Some people… Grrr!

So I’m in a bit of a mood, I guess you could say.

A frump, a tizzy, just all together frustrated.

You see, every now and then you’ll have someone want to withdraw their child from your preschool.  It’s inevitable, it’s to be expected, but it’s never fun.  Sometimes you see it coming, other times it hits you out of the blue.

When Parents Withdraw From Your Preschool

And today, I had two people tell me they’re done.  And what’s even worse is that both families have been with us for years.  Literally!  Four years, to be exact.  So what in the world possessed them to pull their child out, you ask?


Because in the past four years, they’ve seen us grow from a one-woman show with 24 students (me being the Director and teacher) into a full-on amazing school with 2 locations, 4 teachers and 130 students.

Time and time again, I hear our preschool parents saying to each other, “It just keeps getting better each year!”  And in truth, it DOES keep getting better each year!  We’ve kept our prices the same, but have added on so many free bonuses (t-shirts, field trips, carnivals, parent committees, weekly teacher emails and blog posts, you name it) and increased the quality of the teaching so much so that you can’t help but love us even more.

But apparently, some people just can’t handle the change.  They’re living in the past and holding onto some fantasized idea that for whatever reason, the preschool that existed four years ago was somehow better than the one that has evolved now.

I still can’t fully understand it.  And thankfully, it was only two parents out of 130.  That’s got to mean something.  Having a 98.5% retention rate has got to be saying something about the quality of our program, right!?!

But inevitably, I still found myself asking, “What did I do wrong?”

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with questioning your program… by evaluating your program you can make it better if you can find its flaws and fix them.

But what if nothing’s wrong with your program?  What is you truly believe that your program is as amazing as it possibly can be at that point in time?

Then you have to realize one very important truth:

The Real Reason Parents Complain

Nine times out of ten, it’s not you.  It’s them.  I know it sounds like someone’s breaking up with you, but it’s true: the majority of the times that parents lash out at you or withdraw their children, is for no real reason other than their own life is messed up at home and they can’t cope with the stresses on their life, their marriage, their children, or their finances, so they try to reign everything in: they pull their kids out of extracurricular programs, they yell at their school teachers for not doing a better job, they start watching every dime spent, etc. etc… all to put the blame on someone else, and to make them feel better about their own inadequacies as parents.

Sound familiar?  If not, it’ll happen soon enough.  So when it does, you’d better be ready.

Usually once a year I’ll get a parent that calls me up and goes off on me, laying into me with all sorts of ridiculous, false allegations about their child not having a good experience, or getting bullied, or flat out not learning enough.  And when it all boils over, and I get to the root of the matter with the parent, it turns out that the parent’s own life is so messed up that they’re just lashing out at the closest person they can get to, which in my case, is me.  You won’t believe how many times this happens and afterwards, the parent ends up apologizing to me, explaining that they’re super stressed because their Mom just moved in with them, or they’re in the process of moving, or their husband just lost his job, or they just started a new job and feel guilty they’re not home with their children anymore.

So when this happens, remember this: nine times out of ten, it’s their problem, not yours.

Helping Parents Through Their Stress

Try to solve the surface issues first (the ones they’re complaining about) and then dig deeper.  Try to get to the root of the problem, and ALWAYS ask if there are changes at home that are causing stress.  And if you dig deep enough, I bet you’ll find the source of that stress.  And then it’s time to LISTEN.  And if the situation is honestly nothing more than a stressed out parent who got bent out of sorts for no real reason at all, and is apologetic, you can usually work through the situation and still have a happy family in your program.

But in some cases, you can’t.  A parent is often too far gone in their thinking that they think there is no possible solution other than to withdraw their child.  And in these cases, perhaps it’s better to have them out than to have to convince them of the quality of your program.  Because if you truly DO have a great program, you shouldn’t have to convince anyone!  Either they see the value, or they don’t.

So instead, I’ll vent here on this post, and get a few extra hours’ sleep tonight, and try to remind myself that if I’ve kept 98.5% of my parents happy, I’m doing a pretty darn good job.


Have you ever had someone withdraw from your preschool?  Were you able to help them through the situation or did they decide they were done?

About the Author

Joy Anderson

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Preschool expert Joy Anderson is the creator of Preschool In A Box, the complete business kit to help women start preschools in their homes. She is the founder of the home preschool model and has helped thousands of women create a supplemental or full-time income by simply teaching preschool classes to 3- to 5-year-olds for a few hours each day. She still runs her own wildly successful preschool and can often be found running after her five children and husband in Boise, Idaho.

Comments 25

  1. melody

    eish! i feel you all the way. thank you for coming out to veryone as i’ve always blamed myself if such happens.
    it really means a lot that what i feel is inevitable.

