Are You Willing to Offer Parents a “Deal”?

8653128226_a6399b0c11_zHave 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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 –

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Contracts and Policies

For more information about enforcing your rules, see my book Family Child Care Contracts and Policies.

Categories: Contracts & Policies

7 replies

  1. I had a parent who always paid on time ask me how late she could pay one month because of a special circumstance. I told her the 10th of the month. She had never asked for any kind of favor before and I was happy to help. BUT another parent was listening around the corner and heard the whole thing even though we were speaking quietly. Guess who never pays me until the 10th now!!! I just don’t have the energy to have it out with her. Some people will take advantage whenever they can get away with it.

    • I’m not sure why you are accepting of the other parent disrespecting your payment policy. ? You are the child care owner. Remind that parent once when you expect payment and stick to your guns and contract! This is the very reason Tom Copeland wrote his article. People take advantage of people who let themselves be taken advantage of. You will feel empowered once you stand up for your policies. You said you don’t have the energy to deal with her. Well, you are expending needless emotional energy feeling taken of advantage/feeling resentful. This is a “withdrawal” from your energy reserves. Withdrawals will leave you negative. While you think you are avoiding a conflict, you have unwittingly created an internal conflict that will use up far more energy than simply reminding her of your policies and standing up for yourself. I will make occasional exceptions for families with temporary hardships. That’s the right thing to do if you are able. But, I will never let a parent bamboozle me. Once you go down that slippery slope, it’s difficult time climbing back up. Just sayin’…

  2. I struggle with this a lot. I will have a parent show up late or forget their payment. They act sincerely horrified and ashamed and apologize profusely. I tell them I understand and that we have all been late at some point. Then 90% of the time, they start regularly showing up late or not making payments since I let it go that first time. It’s one of the biggest personal struggles in this business, because I know what it’s like to get into slow traffic or lose track of time, but it’s sad that people will take advantage.

  3. When a new family begins, they are required to pay for the first week and the last week. Thereafter, payment for the upcoming week is due on Friday morning. So I am always paid ahead of the upcoming week’s care and I have the last week of care paid for, whether the child comes or not. No exceptions. I am willing to watch a child a little late if I am notified ahead of time and my personal schedule allows it.

    • Lilyan I follow that seem process. I call it the Week in advance payment and it is none refundable. I will also agree to watch a child late if I can but I also let the parents know that if I have something planned I will not change my plans. They can come to where I am to pick up the child or I can drop the child off by them when I am done. I sit in the house for one no when you are on my time. I don’t charge a late fee if we discuss this schedule change in advance.

  4. I have a parent that started 1 week ago. they were supposed to bring me my contract back last Friday but didn’t I told them to have it Monday (today). well today I needed up calling in sick. bc I have a severely pinched nerve and has immobilized me I can’t really move. my rates are flat rates regardless if the child attends or not. they prepay every Friday for the following week. so when I couldn’t work today they said they have decided to take their children 3lse where and wanted to come by for a full refund….
    am I obligated to give a refund

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