’s) for details. It would infuriate me if they said they have no idea, she said she was an adult and didn’t have to tell me. This anger would pretty much apply to any parent who gets a “I have no idea” response. What if the AP’s parents feel: You’re the adults, she’s the young adult who is innocent. Why would you not use common sense to protect her, and just let her tell you no!
So, what does a host family do if the AP’s family decide to file a lawsuit against the HP’s on grounds of negligence? America is filled with lawsuit happy lawyers who would love to jump on a case like this. Technically, it is the responsibility of HP’s to make sure the AP’s are safe.
When she pointed this out, I was in shock, then freaked out, because it was a good point. Because I am not strict with that topic, what if something did happen to my AP? She is close to her grandparents who raised her. I’ve met them on Skype & adore them. I would be so ashamed to tell them I don’t know how or where their baby girl was violated. What do I do if they did file a lawsuit? Technically, they would be right, I was responsible to ask where she was going. Last week, the next morning after a night club hopping, she told me she was not well. My first thought was hangover but now, looking back, she said a guy bought her a drink. Now, I’m scared. What if he was secretly trying to drug her but failed the act. Thank goodness she came back safe & sound.

I would like to hear all AP’s & HP’s thoughts on this. I am very nervous and scared now that this seed was planted in my head.

au pair January 13, 2013 at 1:45 am

From now on i would always ask her where she is going, and when she is expected to be home. Let her know, that you care about her, and you dont want to call her parents and let them know something bad happened to her, and you did not know where she was. I am 21 and this is my second year in the same hf. My hd always asks me where i go.We NEVER had any issues with each others,but he always sais, i feel like you are like a daughter, and i want you to be safe. The worst thing that could happen is, thatyou dont come home, and i have no clue wher you are. I dont want to control you or anything, i trust you with all my heart, but i want you to be safe. This all made itvery clear to me. They care about me,as an adult, but also kind of like a daughter. Let her know you love her, and thats why you want to know where she is.

German Au-Pair January 13, 2013 at 3:28 am

America is also a very law-suit friendly country. In Germany -and, as far as I know- you just don’t go around suing people for every little bit. You don’t sue Starbucks because you burned yourself on your coffe and you don’t sue a cigarette brand because you got cancer. Besides the fact that you would never get through with stuff like that, the THOUGHT wouldn’t even occur to people.
I was shocked (and a little bit amused, I have to admit) when we went on a houseboat and the owner asked as all to wear life vests when we went swimming. I asked her if I really needed to and she said that if I was absolutely sure I was a good swimmer, I was good without. I was the only adult without a life vest and later my host parents told me that in the US, you do that so the owner of the boat does not have a responsibility if you drown.
In Germany, you would NEVER sue the owner of a boat because you drowned while being on a boat trip. Commercial companies make you wear one, but not private individuals.
So I would not worry about that part so much.

As for the parents…of course it would be horrible if you had to tell the parents you didn’t know where she was…but then again, would it really be that much better if you were able to tell her parents “Oh, she went to a drug-filled house party all night long with people none of us really knows”?
You know, you are getting young adults in your house, who might be living on their own while studying in their home countries if they weren’t here. They would not tell anyone where they are all the time either and drugs, alcohol and bad people are an issue everywhere.

You can have a talk with her about drunk driving (or driving with others who say “Oh, i just had one drink”), never leaving your drink out of sight and all that. That will make you feel better and might actually help her.
Most people won’t have a problem with a host mum being concerned and asking where they are and when they think they will be back. Even if they don’t exactly know, you could agree on a “probably at x, but don’t start worrying until y” to make it less rigid.
I wouldn’t mind if my HP handles it like this, even though I really love the freedom I have. But most girls will be able to see the HP’s point of view and when you explain that you are just worrying, thinking as a mother whose child might be in the same situation, it should be fine.
Talking to her will help you find a solution that will make you feel better.