  2. Kristen

    My very first year I had a parent who seemed generally unhappy with my program, like it was somehow inferior to what she thought it should be. Her decision was to send her daughter to a different school the following year. At first I was hurt and also wondered what I did wrong but realized that everyone else registered again so maybe it was just that family. Well, middle of the next year I get a call and that same mom wants her daughter to come back to my school and her younger daughter to register for the following year. Come to find out, the new school wasn’t even close to better than mine. Kind of nice to find out that I’m amazing! 🙂

  3. Kristen

    PS I had to remove a student from my program last week. Wow is that ever a story! Thankfully I handled it well and the parents were kind of expecting it. Still, not at all fun!!

  4. natalie kay

    All I have to say is that as frustrating as these times are, and even if the root of the problem is not you, you have to be the best you can in handling it. Parents can be an excellent source for referrals, AND they can do even more damage on shedding a negative light on your business if they really want to. So do your best in handling it, be your best in your preschool and like Joy said- your preschool will speak for itself.

  5. Trish Jones

    For some people Joy, it’s simply that they think the grass is greener on the other side. Who knows, once they see that the grass isn’t that green, they might be back, begging you for a space.

    Still, you can’t put a hold on change just for a few people … they might have their own insecurity issues.

  6. Keri Giguere

    You have accomplished so much over the years and have done an amazing job. You can only so so much. You have to truely think of all the families and their children that appreciate you everyday when events like this happen! They will be back they always do! 🙂

  7. Marlene Runyan

    Wow! So, you mean to tell me I’m not the only one? I know I’m not alone in this problem, but in the end I have to be the one to say “your child is totally out of control and is robbing the other kids of their opportunity to learn”.
    At the end of August I closed the doors on my daycare/preschool. No way was this an easy decision and no I don’t intend to stay closed. From August of last year until the end of this August, I moved my daycare back to my home rather than paying about $1500 in expenses per month for the facility use. I don’t have a large home at all, but I loved doing what I was doing for the few family’s that I had. I spent many $$’s on advertising, but word of mouth was the ultimate money maker. I found sharing my home to keep the business going was too much for me. My wood floors were getting scratched, my furniture was being ruined, my kids all had to share the basement (they each had a room, but was less than what they had before the daycare), I never got to leave work and began regretting my choice. Regardless of my unhappiness, I still received many high compliments from my clients for loving their children and providing a safe place for them. I had to tell a (two year) client that her son was on probation because he was having behavioral issues that were scary for a four year old to have. Plus the mom just kept making excuses for him rather than showing me she was trying to reinforce my rules with her son. When that happened she went to a full time client of mine and convinced her to take her kids out of my care. I was so heart broken that this mom (that I’ve known for many years) took the “lazy mom’s” words over mine. So with all this said, my nerves were shot, feelings crushed and finances in the toilet. It might sound like I’ve given up, but I went in front of the city council to get permission to remodel my 22×30 shop for a preschool/daycare and I was approved! So, everyday I’m putting plans in action to build a better location to continue on with my journey providing education and care for the angels of my community!
    Joy, continue on with your journey providing an awesome preschool program. Build it and provide it and they will come! For those that choose not to include themselves with your program, it’s their loss and someone else’s gain! Keep up the great work!

  8. Dana S.

    I understand that no one wants to hear that a parent is pulling from their program, but the parent’s reason, as you stated, was that they thought the program of 4 years ago was better. To me, that sounds as though they prefer a smaller, more personal experience to what your program has become. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with your current program, in fact, it’s probably wonderful if you have a 98.5% retention rate! However, different things appeal to different people. I run a very small, intimate, nature-based preschool out of my home. The parents that I appeal to would never be interested in your program, and vice versa. It’s simply a matter of preference. Placing the blame on the parent by saying that there is some major stress inducing event going on in the parent’s life is disrespectful and unprofessional. It may just be that those parents prefer a smaller, more home-like environment, much like parents who choose small, home-based daycare providers over large centers. We all need to recognize that in our business there needs to be a matching of educational philosophies between teacher and parents.

  9. Elizabeth

    While I am not operating a daycare, I see this in other areas. For example, I have directed many children’s programs at churches over the years and watched them grow from almost nothing to bustling and energetic places of learning. Most of the parents loved seeing the changes in their children and the growth it fostered in the church, but then there was the “old guard” who liked it the way it was before. After one Christmas program, which packed the house for the first time in its history, the elders decided the children’s program had to go or my husband and I did. Either way, things would go back to normal (translated “dead”). And that was that. Unfortunately people get too comfortable in the way things were and refuse to believe that something better can actually come into existence. If you keep 98.5% happy, you are doing far better than most churches! I, like you, have to keep that in mind and realize that those disgruntled beings will always be there.

