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Setting Boundaries Helps When Managing Parents

The positive energy in your facility is an amazing asset and can help your employees perform better, your students learn better and your organization’s parents show you more support. This delicate balance can quickly be thrown off by parental negativity. They say one bad apply can spoil the whole bunch. And they’re right in this case.  And that one bad apple can be just one problem parent.

There are parents with problems and then there are problem parents. Learning to tell the difference is important to your ability to keep that one bad apple from spoiling your perfectly positive atmosphere.

Recognizing these differences isn’t necessary automatic. It is a bit of a learned skill. And unfortunately, problem parents don’t come up and introduce themselves as such. But once you’ve gotten the skill down, the stress you may suffer over the matter will be gone!

Maybe this comparison chart will help.

Parents with Problems Problem Parents
These parents are speaking up for their child and want positive resolution. These parents are unrealistic about what they expect from you and will never be satisfied with your decisions.
You can identify these parents because they: You can identify these parents because they:
·         Ask for explanations. ·         Don’t believe the policies and rules apply to them or their child.
·         Set up a meeting to discuss your policies or where you’ve placed their child. ·         Share their opinions with everyone who will listen – with other parents and with your instructors and coaches.
·         Bring their problems and concerns to your attention with respect and with a willingness to resolve them. ·         Gossip and spread negativity.
These parents can actually help you improve your organization – if you take time to see the problems as opportunities to grow.


These parents can be time and energy sucks and cause frustration throughout your studio.


You can handle parents with problems because you know it will be a reasonable conversation where both parties want to positively come to a resolution The problem parents are indeed the real problem! Beating your head with a brick might be more pleasant than trying to reach a positive resolution with them.

Does Setting Boundaries Help?

We went straight to a few or our owners to gain some perspective on this question.

Jason (J) Orkowski, owner of Gymfinity Children’s Activity Center and David Tait, owner of EVO Swim School, took time out of their busy schedules to answer a few questions for us.

David believes that there are two rules that he and his staff should follow:

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Be generous.

By keeping these rules, David and his staff can minimize the rules that are required of parents – which is much appreciate and reciprocated with positive response. Minimization of rules makes it easier for parents to remember and therefore follow rules.

J has established parameters so that the “little civilization” within his gym remains civilized. Boundaries help everyone to have a better experience. Here is what J shared with us.

How have you set the boundaries that you expect parents to respect?

Gyms are little civilizations, rules and laws are established and policies and procedures must be followed. Some are absolute and some are open to relevance based on a situation. When you deal with families, sometimes you have to have considerations. Our policies and procedures are explained in documents that parents have to initial when they register. We have lines regarding attendance, being late, appropriate attire, waiting for rides, etc. Parents must initial each line. If there is ever a discrepancy, we produce the document and let the parent know that they in-fact agreed to follow our rules. For team families, since the exposure and experience is more intensive, we have a handbook that they also have to agree with. We have several documents that must be approved before they can join the program.

Did you think ahead of every sort of parental scenario that could happen so that your boundaries accommodate them?

You can try to, but sometimes things happen that you couldn’t imagine. Hopefully at that time the rules & policies of the club are well written enough that only a small effort needs to go into amending the policies for that unforeseen occurrence. If you are running a business like the wild west, and everything happen within a sloshy and unformed set of policies, then every reaction becomes stressful and magnified. If rules are in place, even the unforeseen can be dealt with with only a little stress.

Did you establish a good system of communicating with parents that makes everything clear for them?

Our forms are very clear. We review them when a parent is signing a child up, and for team we review them annually. Our team families actually have a dedicated website that provides them with tutorials, documents, and forms to complete.

Do parents know the way that you prefer/require that they voice a complaint?

Yes we make it clear that the first point of reference for a concern is the class/team coach. Beyond that it goes to the department Director. Beyond that it comes to the owner, referred to as the Program Manager.

Is there information that you have decided to provide upon enrollment that prevent confusion/questions?

Yes, everything is spelled out. Because we do line item agreements, we can be very diverse in the documentation for our enrollment. We also have extensive FAQ and RAQ (rarely asked questions) on our website. Sometimes when parents are considering a program they often either don’t have enough information to ask the questions that will ease their decision, or they don’t think it’s proper to ask a question. We answer everything.


While all facilities are unique in many ways, their need for managing parents is a constant. J  and David’s input is invaluable because they share it from the same “in-the-line-of-fire experience” that every owner can relate to. Rules and Regulations – regardless of how simple or comprehensive they are – play a huge role in setting boundaries and making sure parents understand and abide by them.

What are some of the boundaries you’ve established and how have they worked for your facility? Please share!

Resources: Dance Advantage, Dance Studio Insurance, Gymfinity, EVO Swim School

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