But as I said, don’t worry about lawsuits too much…she is a grown woman and it would be tragic if something happened but if, for example, she got a drug slipped in her drink on a party, in the end it will not matter if you knew where the party was.

Georgiapeach January 14, 2013 at 4:08 am

German Au Pair, see what you think: I sat down with her and had a long conversation where I explained American culture dangers that appalled her! I worked in a rough and tumble city for a long time and have seen alot of seediness.
I gave her info about gang’s and gang initiations (which usually involve hurting someone); what to do if someone is trying to pick a fight with you at a club.
I just want her safe. She is grown up but I’ve been around the block a few more times than her. So, after reading your points, we talked for a long time. She said so many of the things that happen in the US shock the daylights out of her. She promised if ever she felt in danger, if she can’t get the club bouncer to walk her to our car (the one she uses to go out), then call us, we will come escort you home.
Thoughts or suggestions?

Dorsi January 13, 2013 at 7:35 am

I may have a moral/ethical obligation to know where my Au Pair is and help her navigate this culture, but there is absolutely no legal obligation to do so. Au Pairs are adults and they are responsible for their own decisions.

If you are truly concerned about your liability, make sure you have an adequate umbrella policy. They’re cheap.

Georgiapeach January 14, 2013 at 4:09 am

What is an umbrella policy? Where do I get it?

Dorsi January 14, 2013 at 5:50 am

Something you add to your homeowner’s policy. It covers you for lawsuits above and beyond what your other insurance will cover — especially personal liability. It covers things that are bigger than your homeowners and excluded from regular coverage. I think we pay around $100/yr for an extra 1 million in coverage. You get it through your regular insurer.

PA AP Mom January 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm

We ask our APs to let us know when they are leaving, a general idea of where they are going and whether they will be home that night or the next day. Our AP does have to use our car for anywhere she travels. If she decides to stay out unexpectedly, we just ask for a quick text as an FYI so we don’t worry.

We try to give our AP the same courtesy by telling her when/where we are going and when we expect to return.

Au Pair Report author January 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I can’t believe I scrolled through all of these comments, but there was some voyeuristic appeal to this thread. As a former counselor for au pairs and host families–and someone who has written a novel about the dynamics between them–I agree with those who reject language such as “discipline” and “privileges.” The case of the rather sadistic host mom of a 17 year old (not a legal age for being an au pair in the U.S.) is extreme, but some of the other stories are disturbing also. It’s very important for families to focus on building and maintaining positive relationships with au pairs, and as the au pair Julia said on Jan. 5, communication is critical. Host parents have more power in the relationship, so they need to try hard not to abuse it. Au pair programs teach au pairs about having children use “I statements” to express concerns and feelings, but I think this approach is even more effective between adults.

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may have believed.

Ruth May 29, 2013 at 11:38 pm

I’m happy I found this thread, after much searching through this site for this topic, since we are currently going through the dilemma of not knowing where our Au Pair is going and with whom she is spending time with and she’s only been with us a little over 2 months. We never really told her she had to tell us and we give her free reign of a car for her use anytime. At first, she hung out at home a lot, even after we introduced her to a few really nice Au Pairs and she has now gone to 2 cluster meetings. Although, in the past few weeks, she doesn’t hang out with any of the AP’s and has met random people on her own she now hangs out with on her days off. I have no idea where she met them, who they are, where they live, nada! We’re just kind of in the dark, although, I suspect she met a guy. I’ve danced around the issue because I don’t want to be nosey if she doesn’t want to tell me, but I also think it’s rather strange for us not to know where she’s going and with whom she’s spending time with when she takes our car out, lives with us and is “part of our family”. I have begun to feel like I am just a hotel verses really knowing anything about what she does in her free time. Granted, she met some random person and then had them come by our house and pick her up. When I told her a random person was not to know where we live and please don’t let that happen again, now she just takes the car and is off with me wondering and hoping she’s okay and spending her time with the right company. Again, I wouldn’t feel so inclined to worry if she were hanging out with the AP’s, but she hasn’t communicated with any of the AP’s for weeks and she has decided she won’t be attending the next cluster meeting and spends all of her time with random people we don’t know and doesn’t give us any information where she’s going and what she’s doing. We ask and get very vague answers and no details about with whom she hangs out with. Thoughts and suggestions how I handle this would be so welcomed..

