Are Parents Your “Friends”?
By Tom Copeland. Posted with permission
Family child care providers are in the caring profession and caring for children is a very personal service.
You probably know more personal information about the families in your care than most of their friends do.
Does this mean the parents in your program are your “friends”? Not in my opinion.
Does your business card say, “Need a Friend?” Does your contract say, “By signing this contract provider agrees to be a friend to the parent”? I don’t think so.
Parents aren’t looking for friends. They are looking for someone to care for their child.
Sometimes, however, parents may appear to want a “friendship” with you. Maybe they want to “hang out” with you, or go out to eat, or they start sharing very personal information that you are uncomfortable listening to.
This can become a problem when the parents try to take advantage of your “friendship” by not paying on time or not following all of your policies.
It can also be a problem if you start treating the parent like a friend and then expect the parent to be your friend. In other words, it can be easy for providers to become personally involved in the lives of the families in their care. You may offer personal advice about their private lives or bend over backwards to assist them in a variety of ways that are not directly related to the care of their child.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this. The problem comes when you expect the parent to treat you like a friend in return. When this doesn’t happen you are setting yourself up for disappointment and a disruption of your business relationship.
Draw the line
It’s up to you to draw the line between a business relationship and a personal relationship. Nothing prevents you from going shopping with a parent on Saturday or sharing a meal on Sunday. However, for the hours you are caring for the parent’s child, you are running a business.
Sometimes this can be a hard line to draw. Providers don’t want to appear to be unsympathetic, uncaring or even unfriendly. But, there is a difference between being friendly and being friends.
Here are some tips about drawing this line:
- Clearly set your rules when parents first enroll
- Enforce your rules consistently, particularly about payments and pick up times
- Limit the opportunities for small talk at pickup times by having other things to do
- Politely ignore or rebuff friendship attempts. One provider recommended saying, “I’m so flattered, but I’ve found it best not to mix business and pleasure. Have a great weekend.” Or “I already have plans.”
If you haven’t been doing this things, you can start now.
How do you manage this problem?
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/moregoodfoundation/