Bullying Part One – Identifying Bullying

I have had a few Au pairs asking me about bullying. I have decided to break up this topic into four parts.

  1. Part One – Identifying bullying.
  2. Part Two – Helping children deal with being bullied.
  3. Part Three – How to stop a child from being a bully.
  4. Part Four – How to punish a child for bullying.

“Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.”

Bullying Part One – Identifying bullying.

Examples of bullying:

Every day, Harry, 10, asks his mother for more lunch money. Yet he seemed skinnier than ever and comes home from school hungry. Turns out that Harry is handing his lunch money to a fifth-grader, who is threatening to beat him up if he didn’t pay.

Kayla, 13, thought things were going well at her new school, since all the popular girls were being so nice to her. But then she found out that one of them had posted mean rumours about her. Kayla cried herself to sleep that night and started going to the nurse’s office complaining of a stomach-ache to avoid the girls in study hall.

According to national surveys, children and teenagers say that most bullying happens at school. A bully can turn everyday activities into nightmares. It can leave deep emotional scars and in extreme situations, it can involve violent threats, property damage, or someone getting seriously hurt. There are ways to help a child or teenager cope with teasing, bullying, or mean gossip, and lessen its lasting impact. And even if bullying isn’t an issue right now, it’s important to discuss it so that kids will be prepared if it does happen.

Identifying Bullying:

“Bullying is intentional tormenting in physical, verbal, or psychological ways. It can range from hitting, shoving, name-calling, threats, and mocking to extorting money and possessions. Some kids bully by shunning others and spreading rumors about them. Others use social media or electronic messaging to taunt others or hurt their feelings.” – Kids Health

It is very important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as another childhood trial or normal childhood behaviour. The effects can be very damaging and can influence how a child sees himself as a person and it can make them feel worthless. It can also affect their sense of safety and self-esteem. In severe cases, bullying can end in horrific tragedies such as self-harm, suicides or even school shootings.

Signs of bullying:

Unless the child or teen tells you about the bullying or if you can see visible signs thereof, such as scars or bruises, it can be quite difficult to figure out if it is happening. There are signs to look out for:

  • Personality changes
  • The child is acting differently
  • Sleeplessness
  • A change in eating habits
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Moodiness (Worse than usual)
  • They start avoiding certain places/situations

If you suspect bullying but your child is reluctant to open up, find opportunities to bring up the issue in a more roundabout way. For instance, you might see a situation on a TV show and use it as a conversation starter by asking, “What do you think of this?” or “What do you think that person should have done?” This might lead to questions like: “Have you ever seen this happen?” or “Have you ever experienced this?” You might want to talk about any experiences you or another family member had at that age.

It is also very important to talk to children about bullying and harassment. If they are being bullied or harassed (or see it happening to someone else), they need to know that they have to tell someone about it. They can talk to you, their parents, a teacher, a family member or even an older sibling.

Keep an eye out for our next blog – Bullying Part Two: Helping children deal with being bullied.

School Holiday Help

Let’s take a moment to remember all those parents of school aged children at this difficult time. Don’t forget, it’s considered impolite not to bring a bottle when you visit. (Preferably a clear spirit that can be disguised as water.)

School Holidays

Ah, school holidays.. who doesn’t like school holidays? Well, let’s not answer that out loud! As I am writing this blog post, I am watching three little musketeers pretending to be the cast of Paw Patrol. I know the song off by heart now so I am silently singing along as they play and put out extremely dangerous fires. They had a road block earlier because apparently the Mayor fell into a big hole and the Paw Patrol gang needed to save him. Another big twist in the tale was when a cat got stuck under a house (Not a typo, it really got stuck under a house). The Paw Patrol gang then had to break down the entire house to save the, and I quote a four year old, “Silly banana kitty cat!” It is just astonishing to see how kids think, what they imagine and what they feel.