Taking a Computer Lunch May 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

There are casual ways to ask APs what they have been doing, and that is to be interested in their social lives. One of my APs trained me to ask about her day, by asking about mine. I try to keep the conversation light, but I do want to know what interests my APs – it makes it easier to reward them with an appropriate gift for going above and beyond.

The bottom line, however, is that she is an adult, and she is going to have a social life that has nothing to do with you. Some APs have a social life that is centered around their cluster and hanging out with other APs. However, some APs find a richer American experience – which is part of the cultural exchange, too. They find people from their home country who are living and working in the U.S. and/or other Americans. Older APs may find cluster life a little stifling, but may need a light reminder that if they intend to extend, that cluster meetings may be essential for staying in the program.

Most of my APs have lived away from home for the first time when they came to the U.S. Their AP year was a time for them to experiment, see what was important, and enjoy the freedom of life away from the social mores of their local communities or culture. While I might have cringed at some things they did, I also enjoy watching them taking advantage of their freedom. I also cringe at some of the things I did when I was 18-22 and marvel at some of the things I dared to do as I became an independent adult.

My handbook explicitly states that APs are to call me if they are in trouble. In 12 years of hosting, only one has, but the others knew if they made a wrong choice and needed help at 2 am, I’d come.

I’m more liberal than most HPs, I know, because I permit boyfriends to stay overnight (about half of my APs have taken advantage of this) and am pretty liberal about friends and family.

But if you want to know who her friends are, invite them to join you at the table, since she eats with you every night. Over the years we have developed some great relationships with friends of our APs and would happily house them if they were returning to the U.S. to visit.

MidAtlantic Host Family May 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm

A quick response to one of the things you mention. With our agency, the cluster meetings are mandatory and an au pair may only miss two. A previous au pair was assuring us she was attending the meetings (with our car) but actually skipping them until we heard from the agency that she may be sent home for non-attendance. Of course there were other issues going on, but the main point being the cluster meetings serve a purpose and the au pairs are expected to attend. I personally support this. It can help address some of your other concerns because you have one more adult and other au pairs connecting with your au pair and making sure everything sounds Kosher.

Ruth May 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm

As a caveat to the above, we have a very good relationship with her, otherwise, and she is a wonderful caregiver. She has dinner with us every night, but she doesn’t really engage much unless we ask her questions and we feel like we’re probing verses just asking.

Host Mom in the City May 30, 2013 at 7:25 am

On one hand, I understand the frustration. Our first au pair had great au pair friends who would come to our house frequently. I didn’t know where she went because I don’t think that’s my business, but I sort of generally trusted that she was being safe and keeping my family safe. She wanted to join us on trips even if they were silly kid-related things and always made them fun. She was also a pretty great au pair. Our current au pair has mostly friends who are not in the cluster. She balks at cluster meetings. She eats dinner with us, but is gone to who knows where every single night until after midnight when she has to work the next day and until sometime 3 or 4am when she doesn’t. She never joins us for activities or weekend trips. She’s not great at the job part either, although that’s sort of separate in my mind from her off-duty life.

I have found through this experience that for me personally (and it sounds like for you too), I’d like to have a closer, more familial relationship with my au pairs. The first arrangement was what I wanted – it’s basically the reason I have au pairs, which is that I can get to know and love my child’s caregiver. She can watch me interact with the kids in her off-time and model that way of handling them. The kids grow to love her as a person and see her engaging with her friends and having fun with us too.

