The Three Choices of Life

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What creates the most stress for a family child care provider? It’s not taking care of young children – it’s dealing with parents.

A parent won’t pick up on time.

A parent won’t pay on time.

A parent won’t follow one of your policies.

Usually conflicts with parents can be easily resolved after some discussion. But sometimes that’s not the case. When I speak with child care providers around the country, I hear from many who are frustrated and angry with parents over a variety of problems.

Here’s a tool that you can use to resolve most conflicts with parents.

I call it the Three Choices of Life.

When faced with a conflict, you have three choices:

1) I am happy – Let the parent do whatever they want concerning the issue in dispute and be happy with it. Life is too short to worry about every problem you face.

2) I am not happy – Tell the parent what they must do to make you happy. If the parent refuses to follow your rules, end your agreement and let the parent go.

3) I quit – If you are unhappy and unable to confront the parent to resolve the conflict, go out of business. This work is too stressful for you and you will be better off doing a different job.

There are no other choices.

Let’s look at an example to see how this tool works in practice. Your drop off time is 7am. However, you let one parent drop off her child by 6:15am because she needs to get to work earlier. Unfortunately, she is regularly late. You tell the parent that it’s inconvenient for you to be ready everyday at 6:15 when she is not showing up on time. She tells you that she expects you to be ready when she arrives. You are frustrated and feel like ending your contract with her.

What can you do?

I am happy – Continue to allow the parent to drop off her child when she wants, and do not object when the parent is late. Let it go. Be happy that you are able to care for this child.

I am not happy – If you can’t be happy, then you need to decide what you can do to make yourself happy? You could charge the parent an early drop off fee. Make the fee high enough so you will no longer be upset when she shows up early. If no amount of money will make you happy, consider changing her drop off time to 6:30am or 7:00am. Do not allow the parent in your home before your new drop off time. Lock your front door. If you adopt this rule it’s likely that the parent will not be able to continue bringing her child.

I quit – If you are unhappy and can’t enforce your rule that will make you happy, then it’s time to quit family child care and do something else. It doesn’t make sense to work at a job that makes you unhappy and doesn’t pay you a ton of money.

What should you do?

I’m very serious that all three choices are reasonable ones for you to consider. Many child care providers have had parents who broke their rules and did not let it bother them. A few child care providers may be at the end of their rope and want to move on to another job.

Most child care providers are stuck in the second choice – they are unhappy but they don’t know how to fix things. It’s your business and you are responsible for setting your own rules. In the end, you need to make your business work for you. In my experience, child care providers usually bend over backwards to try to resolve conflicts with parents. I’ve seen very few who have unreasonable policies or treat parents with disrespect.

When child care providers do put their foot down and enforce their reasonable rules, almost all parents will comply. If the parents won’t comply, then it’s best for them to move on. You are not the best caregiver for every child in the world.

The next time you are stuck in an unresolved conflict, give my Three Choices of Life a try! Let me know how it works for you.

Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/derekbruff/

Contracts & Policies bookFor further information on how to resolve conflicts with parents, see my book Family Child Care Contracts and Policies.



Categories: Contracts & Policies

2 replies

  1. If I got rid of all the parents who violated my policies, or expected special treatment, I wouldn’t have any kids left. And since I haven’t had any serious inquiries in 3 months, it’s not like I have a lot of ability to terminate and still keep my house.

  2. I agree with the 3 choices In my 30 yrs in this job I have used all 3 choices depending upon my attitude or the buisness climate at the time. Sometimes one makes concessions, sometimes one sticks to business policies. After the stormy situation passes I look back and say well you survived and usually i see that i have come out in the positive column. Its a unique business, its a tough business and it takes a unique and tough person to make it. I have no plans to abandon the business yet!

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