Father Won't Follow Your Rules - What Do You Do?

Gina, a family child care provider, called me with a problem and asked for my advice.

"A father in my program won't follow my rules. He refuses to notify me when his schedule changes, so I don't know what days his child will be here.

He and the mother are divorced and he's responsible for dropping off and picking up the child three days a week. I've talked to him many times about this, but he won't tell me, even a day or two in advance, when his child will be in my care for that week.

It could be one, two or three days a week, but I never know in advance. My policies say that parents need to inform me before the week begins what days their child will be in attendance for that week."

I offered a variety of suggestions to Gina of how she might want to resolve this problem:

  • Have the mother talk to him about following your rules.
  • Give the father a written notice that he if he continues to ignore your rules, he will suffer a consequence:
    • You will charge him an extra fee for failing to notify you in advance; or
    • You will terminate care.

Gina didn't like any of these options. She didn't want to put more pressure on the mother. She didn't think charging extra fees would change the father's behavior. She loved the child and didn't want to terminate care.

So, I told her that her only other option was to accept the fact that the father won't follow your rule and learn to live with it.

What would you do?

I've talked with many providers who are stuck in a situation where they are unhappy about something one of their parents are doing, and they can't figure out what to do about it.

There are only three choices you have in this situation:

  • Accept that you can't change the parent's behavior and learn to live with it
  • Enforce a consequence on a parent such as an additional fee
  • Terminate your contract and end your care with the family

In Gina's case, she didn't want to adopt the last two choices. Therefore, I told her not to argue about this any more with the father. I told her to let the father ignore your rule and move on. This choice is less painful to her than the other two choices. It's okay to let some things go and not create any more stress for yourself.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, your choice may be very different. I've seen many providers chose the second option and threaten the parent with an extra fee. In the vast majority of situations the parent then does the right thing.

If you can't accept any of the options above to resolve a conflict with a parent, you do have one final choice. Go out of business.

If the stress is so great that you can't accept the parent's behavior and other options aren't acceptable, it's time to move on. Don't be unhappy and continue caring for children. It's not good for them or you.

See also: "The Three Choices of Life"


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Tom Copeland

I've been the nation's leading trainer, author, and advocate on the business of family child care since 1981. I'm a licensed attorney and have presented hundreds of business workshops for family child care providers across the country. I answer thousands of calls and emails each year to help providers, tax professionals and trainers understand complex business and tax issues. Call me at 651-280-5991. Email me at tomcopeland@live.com. Visit me on Facebook. From 1981 to 2009 I worked at Resources for Child Caring in Minnesota (now called Think Small), where I was director of Redleaf National Institute for 15 years. I've written nine books on the business of family child care published by Redleaf Press, a division of Resources for Child Caring. I was on the board of directors of First Children's Finance, a non-profit organization providing low interest loans and consulting and technical assistance to help family child care providers suceed as a business. They operate in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Here are some YouTube videos of me talking about my work with this organization and the business of family child care. I graduated from Macalester College (BA) in 1972 and from William Mitchell College of Law (JD) in 1980. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota with my wife Diane and two cats, Duke and Ella.