I also learned that I need to better explain our admittedly pretty open friend policy. When I said we have an open policy, I have learned that I meant mostly for other au pairs. Our first au pair’s friends came and went and they were all lovely. Now, non-au pairs need to come over for dinner or something so I can meet them first before they are in my house alone. I don’t mind a bit who she hangs out with when she’s out of the house and still don’t think that’s my business, but when I came home to two non-au-pair 22yo young men in my house I was not pleased and had to re-examine my house rules.

I guess with all that I’m just saying that I understand that it’s frustrating not to have the kind of relationship you thought you’d have with your au pair. I was looking forward to the same type of relationship we had with our first and was a bit shocked when our new one established a totally and completely separate off-duty life from family life. There are some host parents that are going to want that separate life actually – there’s nothing wrong with that necessarily. But my lesson was to screen as much as possible for someone who likes being close to their own family and therefore might like to be closer to ours.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s reasonable to need to know where she’s going and who she’s hanging out with at all times. Even with my first au pair, I didn’t feel it was my place to ask. She’s an adult after all. That said, what you can control is your safety and her job performance. If she’s doing a good job, I’d let her social life be her own. If she’s putting your family in an unsafe situation, then address that specifically. I don’t really see the issue with someone picking her up at your house though. But if it’s an issue to you, then make it clear that you need to meet anyone that is going to be at the house before he/she is there alone.

HRHM May 30, 2013 at 9:25 am

Asking her about her life, how she spent her day, what she did over the weekend, what her friends are up to – I wouldn’t consider that “probing”. I’d consider it interested in getting to know her better. It’s the same with my kids – “How was school? What did you do today? Are you going to a movie? Have you tried that restaurant, how was it? Has Ap friend found a new host family to extend with?” I’m not grilling her or trying to be nosy, I’m trying to show her that I care about her and am interested in her as an adult human being. Our AP is VERY quiet and rarely volunteers anything but she is always happy to tell me about the places she’s seen, eaten and movies that she liked. Maybe if you talked to her more about what she’s up to, you’d be more comfortable about her non-ap friends.

hOstCDmom May 30, 2013 at 11:18 am

Your AP is an adult, and I don’t think you can control where she goes or who she socializes with during her off time. That’s how we treat our APs.

However, I think there are some things you CAN reasonably control, and you might find that rules about these things make you more comfortable letting go of the others and being comfortable with the parts of your APs social life that you can’t (and in my opinion shouldn’t) control.

A few rules we have:

*While I don’t demand to know where our AP is going, although I do ask and tell them all up front that while they are adults and we don’t want to be nosy or control them, we would like to know where they are BECAUSE WE CARE ABOUT THEM AND THEIR SAFETY, I do expect to know where my car is. We have a shared car arrangement and I make clear in our AP handbook that the AP needs to ask to use the car (for logistics coordination) and needs to tell us where she is taking our car. (I would expect the same if we had a 3rd, “AP car” as well). So, when she goes out with her friends without our car, she need not tell me where she is going, if she takes my car, I want to know (generally) where she is going – City X, to the movies, downtown, Club in City Y etc.

*We have a rule that only other APs (from our cluster and the other agency cluster in town) may be passengers in our cars, without our approval. Yes, some might see this as controlling, but we had concerns about “new friends” from clubs getting rides home and harm coming to an AP. So, our default is that she may have other APs as passengers in the car without asking us, without approval etc. Non-APs we want to meet before they become passengers in our car. This isn’t because we have some magical on-sight, screening ability, but we feel that this is a self screening process. If a friend is someone they know well enough to have them drop by and meet us — be it a boyfriend/girlfriend, friend-friend or whatever — then it is more likely someone they know enough/care about enough that they are willing to jump through the hoop of inviting them into our home before ferrying them around. It also avoids the “some guys we met at the club and gave a ride home” scenario. (Or, at least puts that AP on notice that the guys at a club scenario is against our household rules, so hopefully makes them think twice about it.) Also, there is a level of “pre screening” in that all APs are here under the same auspices, all of them have agency rules to abide by/rules/training re no underage drinking, no drugs, visa terms to abide by and some skin in the game re treating HP’s homes with respect, not doing anything dangerous or illegal etc., not wanting to be kicked out of the program etc.

