- 06-26-2012, 04:50 PM #1
helper who doesn't interact with older children...what would you do?
We've had a helper for about a year (she's not our first--first lasted 6 years). While her cooking is ok (getting better), her cleaning is fast and fairly thorough, i just can't get her to interact with my kids (5 & 7 yrs). i've suggested cooking/baking with them, playing board games, getting the kids to help with changing their sheets (they love to help out) etc, taking the kids to the playground in town... but nothing. it's almost like she is afraid of them. i will say my older child is of an age that he likes to push the boundaries, but she won't stand up to him. she gives him nothing to respect as she doesn't "demand" it. (we are ALWAYS very respectful towards her.) she just doesn't seem interested in even having a conversation with them. and when she does, she usually whines/nags them.... any ideas on how to improve this? ideally hubby and i would like to go for a night away, but right now, don't feel like i could leave her alone with them as i just don't think she could handle it. i don't want to terminate her as she hasn't done anything wrong and she's great at cleaning.... but right now, i'm at the point i certainly won't be renewing the contract when it comes due. (ps. we pay above minimum wage, she has a big room with a tv/dvd provided, too.)
- 06-26-2012, 05:10 PM #2Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2010
- hk south side
Here are a couple possible scenarios that I have come across with friends' helpers or nannys in the past:
Does your helper have her own children that are still school aged that she has had to leave at home? Sometimes a helper may really miss her own children and have a hard time bonding with other similarly aged children.
Has your helper been close to any previous employers' children and then been abruptly terminated or unexpectedly not had a contract renewed? I know several people who have helpers who had this kind of background and they were very hesitant to get close to their new employers' children because they were worried that they would get hurt by 'losing' the children abruptly again.
Has your helper been treated poorly by any previous employers' children? In cases like this it seems that some helpers are unsure of how to handle discipline or even normal interaction with children of a new employer simply because they don't know how to act so they just keep their distance because they don't want to do anything wrong? Even though you are encouraging interaction, perhaps she just isn't used to being treated as an equal/ adult in the household that the children cannot demean/ order around?
Anyway, sounds like you are doing all the right things and if there isn't any underlying issue perhaps she just isn't huge on kids? Good luck.
- 06-26-2012, 05:20 PM #3
to answer your questions:
1) no she has no children. she is single.
2) her employer previous to us had an only child. i think that kids are very different 1-1 than when there are siblings around. i don't know if she's ever encountered 2 slightly older kids who have strong personalities and aren't always "following the leader". our helper left them at the end of the contract.
3) not that i know of...
i'm coming to that conclusion, too. i must say, i'm quite disappointed. she is slightly better with my daughter than with my son. it's almost like he doesn't exist in her world. the only interaction is there when it is absolutely necessary. it is kind of self-perpetuating. she's not good with them because she doesn't put any energy/effort into getting to know them... she doesn't know them because she's not very good with them.
- 06-26-2012, 05:29 PM #4Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2010
- hk south side
She sounds exactly like me before I had my own kid (almost all of my friends had children before I did)...I had no idea how to engage children of any age. It wasn't so much that I didn't like them, more that I just didn't know how to interact so I almost ignored them (sounds terrible, I know, but there was no ill-will, just a lot of uncertainty with how to interact).
If the situation is self perpetuating and potentially unsustainable (especially as your kids are at an age where it would be nice and fine to leave them with a caretaker for a parents night away!) it may be worth speaking to her directly about the need to interact more with your children (as part of her job in addition to her being a member of your household) well before her contract comes up for renewal. If the situation doesn't get better (or gets worse) then at least you know you tried?
I don't know the answer though... you're usually the one with good advice on these types of things on this board :)
- 06-26-2012, 05:36 PM #5
that's the problem. i have talked to her. i have offered ideas like: crafts, cooking/baking, taking a walk, playing a board game, watching a movie, taking the kids to the cinema, to the playground, to the swimming pool etc...
i don't think it is a deal breaker for us at this moment in time... i would feel absolutely terrible firing her as i said, she's done nothing "wrong". she's just not like i thought she'd be with the kids.
we wanted to give her time to get to know the kids, but it's been a year and not much has changed.
part of me wonders if the best thing to do would be for hubby and i to take off for a couple of days and leave her to it. would she find her own voice and come into her own routine with the kids? or would everything completely fall apart?
not sure if it is something i am willing to risk. (i probably would be more willing to risk it than hubby would, though.)
i'm disappointed in myself for not having found the right person. guess, i will just have to do a better job of it next time round...
thanks, again, elle!
- 06-26-2012, 11:47 PM #6
I don't have any suggestions - but I can totally identify with the feeling of having a helper that is "not bad enough to fire". For us, our helper is great with the kids (although not good at discipline) and is very trustworthy. She is hardworking as well, and quiet/keeps her nose out of our business... but on the flip side, our main issues are that we often have communication issues with her, and sometimes she has done what she thought was best instead of the specific instructions that I gave her. She's not a great cook, but she's ok.