Generally, kids can keep themselves busy. They love to have friends over and have playdates, tea parties and sleepovers. But what happens if they get bored? Boredom is inevitable after a few days or for some, after a few hours. I have compiled a list of places and activities to keep children busy during the school holidays. I have also decided to share it – yay!

Places to go:

  • Bambanani – Melville
  • Acrobranch – Melrose
  • Johannesburg Zoo – Johannesburg
  • Zoo Lake – Johannesburg
  • Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens – Roodepoort
  • Planetarium – Johannesburg
  • The Bee Maize Maze – Honeydew
  • Papachinos – Roodepoort
  • City Rock – Johannesburg
  • Peoples Theatre – Johannesburg
  • Ice-Skating – Northgate
  • iJump – Roodepoort
  • Gold Reef City Theme Park – Johannesburg
  • Monte Casino Bird Park – Fourways
  • Rollegoli – Bryanston
  • Croc City Crocodile and Reptile Park – Fourways
  • Lifestyle Garden Centre – Randpark Ridge

Games to play – no explanation required:

  • Riding bikes
  • Swimming
  • Soccer
  • Making Mud Pies
  • Obstacle courses
  • Trampolines
  • Jungle Gyms
  • Playing Catch
  • Fantasy Play
  • Painting
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Stick Maze
  • Shadow Drawing
  • Bird Watching
  • Finding shapes in the clouds
  • Painting and crafting rocks
  • Planting seeds and taking care of them
  • Jump Rope
  • Climb Trees

I sincerely hope that this will help you to enjoy the school holidays a bit – some are lucky enough to only have a one week break. For the rest of you that has a longer school holiday – you have my condolences.

Au Pair Training

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”

— Chris Grosser

The Training Manual

I just cannot contain my excitement! After two long months of working on our very own Training Manual, I have finally completed it! To be able to share all of my knowledge with the world is an amazing feeling. I absolutely loved writing, researching and learning new things while writing the manual.

I have received quite a few compliments in my life, but the one that really stuck with me was when a friend called me proactive. Not a good compliment? Of course it is! When I started Executive AuPair, I wasn’t planning on launching a course this quickly. Maybe after a year or two but not after just a few months. I wanted to source someone from the outside to do the training for me. As a very specific and proud type of person, I was looking for a specific kind of training course. I wanted it to be great! I wanted it to cover important topics. I wanted it to really help the people that do the course. I wanted it to be perfect! Needless to say I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I know that my training isn’t perfect but it is the closest I could get to what I was looking for. This past two months has challenged and tested me but also taught me a few new things.

We will be launching our Au Pair Training Course on the 2nd of October 2017.

Important information:

  • Date: 2 and 3 October 2017
  • Time: 08:00 – 12:00
  • Venue: The Graft Yard, Heathway
  • Cost: R1200.00 per person

***The first 10 people to register for the training will receive a 10% discount. You will be notified if you are one of the lucky ones!

The course includes:

  • Training Manual
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Refreshments (Coffee, tea, water and juice)
  • Snacks
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Certificate of completion

Topics will include:

  • The difficult side of being an Au Pair
  • Safety whilst on the job
  • Babies and Toddlers
  • Discipline
  • Children with different needs
  • Homework
  • Health and diet
  • Activities and outings

And more..

Here is the link to the online registration form, https://goo.gl/forms/KJG8Iz1mheGc9uHC2 . As soon as you have submitted it, you will receive an Invoice for payment. Full payment is required unless otherwise arranged with the course trainer, Sunette Steyn.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions regarding the training.

To view the event created on our Facebook page, click here.

AuPairs and Teenagers

“Teenagers are the most misunderstood people on the planet. They are treated like children and expected to act like adults.”

Au Pairing a Teenager

Let’s face it – Teenagers are horrible! We have all been there, done that, gone through it and might still have a t-shirt of it stuffed away very deep in some closet.

This ‘horrible’ teenager behavior is nothing to be scared of. It is normal. Think about what is happening in that poor teen’s life. They are changing in every way – body, mind and soul. Think back a few years to when you were a teen. Remember how you felt? How you looked? How you thought you looked? How you wished you had someone you could talk to and wouldn’t judge you? That is probably how they feel and why they act out. Why not use those memories and experience to be there for the teen?

