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How does your au pair deal with kids?

(28 Posts)
Migsy1 Tue 20-Sep-11 11:34:54

AP has been with us for 7 weeks. I am disappointed with the skills she has with the boys (5, 8,10). I am at home for most of the time she is looking after them so I can hear what is going on. Basically, she does not fully engage with them and only speaks to them to ask what they want to eat or drink. She has not even bothered to learn how to use the TV remote control (it is complicated - BT Vision) so that she can put the TV on for my 5 year old. One of her jobs was to get them ready for school in the morning but she is unable to do so because of her poor communication skills and therefore I have removed this task from her. I get her to put their breakfast out though.
My ES told me yesterday that she gets on his nerves, has no personality and is the most boring person he has ever met.
I am wondering what other people's APs do with the kids? Maybe I am expecting too much.

talkingrabbit Tue 20-Sep-11 12:22:44

Language can be an issue - it's hard to get kids to do what you want them to without the appropriate language, and it's very hard to socialise even with children without good vocabulary. Our new au pair came two weeks ago with good English and takes just the right tone - firm, friendly, fun - and has engaged the kids well (it helps it's World Cup Rubgy season and he and DH and DCs all fanatical) so far. He came through an agency with a fairly robust screening process, and has had to pay a fair whack of agency fees himself to be here. He has been committed and motivated from the outset. Our last au pair was poor at English to begin with, which made it difficult for her to do much with the kids and form any meaningful relationship. Once her english picked up, her true personality came through more clearly and it wasn't in any way an improvement wink!

Strix Tue 20-Sep-11 12:58:24

My new au pair has good language skills but is very untidy and it's a problem. It's a problem because I don't employ an au pair so I can tidy up after her. She engages with the kids, and they seem to like her. But, I'm not sure how much control she has over them.

She's not really an au pair, more like that grey area between au pair and nanny. But, if she doesn't get a handle on the tidying all of my hair is going to be grey before Christmas.

Migsy1 Tue 20-Sep-11 13:15:15

My AP is a help in many ways and thankfully she is not untidy. However, she has minimal control over the kids, and, really is not much more than a pair of adult eyes to them. The kids do not like her, although they are not unpleasant in any way to her.
The other thing I find unhelpful in this respect is that she locks herself in her room when not on duty and NEVER speaks to the kids if not actually looking after them. She also refuses to eat with us which is a shame in some respects.
Next time I get an AP I will defo make sure that their English is good and as I have 3 boys I will probably look for a male.
Talkingrabbit - is your AP a boy?

ChitChattingWithKids Tue 20-Sep-11 13:20:37

Next time? I would make sure next time is pretty damn quick if that's what she is like. She is supposed to be there to help with the children and isn't. Send her home!!!

Lizcat Tue 20-Sep-11 13:45:38

I have to say I have always given my APs quite a bit of direction on how to manage DD. Even in some instances down to the words to use.

JustAnother Tue 20-Sep-11 15:15:53

aupairs need a lot of direction. Unless this girl has younger brothers, there's a chance she's never had to look after a boy before. And even if she has younger brothers or cousins, she might not have done it. IME aupairs have got close to no experience with children - they are just young nice girls who want to spend a bit of time abroad in the comfort of a nice family while helping out a bit with the kids. They never imagine how much effort looking after children can be, in the same way that many of us never imagined it until we became mothers.

Migsy1 Tue 20-Sep-11 19:21:47

JustAnother - She looked after one 6 year old boy for the summer whilst his mother was at work and she looked after another 2 boys whilst their mother did housework. She says she played with them. She is also training to be a teacher and has had some work experience. It puzzles me.
Chitchattingwithkids - I spent a fortune on recruiting her and it would be nigh on impossible to find another at the moment. I've decided that I need to manage her closely but I don't know if I am expecting too much. Perhaps not. I feel a bit mean.

Migsy1 Wed 21-Sep-11 09:35:53

The other thing that really frustrates me is that she spends all her free time in her room, mainly on Skype talking to her family (several hours per day). She never goes out and has turned down numerous offers from other au pairs to meet up. She does not want to take English classes either as she says they are too expensive, even though I have offered to contribute to the cost. I'm not sure why she has bothered to come to the UK. My ES say that she gets on his nerves, she has no personality and is the most boring person he has ever met in his life. I'm afraid he has a point.

She is good at housework but I already have a cleaner and I don't need someone to have free board and lodgings with pay just to hoover, mop and do the boys' laundry.

She has booked her flight to go home for a holiday at Christmas and I'm thinking that I should tell her not to come back. I can tell her that business is bad and I don't need her anymore. I can reimberse her return flight - it would be cheaper than a week's board and pay anyway.