At the end of her contract, we did rehire her - partly because I couldn't afford the time and energy to find a new helper at that particular time, and also partly because I felt "better the devil you know than the devil you don't know". It's such a hard call though and I still sometimes second guess whether or not we should have kept her on or looked for someone else.
Sorry I have no advice - I just wanted to share my (slightly) similar situation...
- 06-27-2012, 10:40 AM #7Registered User
- Join Date
- May 2009
Our first helper had some issues but she was good at cleaning and a few things but she wasn't good with kids and at the end of the day, that's her primary responsibility. It doesn't matter if my house isn't that clean or the food we eat isn't gourmet-level. It does matter how my helper interacts with my kids. In the case of her ignoring your son and choosing to not interact with him, I would say that's a huge problem--especially if she's spending large amounts of time with your children--those little things can really affect the way a child sees himself.
Y'know, when I was in secondary school I babysat a lot. Guess what? Like Elle, I didn't really feel comfortable around kids. Of course, I didn't have kids of my own and at that point I told myself I would never, ever have kids. I wasn't particularly interested in children either--like all my friends would be "ooohing" and "ahhing" when they saw a cute baby and I would have absolutely no reaction at all. Y'know what I did? I prentended. I acted. I babysat because I wanted to earn extra money. I was responsible and could handle children but it totally didn't come naturally to me. It was actually really boring and wearying taking care of kids. If I had had the option to do another part-time job to earn funds (like McDonald's but our town definitely didn't have one of them) I certainly would have done it. Some of the children I babysat were well-behaved and some were terrors but I didn't enjoy being a babysitter, actually. But, I was really, really, really good at it. In fact, I was so good at it that my name "got around" and I would be getting multiple calls during a week, "Hello. My friend mentioned that you've done some babysitting for their children and that you do such an excellent job. Do you have any time to babysit for us?" I even had one many comment, "I just saw you interacting with that child and thought 'Wow, she's really a natural.'" Was I really a natural? Not really. It was part of my job and I wanted to do a good job so I learned "the tricks" that worked for me to handle little (and older) kids. And I was open to suggestion--just like you have made so many suggestions to your helper.
Like the director of a helper agency told me when I shared my issues with our old helper (whom we had been trying to encourage to change for 3 months), "Sometimes some people aren't going to learn. You could talk and try to teach and demonstrate but it's beyond their scope to learn for whatever reason." It may come down to you having to accept that she's not going to take up your advice and learn (if she hasn't in a year, obviously, there is something wrong). And you just have to decide if it's okay for her to be like that.
For me, it wouldn't be. Because, like I said, interacting with my children and having a relationship with them is part of my helper's job--it's actually her primary job. And you have said "she didn't do anything wrong"--I disagree. I think that if an employer comes to you earnestly and says, "It is really important that you build a relationship with my kids and these are the things I want you to do" and then the helper does absolutely nothing with this information or plea--I think that is inexcusable. If my boss said the same to me and I did nothing, that would be grounds for firing, I think. It seems, your helper, like our previous helper, is not working up to standard in a very important area.
The only other thing I could suggest is to actually time-table and "force" her to do the things you have previously suggested. Make her accountable. Consider it professional development or on-the-job-training. Like, on Mondays it is baking day and this is what you are going to do with the children. I will expect a report on how it went. On Tuesday it is park day and you are going to take the children to the park and then I will ask them later what games they played with you. Your options for games are this, this or that. The kids and I will demonstrate to you how to play them. Etc. Etc.
Or, maybe light a fire under her and tell her that you're not pleased with her attitude toward your children. I dunno...to me, it would be a big deal but that's because my helper spends a lot of time with my children and I want to make sure the message she is sending with her behavior is that they are wanted and loved...not a nuisance or outside of her area of interest.“Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”
~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)
Mother of Two
JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK
- 06-27-2012, 11:03 AM #8
thanks, thanka. i appreciate your comments and ideas.
the thing is, ever since our first helper left, hubby and i have taken care of the kids almost entirely. so, it isn't really her primary job. we are lucky enough that one of us is often around, so caring for the kids is up to us. the only times we really need her to step up to the plate is during school holidays.
i am planning on taking my kids to my classes this summer, just so that they aren't left doing "nothing" all summer with her. husband is WAYYYY too busy during the holidays to do much of anything (he doesn't even leave the house for most of july & august!), so, it falls to myself and helper.
funny thing is that my kids are pretty good at entertaining themselves. they wake up in the morning, get dressed (sometimes), make their own breakfast, watch tv, do homework, play etc all without any help from us. sometimes, they'll even go up and have a shower on their own. so, there isn't really much to "do" for her. but, i'd just like a little more....interest shown.
if i was still at work all day, every day. it would definitely be a deal breaker. but, as i'm at home quite often now, i don't think it is.... yet.
i will likely keep her until her contract ends then look for someone else.
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