Don’t be scared to Au Pair for a family with teenagers. Although it can be very challenging and test your patience, you will be rewarded. You can make a lifelong friend! Most of the time teenagers prefer talking to a person they can trust. Be that person for them! They do not necessarily want to talk to their parents about everything. Let them know that you are there for them and that you can be trusted. You will have to back up those statements with actions so make sure you show them that you can keep a secret.

Tips for coping

by Relate, the relationship people

  • Stay positive– things can change. Don’t assume the worst or the teenager will too. Look for signs of change and notice when things go well, even for a short time. Try to be a positive voice in their lives – it affirms that they can have a positive future even if things are difficult now.
  • Like who they are– try to separate the behavior from the person. Remember all their good qualities and try not to be overpowered by what you don’t like about their behavior right now. The teenager may be behaving badly but that doesn’t make them a bad person.
  • Be there – contrary to how it may seem at times, the teenagers do want to talk to you. But you need to let it be in their time and at their pace. Listen to their ideas, don’t interrupt or try to tell them what to do.
  • Be reassuring– a lot of teenagers are scared by the feelings they’re experiencing and the new wave of responsibilities that they have to take on. They need lots of reassurance that they’re not going mad and they will cope.
  • Be consistent– try to set clear and consistent boundaries which also respect their boundaries to help them to foster their own sense of security whilst in inner turmoil. Be ready to discuss the rationale behind your behavior and your rules. Remember that they’re learning from you how to be and think like an adult.
  • Be approving– research confirms that both males and females have higher self-esteem in early adolescence if they think that they have the approval and support from their families.
  • Be patient– while teenagers are trying to find the right balance of behaviours and independence, they often swing too far in the opposite direction. But in time, the pendulum will swing back and settle in a more comfortable position.
  • Be gentle– even though the teenager may act as though they’re indestructible, their emotions are still very fragile – so handle with care.
  • Be loving– remember that although the child may seem to be pushing you away, they still need your love.
  • Be honest– sometimes you will feel stressed and emotional yourself. Don’t be afraid of letting the teenager know how you feel. Each time you do, you’re showing them that it’s okay not to be perfect and it’s okay not to have all the answers.
  • Be supported– don’t be alone. Especially when times are tough, talk it through with someone who won’t judge or criticize you. Find a friend, family member or counselor who will offer support and encouragement. Take time out to vent any frustrations rather than bottling things up and letting rip at home.
  • Forgive and forget– Not so easy. But be prepared to manage the conflict and arguments, repair your relationship with the teen and move on. If you don’t find a way to let go of past resentments they won’t either. Small disagreements soon build into huge arguments leaving you both wondering what happened.
  • Be hopeful – this is only a phase. It is normal for teenagers to drift away from and even reject you. But it’s also normal for them to come back and develop a meaningful relationship that will last the rest of your lives.

Try to be a role model for the teen instead of an authority figure. If the teen sees that you can keep calm in stressful situations, they might follow suit. If you can be calm during arguments, they will see that it is possible for them to stay calm as well.

In our previous blog, Au Pairs – Rules and Boundaries we have emphasized the importance of consistency, and patience. With teenagers, the same rule applies! 

Au Pairs – Rules and Boundaries

“Parents who pay attention can avoid a power struggle, even with strong willed children, by emphasizing as they set limits, giving choices, and understanding that respect goes both ways.” Dr Laura Markhum

“What can I do when the children don’t listen to me?”

This could either be a tricky situation or a very simple one. If you look at a situation with a negative attitude, you will get negative results. If you look at a situation with a positive attitude, you will get positive results. 

Children are almost magical. They have a way of catching on what you, as an AuPair, are feeling and they can clearly see when they are pushing your buttons. They will push your boundaries and take chances. Best is to try and stay calm in these times and not to overreact or react negatively.

