“Blah blah blah blah blah.”
There must be hundreds of Au Pairs out there who can appreciate this FarSide cartoon by Gary Larsen.**
And we Host Parents have SO much to say, especially when an Au Pair is new to our family.
“To use the dishwasher, set it on regular unless the dishes are sticky, then use Heavy Duty but only if you take the wineglasses off the top shelf and make sure to put the bottle caps and covers in that little plastic compartment next to the knives, which should ALWAYS be put in ‘point down’. Right? Easy peasy.“
When you have a lot to tell your Au Pair and even more to *teach* him or her, the best way is to limit the amount you talk.
Shocking, but true.
The less you say the better.
Use this simple process:
1. Prioritize the one or two most important things about the situation you’re discussing (e.g., the knives, which cycle).
2. Say it once, with words that are two syllables or less.
“Knife points down.” “Regular Cycle.”
3. Say it in one or two sentences. Sentences with no clauses.
“Always point the knives down. Use the regular cycle.”
4. Demonstrate the desired actions.
Put a knife in the dishwasher, point down. Close the door and put your index finger on the Regular Cycle button.
Then, mix it up with my own crazy step 5:
5. Demonstrate the wrong way.
Yep, go ahead and put that steak knife point UP. Then demonstrate what it might look like if a hand reached into the dishwasher and got speared by the knife point.
Finally, encourage your Au Pair to take Step 6 him or herself….
6. Have the learner demonstrate the action for the teacher.
Hand the knife to your Au Pair and watch your Au Pair put it into the dishwasher point …. down.
This strategy of Tell, Show, and Turn It Over works best for Au Pair tasks that can be demonstrated. Obviously. ( It can be fun, though, to try to demonstrate (act out, mime, etc.) things that seem less demonstrable.)
The 6-Step Process works best when you have a definitive way of doing things.
If you don’t have a preference for how the knives should go in, that’s fine. But in most cases, it works best to be definitive.
Why? Because people need to know WHAT to do, not that “something” needs to be done.
Bonus: Many Au Pair will appreciate knowing how you like things done because they want you to be happy with their work. You actually make it EASIER for them if you have a way of doing things and if you show this to them.
Everything in moderation — Certainly, do make distinctions between things that MUST be done a certain way (e.g., putting a child into the car seat) vs. things where you show them a way but it really isn’t a priority. (Nothing horrible will happen to those dishes from Ikea if your dishwasher is on Heavy Duty for the first three weeks of your Au Pair’s life in your home.)
Have you found any tricks for feeling less like a drone when giving instructions?
**NOT that any of our au pairs are like new puppies who need to be scolded.