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Managing the Angry Parent

When people are angry rationality goes out the window. They become so wound up in emotionality that anything you say will be reacted to emotionally. As anger is experienced in the right side of the brain, and listening, negotiating, problem solving and rationality are left brain functions, do not expect an angry parent to be rational.

Always keep in mind that an angry person is like an erupting volcano. When they go off there's not much you can do about it. The anger, like the volcano's spewing lava, must run its course. In order for an angry person to vent, the anger must be expressed. It's counterproductive to interrupt them or tell them to calm down. Let the client vent.

This doesn't mean that you should ignore them. If you break off communication by ignoring the angered parent, the parent feels as if they are not making their point or that you are not listening. This usually results in greater anger.

Dealing With Staff Change

Anytime a child care experiences a change in staff there are effects on the children, their parents and the facility. Your goal is to minimize any negative impact.

There are two chief concerns for parents when a teacher/caregiver leaves. They want to know that their child will still receive the same level of quality care as before, and that you are equal to the task of finding and training a capable, competent replacement.

Keep in mind that it is always better to have someone quit than have to be fired. Quitting equates to "looking for greener pastures" or "personality/salary conflicts". A firing raises questions with parents like "Why? What did they do?" and worries about how their child fared under the care of the departing individual. Additionally, firing raises doubts about you - "Well, why did you hire them in the first place?"

Which is why, despite the reason for an employee's departure, you need to maintain the "moral highground". Anything derogatory you may say will cause the parent to question your judgement in having that employee in your facility. Speaking negatively may also put you at risk of breeching confidentiality. For those who want to pull you into a prolonged discussion, say something like, "All of us here wish her the best" and redirect the conversation towards what you are doing to replace the staff member.

How To Avoid Being the "Monkey in the Middle

Half of all American children have divorced parents. You see these families in your school every day. Unfortunately, often these parents will try and put put your school in the middle of their personal battles.

Certainly not every divorced couple continues to "wage war" after the divorce, but many do. Those couples will frequently use your school as the custody "hand-off" spot in order to avoid communicating with one another. At face value this appears to be no big deal for your school. However, there are potential pitfalls for you, your teachers and your school.

One of their biggest pitfalls lies with the custodial parent who wants you to enforce the letter of the custodial agreement. For the sake of these examples we'll say that mom is the custodial parent, dad is the non-custodial parent and Johnny is the child. In our example, the custody agreement calls for dad to pick Johnny up between 4 and 6pm every other Friday afternoon and return Johnny to school between 6 and 8am every other Monday morning.

Dad works for himself so he has more flexibility in his schedule than most people. He misses Johnny tremendously so he gradually pushes pickup time earlier and earlier and pushes back Monday morning drop off time later and later. Eventually it settles into a routine of Friday pickups at 1pm and Monday drop offs at 1pm. Mom comes to you and says that she will only accept the letter of the custody agreement and she wants you to call the police if there is any deviation from the agreement.

Building Self Esteem in Parents

Because they have chosen you for the care of their children and because most parents experience some guilt when leaving that reponsibility to someone else, you should be concerned with building and boosting their self-esteem. They should feel good about themselves for having chosen you.

Here are some ways you can improve parent/provider communication and help build parental self-esteem in utilizing your services.

Create a drop-off routine for the children that makes the separation period easier. Youcan have a "Hug and Good-by" corner or find ways to redirect the child's attention from the departing parent to the fun that awaits inside.

Avoid overburdening parents with requests. Too many requests for field trip volunteers, snacks, baked goods, or assistance with various projects only reinforces a parent's guilt when they are not able to help due to work. Set up a system that allows parents to volunteer according to their own time, schedule and ability.

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