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How to Deal with Difficult Parents at Your Childcare Center

October 18, 2019

I'll never forget the day that I found myself in the hallway of our childcare center on the phone with a parent in tears. Now, to fully understand the situation you have to know, I NEVER cry. This particular parent spent almost 20 minutes yelling at me on the phone about how terrible I was and how poorly I dealt the situation at hand. I won't go into too much detail here other than, at the end of it all I felt terrible. 

If you work in child care, then you have likely had at least one parent yell at you at some point. After all, children are their parent's most prized possessions. 

If you desire to be effective in your role as a teacher or director, it is essential to learn how to deal with difficult people. Today, I am going to share 5 ways to deal with difficult parents as it relates to the child care industry. 

1. Stay Calm

The first thing you want to do when dealing with a difficult person is to make sure you stay calm. The key here is to LISTEN, allow the parent to say what they need to say. When you remain calm in the heat of the moment, you are allowing the parent to debrief and deescalate the situation. No one ever solved a big problem or conflict while they were upset.

2. Listen First

If a parent is distraught, now is not the time to hash things out. Like I said above, just listen. Do not worry about the details just yet. Don't worry about if they are right or wrong. Just focus on calming them down and getting them out the door.

3. Document Everything

Treat this just like an incident inside the classroom, document! I literally would use the same incident form as we used in the classroom, and I would write out everything. This doesn't need to be shared with the parent, however, I would keep it as a paper trail in that child's file. As much as you think you won't ever forget, you will. Make sure to write down every detail that you can recall. 

Sandbox Tips:

FILE UPLOAD: Sandbox is excellent for documenting EVERYTHING. If you are using a hard or soft copy form, you can upload that form straight to the child's file. If you do this, make sure that you have the "attachments" turned off from the parent portal section so that the families can't see the upload. 

NOTES SECTION: Another way to document is in the notes section. The notes are purely for your staff access, not for the families. This is a great place to write notes about incidents that have occurred at your center.

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4. Follow Up Difficult Conversations

Sometimes, as teachers and directors, you have to let go of the "I'm gonna prove them wrong" attitude and just let the parent be heard and seen. Always follow up a difficult conversation with an email. Let the parent know that you heard them, and list out what you heard them requests. Sometimes this is enough to end the conflict, and the parents won't ever mention it again. 

5. When To Push Back

At some point, you may find that your center is not a "good fit" for a family or child. This can be a challenging situation. No one wants to be told that their child can't attend your center anymore, however, if the parent is angry or hostile, it's not safe to keep them in your center. 

When it comes to asking a family to leave here are my tips:

  • Focus on finding a "better fit"
  • Assist them in finding a new center
  • Document everything
  • Make sure you have something in your handbook that states you can ask a family to leave at any time
  • Always refund their money even if you don't want to

Final Notes:

Even as I write this blog, I am flooded with traumatic memories. A large part of your job as a director or teacher in the child care world is often to deal with difficult people. If you can become an expert at dealing with conflict and not letting it upset you, then you have won the ticket!

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