How to prevent child abuse by your helper

I found this article on the web and was impressed by the general wisdom in how to maintain a good relationship with your helper, so that she doesn't develop emotional problems. I hope you'll like it as well. The author has a number of articles on child-rearing and motherhood. Please click on her name to see her other articles.

Tips For Preventing Child Abuse by a Domestic Helper by Elaine Lau

"In today's world, as we are often too caught up in the rat race that we tend to have no time left for the seemingly mundane details of life, such as household chores. That's when we are getting increasingly dependent on foreign helpers from maid agencies to manage our households.

However, the way we manage domestic help is an area that we cannot afford to neglect. Seen videos of maids kicking poor, helpless children like they hate them wholeheartedly? We can pretend all these do not exist and sweep the ugly truth under the carpet, but well, it's the harsh reality. It makes one wonder how can one abuse a child with no defences? The child abuse issue is most probably, not just skin-deep.

Here are some pointers for child abuse prevention from your domestic helper to avoid such unfortunate incidents from happening: 

  • Lots of patience for cultural and language differences. Remember that our domestic helpers come from very different backgrounds as us. Be patient and guide them through the norms here. Do not be surprised if your maid might mistake a spittoon as a washbasin! Try to stay calm and composed in all situations, even if you are exasperated. Try to think from her point of view.
  • Communication. Communication is essential in all relationships and hence, it's critical that you be an understanding employer. Treat your employee with sincerity and if she will return it in kind, she will communicate her worries and fears to you and in turn, you can offer her advice or help to solve some of her problems so that she can focus on her work. Lack of communication can lead to many problems, including pent-up frustration and anger.
  • Reasonable amount of workload. They are not cogs of machines, which we only assign work to. They are after all, humans too. Find out what amount of work is your helper comfortable with on a daily basis and give her some allowance for breaks as well. Find out her strengths and weaknesses and work around them.
  • Acceptance. Money aside, bear in mind that after all, it's your family that she's taking care of, not hers. Her motivation will come from the fact that she's serving a family that treats her well and accepts her, just like one of them. Bring her along with you for supermarket shopping and build the bond. Use the opportunity to teach her more about the local culture and food. Most importantly, it's best to nurture a good relationship with her so as to build up understanding and trust.
  • Sufficient Rest for Work-Life Balance. Allow an off day per week for your maid to rest. Leave her alone for a day to do her own activities, without loading her with the frazzle of the daily chores. If you are worried about her leading astray outside by mixing with the wrong company, perhaps you can bring her along on your weekend family outings.
  • Lay down ground rules. Set some rules that you expect her to abide by, by letting her know the dos and don'ts in your household. Remember that you are the one in control of the fundamental rules, without abusing your authority.
  • Understanding. Be alert if your maid seems a little unusual from her normal self. She might be unwell or troubled. Give her the necessary support she needs, for example, seeking medical help or advice.
  • Anger management. Pent up emotion can lead to extreme anger. Poor control over your emotions can lead to you abusing your maid, whether it's emotionally or physically. If you or anyone in your family is experiencing this problem managing anger a constructive manner, do seek help before it gets out of hand. Try not to drive your maid up the wall, even though she's driving you up the wall!
  • Be alert. Notice any subtle changes in your helper or child, for example, body injuries. Listen to what your child or elderly member in your household has to say about your helper, instead of brushing it off. Sometimes, small issues can snowball into big ones. Take preventive measures if you find something amiss.

Hopefully, these child abuse prevention suggestions will be helpful for making living with your domestic helper more pleasant. It's often so easy to forget the things that we take for granted in our lives. Do not forget to thank them for their great help! Such cases can be reduced as there is more often than none, underlying psychological issues behind every seemingly negative action."