One of the best things a child care provider can do is to start off their business with sound business practices. As a matter of fact, having a contract and some key policies is an absolute MUST HAVE from the very start. If you don’t have these things in place in the beginning, I assure you it will not only wish you did but will add them before long. Having a sound contract and policies is just the beginning. Occasionally (hopefully), you might also need to figure out how to handle the violators. The what? I said the violators, you know those parents that pick up late just about all the time, what to change their hours or even those people who just can’t bring themselves to follow your rules. Well, if you struggle with handling situations like this, today’s post is all for you. Let me give you some suggestions on just how you can handle those violators without all the drama that usually follows.
How to handle the violators
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While we are on the topic of policies, we might as well talk about what to do if someone breaks those rules. I know, who would do that right? Well lets just say its best to figure out how to handle an issue before it becomes an issue.
One thing that has worked for me in the recent years has been to routinely remind my clients about my rules. If I were honest, I guess I could understand that even if a parent did actually read the forms and documents I provide at enrollment, it is certainly conceivable that they might forget a policy here and there, especially over time. So I kind of take the pressure off by reminding all the parents in a group email or text about our policies on a routine basis.
For instance, it is my habit to send out a reminder to the parents on Thursday that tuition payments are due Friday morning. I send this out just about every week. It helps new clients to become acquainted with my procedures and begin to understand that I intend to enforce them while it reminds old clients not to forget. I also include in the message the fees that will be due should they forget about our due date.
Well I get a message from my cellular company every month when my payment due date is approaching, so sounds like its a pretty standard business practice to me. Companies routinely use reminders to help their clients remember deadlines. You can use this same practice for how to handle the violators.
Handle Requests for Changes
Chances are you will have parents request to make changes in their contract terms. Whether its for drop-off or pick-up times or days of attendance. I don’t think there has been one month since I have been in business that a parent hasn’t asked to change something. Anyway, having a procedure for handling requests for exceptions or changes is again a good idea.
Currently, I use a form that I created that asks the what, when and for how long the change is being requested for. I request that the form be submitted at least two weeks prior to the need and states that I need to give my approval in advance before the change will take effect.
Make exceptions the exception, not the rule!
Now exceptions are another matter. Sometimes (usually on holiday weeks) parents will try to switch days if their usual days of attendance will be effected by a day that we are closed. In the past, I have tried to accommodate some of these types of exceptions, however lately I have changed my thinking.
First of all, I post our holidays on our website on an annual basis, usually in January. Then I go the extra mile by providing a postcard sized magnet to each family with the same information, so that it can be posted on the refrigerator at home as a reminder. Finally, I will send out a group email reminder whenever there is a holiday approaching.
So what’s my position now?
Well if a parent requests to switch a day related to a holiday when we are closed I send out this message:
“I received your Schedule Change Request for next week. We typically do not grant schedule changes due to paid holidays as the holidays are intended to allow for time-off for the staff. “
Usually, the parent will understand and not request an exception again for this reason.
You have to grow a BACKBONE! Ok, this may sound harsh again, but its not meant to be. When I went into this business I brought with me my non-confrontational tendencies. I soon found out that those habits of mine where not helping my business, but where in fact holding me back. I had to stand up for the business that I worked so hard to build. If I didn’t, not only would no one else do it for me, but I was basically telling my clients that my business was not really to be taken seriously.
That was not what I wanted!
So I changed. I had to change first. As you can tell, I now have quite a few rules, regulations & policies in place. But I also have pre-written messages, emails and notes that I can shoot out on a moments notice to explain to a parent or perspective parent what my policies are.
I won’t lie, not everyone is a good fit. Some people you will meet will be Type A people and want things only their way. Here’s how I handle that; I usually try to find a way to agree with their position, even if its just in theory. Then I explain to them my policy. And that’s it! They have to follow the policy.
I take care of their child, but my business is my baby!
Another point is that having your contract, policies, procedures, etc. in written form does seem to give your business more credibility than if they where not written. Recently, I had a client inquire about our vacation policy. They said they couldn’t find their copy of their contract and asked if I would forward a copy. No problem. I just pulled it up and sent it. No muss, no fuss. I’m certain they “re-read” the policy and had no further issue. That’s how I like it. Very straightforward.
My advice to people who are like the old me; introvert or non-confrontational, would be to put in place a sound contract and business policies that speak for you. If you are just starting out, adopt the industry standard to start with. There are plenty of books out there to help you start off strong. Over time, make it a practice to review your policies and practices, maybe annually. Tweek them if you need to. Make them work best for you and your business.
Follow The Rules
Finally, FOLLOW your own policies! Of course, there might be times when you will want to give grace to a certain client and amend your policy for them. But make this a rare occurrence and not something that you do all the time. Think about applying a time limit to whatever that grace is. Let your client know “this is a one-time thing”. Believe me, in business the old adage is certainly true,
“if you give them an inch, they will take a mile”!
If you have a tendency to say YES all the time. Give yourself time before you jump. There have been plenty of times when I would tell a client that I will review whatever it is they are requesting, then I take the time to review my current policy and only then I follow-up with the client with my answer. Following your own rules is one of the best ways for how to handle the violators. Your clients will respect you and your business if you first respect your business.
You can’t expect clients to follow your rules if you are constantly breaking them yourself.