*I think it is reasonable to want to know about anyone who is coming to your home, and to want to meet them. We welcome our APs friends, but we want a heads up that they are coming over (simple text is fine). Our APs room is right among all our bedrooms and I don’t want to run into someone in my hallway unexpectedly, nor do I want to go down into my kitchen in my bathrobe and discover unexpectedly that we have guests (or strangers!) in our house. If she lets me know, then I know who is there and there are no surprises. I’ve NEVER said no to a guest — it isn’t a permission thing — it is a heads up courtesy.

*It hasn’t been an issue for us, and isn’t our rule, but I could see a HF having a rule that only other APs may be over in their home if/when the HP are not home. Again, problems can arise with an AP – they aren’t all perfect angels :) — but there is a level of “pre screening” in that all of them are here under the same auspices, all of them have agency rules to abide by/visa terms to abide by and some skin in the game re treating HP’s homes with respect, not doing anything dangerous or illegal etc. It is a crude screening tool, but in an imperfect world it could roughly alleviate some of the concerns a HF might have about strangers in their home.

MidAtlantic Host Family May 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm

How do you handle making sure your au pair and/or your car do not end up in bad parts of cities where you would never drive your car or yourself? Basis of this question is making sure nothing bad happens to the au pair.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 30, 2013 at 10:26 pm

We bought a brand-new 2nd car (sub-compact) while AP #2 was living with us, which we often refer to as “The AP Car” (although now that we have 2 teenagers going in opposite directions at the weekend, we often lay claim to said car to provide transportation to our typically developing child). Shortly after we bought it she let it be known that she was driving her friends to a club which 10 years earlier had been the drive-by shooting range in our city. I bemoaned the fate of our car (but I did prefer that she drove to that part of the city so she wasn’t forced to wait for a taxi at the other end of her night). I like to think she was extra careful because she knew I was nervous, and nothing happened. She and six other APs cared for it like they bought it themselves (many of whom enjoyed dancing at the same club).

Bottom line – you can’t make sure nothing bad happens to your AP. You give them enough information to be aware of their surroundings and cross their fingers that the bad things are just learning experiences.

For those of you with infants and toddlers, it’s good experience for having teenagers. (Now training child #2 to navigate public transportation on his own – alone. You cross your fingers and try to be inaudible when you sigh with relief when your own teens cross the threshold.)

MonkeyMom May 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm

We had an au pair whose social life revolved around local friends she made. She was only friends with a couple of other au pairs. When she went out she followed our rule of telling us generally where she was going. Not all the details, but we just want to have an idea of where our car was and if something went wrong we at least had some basis information. And, if she said she was going to a shady part of town we could warn her and make sure she wasn’t alone, etc.

She ate dinner with us every night and didn’t participate in most of our family activities. At the same time, we felt like we were close because at the dinner table she would tell us stories about people she met places she went. So we really enjoyed her as a room mate because we really liked her and felt like we knew her but we also had the right amount of space to be able to do things as a family alone.

Our other au pairs have been much better with the kids and generally better au pairs, but it feels like we are pulling teeth to understand what they do with themselves in off hours and who their friends are. It is very strange for us to have au pairs who tag along on family activities and spend a lot of time with us, but I don’t feel like we really know who they are. It is tiresome to have someone who wants to hang out with you all the time, but you feel like you have to make all the conversation with them.

There are many days when I wish we had the other au pair back. I had lovely family time and a nice friend who I felt close to living with us, even though we did most of our bonding over the dinner table and didn’t spend much time with her beyond that.

DowntownMom May 30, 2013 at 2:43 pm

We are currently on vacation with our au pair, and you are hitting the nail on the head with your comment “you feel like you have to make all the conversation”! I am exhausted from trying to make my au pair comfortable by asking her questions and telling her stories. Few replies are much longer than a word or two. This, and the sudden lack of initiative, makes me very reluctant to consider another vacation with an au pair.

