Do you have issues with setting limits? Now I’m not talking about with the children. I mean with parents. That’s right I said, parents. Ask just about any provider that has been in business for even a little while and they will probably share with you some harrowing stories about parents who don’t seem to have boundaries. Sometimes it is actually quite shocking what parents will request from a child care provider.
So while most of us deal with setting boundaries with the children we care for, it is also worth setting up some boundaries for parents as well. But how do we begin setting limits at our childcare? When is it appropriate? Let’s get into it.
Setting limits for your Child Care
A frequently requested topic centers around scheduling changes. Since I offer part-time as well as full-time at my child care, parents will routinely request to substitute a day here for a day there. This issue seems to come up most frequently around the holidays. Since most holidays land on Mondays, many parents will request to swap for a Tuesday instead. I call this the “Holiday Hop.” When I first started, I would allow this type of substitution without much consideration that doing so really didn’t allow me to have a holiday. It was more like doubling up on my workload later in the week to make up for the holiday.
So you know what? I simply stopped doing that type of schedule change.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am aware that parents might have the need every now and then to have their schedule modified to accommodate a routine doctor’s appointment or some other temporary situation. So what I did was to require parents to submit a “Schedule Change Request” form. On the form, it specifically states when the request needs to be submitted and that it needs my approval. This allows the needed time for me to make any necessary changes in our scheduling to accommodate the request.
Why do I make such a big deal about switching a day?
Great question! Well, actually it can be a big deal. Remember when I said that I have some children enrolled part-time while others are full-time? That being the case on certain days I could be under the state ratio, while on another day I might be right at the ratio. Adding another child on a busy day might take me out of compliance. If I am out of compliance, I might need to adjust the adult: child ratio. All of this needs to be considered before simply switching a day. Additionally, having a procedure in place (like my form), all but alleviates the last minute requests.
Friends & Family
Often times when we get into the child care business we don’t really consider having a policy about family and friends. In fact, we might even be relying on family members to be some of our first clients. Many providers have this situation and it works for them. Other times, we might find difficulties having family or friends follow our business policies. Often close relationship clients might expect preferential treatment, discounts and/or leniency.
So how do you handle clients that are also family and friends?
You might adopt a policy where you decide you will not accept clients that you have a close relationship with. I actually have such a policy. While it might seem harsh, I would rather not mix personal and business and it also provides for me to separate my personal time I spend with family or friends from my actual work. Now that might not be for everyone, but thinking about how you would handle friends and family is well worth considering.
Off-Hour phone calls, emails, etc.
Finally, I would like to talk about some easy limitations that you might not even think you would need to make. Even though most businesses observe business hours, you would be surprised how many parents will not even think twice about calling, texting or emailing a child care provider at late hours, on the weekend or on holidays. I guess they figure we are at home so they don’t even think about it.
Well after receiving far too many phone calls during Sunday service, I decided to make a change.
First of all, since I wasn’t able to tell if a call was business or personal, I needed to separate the two. I got a free business number without having to have a separate phone. It’s simple and free. Once I had a separate number I set up a business message on that number that said the normal things about leaving a message but also directed them to our childcare website to answer any preliminary questions they might have while they waited for our return call.
Ok, good! No more phone calls interrupting Thanksgiving dinner (seriously).
While I’m on this subject I will say that it is also up to us to respect the limitations that we have set. So it is still up to us to realize that it is ok not to take that call, answer that text or email when we are unavailable. The next business day is fine for getting back to that anxious client. You might even want to put that in your messaging. Something like “we are closed right now but leave your information and I will return your call on Monday morning.” I am sure you can set up a similar auto-responder for your email as well.
Will you potentially be losing clients by setting limits?
Well possibly. But what else are you losing if you don’t consider having boundaries or limiting things that would intrude on your personal downtime? I look at it like this; most parents are off work when they leave for the day. After for what is for many providers a 10 to 11 hour day, I deserve to punch out too.
What do you think? Do clients or potential clients tend to call at off hours? How do you handle settling limits for your child care?