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Unhappy Parents? 5 Mistakes that Every Nursery can Avoid

When communication breaks down between setting and home, queries and concerns can go unaddressed, to the detriment of your business…

  • Unhappy Parents? 5 Mistakes that Every Nursery can Avoid

In a line of work centred on something as precious to parents as their own children, a little friction between provider and client every now and again is inevitable.

It’s natural that parents want only the best, and likely that sometimes their expectations will prove unrealistic. But it’s also true that some nurseries could do better when dealing with their customers, and that, at times, standards should be higher – here are five cautionary examples to keep in mind…

Don’t mention milestones!

“I had been encouraging my daughter to start walking at home and had explained to her key person that I was looking forward to seeing her take her first steps. A few days later, when I arrived in the evening after work, I was greeted by an excited practitioner who told me my daughter had just got up and walked for the first time. I was crushed that I wasn’t there to see it and couldn’t believe that they hadn’t acted more sensitively.”

Parents and carers are as unique as the children in your nursery. While some will want to know all about milestones the instant they happen, others – in particular those who are struggling being away from their children – will hate the thought that they are missing out on key events in their child’s life.

The key is good communication from the outset – ask parents for their preferences during induction and ensure their child’s key person is aware of what they’ve said.

Where’s the detail?

“When I spoke to practitioners at pickup I’d often receive very little information – usually just canned responses. I put up with it as the setting had a policy of filling in a daily diary, so I could see how my son had been during the day – how many nappies had been changed, what he’d eaten and what he’d enjoyed playing with. Just two months after starting, though, when I was still struggling to say goodbye to a little boy in floods of tears, I found that less and less effort was being put into recording details of his day. The information was so generic, it made me wonder whether I could believe any of it was accurate.”

Trust is key to the nursery-parent relationship – if it breaks down, you risk losing an existing customer and the word-of-mouth recommendations they might make to family, friends and colleagues.

If parents feel they are not receiving enough or, worse, accurate information it may be time to revisit your key person approach – after all they’re the primary point of contact with home – and also to consider whether to investigate the new, high-tech methods there are to keep parents in touch with their child’s day.

Quality of care

“One of my daughter’s carers – I never found out who – would consistently fail to clean her properly when changing her nappy, leaving her with terrible nappy rash. It took several complaints to staff, and then management before I received an apology – and the explanation that the poor care was the fault of a student practitioner who ‘didn’t know any better’. At least it improved after that.”

Care routines might seem a straightforward part of the early years practitioner’s role, but they mustn’t be taken for granted, particularly in the case of your youngest team members, who may not have the experience of looking after their own children to call upon.

Remember, your provision is only as strong as your weakest team member, and blaming poor practice on the new recruit is no defence at all in the eyes of your customers (or Ofsted!).

Let them eat cake… Again?

“My nursery seemed to pride itself on the attention it paid to nutrition and healthy eating, but barely a week seemed to go by without me hearing about a parent or carer of another child who had ‘brought in’ birthday cake to share with the children. I was never consulted, and felt placed in a difficult position – I didn’t want my daughter to feel excluded from a treat all her friends were enjoying but wasn’t comfortable with her having extra sugar on a regular basis…”

Putting to one side for a moment the absolute necessity of knowing exactly what ingredients (and thus allergens) are in every meal, snack and treat you give your children, food can be an incredibly sensitive topic for parents.

That means any ambiguity surrounding what’s being served is likely to irk at least one of your customers and potentially many more (and you can guarantee word will get back via your cake-loving chatterboxes if you’re tempted to do things on the sly).

Far better in all respects to be upfront, and in full control of your menus.

Personality clash

“I wasn’t happy with my nursery’s choice of key person. My little boy was quiet and quite introverted, but the practitioner in question was a classic extrovert – loud, ‘in your face’ and into rough and tumble. It wasn’t a good fit; he never bonded with her, and always seemed reluctant to go to her when we arrived in the morning. When I raised concerns management seemed to think I was being over-protective, and it took several complaints before finally a change was made – and even then my views were barely acknowledged.”

The realities of running a busy day nursery unavoidably have a bearing on staff deployment, and it’s never going to be possible to please everybody all the time. Sometimes, you may feel that parental complaints aren’t justified, or that you know best – and often you might be right.

However, as much as possible – and especially when it involves the vital key person/parent relationship – try to be accommodating. If you can’t make a change, explain why rather than trying to bury the issue, and work with staff where necessary to help prevent the issue becoming an ongoing flashpoint.

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