MonkeyMom May 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I meant to mention another tactic I use to get to know au pairs better is when we eat dinner I ask them “Are you going out tonight?” and “Do you have any plans this weekend?” or “What are you going to try and see and do on your trip?”. Our social butterfly au pair would offer up this type of information while our other more guarded au pairs will provide some information if asked. It helps a bit.

Ruth May 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Thank you so much to all of you who have responded with your suggestions, I so appreciate them and they are helpful to assess before I do, or don’t, decide to have a conversation with her. MonkeyMom, you have also nailed it for our situation. While we do ask her questions during our dinner time together about XYZ Au Pairs we introduced her to, what she plans to do with her weekend, etc. the conversation feels very forced and we get no information about anyone she is hanging out with. She did open up after we asked her about a “hike” she was supposed to go on and told us all about it and we were so pleased to hear of her experience! She readily offers that she’s happy to the point of sending me text in her off hours, etc., but her actions are not clearly indicating that in our conversations. To the point, I wonder why she wants to eat dinner with us every night. She never uses pronouns when referring to anyone we don’t know in her circle and I will be the first one to admit we really wanted an independent, social Au Pair who didn’t rely on us for that. So I’m in no way wanting to be controlling of where she goes or who she goes out with, but the previous posts really nailed it for me that we are essentially responsible for her and if her parents were to ask me where she was if something happened or who she’s spending time with, I would have no clue or be able to answer that, other than gathering the phone numbers from the phone records and calling those numbers. I’ve mentioned this before and I don’t want to get bogged down on it again, but the way she dresses, very revealing and all, it worries me that she’s possibly not attracting the right kind of company. Again, she is a fantastic caregiver and very respectful with us, but her judgement has failed when it comes to seeing how others dress, the fact we’ve had to have this conversation with her at least 3 or 4 times and that you don’t just meet someone (a non AP) and a few days later let them know where you live by having them come pick you up, etc. Our first Au Pair was only with us for 2 months b/c she lacked a necessary skill we needed, but she hung out with all the Au Pairs and they were coming and going quite often (our Au Pair kind of has her own suite in the basement with a home theater and gym and we loved the comings and goings!). This one, just doesn’t seem to want to integrate with the program, will only seek out the people who speak her language to hang out with and I’m wondering why she entered the program since I know her main goal was to learn English! we’ve also invited her on vacation with us and, by no means need her help, but was intended for her to be able to see more of the country, but I’m wondering if it’s going to feel like a forced vacation for all of us, which would make me so sad! I’m to the point of already putting out feelers for an American live-in nanny next time b/c I have put A LOT of effort into this program and our AP and I have no idea why we are hosting someone who doesn’t want to integrate with us and just “talk” about this next year in the States with us, who uses our car, a cell phone we provide and everything else for it to be someone just living in our home verses a relationship! I don’t need to know every detail, for sure, but would like to know when she leaves the house every weekend a little bit about who she is spending time with so we are just at peace with it. She just seems to do her own thing. So much so she booked a Dr’s appt and TOLD me when it was that she would be going verses asking me first and this was after I had already mentioned it to her several times she needs to ask first before making appointments. After all, she is my primary and only caregiver. Again, English would be handy if she would make the effort to hang out with various types of people verses me having to feel like I’m starting from scratch again every Monday morning.

Ruth May 30, 2013 at 4:06 pm

As I stated above, I do get SOME information, but that’s because I’ve asked or I’ve proffered a list of attractions for her as a suggestion of places to go see and do and then in return get that she’s planning to go on a “hike”…period! Great! Let me try and piece the rest of that conversation together with a little milk and honey! ;-)

SKNY June 1, 2013 at 7:11 am

I don’t think you will get all you want from an American Live-in Nanny. My experience is that they are more reserved than au pairs, and have no interest in being part of the family. Actually my experience is that they want a employer/employee relation only.

