Good communication skills are essential for a fulfilling relationship or a successful career, and many of us dedicate quite some time to honing these skills through our life. Now you have a helper responsible for the care of your children, those communications skills are more critical than ever because your child’s safety is at stake.
As an example of how things can so easily go wrong – an employer had asked her helper to do some shopping while she went out, but on her return she found her four-year-old daughter home alone. When the helper came back, the helper couldn’t understand why the employer was so distressed and responded with the fact she had been to do the shopping “as requested”. It just hadn’t occurred to the helper to take the child with her!
The employer of course had assumed that the helper would “naturally” take the child with her when she went shopping, but the helper was new to Hong Kong, was young and inexperienced in childcare, and as far as the helper was concerned, the child was safe as she had left the child “in a safe place”.
This is a classic clash of cultures leading to misunderstanding, through the employer not being explicit enough and seeking to ensure that both parties clearly understood what would happen.
It is absolutely vital that you consider how you and your helper communicate. Barking orders to someone, or raising your voice does not help communication. To communicate efficiently we should use oral, aural, body language, signing and writing. Note that most people are very good at hearing what they want to hear – rather than what is actually being said.
Also consider barriers to communication such as language, culture, knowledge, experience, fear, feelings, loneliness, tone and pitch of voice, personal space and body language. All of these factors can lead to a breakdown in communication, with both parties being unhappy and, more importantly, placing the child at risk.
So if you want to understand why your helper may do things the way she does, communicate with her!
This needs to commence at the interview prior to employment. Think about what it is you want her to do, what are your priorities and consider whether they are realistic and workable, given her experience and background?
Find out what the helpers’ childhood was like? Who are her role models? Did she have toys, a TV, an iron? Did she live in a flat, etc.? Why would she know what to do if she had never experienced these things herself? Consider how you would cope if the shoe was on the other foot? I am not suggesting that all helpers are the same, but I do think there are similarities, and we need to be very careful in what we ask.
As in all walks of life there are many kinds of people; some are honest, some are not, some are hardworking, some are not, some will take advantage of a situation, some will not. So before you take on a helper think carefully about what you want. Make sure she knows how to carry out the duties required, or, if not, that she is trained to do so.
Always leave clear instructions, and spend time with your helper to ensure she understands how you want things to work in your home, and that she is able to express and assess what is going on. In that way, you can also assess if she is able to look after your child safely.
For more help and information on working with your helper, check out the various helper courses on offer at Annerley’s Helper Academy.