Having a maid complicates the family dynamics

My maid used to look after the two young kids of her previous employer. I get the impression from her that her main job was looking after the kids and doing some light housework. She wakes and gets the kids ready for school each day. This includes fixing and feeding them breakfast, tying the little girl’s hair and walking them to school. When they get back from school. She makes sure they eat their lunch, have their bath and then takes them to the mother’s shop or back to school again if there are extra activities in school.

She tells me with tears in her eyes that the kids were sad to see her go. I can tell that she has a fondness for the little girl whom she described as rather naughty. I do not think that she has any idea that she has contributed a little bit to this naughtiness.

Why do I say this? Well, I would say that most maids are not given the authority to scold or discipline the kids but they are sometimes given the job of looking after the kids. To me, you cannot look after kids without disciplining as well. This creates a disharmony.

Anyway, yesterday we made some pancakes for the kids for tea because they liked it so much previously. The little one was grumbling about not having enough. He had finished his and his sister had just started eating at the time. The maid was amused by the fact that he liked the pancake so much and she kept on laughing and commenting on the fact. This made the little one even more concious about the fact that he wanted more and there was none. This made the maid laugh even more. Finally, the little one couldn’t stand it any more. He ran out of the kitchen crying very loudly and stomping his foot.

If he acts up like this, I would usually just ignore him till he has calmed down. However, the maid rushed to pick him up and got his sister to give him a piece of her pancake. When she tried to ask his sister to give him another piece of pancake just so he could hold another piece in both his hands to pacify him, I stopped her.

Later on I took her aside and told her to ignore him if he misbehaves or throws a tantrum in future. I explained to her that kids learn from how we behave towards them. I told her that if he screams and you run and give him what he wants, he will learn that he can get what he wants by screaming. So leave him alone even if he looks very pitiful because kids will cry sadly one moment and be laughing again the next. I told her that I know she ran to him because she feels sorry for him and wanted to make him happy again but that is not the way to do it. This way, we will encourage a child to be naughty and greedy.

She told me that that is how she used to give in to everything to the little girl that was under her care because she didn’t know how to handle her. She told me that the little girl was very demanding and would ask for orange juice etc sometimes at 12 or 1 am. It was very tiring. Giving in to everything was easier. She also told me that to make sure that the girl did not keep on asking her for food, she would stuff her with food till she was so full that she wouldn’t ask anymore! That is also another easier way of handling kids.

I also had to explain to the kids that what the boy did was wrong. If he wants more pancake, he should ask nicely and because there wasn’t anymore, I will make sure that I make more for him the next time round. I also told them that what kakak did was wrong too. She felt sorry for him and wanted to make him happy again but I reminded them that no one should be rewarded for bad behaviour. And no one should have their food taken away from them to give to the one with the bad behaviour. They both agreed on that.

And so it turned out alright. I took the opportunity to speak to the maid as well as to the children to set the rules for everyone. I had to be careful when speaking with the maid because I don’t think she meant it in a bad way so I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. At the same time I must make sure that she knows what to do and what not to do in future when in comes to the kids.

I had set up rules and shown her exactly what to do in terms of housework but I had forgotten to set rules and show her what to do in terms of the kids. I didn’t think it was necessary because I always take care of the children myself, bathe, feed, etc. She sometimes plays with the kids when we are busy, that is all. She acted in the way she knew how and according to her natural instinct. Since she had always cared for other children in that manner in the past two years, she naturally did it in the way she used to do. However, the dynamics in my home are not the same and so I had some explaining to do.

Well, so thats that. A lesson learned by everyone including me. So what about you. Do you set rules with your maid about how she should handle your children?


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16 thoughts on “Having a maid complicates the family dynamics

  1. my question would be: what would the parents do? I can’t believe they allow their little girl to ask for juice at that time of the night! I can’t stand the parents who just don’t discipline their kids and then will scold the maids cos the kids are naughty. EEEEE.. Maid is there to help with housework etc, not to raise your kids right?

    I think you handled it really well, dear, kudos to you! Maids aren’t the only ones guilty of this, grandparents and parents are often the same. Can’t handle, give in. Kids learn that tantrums etc are the way to get what they want. No independence also as everything is done for them, from food, to getting changed, to well.. everything.. I’ve seen it way too often sigh..

    It’s tough huh?

    Yeah, its tough. My maid always try to wear the kids shoes for them when we are going out and I will have to remind her to let them do it on their own. Don’t want to raise kids who have to rely on someone to do everything for them like you say. I think the reason she does this is because it gives her something to do instead of standing around doing nothing which is rather awkward.

  2. u did great…i must remember this.

    my kids are being pampered by my maid too…she gives in to their every wishes.

    It is always easier to give in to their every wish and besides we do not want to give them the authority to scold less they abuse that authority so we must always remember this.

  3. My maid gives in to my daughter too and even when I was discipline her, she will usually come to rescue my daughter. I told her there and then that there is no giving in and my daughter has to learn. However, I also set time aside to tell my maid that only I can do the beating, she can tell me what my daughter did wrong and I will do the discipline part. I do not want to take the risk when the authority is abused.