Ruth June 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm

SKNY – definitely something for me to think about then, for sure! However, I was a live-in nanny when I was 19/20 (I had moved from my home state to the East Coast and we would want a similar situation) and I had terrific relationships with both of my families. I stayed with one for a year and the second one a year and a half. I still keep in touch with one of them 20 years later. I guess I was hoping for the same relationship now that the tables have turned. We didn’t have a language barrier, a cultural barrier and I was young and moldable and I had a fabulous social life I balanced well with being involved with the families I lived with. My first family asked me to extend, but I didn’t want to and my second family would have wanted me to stay on as long as I wanted to, but I had greater plans of going on to college and starting my career, but they were instrumental in all of that and we were hoping to “give back”, so to speak.

HRHM June 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

I have an ongoing issue with an AP that just can’t seem to get herself up in the morning. I made it clear in the match/HHHB that if we have to wake her, she is late. Unfortunately, I leave for work long before she starts for the day and DH has been waking her at least a couple times per week through out the year, without my knowledge and without stopping to counsel her that it’s unacceptable. (he’s not up for any management/confrontation). So now that I realize this is happening(I’ve been home in the am lately) and I’ve said something a handful of times when I’ve had to wake her, I’m pretty much at my ropes end. I have decided to put an alarm clock on buzzer outside of her room set for 30 minutes before she needs to be taking care of the kids. There is, of course, an alarm clock in her room but she has NEVER used it in the 11 months she has been here. Occasionally I here her cell vibrate, but it obviously is inadequate. I just need her to stay engaged and work her measley 30 hours per week for 3 more weeks! UGH. I’m ready for a change (and she obviously is too!)

Taking a Computer Lunch June 4, 2013 at 6:48 am

Now is the time to have a chat about staying focused for the last three weeks. Tell her that she needs to fulfill her duties if she wants flexibility from you. Obviously with 3 weeks left the pattern has been set and there’s not a lot you can do about it, except say “No” when she asks for extra time off to say goodbye to a friend at the airport, take the car to hang out with friends, or have a friend stay overnight.

The last few weeks in an au pair’s year are very difficult, especially if she is young. It may be the first time in her life she is really saying “goodbye” to people rather than “see you next year.” Even if her best friends are APs from her country, she will not see them on a regular basis when she returns home.

I also know, as a HM, how hard the last weeks can be. The quality of the works slacks off and every little thing your AP does wrong sets your teeth on edge. Take a deep breath. If she is great with your kids, then let it go. But obviously, if she is irking you because you have to wake her up every morning, then there is probably more wrong in her relationship with you than that one issue.

Practice saying, “I would like to give you permission to do that, but since I have to wake you up every morning, you’ve been making my day more difficult, so I’m going to have to say no.”

SKny June 4, 2013 at 8:44 am

I Was just going to post about it. My Au pair leaves in 9 days and while she is still great with the kids, she seems very irritable, everyone’s deals are better (location, hrs, work, etc). She seems to like us and says she wish she had been with us from beginning, but then tells about how we will have trouble getting Au pairs to live in our area, how Au pairs want to leave in famous locations, or how they get out of the agency to make tons of money, etc.
I am not upset, and I really like her. Heck I offered to pay her studies if she’d stayed vs going back home. It just kind of sucks that we seem to irritate her this week (in every way) and I just wished she left with a good memory of us

Momma Gadget June 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

I’m so sorry.- that sounds more than a bit hurtful. It could be an unconscious defense mechanism… it is much easier to say good bye when you can “prove” that someone slighted you. Personally I would gently call her on it ( for your own piece of mind)- “I’m so sorry you feel that way- We are really grateful for all you have done for us and the kids. We will always remember how we XYZ’d with you. We are really going to miss you when you’re back home”. I hope you can end on a positive note.

