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I am so confused (abuse or not abuse)

(26 Posts)
AuPair91 Mon 07-Jan-13 12:52:15

Hi I am an Au Pair working in France. I have been here for 6 months and I am not sure whether the discipline offered by the father is tantamount to child abuse or not and I would be very grateful of any advice you can give me.

There are three children aged all under 7. My main concern is that he hits the children allot and often without warning and for very little reason. Like yesterday he slapped the one of them across the head hard for falling over. He sometimes warns the children before he hits them but more often it seems just a reaction to his anger, if that makes sense, and is always unduly hard. And if they cry for to long afterwards he will often hit again.

The next topic is homework. the eldest is expected to do homework for over 2 hours every night. and that is not the homework the school provides as that only takes on average 20 minutes. He has decided that she has to do extra. One night a week he comes home form work early to do her homework with her. He does maths with her and is trying to make her do stuff that she has not done at school yet and then belittling her and calling her stupid and getting angry with her when she cannot do it. It is like he is setting her up for failure just so he can insult her. There was a point where he would slap her for every wrong answer but that stopped recently. Now he is just verbally aggressive.

And this is the point where the confused bit comes in. He is a nice person most of the time and he does love his children, he spends time with them at the weekend and they are loved. But i am painfully aware that his behavior is affecting the children's and I sense that they are scared of him. Please help me.

Binfullofresolutionsfor10thjan Mon 07-Jan-13 12:54:53

That is abuse. Are you with an agency? Can you ask them for help or advice?

Do the children have a Mother at home?

LoopsInHoops Mon 07-Jan-13 12:59:37

I agree it is, but I'm afraid I've no idea how to help you. Are there other family members around at all?

givemeaclue Mon 07-Jan-13 13:05:08

It is abuse. Can you speak to agency for advice?

nannyof3 Mon 07-Jan-13 13:06:21

Its abuse !!!! hmm

fleurdepommier Mon 07-Jan-13 13:52:16

i did not go through an official agency, yes there is the mum at home and she is really nice but she also seem scared of him.

OnceUponAThyme Mon 07-Jan-13 13:53:57

I also think this is abuse. you don't hit children based on your own emotions on a regular basis, which is what he is doing. especially not for things like falling over. and he is emotionally abusive by belittling and destroying his children's self esteem.
is there any agency or anyone you can raise your concerns with?

fleurdepommier Mon 07-Jan-13 13:57:24

I really don't know I have no idea who to tell all the family are the other side of France and there is a bit of a language barrier so i don't feel i can approach their friends, I have seen them witness it and not seem to do anything apart from one set who they do not see often.

N0tinmylife Mon 07-Jan-13 14:04:38

Yes this definitely sounds abusive, those poor children! Could you try talking to their Mum first, she may be desperate for help herself, if she is scared of him? If not is there a French equivalent to Social Services you could contact?

fleurdepommier Mon 07-Jan-13 14:09:17

I don't know i suppose i am a bit scared of him to, to raise my concerns I have tried subtly raising it with the mum and she agrees that the children are sometimes hit unnecessarily and the homework regime is harsh. It is so hard here because no one really speaks english and my french is not good enough to explain it all. I am also scared that reporting it to social services would be taking the matter too far.

Portofino Mon 07-Jan-13 14:21:21

You seem to have had a name change fail OP hmm

nannyof3 Mon 07-Jan-13 14:28:37

Report to social services

Selks Mon 07-Jan-13 14:53:56

Reporting it to social services is the right thing to do - you need to do this, sorry.

If you don't act to safeguard the children then you are part of the abuse I am afraid. Sorry to be harsh but that's how it is. It does put you in an awkward position, but you can't not act.