    You certainly do not want to give her the authority to discipline just in case that authority is abused. And we have to make sure they do not “come to the rescue” but its not easy yah? Allowing them to “come to the rescue” creates an undesirable situation where the kids know they can get their way with the maid and they will run to the maid to do naughty things and away from mummy. I have also seen that my maid tend to try to “come to the rescue” too because she can’t stand to see the kid cry cos when I scold the kid would cry even harder and like very pitiful like that. I have to intervene by taking the kid away, no choice because I find it hard to say “This is my kid. Let me do the discipline and don’t interfere.” I think saying it outright like that will hurt their feelings so I would just say “No, leave him/her alone” than take the kid away and discipline him/her elsewhere. How do you do it when the maid comes to your kids rescue?

  4. Oh…definitely you will need to tell the maid how to diccipline and bring up the kids YOUR way if she is ever left alone with them. But good that you did it in a calm way so that she can accept your point of view.

    This issue arises with grandparents too and they are even harder to deal with because they brought us up didn’t they so who are we to tell them how to bring up kids. Its very very sensitive with grandparents.

  5. with my previous maid I didn’t set any rules for handling the children, but I think it would be good to tell her what you expect.

    My ex-maid was quite good in handling kids’ tantrum, normally she would distract them with some other things or stories or their other recent activities.

    I guess we have to watch and see whether we need to intervene and set rules.

  6. You did a great job with your maid. Grandparents are the same case. We will never allow grandparents to give in to the kids. If not it will be very difficult for us to handle later.

    Yes, it will be difficult to undo the damage when kids get mixed messages isn’t it but we just try our best. :)

  7. my maid didnt know how to handle kids, didnt laugh or play with kids and my kids never liked her. but then i was the one who did everything with the kids, except that maid made gave my girl her afternoon nap, thats it! she once got angry with my son and fooled him when he was playing in the garden, i saw and gave her a good scolding! she is slow, dump, never talked or smiled much. so how can the kids ‘follow’ her? hope my new maid is a good one with kids.

    Mine is good with playing with the kids, maybe too good!

  8. I do set rules for the maid, but she doen’t take big part in my kids routinity at home. Sometimes maid’s stuff easier than grandparents’… and parents-in-law often come at the top of hard-to-handle issue in raising our kids independently (follow our rules), you know what I mean .. :)

    Henny, unfortunately, both my parents-in-law and my mom are no longer here, so theres only my dad, who has dementia so I’ll not know what you mean in the practical sense.

  9. My maid tends to want to be like me with the kids to the extent that she hits them and scolds them. I put my foot down and told her not to. Only I can discipline them if they are naughty.
    Your maid sounds like a good maid!

    I think a bit of scolding from the maid is not so bad but hitting is a no no.

  10. yes, u are very right there. we are having the same problem with qiqi too, as she knows the maid cannot scold her (i told the maid not too, but instead tell me her misbehave after the horror story i read from shireen’s blog). but in the end, qiqi frequently bully her :(

    Kids are smart so we have to always be on our toes to nip these kinds of problems in the bud.

  11. Two rules I set with her about my child. No hitting and no teaching him how to read cos she cannot pronounce properly. This year, I started to let her hit his palm if he were to misbehave. But so far, she hasn’t had to resort to that.

    I also set rules for the boy with the maid. No bullying and he has to show basic respect.

    You are right. The rules must be set with the kids too. :)

  12. you are so right that i only told the maid wht to do with housework but i didnt tell her anything on handling my girl coz like you, my maid is there not for her but for my household stuff.

    so i also saw how she pampers my girl from day one, trying to be there for her to wear her shoes, or clean up after her, etc. i had to tell her not to and till today, at times, i still need to remind her not to. my maid got no experience working for people but i’m guessing she’s doing this from how she handles hers as well back home.

    a few times she laughed when my daughter answered me back while i was disciplining her and i had to tell her in a nice manner never ever do that again.

    anyway, i’m prepared to remind the maid of things i don’t approve of when it comes to my kids and my hubby agrees too.

    i think generally, maids spoil our kids because at the agents, they are told (perhaps threatened too) not to mistreat their employers kids. i remember my agent was telling my maid this firmly when i picked her up.

    When I went to pick her up, my agent was telling her not to simply simply hug and kiss the kids because Chinese people don’t like that. Strange isn’t it? Yes, mine also tend to pamper and looks like she wants to rush to their aid when I am disciplining them.

  13. in my case, it’s the grandparents.. they do tend to “spoil” grandchildren.. and they are bit more difficult to deal with.. need to be tactful lah, gotto take care of their feelings lah… sigh..

    It’s difficult when you want to discipline the kids and at the same time the grandparents giving in to the kids’ whims…

    When it comes to grandparents its a whole lot more difficult to handle!

  14. Certainly. We need to set the rules and put a stand. Afterall they are just aliens from another country..who are they to set their own style .Ultimately we are still the boss..EEE I still havent got over the dilemma and allergy over “MAID” since the recent maid issue 2 months ago. No matter how nice thet are to our kids, we never can tell what’s their real motive.

    Its always better to err on the cautious side with our kids.

  15. My ex-maid in Ipoh never spoiled my kids. She would just let them cry and cry and won’t give in if I’ve told her upfront about the rules about food and TV. She was so strict to them, and when my parents saw it, they thought she’s too hard on my kids. 😛
    But I think she did the right thing as that would be the way I will handle my kids as well.
    But over here, my part time help can really spoil them. We have language barrier, so it’s hard to explain to her how to treat my kids. Thus, I tend to “push her away from my children” and just let her clean the house. Got what I mean? LOL!

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