In the months before my bro-pair was due to go back, he did approach us about staying on as a Manny/student. We explained to to him that we were not in a position to pay him what other AP’s who had switched to (illegal) nannies were getting paid… and given the age of our kids, the amount of care we really need does not warrant that kind of money. We also showed him that even if we paid him his stipend and all the agency fees to him directly, It wouldn’t be enough to pay for full time classes. We do have an understanding that if he saves some money, he is always welcome to come live with us while finishing up school here, interning or visiting.He understood, and we had a great last couple of months.
Starting from 3 months before his departure, as hard as it was, we did discuss his leaving frequently- making sure he got to do the things on his bucket list, and made sure we had a plan so he could say goodbye to everyone he wanted to. He really made an effort to make the last weeks & days special for everyone.
I still “puddle up” when ever I hear from our last Bro Pair- He has written several very thoughtful emails reminiscing over his stay & experiences.. returning home is a bit surreal for him too. We skype & Face book with him, and we have an on-going game of “words with friends” ( I let him cheat). I am sure that once he gets back into to school this will wane….Although I have kept in touch with all our other AP’s , this was a special, no doubt, lifetime relationship. Perhaps this is good training for when my boys grow up and leave the nest.
Ugh… what a thought!

Skny June 8, 2013 at 4:54 am

Thanks! I figured out what was making her so irritable. My work schedule changed so that I now stay home twice a week, and I canceled day care (kids went twice a week to keep her under 45hs). So her schedule also changed.she was also upset I’d send the kids to day care the day before she leaves (I thought she’d appreciate time off to pack, say goodbye, shop for last min stuff.
We spoke and I added what you said about we really appreciating her, and her being walcome to return to visit or even spend some time with us as a family member/friend would.
That seemed to take care of it. She leaves on Tue and she seems fine

Ruth June 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Oy!! Sounds like you only have 3 more weeks to go, but she still needs to fulfill her duties! I’m not above taking away privileges. I was appalled at some of the Au Pair’s earlier in this post who thought the AP shouldn’t be woken up in the night to change the bedding, etc. after repeated mistakes and follow up from the HM to correct her error. I agree, no need to barge in her room, for sure respect her privacy and also give her fair warning of what will be expected, but if that were happening to me when I’m already sleep deprived with an infant, you bet I would ask her to come up and change the bedding! Clearly, consequences are the only thing that I can think of that would motivate someone who, otherwise, doesn’t want to fulfill her duties?

I gave this illustration in another post but when our AP started and I felt like I kept repeating my instructions b/c they weren’t being adhered to and then she pointed out that I seemed to get upset with her sometimes. I told her it would be like her asking to use the car (which she never has to do), and me agreeing to the time and day she requested it and then when she would go to use it and finds I have taken the car to go use it myself and completely ignoring her request. She understood and, so far, so good!

I’m sorry you’re going through that kind of irresponsibility!

MidAtlantic Host Family June 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Am I overreacting if I made lunch for children, AP and myself, we all sit down to eat together and AP takes her plate of food to eat it in her bedroom and I am upset by this? Is it a teenage thing? We do not like food in the bedrooms but I was speechless by her taking her plate of food off the table to go eat by herself in her bedroom.

anonamomma June 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm

no not overreacting that was plain rude!!

MidAtlantic Host Family June 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Should we assume its a cultural misunderstanding of how rude it may be interpreted?

Skny June 8, 2013 at 4:56 am

I’d say something about it. Specially if a new au pair

anonamomma June 8, 2013 at 6:22 am

And definitely if not a new Au Pair – it’s easier to stop behaviours before they started and are deemed to be acceptable

Emerald City HM June 8, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I woul ask her if it’s a cultural thing rather rather than assuming. It is an opportunity to learn. Though off the top I my head I can’t think of cultures where mealtimes are unsocial.

While I wouldn’t force her to eat lunch with you and the kids if she doesn’t want to, maybe leave her a choice of eating by herself when you are done? (At the table of course.). You can even use setting an example for the kids as part of your reasoning.

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