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Thursday, June 28, 2007

On dealing with parents who cannot be pleased.

On the second morning of camp, a parent came up to me and my co-director and told us that her son came home from camp and mentioned that there was a basketball net in the schoolyard, and could we play basketball. “Of course” we reassured her, but she was not done. She went on to talk about how her son “always comes home” and talks about how all he wants to do is play sports at camp, but never gets to play “real” sports. Always, I thought? Wasn’t it just the second day of camp right now? Hadn’t we only had one day of camp so far? Regardless, she went on to describe for several minutes how all he wanted to do was play more sports, which he went home “every day” to tell her.

That day, we played more “sports,” (keeping in mind that we work with 4 and 5 year old children, many of whom just barely have the whole running thing down.)

However, this was not enough. At some point during the day or evening, the parent called the main office and spoke to both the director of early childhood programming and the director of the whole community center. She was still not happy with the level of “sport” playing going on at camp, and demanded that more sports be played because again, her child was coming home every day and complaining that he hated camp and all he wanted to do was play sports. This was after two days of camp.

The person directly in charge of me and my co-director told us to just keep playing more sports with this child, regardless of the fact that we usually wait until later in the summer to play “real” sports at all because, again, while some of the children are ready for real soccer or kickball, most are at the developmental stage of practicing different movements such as running, jumping, skipping, etc.

More sports were played. Later that day we were informed that the parent was trying to demand a refund and pull her child out of camp, wanting to put him in a different, expensive, private camp. Per rules of the community center, no refund was granted, but we’ll see whether she ends up pulling her child out of camp anyway.

The interesting thing is, when I work with this child, he is almost always having fun, running and playing with his friends. He’s not having a horribly bad time at camp. He is participating in all the activities, playing all the games regardless of whether or not they are real “sports” or just running/jumping/chasing games.


That all happened early last week. A couple days later the child did not show up at camp. Since I didn’t know the child was going to be absent, I had to call the child’s house to make sure the parent knew the child was not at camp. I called, no one answered, and I left a message, saying that I hoped to see the child the next day at camp. An hour later, the person one above me on the camp-hierarchy told me that the child’s mom had decided to send him to Private Camp for the morning to see if he liked that better and that he may show up in the afternoon.

Needless to say, he never came back. We are down one camper.

It was unfortunate because the children, in general, love camp. Of all the childhood programs I have worked at or observed this camp is the one that I almost always love. It has an incredible counselor to camper ratio. The children have the opportunities to do a large variety of activities. When the counselors are competent the campers are constantly busy and rarely seriously misbehaving. We don’t get many supplies, but we find creative art projects to do with the materials we are given.

I think that my biggest frustration with this though is the message it is teaching the child who left camp after less than a week. His parent began complaining the second day of camp, and essentially had made her decision at that point to move him to private camp. This is telling the child though, that everything should be tailored specifically to him. In his short tenure at camp, we were told that we had to incorporate more “sports” into the day, essentially changing the goals of camp, just because one child’s mother complained. The boy himself, while not the best listener, never complained about his dissatisfaction with the way camp was going while at camp, at least.

It’s a shame; the child had a lot of friends at camp that he will not see as often anymore. The plus side? A parent who was practically guaranteed to do nothing but cause problems is gone from the mix.


Blogger Ms M. said...

I think dealing with parents is among the most obnoxious parts of working with kids. I agree that the lesson this type of thing teaches them is not one that will set them up to be successful and innovative on their own...

In other news, I have tagged you for something...come check it out...

7:24 AM  
Blogger BrightStar said...

Hi. This is off topic, but I just found your blog, and I like it! I'd like to ask you a question. I can't find an email for you, though... Here's mine: bright.star.blog@gmail.com -- if you don't mind, would you send me an email, please?


2:25 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

Ms. M, I think the most obnoxious part of dealing with this parent was the fact that they talked to us, briefly, one time, and after that choose to go to the higher-ups. She never spoke to us again. Had she voiced her concerns directly to my co-director and me, we might have been able to communicate with her different than could the people who never actually see her child. (Of course, I should probably just be glad I only had to talk to her that one time.)

12:36 PM  

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