When Should You Bend Your Rules?


Family child care providers are in a caring profession and regularly looks for ways to help the families in their care.

Providers also expect parents to follow their rules as spelled out in their contract and policies.

I talk a lot about enforcing rules in my workshops/webinars and in my book Family Child Care Contracts & Policies. Too many providers have rules, but don’t always enforce them. Parents pick up late, drop off early, don’t pay on time, don’t give a proper two-week notice, and so on.

I strongly advise providers that the only way to enforce their rules is to have a consequence if the parent doesn’t follow their rules. Charge a fee or end your contract are the two ways to enforce your rules.

Enforcing consequences can be hard for many providers who would prefer to not confront a parent. I’ve written about a tool to help providers resolve conflicts with parents I call The Three Choices of Life.

When Not to Enforce Your Rules

But, providers don’t always enforce every rule, every time.

When I speak before providers at workshops around the country, I ask, “How many of you have ever bent your rules for parents?” Nearly every hand goes up.

It’s okay to let parents violate one of your rules and let it go. It’s your business and you can do whatever you want to make yourself happy. Sometimes that means allowing parents to do what they want.

Recently a provider posed this question on daycare.com: A parent asked her if she could not charge her normal late pick up fee because of a late meeting at work. The parent otherwise consistently picked up on time. She wondered if she should tell the parent that she wouldn’t charge her anything this one time.

The reaction from other providers online varied greatly. One provider responded: “Tell the parent ‘No late charge for today! It’s a little thank you for always being on time’ or say ‘since its your first time, no late charge’ and that way it’s clear it’s something special and not something that’s going to happen all the time.”

Another provider said she sometimes bends her rules and as a result parents are more appreciative and more inclined to help her out when needed.

Several providers had the opposite reaction: “I don’t reward parents for following my rules. I feel that is an expectation that doesn’t need to be rewarded.” Similarly another provider responded: “I would stick to my contract because I know that by not doing so I am teaching them I *also* feel it is unfair.”

Lastly: “Would a hotel let you stay an extra night for free? Would your massage therapist let you sit on her table for an extra 45 minutes for free (working on you)? Your business is no different. You are working-you should get paid for it. If you discount this ONE time, they’ll ask you to next time, trust me. I’ve done it in the past for “favorite” clients-it’s turned those favorites into nightmares. Just get paid for your work.”

Remember, you can do whatever you want about enforcing your rules on every occasion.

In my experience, the majority of providers do occasionally give parents some slack. There is no right or wrong about this. Do what you feel comfortable doing and be happy about your decision. If you are bending your rules and start to feel that you are being taken advantage of, it’s time to enforce your rules more strictly.

How would you handle this situation?

Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com

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

Contracts & Policies bookFor more information, see my book Family Child Care Contracts & Policies.

Categories: Contracts & Policies

3 replies

  1. I have been told that if you pick and choose only parts of your contract to follow, legally, the whole contract is void. Has anyone else heard of this being the case?

    • I had a line in my contract that expressly stated that failing to enforce any part of the contract did not nullify the contract, and that is also did not prevent me from enforcing that part at a later date.

    • That’s why my contract states that my failure to enforce any part of this agreement does not affect my ability to enforce any part of the agreement after that occurrence.

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