It is important for you to understand the child. If you work with two or more children, remember that each child is unique and might react differently to certain boundaries and rules. Get to know each of their personalities, likes, dislikes, consistencies and routines. Children do feel more secure and safe if they have set boundaries and rules. Just like children, each family is also different and unique. Talk to the parents. Ask the parent for advice, tips and ways to handle the children – it is their children after all!

The way you behave towards the children is also very important. It will impact them directly and also the way that they will respond to your discipline. You need to show them that you respect them by listening to them. Show them that they are not just a ‘job’ by including them in discussions, making of plans and planning activities. When you communicate with them, go down to their level and have direct eye contact with them. Be calm and direct when talking to them. Explain to them why you are unhappy about their behaviour rather than shouting or overreacting – it will make matters worse.

Consistency! I cannot stress this enough. If you give in to a tantrum, you will be rewarding the child for bad behaviour. It will teach them that negative behaviour will give them what they want and they will most likely repeat it. You will need a lot of patience to discipline a child. You would need to repeat the same rules and boundaries more than once a day! If you are firm but fair (and consistent) the children will realize that there is no point to argue or resist. Make sure that the children know what the consequences of their behaviour will be and stick to it.

Remember that what works for one child might not work for the other. This means that you might need to tailor the disciplinary methods for each child. It is also very important that you focus and stress the behaviour that you are not happy with and not the child. Spend quality alone-time with each child – even if it is just in the car for a few minutes. Also, remember to give the children lots of love and hugs. Praise their good behaviour and reward them. Just be careful not to overdo this as it can lose its value.

Things to try:

  • Quiet Time
  • Time out
  • Distraction

Quiet Time: In the book Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria Dunckley, she says, “Dealing with constant input lowers the brain’s ability to work through emotions and make sense of what’s being learned” (Real Simple, Jan. 2016). Providing adequate time and quiet space for children to process various emotions that they are perhaps feeling for the first time will allow them to learn coping skills, appropriate responses, and healthy habits around those emotions. Also, it’s helpful to practice quiet processing with young kids especially when they are frustrated or angry (aka, two years old!). Taking a break, taking a breather, and finding words can lead towards better future responses.

Time-out (also known as social exclusion) is a form of behavioural modification that involves temporarily separating a person from an environment where unacceptable behaviour has occurred. The goal is to remove that person from an enriched, enjoyable environment, and therefore lead to functional punishment or extinction of the offending behaviour. It is an educational and parenting technique recommended by most paediatricians and developmental psychologists as an effective form of discipline. Often a corner (hence the common term corner time) or a similar space where the person is to stand or sit during time-outs is designated. This form of discipline is especially popular in western cultures. – Wikipedia

Distraction: Children often get so involved in their activities that they lose sight of everything else, including behavioural guidelines that their parents have implemented. Additionally, it takes children a while to internalize the tendency to control their emotions, making them prone to excessive displays of anger or frustration when things don’t go their way. When you combine the two characteristics of young children, it is easy to see why they can sometimes test the patience of their parents and other carers. Rather than engaging in an ongoing battle of wills with small kids, though, smart caregivers opt to redirect the attention of kids from unacceptable behaviours to those deemed more desirable. For instance, if a child seems determined to play with table top items that the parents would rather that they didn’t, carers can attempt to redirect the child’s attention by engaging them in a game or offering a more appropriate plaything, such as a colourful balloon. This same technique works well when children request inappropriate snacks or beverages, instead offering healthy, but kid-friendly treats. – www.kidsbehaviour.co.uk

There are so many other ways and things to try. This is only the first Blog entry of much more to come that will advise AuPairs (And Parents) on discipline. It can be a touchy subject, especially when it comes to other people’s children. Really, the best advice is to stay calm, take a breath and search in the deepest part of yourself for the little patience you might have left. Another amazing thought – children grow up! They do listen and take in all of the daily repeats of rules and boundaries. Eventually they will start following it – consistency, remember!

Good luck!