This post was inspired by something I hear all the time from other providers, “how do I enforce my policies with clients”. What usually happens is you bend a rule for a parent and before long they are doing it all the time. As providers we can feel intimidated by parents and don’t know how to enforce boundaries and policies. Unfortunately, the old adage is more true than not “give them an inch and they will take a mile”. What’s needed is to simply figure out how to enforce your policies.
So how do you get clients to follow your rules without always having to confront them or worse feeling like you are being taken advantage of. Keep reading …
How to Enforce your Policies
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Last updated: August 16, 2016
At the tour, begin expressing some of your policies. Parents usually ask about your Sick and Illness policy, how many kids are in care, what will they eat or where will they sleep. That’s almost a given. Don’t hesitate to go over your drop-off & pick-up policy as well. You might also mention when tuition is due and the late fee policy as well. Try to set the tone right from the start.
Put it in writing
Having a written contract & policies represents professionalism and is more likely to be respected. It can be a big help to be able to refer a client to a written policy that is in your contract than to explain to them what you spoke about once months ago. Remember, a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
What’s on the website
Think about adding as many policies and procedures to your website for easy reference. Here is another place you can refer your clients to should they need clarification about something.
I have a lot of pre-written reminder notes for parents on issues like when tuition payments are due, notes about an upcoming holiday, pick-up and drop-off times, etc. If I notice that a certain rule has become an issue a particular week, I will send out a mass email to the parents “reminding” them about our rules. BTW I rarely get any push back from these little reminders, I think simply because I send them out so frequently.
Let your rules RULE
Be ready to support your own rules. Don’t just expect parents to just follow them blindly. Years ago something that I did not realize was that parents really don’t realize that as child care providers we have mandated state regulations that WE MUST comply with. It’s not their business to know. It is your business, however, that can be cited and fined if certain rules are not followed. So use that to be able to stand confidently on your policies.
We preach to parents that consistency is key to good parenting. It is also the key to sound business practices. Try your best to be consistent with your procedures and policies from one client to the other. There is always the possibility that parents could become friends and may discuss their relationship with you. It is not a good look to seem like you show favoritism toward one client or another.
Having self-respect for your business as well as your profession will ensure confidence in your business practices. Sometimes it might take awhile to cultivate confidence, but do work to build it while you are building your business.
If you notice that a particular parent or family is having difficulty following your policies, make a point of paying attention to that. Try to determine why there seems to be a problem. Are they really unaware of your rules or do they just want things their way no matter what? It might be worth having a conversation to see if the client is someone you can continue to work with. Not all money is good money.
It is said that “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is insanity”. So with sanity in mind when something it’s not working for you don’t be afraid to change it. Revisit your policies and make changes when needed. I have revised my contract and policies many times over the years. Usually due to a specific occurrence with a client. I remember thinking “that will never happen again”.
Rarely make exceptions
I have found it is best to make exceptions the exception. If you are constantly bending the rules or ALLOWING parents to disregard your policies, it can become a habit. For you and your clients. That is not to say that you should not look at a particular circumstance and try to work with someone. What I am saying is when and if you do make an exception, tread lightly. Maybe think about making a temporary exception, like a reduced rate but only for a short period of time. People do have hardships from time to time, but rarely does that continue indefinitely.