I am so frustrated now and my patience has run out. Thanks for your replies, it has make me think that I could actually do without her and send the kids to an afterschool club. They would be very pleased if I sent her home.

harrietthespook Wed 21-Sep-11 10:07:23

She doesn't sound great to be honest. It doesn't sound like she is adjusting at all to being in the UK or particualrly inclined/able at this point in her life to make an effort to try. I'm not sure I could stick it personally.

Have you asked her if she is enjoying herself?

Migsy1 Wed 21-Sep-11 10:26:20

harrietthespook - I often ask her that and she says she likes being in England. She does not seem homesick to me and she says that she is not. She is driving me nuts at the moment. Her distinct lack of integration with the boys has really got to me.

She arrived in the UK with one large bag and she said she was unable to find some of its contents (some dried food) until yesterday as she hadn't unpacked it all. What sort of person can't unpack a single bag in 8 weeks? I think some people in this world just don't make enough effort with their lives and they rely on others too much. I think she is one of them.

I've been really patient with her and I think I've suddenly just "lost it" or perhaps realised that things will not get better. It is my own fault - I should have dropped her after the first 2 weeks but having spent a fortune on recruitment fees, and cancelled the afterschool club, I thought I would try to make a go of it.

talkingrabbit Wed 21-Sep-11 10:31:49

Misgy1 - Yes, we went for a bloke this time after some really good advice from MNers. It does seem to make a huge difference to the atmosphere in the house, and it also means that my DH has become much more involved in management of any niggles with AP. I have two boys who are 8 and 6, and a girl who is nearly 11 who is pretty sensible and self-sufficient. All are very energetic, so we really needed someone who would take them to the park in the rain after school if needed, run races down the pavement on the way to school, not complain about having to join in living room rugby (and sustain attendent carpet burns!). Last AP was unbelievably a trained social worker and had exceptionally poor interpersonal skills as well as a fine line in passive-aggressive behaviour. New bloke is a young electrician with sunny, unflappable temperament so far. He found great English class within 2 days of arriving and joined local rugby side the week after, as well as now spending 2 hours a day in the gym training and chatting and helping out voluntarily with kids' rugby training at the weekends. Went out on the town with gym friends at the weekend and planning something for the end of this week as well.
He is the eldest of three children and had done a lot of after school care for neigbours' kids, as well as kids' rugby coaching back in France. He is about as good at housework as DH - v. willing but quality control needs attention and about as tidy, but as long as kids are happy I really don't mind if the dishes aren't done and the washing needs putting on when I get home. I just want to see smiling faces all round and so far, so good.

harrietthespook Wed 21-Sep-11 10:34:42

I have lived in a fair few countries over the years and to me she seems to be showing all the signs of someone who is just not settling. I have met people like that and possibly did it myself from time to time when something was 'bothering me' - basically retrenching and not interacting with people in the new environment.

I guess you've passed the time when the agency will replace her for free. Au Pair World is not so expensive - you don't have to pay anotehr agency fee - and frankly it sounds like it would be worth it for your OWN happiness!!!

I really urge you to spend half an hour today taking a look on there to see if there is anyone suitable. You can find someone quickly.

It will drive you mad, this situation, seriously. Don't let it carry on.

ConstantlyCooking Wed 21-Sep-11 10:47:50

WE had one AP who did not engage with the children when looking after them (she sat in the same room and skyped her friends). We spoke to her about this (no change) and then gave her set activities to do with the children, eg play cards/board games/make cake and then things improved slightly. FWIW her English was v good. Maybe you could ask your 10-yr old to show her how the remote works to give them both a chance to talk to each other.
Getting children ready: Give her list in English of what the children need to do - this will be a useful crib sheet for vocab for her. It is quite repetitive vocab so she should learn it quickly. If she is being lazy rather than homesick/unhappy then offering her the easy option of organising breakfast won't enncourage her to change.
Re English classes - one of the private lang colleges near us offers free classes run by its trainee teachers.(normally the classes there are extortionate). They are not advertised it might be worth phoning local colleges.
She might be shy and not unpacking sounds like she is not feeling settled yet.
If she is feeling unhappy then giving her lists of things to do might be easier for her so she might have lost her sense of initiative if she's feeling overwhelmed.
However, she could just be lazy and you might need to have a "if the situation does not improve maybe you should leave at Christmas" conversation. You would then be giving her lots of time to improve/settle in.

