Have you heard these questions from parents?
- Can I pay you tomorrow?
- May I drop off my child fifteen minutes early this month?
- Can you hold my check until Friday?
- May I bring my child full time for one week, then part time for another week and pay you based on how many hours my child is in your care?
- Could you let my child bring his own toys?
There is nothing wrong with parents asking you to bend your contract, or give them a deal. We all like deals if they can save use money or time.
Parents are usually not out of line when they ask you for something. But, sometimes parents won’t take “no” for an answer and give you a hard time: “You don’t care about my family!” “All you care about is money!”
In my experience family child care providers often feel a sense of guilt when trying to enforce their own contract or policies. You are in the caring profession and you try very hard to help children while accommodating the needs of the parents.
Providers are also usually very flexible in dealing with parent needs. Practically every provider has at some point bent her rules to help out a family.
Responding to parents
As the one who owns your business, you make the rules. You can also change your rules whenever you want. Therefore, when a parent asks for a “deal” or special treatment you can do whatever you want.
You can say “no.” You can say “yes” or you can negotiate and come up with a compromise.
You can agree to a deal with one parent, but say “no” to the request from another parent. Your contract and policies can be different from one parent to the next. As long as you are not making decisions based on race, sex, religion, ethnic background, national origin or disability, you can make your own decision.
That’s the advantage of being your own boss. But, it’s also difficult for some providers to handle.
Here’s some advice:
- If the parent wants to get out of paying you money according to your contract (such as a late pickup fee, paying late, not paying for holidays, etc.), don’t agree unless there is some unusual circumstances (family emergency, health issues, etc.). Too often providers don’t insist on collecting the money that is due them under their contract. If parents don’t want to pay you everything they owe, they should be told you won’t be able to provide care for their child.
- You can bend your rules, but don’t make a habit of it. Before agreeing to allow the parent to pay you on Friday (instead of Monday) make it clear to the parent that this is a one-time deal because of unusual circumstances. Simply agreeing to a parent request because a parent claims it’s inconvenient for her should not negate the inconvenience this creates for you.
- If a parent asks why you won’t bend your rules, tell her “because we agreed to the rules in our contract and policies and I expect us both to follow them.” Don’t try to justify your rules. Many providers try too hard to explain themselves in an effort to get the parent to agree to their point of view. Parents who want a deal usually aren’t that interested in your point of view.
- If a parent says, “You’ve bent your rules for other families, why don’t you do the same for me?” tell her “I try to be flexible, but I can’t make any further changes in my rules at this time.” You don’t have to offer the same deal to all parents. You can say, “I can only offer one deal at a time,” or “That’s all I can afford to do now.”
- Enforcing your rules consistently will create fewer problems in the long run than agreeing to every parent request for a deal. You established your rules to make your business run smoothly. If parents don’t want to follow your rules, they should go elsewhere. You can’t make everyone happy, and that should not be your goal. The vast majority of parents will follow your rules if you insist on enforcing them.
How have you responded to parents who want a “deal”?
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/fortrucker.com
For more information about enforcing your rules, see my book Family Child Care Contracts and Policies.
Categories: Contracts & Policies