Dealing With Difficult Parents

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Do you get nervous when a Parent starts to get angry at you?   It’s so uncomfortable when a Parent starts getting heated on a topic.     It could be over a tuition bill, or something a Teacher did…or didn’t do…a comment someone made….you name it a Center somewhere in the country has had to deal with it.   As Directors you may or may not be comfortable in situations like this and know how to handle them.   Here are some tips for you to use, you should also consider sharing this at your next staff meeting to help Teachers deal with these types of situations:

  • Acknowledge that you understand why the Parent is upset – even if you don’t agree on the topic you can agree that they are upset.   “Kim I see you are upset about us not following your child’s schedule in the infant room.   We did skip a bottle and I’m sorry that we weren’t more careful.   I understand the schedule and will make sure that it is followed.”     By apologizing for the error you show them that you take ownership of the problem.
  • If a Parent gets really upset and there is no calming them down even if you have apologized you can do two things.  The first is if you are the highest ranking person at your Center – such as the owner or the Director –  you can say “Kim I’m really this happened at our Center today and I am going to make sure your baby gets their bottle tomorrow.   I know how upset you are and I understand.   Let’s follow up tomorrow night after we see how the day goes.   Is this ok with you?”   Here you continue to acknowledge the error and accept responsibility but now you are putting an end to the conversation but making sure it continues the next day.   By setting up a time to discuss tomorrow you are showing you aren’t just passing the buck but you are taking ownership.
  • If it ever comes up, and I hope it doesn’t, that a Parent gets so irate you can’t calm them down.   It’s good to have a plan with your staff.   We have gotten to step 1 and thankfully didn’t have to keep going.
    • A Parent is really upset and you have tried discussing it with them but now they are visibly aggravated, not speaking very nicely to you, and might even be making you nervous.    End the conversation.   “Kim I have taken full ownership of this problem and promise to follow up with you to make sure it’s fixed.   I think that it’s best to end the conversation right now because I don’t like the words you are using with me.  Let’s talk tomorrow night.”   This should end the conversation.
    • If it continues to be elevated say something like “I’ve asked if we can continue the conversation tomorrow night and I now need to ask you to leave the Center.”
    • If they refuse have your plan in place.   Our plan is that we keep the doors of the office open and call the local police department to assist us in having the Parent leave.

While thankfully Parents don’t normally get this heated it can happen.   We are taking care of their most prized possession and we need to understand this is why things can get really intense sometimes.   But you also need to be mindful that it’s not ok to talk to you like this and if you ever feel uncomfortable you need to deal with it.   There are other clients out there if this one leaves because they are mad and other clients will understand that sometimes things aren’t perfect but they need to have faith in us that we will take care of their concerns.

Take action today and make up an emergency plan for situations like this with your team.

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