Migsy1 Wed 21-Sep-11 19:32:36

I've given her loads of lists - it does help. I have also showed her how the remote control works several times too and she doesn't concentrate, but I will try to get the older kids to show her.
I've looked at au pair world and it seems like a decent site and much cheaper than getting one through an agency. Now I know what to look for I would be more confident using APW. The kids tell me that getting an au pair was the stupidest idea I have ever had though.
She is constantly shut in her room and as soon as I appear when I finish working she dashes upstairs. This really irritates me as I want her to stop and be a little bit sociable. She doesn't eat with us and even takes her meals to her room. She has never opened her curtains once in 9 weeks. She is constantly on skype to her family and it usually sounds like she is arguing with them. I find it all really bizarre and I don't dislike her but I don't think I can stand living with her much longer. She is possibly the most unsociable person I have ever encountered. It is a shame for her but I can't really take her issues on as my responsibility.
Thanks for all your ideas guys!

fedupwithdeployment Thu 22-Sep-11 15:02:13

Sorry you are having difficulties - I have to say you are not alone. Having had a fab fab fab au pair for a year, the new girl is not good. Constantly questioning me and not following instructions...last night I lost it and shouted at her. I rang the agency and we may send her home. However, she does have some redeeming points and we will have ANOTHER "appraisal" and see if she improves. The boys think she is "ok" - which is praise indeed given that they LOVED the last AP. We shall see.

Good luck and sorry for hijack.

Migsy1 Thu 22-Sep-11 19:36:42

fedupwithdeployment - no hijack at all. Your comments are very relevant and welcome!
My AP also has some redeeming points but generally she is just not up to the job. I rang the agency initially and they said to give her 2 weeks to pull herself together but then I went on holiday and I came back with a more "tolerant" attitude - big mistake. I wish I had cut my losses, trusted my instincts and listened to the other mums on here and sacked her. She has good days and bad days but most of this week have been bad days. I even gave her a paid day off on Monday as it was her birthday (OK she gave the kids breakfast and emptied the dishwasher) and I got her a pressie and made a cake but since then she has shirked her duties. Well, thanks very much AP! In the 9 weeks she has already had 2 weeks off with pay because of family holidays and now she has to work regularly I don't think she can handle it.
She is the most unenthusiastic person I have ever encountered. She will have to go in the not too distant future!
I've found that the longer you leave it, the harder it becomes. Good luck!

Ripeberry Thu 22-Sep-11 20:14:03

Why not get a nanny? Oh no, too expensive. Well if you pay peanuts you get a monkey hmm

Migsy1 Thu 22-Sep-11 20:47:28

Ripeberry, I do not pay peanuts. Her pay, for 25 hours work a week is equal to about £9500 per year. Which, for a student, is not bad.

Migsy1 Thu 22-Sep-11 20:52:15

Remember, she is not qualified and does not speak good English. That is why au pairs are not as expensive as a nanny. However, yes, of course I would expect a better service if I was prepared to pay more money, but I'm not asking for highly skilled work - a nanny would be wasted in my household as my kids are at school all day.

Laquitar Thu 22-Sep-11 22:05:10

Have you posted before Migsy? i'm sure i remember about the curtains.

Ok. Teething problems/lack of experience/feeling unsure about how to discipline the kids - all reasonable to a degree.

Wanting time away in her room when not on duty, also reasonable.


shock @ the suitcase, thats odd to me. Also the curtains, the most common sign of depression. As well as not wanting to explore uk and meet other APs. Something is wrong with this girl and i don't mean just 'homesick' and a little down. It won't be good neither for you or for her.

Does her room has en suite? Make sure she opens the windows every morning and after showers and airs the room and bathroom. It will cost you even more in damage.

elastamum Thu 22-Sep-11 22:17:06

Send her home as soon as you can. She isnt going to get any better. I had an au pair a bit like this.

spent all day on facebook, never went anywhere, was nice to the kids but was the most unmotivated person I have ever met. she lasted 6 months, went to university and dropped out after a term. I wasnt surprised. Her parents came to stay once (They were lovely) but her father said she was the untidiest person he had ever known and had got sooo much better whilst with us shock

Migsy1 Fri 23-Sep-11 08:03:58

Laquitar Yes I have posted on here before. She is the girl that would not go out of the house alone for 2 weeks as she was frightened of getting lost.

I should have listened to everyone then, trusted my instincts and sent her home. She is very odd.

harrietthespook Fri 23-Sep-11 11:38:37

So what's the plan then Migsy?

Migsy1 Sat 24-Sep-11 23:46:26

Good question harrietthespook.
Several incidents on Friday led me to conclude that I cannot trust her with the boys - came home to pass 5 year old cycling in the middle of the road, although she was with him, this is not safe; a big complaint that 2 of my boys had a minor scuffle over the wii - is this really such a big deal???; and also she had stopped off at the park with the younger 2 leaving 10 yr old (who walks home alone) sitting on the garden wall for 1 hour. Also, whilst in her care the 10 year old has suffered a black eye and a broken collarbone. Any of these things might happen as isolated incidents but there are too many incidents adding up which makes me terrified of leaving them with her and I wonder what I am going to come home to.
I now know that she has to stop looking after my children and I will tell her next week that I no longer need her.
The question I have is what do I do next? I have registered with Aupair World and I am in correspondence with a few people. I need to have a big think about it. The first task is to get rid of the au pair, then I can tackle the next problem.
It is a good job I work from home and have some flexibility!
How is your AP? Message me if you like.

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