How to Encourage Timely Pick-ups from Parents at Your Daycare or Preschool

Many daycare directors would agree that parents who consistently pick up their children from daycare on time are some of the most delightful clients. A parent who arrives in a timely manner at the end of a long day of childcare not only builds trust with the little ones eager for their mommy or daddy to come and take them home, but establishes good rapport with you and your staff who have worked tirelessly to provide the best care for their child. In this article, we offer practical ideas for encouraging prompt pick-ups from parents at your childcare business.

Late Fees – Advantages and Disadvantages

One of the most common ways daycare owners try to discourage late pick-ups is by charging a late pick-up fee. There are many ways to implement a late pick-up charge, and daycare providers differ in the severity of their fee structure based on whether their time or the opportunity to make extra money is their most important priority. Different priorities will require different approaches.

If your time is your number one priority, as is often the case for daycare directors and their staff who work long days and want to end their work day to be with their families and pursue other commitments, you will want to implement a strict late pick-up policy. Charging a dollar for every minute the parent is late and limiting the number of allowable late pick-ups before consequences are enforced are common practice. For daycare providers who are more interested in being well-compensated for the overtime they work due to a late pick-up, more lenient late fee policies may be preferable. Irregardless of your approach, be sure your late pick-up policy is clearly stated in your policy handbook and agreed upon in writing when you enroll a new child in your program.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using late fees to discourage tardy pick-ups by parents. A steep fee structure has the advantage of sending a strong message to parents that you value your time and expect them to do so as well. If you are consistent and swift with your reinforcement of your late pick-up policy, parents may learn quickly that you do mean business and make more of an effort to arrive for a timely pick-up. Charging late fees also ensures that you and your staff are adequately compensated for the overtime hours you must work to oversee a child whose parent is late. On the flip side, there are several disadvantages to the late-fee approach. By implementing strict late pick-up charges, you may put strain on your relationship with otherwise dependable parents who may have an occasional slip-up due to unforeseen circumstances. Some daycare owners hesitate to sour a good parent-teacher relationship by forcing payments for one or two rare events. However, for repeat offenders, late payments may work against you by encouraging parents to adopt a lackadaisical attitude to your late policy with the assurance they can “purchase more childcare time” from you, albeit at a higher cost. Essentially, a late fee may remove the sense of personal responsibility parents have to uphold their agreement to arrive on time. In a sense, some parents may just be willing to pay for it.

Other Ways to Encourage Timely Pick-ups Besides Late Fees

While late fees are a good option to help you offset the financial costs of late pick-ups, here are some other ideas you may want to consider to encourage punctuality with parents:

  • Acknowledge tardiness on the spot, graciously. Often when a parent is late to pick up their child, they will acknowledge the lateness themselves with an apology or an explanation. However, you may need to gently remind the parent of your late pick-up policy if the parent makes no mention of the tardiness, or if you notice a pattern developing.
  • Arrange a parent meeting. If you observe a lateness habit forming, you will want to address it as soon as possible. Arrange a phone call or in-person meeting to discuss the problem with the parents, kindly but firmly state the consequences as outlined in your policy handbook, and discuss reasonable schedule options that may help the parents follow through with timely pick-up.
  • Send a reminder email or post memos where parents can see them. Sometimes parents just need a little reminder about the effects of their tardiness. When parents are gently reminded to consider how their late pick-up habits affect their children, your staff of caring teachers, and ultimately, you, this can serve as a motivator for change.
  • Admit to the difficulty parent tardiness causes. This is hard, but one of the most effective ways to deal with a repeatedly late parent is to have a direct conversation. Whether you do this in a parent meeting or on the spot at pick-up, something along the lines of, “Sophia gets worried when she realizes she is the last child left at school for the day. Plus, our teachers need to be able to go home on time to be with their families. We need to find a solution together,” may be the hard-but-necessary truth you need to share.
  • Let the client go, if absolutely necessary. Of course, this is a last resort, but if you have made every attempt to deal with the tardiness issue and it persists, it may be necessary to recommend other childcare services to this family, as they are not respecting your service agreement.

Late pick-ups are not easy to deal with, but with a little planning and forethought, you can successfully encourage timely pick-ups from your clients! The Honest Buck Accounting team is here to help you make decisions that will grow your childcare business and reach your business goals. Schedule a call with us today to discover how we can help you!

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