Giving Candid Feedback – Communication

I was chatting with fellow long time host mom/LCC/AP Mom regular Julie Dye this week and when she quoted her college professor R Wayne Boss at the University of Colorado – Boulder and it prompted me to shout “Amen” on the spot and ask if I could share/write a post about it!

He says this:

“Never expect an unrecognized need to be met.”

One of the recurring challenges I see especially with first time host families is candid communication.  We all say communication is critical and it’s the most important thing in hosting etc etc and yet they don’t do it – WHY?!?!

Several (incorrect) assumptions are usually to blame:

  1.  If I tell AP he/she is doing anything wrong AP will quit on the spot.  Au pairs are usually more terrified of transition than you.  They are literally gambling the roof over their head and there are more au pairs than host families.  Most au pairs are highly motivated/genuinely want to be great and welcome feedback – positive or negative so they know how they are doing and can improve.
  2. It’s a small thing/not important enough to mention.  Wrong.  If it’s important enough that it’s still bugging you three days later/you are telling husband about it/you are asking me to meet for coffee to talk about it then it’s worth mentioning to your au pair.  Otherwise you are drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Just talk to them about it!  Most of the time it’s a cultural difference or miscommunication.  You just might learn something new!  99% of the time host parents call me back feeling silly about not discussing it sooner.
  3. I don’t want to be a nag.  It’s not nagging.  Does your boss worry about not telling you that your TPS report title is misspelled?  Of course not.  They have a role in your household and you determine their duties and how they are to be done.  Being clear and helping them master their role and duties is your job as their host parent.
  4. I don’t want to do a weekly meeting because that seems so formal and we don’t want AP to look at us as a formal boss.  Too bad.  They see you as the boss.  They can also see you as kind, forgiving and family.  You have to be able to give and receive feedback about caring for your kids throughout the term and that IS important and serious and I promise you can kill those weekly meetings as soon as they have it mastered.  Families that do weekly check ins ramp much faster and have more success in the program.
  5. I don’t have the right to tell my AP that.  Whether it’s dressing scandalously to go to the school play, storing/handling food improperly or tossing out curse words, you absolutely, as their HOST and guide in this country have every right and obligation to guide them during their term.  It’s not judging.  It’s about helping them navigate the waters of a foreign country.  If you care, you will tell them.  Most of these things are now in my handbook so if you want to tackle it proactively I highly encourage you to do just that, but if they are here and these things are happening you HAVE to say something.  It can be as simple as asking your AP to change clothes and explaining that the US is more conservative and you don’t want other people to stare or her to get unwanted attention or be offended by comments.   Or explaining food handling techniques here and why they are different or pointing out what words your AP needs to avoid in mixed company.  Think of the last tour guide you had in a foreign country.  If they let you do something offensive or embarrassing and didn’t say anything and you found out later you would be pretty mad at that tour guide right?  Host parents you are the guide here, you are the US expert and it’s your duty to provide guidance.
  6. Surely he/she already knows.  Unfair!  Just like Professor Boss notes above, you cannot expect them to read your mind.  You have to tell them.  You might even have to tell them more than once (the first week they are in blackout bender mode) so tell them again.  It’s not personal.  It’s coaching.  You want them to be great, they want to be great.  Help them get there.

As a new host mom I had every one of these false assumptions!  I made all these mistakes.  Now I can have a conversation about AP female cycles in the same tone I talk about school supplies.  Communication is your friend.  I promise!  If you aren’t being honest with them they either likely think they are a rockstar while you are agonizing over the gaps (see drinking poison analogy above) or they figure they are doing everything wrong and they are waiting for the transition phone call and that’s torturous.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 3:11 AM

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