This is actually an article I wrote a while ago for our website. You see I have found that no matter how good the au pair is , if the parents aren’t making the time to maintain the relationship with the au pair there is honestly no way its going to work in the end. Most of us often feel guilty for not having as much time as we would like to have with our kids, its easy to then live without rules and boundaries ( read our article about positive discipline). The au pair is not a replacement for you, she is instead a helper and needs your help and co operation to provide your children with the help you need. SO…
You have been through the interviews, you have asked the questions and found the au pair you have been looking for. Your children love her, she does a starling job. Maintaining this good relationship and a harmonious living space is of the utmost importance. There are always going to be moments when it is difficult to remember tact and compassion when emotions are in control. The question raised then, is how do you tackle difficult situations, how do you give feedback and communicate problems to your au pair whilst maintaining a good relationship with your au pair?
Tackling the issues:
- Take into account how your au pair usually reacts to feedback. Most au pairs tend to view all feedback as criticism and in most cases this is exactly what it has been. Changing this perception is up to you. If she seems to be defensive the minute you start talking, be careful. Don’t abandon dealing with the problem, however, do try to be gentle. It is best not to create an entire list of problems and then try to approach them all in one go. Try to approach one problem at a time, while remembering that any feedback should always be accompanied by constructive praise. Focus on the facts. They are easier to act on and less open to disagreement than vague assumptions. Keep your comments to focusing on behavior rather than personality traits. By explaining the problem and then discussing solutions you can work on together, rather than launching a straight forward attack without offering solutions, doing this will achieve results you desire.
- Is the anguish you are experiencing over an issue really worth it? There is a very easy answer to this question. If you find yourself feeling more concerned about the problem, than the concern you have about talking to her, then it is probably a good idea to speak to her. If not, let it go.
- Always consider your motive for approaching your au pair about a problem. If it is because you are wanting to get something off your chest, you feel like giving her a piece of your mind, or just feel that telling her off once in a while reasserts your authority, then the best reaction is no reaction! On the other hand, if your motives are centered around the welfare of your children, an genuine wish to help your au pair improve in her job or a chance to put right a misunderstanding, are all commendable reasons for giving feedback or bringing up a problem.
- Keep your feedback positive and action based. Once you have made your point and heard her side, move forward and enjoy the improvements. This will allow you to share in the action and monitor what happens next.
- If the problem is a serious one give your nanny a chance to state her case, especially when the problem was brought to your attention by a third party. You have a right bring up these concerns with your au pair and a right to expect progress. It is how you do it that makes the difference!
- There are also some things you can do to maintain a good relationship and you will find that keeping these things in mind will be appreciated and reflected back to you by your au pair:
- If you know you are going to be home late, call your au pair in advance to let her know.
- Always pay your au pairs wages or money owed on time. Your au pair will not be happy if she has to chase after you.
- Try to ensure that your home is clean when the au pair arrives.
- Do not view babysitting as automatic, this is an extra service and the au pair may have her own plans. Inform her as early as possible if you will need someone and ask if she is available.
- Be consistent with both your children and your au pair. She will know she has your support and will feel more confident in dealing with the children.
- Do not expect extra duties not in the contract unless thoroughly discussed and agreed to before dishing out demands.
- Do not talk to your friends about the au pair in front of children, they understand and repeat.
- Try to be sympathetic when your au pair is ill, unfortunately this does happen to everyone on occasion.
- Don’t let your friends and relatives boss her around.
- Ensure that should your au pair work over time, you remember to pay her.
- Give feedback.
- Once again consistency is key, do not expect your au pair to ensure a balanced diet for the children and then you feed them Junk food and Coke. Work together to provide your child or children with the best care possible.
Any relationship takes nurturing and caring, whether with your friends, work colleges and especially your family. The relationship with your au pair deserves the same treatment, if not more so. She is there too help your children reach their full potential in life. You will find that by following these simple guidelines not only will your behavior be reciprocated, but you will never be disappointed, you and your family will reap the rewards she offers.