Talk to just about any provider and I am sure they will tell you, while they love caring for children, the child care business is not exactly what they expected. A few years into the business and many providers will tell you they feel the pressure. The pressure of constantly marketing their business, dealing with the responsibilities and restrictions of being a licensed provider. Oh and not to mention coping with the challenges of caring for the children and communicating with parents. One thing I never really expected to encounter was dealing with a hostile parent. In an upcoming post, I plan to discuss a few different parent types. But today I want to tell you how I was able to turn a hostile childcare parent client relationship into an appreciative advocate for my business.
Turn a Hostile Childcare Parent Into Your Advocate
Last updated: 03/06/20
Do you ever have a parent who wants to control everything?
It would be great if every parent realized just what a responsibility and commitment it is for a child care provider to open their home to care for another’s child. Instead, at times you may find yourself dealing with a parent who is upset about how much influence you have in their child’s life or how much time you get to spend with their child. Let me tell you about just such a client and how I was able to turn it around.
It Started off Fine
A few years ago, I had an expectant parent tour. This was not unusual, I typically have expectant parents call about upcoming spots throughout the year. Since in my state we are very limited in the number of infants we can enroll, I opened my program up to a Pre-Enrollment Program many years ago.
This tour was different only in that the expectant mother brought along her parents to the tour as well. Still, it was fine. I discussed with all of them what our program had to offer, our experience, and talked with them about their specific child care needs. I answered all the questions and everything went well with the tour. The family soon contacted me and Pre-Enrolled. We were to expect them in several month’s time.
It was a WAR!
When the baby did finally begin attending, was when the WAR began. Mom seemed to be very insistent about how to care for her baby. She even had a form for me to fill out to write detailed information about the baby’s day, even though I already supplied daily notes for each child.
Don’t get me wrong, every parent has a right to expect their wishes to be respected when it comes to the care of their child. What parents seem to forget is that most child care providers are not just caring for one child. They have other children who need their attention as well. So there needs to be a balance.
While she wanted to know every detail I did during the day, this mom seemed resentful whenever I would make a suggestion about being consistent at home with feedings, naps, etc.
I should say that this child was particularly difficult. He cried all day, wouldn’t nap and wanted only to be held all the time. Taking care of him was affecting the care I was able to give to the other children at the child care.
I needed help from the parents. It became apparent to me that because the baby was away from the parents most of the day, in the evening they tended to overcompensate. This created two completely different environments for the child. As a result, the baby was having difficulty adjusting to being in child care.
Parent communications can be dicey at times. But talking to a hostile childcare parent is another matter entirely!
I had learned to not take things too personally when it comes to parents by now. As a child care provider, you either need to have (or develop) a thick skin. It has been my habit for quite a few years to refer parents to seek out suggestions from their pediatrician rather than to offer up my opinion all the time.
I feel it is important for a parent to realize that I don’t consider myself the all-knowing expert on their child. I want them to know that I am very willing to defer to their doctor’s judgment.
In this case, even though my suggestions were validated by their pediatrician, that fact actually seemed to make things worse. The problem here was mom didn’t want to follow anyone’s advice.
I tried several times to dial back the hostility that we seemed to have had built up, but to no avail. Interestingly, dad seemed to be on board with my suggestions, but even he was reluctant to take on his wife. Me and this mom were at odds and in a bad place.
What is Going On?
So what was going on here? Why all this push back.
I tried to look at it from this parent’s point of view. As I thought about our interactions, I realized mom seemed to be resentful of all the time she was away from her child. Even though she enjoyed her job, it seemed to be very troubling for her that she was not able to be in full control of her child’s environment and care.
So what to do? Terminate?
The funny thing is they actually tried to leave before I could terminate. How do I know? A colleague of mine mentioned that she had a phone inquiry from a family. As she told me the details of the conversation, I realized this had to be my client. I was floored!
So what did I do?
I called my ally, dad. Without revealing what I knew, I asked him if he had a moment so I could express some concerns I had. I told dad my thoughts about my program maybe not being a really good fit for their family’s needs. I said to him that I knew how hard it was to have your child away from you the majority of the week. That relying on another person to tell you about your child must be hard. I expressed to him that I realized that not everyone was an exact fit for my program.
Finally, I suggested that perhaps they should consider finding other child care arrangements. Dad said he disagreed and that he did not wish to leave. As the conversation progressed it became apparent that he was unaware that mom was looking for another child care.
The following day, mom dropped off. She was very intent that I understand that she “loved” having her child in my care. At that point, I believe she probably abandoned her exit strategy.
I know! That was a little sneaky. But watch how it backfired on me. Keep reading …
In truth, I really was having a bad time with this family. So them leaving would not have been the worse thing in the world. But now since I had snared mom in her own web, I guess I would need to see if I could repair the relationship. I mean who wants a hostile childcare parent on their record? NOBODY!
Ok, operation Mother’s Helper in effect.
Over the next several months, I tried to be as agreeable with mom as I could be, without compromising my practices. I now understood it was my job to help mom understand my role in her child’s life. She needed to know that there was no reason to resent me. That I was really in more of a support role to her and her husband. She needed to know that I did not feel I was the child’s mother, but that I was instead a mother’s helper to her.
Things Did Get Better
Over time, things did get better, thankfully. Whenever there was a conflict, I would make a point of listening to what the issue was. Then take some time to respond in a professional manner.
Often times I would state that while I agreed with the parent’s position, according to my license I had certain mandated regulations I had to adhere to. I remember explaining that while they may have a practice of walking the child outside and rocking him to sleep, I really did not have the ability to keep up that practice in the child care setting, as it would require me to be away from the other children.
Eventually, things settled down with mom. The more she became accustomed to the child care, the more she saw me as a child care professional. She seemed to notice that I treated all the children the same. Or maybe she realized what a huge task that is and while I loved her child, he was one of many I was charged with caring for and loving.
Ok, that’s what I hope she thought.
As the child grew older, mom began to realize how reassuring it was to know her child was cared for and that she didn’t need to worry about him so much. He was in good hands.
Dealing with a Hostile Childcare Parent
So what should you do if you have a hostile parent?
First of all, RELAX! You will get through this! You may find that trying to understand the parent’s position and then try explaining your responsibilities. This might be the missing link to both of you having a meeting of the minds. You know one of the those aha moments Miss O used to refer to.
I wish I could tell you that all the parents I have served have been appreciative of the long days and hours that I work, the education I have in the field of child development and the experience I have of running a child care for many years. But the simple fact is, many parents do not take much of that into consideration. Especially after they have enrolled their child in a program. The sad fact is they see our profession as a sort of surrogate babysitter, that they just happen to use every day.
And, no. That doesn’t feel good!
Those types of interactions wind up being yet another challenge for a provider. But if you look at in another way these can be real opportunities for you to grow. Grow in understanding things from the parents’ perspective while at the same time educating parents about your role as a provider. If you learn to grow through these experiences, your professionalism and business will grow as well.
Have you ever had a hostile childcare parent? Did you have to terminate? Let’s chat about it! I would love to hear how you handled a difficult parent relationship. Please leave me a comment below.
- Effective Communication with Parents
- Starting a Child Care: What I got wrong and how I fixed it
- Pre-Enrollment Program