DoctorAnge Mon 07-Jan-13 14:56:15

Good God report to social services this is abuse.

fleurdepommier Mon 07-Jan-13 16:25:54

Ok so I think I will have one last shot at talking to the mum and see if we can get anywhere with that and if not I will work out how to report to the social services in france.

fleurdepommier Mon 07-Jan-13 17:13:36

But I am still not sure if that is over reacting I will talk to the mum and try and talk to someone else who knows the family.

bunnyfrance Mon 07-Jan-13 18:13:38

Maybe try posting in Living Overseas - there are a lot of cultural differences at play here, particularly with regard to the homework. Hitting is also commonplace, sadly.

waterrat Mon 07-Jan-13 18:35:17

I really don't think you should speak to him or the mother if you are concerned about abuse - that could put you at risk. It will then be obvious if you do report them - I think you need to speak to someone who knows France and can tell you the French version of NSPCC/ childline so you could get some specific advice.

fleurdepommier Mon 07-Jan-13 19:25:46

well that is what i thought there is alot of physical discipline in france and i know that I am just not sure that a line is being drawn in the right place between discipline and just sheer anger.

HappyHippyHippo Mon 07-Jan-13 23:09:45

Hi Fleur,
What a horrible situation to find yourself in. Poor you. Poor kids. Yes, I agree with everyone else who say that this is abuse. What you are describing definitely isn't normal. Talking to the mum sounds a bit useless as she is clearly scared - I wouldn't put yourself through it, tbh. If you don't who to contact in France, maybe you could start by contacting the NSPCC in the uk? They have an advice line (here are the details from their website
phone: 0808 800 5000, email: or text 88858.- sorry I don't know if the numbers work from abroad) They might know who to contact but also if they could give you advice about how people would manage this in the uk that might make you feel more confident about tackling it in France. 
Please don't feel you are overreacting. What you are experiencing is not right. Well done for not ignoring it. It's not up to you to sort it out so don't feel like it is. But you do have a responsibility to alert people who have the necessary experience.
Good luck. 

HappyHippyHippo Mon 07-Jan-13 23:25:31

Ps can you leave easily if you want? You might not feel very comfortable staying there while/after reporting them to social services... do you have somewhere else to live? Cos it might be an idea to have a plan in place in case it all gets too uncomfortable.

YDdraigGoch Mon 07-Jan-13 23:39:17

The French are much harder on their kids than we are. I don't think hitting us uncommon, nor a strict homework regime.
I think abuse is a strong term for what you're describing (although its not the way I would bring up my kids).
It's not that long since we stopped caning children in school in this country don't forget.
I don't think you'd get anywhere with the French authorities over this. I'd suggest finding another family if you find the mans behaviour insupportable.

sleepyhead1234 Tue 08-Jan-13 03:39:16

that is abuse. i would keep a record of what happens like dates, times and incidents and contact help as others have said if then your told this is normal here and not to worry at least you know you tried to help and did all you could.

stella1w Tue 08-Jan-13 08:56:03

The man is abusive to his children and you are in a v difficult position. I would find a new family, then tell the agency why and ask them to whom you should report this. Perhaps to the kids' school. But there is little you can do and it,s not your responsibility.

mummy2benji Tue 08-Jan-13 09:50:18

Very very difficult situation, poor you. I am a GP in the UK and I'm afraid that the father's behaviour here is abusive and very bad for the children emotionally. I do appreciate that parents have different attitudes to smacking, and while we no longer condone it in this generation, most of us who were smacked as youngsters turned out okay. But a controlled smack for something very naughty is totally different to hitting in an out of control manner. It is precisely to avoid these situations that we are so anti-smacking in the UK now, because it is a fine line between a controlled smack and hitting in anger.

I do not think it is your place to shoulder this responsibility and put yourself in such an awkward place with the parents. I would strongly advise going to see the children's GP and explaining the situation. I am not familiar with the French primary care set up but here the GP would involve the health visitor and they would visit the family and get involved. They would not breach your confidentiality or explain that you have spoken to them about this. They may involve social services and the children could be put on the child protection register.

Don't get confused by feelings of guilt - the dad could well be a perfectly nice man who was himself smacked or beaten as a child and considers this reasonable behaviour. Unfortunately that doesn't make it right and something needs to be done. One thing - please don't simply resign and leave the job without saying anything to anyone about this. If you don't flag it up, maybe no-one will and the children could become emotionally scarred or physically hurt if the situation allowed to just continue. Good luck. x

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