Communication is the key to success for the au pair program, we recommend you listen, ask and talk as much as your busy schedule allows you to do! Communication allows you to plan your day (week) ahead, for this purpose you need to make sure you ask lots of questions.
It is nice if you take the time to write down a few key moments of the day to share with the host parents when they return from work. A daily (written) log gives you something to refer back to at a later date if needed and is a great way to practise your written English. Ask the host parents what they would like you to report on, naughty behaviour, any (even minor!) injuries, what the children have eaten (and how much if they are poor eaters) and what you have played or where you have been.
Start communicating with those individuals in your environment who are a) less busy b) most likely to enjoy your questioning! YES good answer; the children!
Provided your host family’s children are of primary age or above, you will be able to strike up a very interesting conversation with them. Ask them about all aspects of daily life and tell them what it is like in your country. Be positive and point out differences as well as similarities and ask them what they think works better and why…..
It is also important to communicate with the parents in your host family but it is important that you are sensitive to their schedule. After a busy day at work, with only an hour or so to spend with the children, they may not be in the mood to engage in conversation with you!
It is good to use your communication skills to gain further knowledge about family life. Check the handbook for the following information, if you feel it is missing or unclear, ask questions like;
What are the children’s favourite toys/games?
What activities do they enjoy?
Do they participate in any clubs or sports?
Are there any time restrictions on watching TV or surfing the internet?
Are there any TV channels/programmes/websites you do not allow the children to watch/use?
Are parental control blocks installed to protect the children online?
Are the children allowed to go out to play? If so, where and what are the rules?
TIP TO IMPRESS: in a busy family, you as an au pair can make a very generous gesture by always being a little bit early for your duties (and make sure you are fully ready) at the beginning of the day – 10 minutes is enough! In the afternoon; towards the end of your duties; do a quick ‘inventory’ – have a tidy up together, wipe kids faces (ready for a kiss from mummy!) plates in the dishwasher, note for parents to summarise the day and a list of any daily staples that need topping up (milk, bread, toilet rolls etc). As a parent, I know this makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE to a host mum!
Discipline and praise – your role
Every child needs praise and discipline as part of their development. It is very important that you speak to the host family in detail to ensure you all apply the same principles.
You should NEVER slap, smack, shake, bite, frighten or humiliate children in your care.
Discuss the following with your host parents;
How do you discipline the children? (Naughty step? Time out, remove toys? –specific!)
How do you want me to discipline the children? (Naughty step? Time out, remove toys? –specific!)
How would you like your children rewarded? Praise and encouragement are key but how about star charts, sweet, toys etc?
Together, you agree on clear boundaries for children’s behaviour.
Agree what you feel is the correct approach to unwanted behaviour, according to the child’s age and level of understanding.
What behaviour would you need to ‘report’ on? (see daily log above)
This will clarify your role and responsibility in this area.