  10. Karima

    I do agree that losing a student is never easy, but things do happen beyond our control. Getting to the root of the problem and finding out it had nothing to do with you is a great relief. I will always love teaching no matter how little the class size may get the quality will still remain the same.

  11. Post
    Joy Anderson

    Dana, you are right on. My preschool isn’t perfect for everyone. We have a unique way of doing things, just like you do. And the parents that like our approach will stay–and join–our program. And for those who aren’t able to progress with us, will look for a different option. 🙂 Glad to hear your small in-home preschool is doing great!

  12. Stephanie Miller

    I’ve experienced the same kind of parent problems when I was an elementary teacher. The same parents who doubted me at the beginning of the year because I’m not a “traditional” teacher, couldn’t stop raving about me at the end of the year! Those parents will probably feel the same about you once they see what other schools are like. And you’re right, the problem really is with THEM and NOT you. I don’t have my own preschool, but am considering it. You are providing me with the inspiration to do it. I just need a little more courage to dive into the unknown. Keep doing the amazing job you’re doing!

  13. Carlene

    Some parents they prefer a smaller Center. They might be thinking that their children are not getting the same attention as before when your center was smaller. There,s nothing wrong with your current program. I think you hit the nail righ on the head (LOL). Joy, continue on with your you are doing, I think you are providing an great preschool program.


  14. Bassam

    I was about to comment and say that it is usually them, not you… but you already got to that realization, half way down the post.

    There are a gazillion reasons why people opt out from anything. You can’t possibly tackle all. Some of them you have control of, while many you don’t. No matter how perfect your program or newsletter is, there will always be those who opt out.

    Just focus on improving the retention rate. You already have a great one!


  15. prim

    I agree with you most times its not you or your teachers its just the parents who cant
    appreciate change or progress.Some realy there is nothing with the school its just
    their problems in their homes which they can not handle and they start putting blame
    to others especialy to the teachers.
    Parents like this they can confuse you and spoil your business.The only way is to hold on your rules and be confident.Any way its your job you have to be confident,you
    had guts to start it and it worked,do not be fooled by somebody with no direction.She only has guts to break moving business since she never started anything in her life.
    Just be strong and believe on yourself that you are delivering the right thing.

  16. Esther

    My first year was last year and I had one mom e-mail me the night before tuition was due and told me that they ran into money problems. Well, that left me stranded and I had to scramble to fill her spot. Then at the end of November another mom pulled her child and said that she was dealing with personal issues. Since it was before Christmas, filling that spot was difficult. What I’m doing this year is requiring a deposit for their last three weeks of school. That way, if they run into money problem, I can use the deposit and then fill the spot within three weeks.

    It’s hard not to think that the reason they are leaving have nothing to do with our program, so I can understand your frustration.

  17. Ellen

    This goes along with the philosophy that “you can’t please everyone”. You really can’t. People have different perceptions, life experiences, upbringings, etc., that brings them to the place they are at “today”, as in their present outlook and opinions on life.

    For some reason, the 2 families that removed their children equate “smaller” with better quality or more of a personal touch. It’s their opinion – no more, no less. It’s like some people like living in a smaller town as opposed to a larger, and vice versa. It’s about preferences.

    All you have to know in your heart is that you are running a wonderful business, which is evident by your retention record and the opinions the other parents.

    If I were you, I would not waste another second worrying about this. Tend to the people who appreciate your preschool as it is “now”.

  18. Suzette K

    After 5 years of opening my home for child care, I am learning not to take it personal. I realize as you did that most of the time it is not us or our program but the clients home issues. Even though I know this, it is like someone breaking up with you. Professionally we have to hold our tongue within reason, but let them know that communication is key.If we both have done everything within reason to fix a situation that I’m aware of, then I am ok with it. I’ve only had about 4 clients over the years that I was happy to go, but when a client leaves due to finances I try to help as much as possible. It is during these times that I bend as far as I can without totally putting myself in a financial bind.
    Since I work from home, I found that some(not all)don’t understand how enrollment is very important to my bottom line. I ask clients to give me a 30 day notice, this is based on my experience of my not being able to fill a spot in only two weeks.

    Joy I am happy that you have a venue to rant, and I thank you for giving me a place as well. I do love your preschool, and I am working towards opening a preschool outside my home in the next 3 years.

  19. Christy

    Man, I feel for you. It is a thankless job at times. Parents have no clue how hard this job is. For the amount of money I charge they expect the moon. Breaking even is a fantasy. The parents I have now are wonderful and make the sacrifice of giving up MY home and family time better. I can’t imagine doing anything else but believe me when these things happen I want to rell them exactly how ungrateful they act. No time off unless it is unpaid, no health insurance or social security let alone unemployment. So it is stressful when a family leaves for a “better” place. I had a parent ask to come back after they realized how much I really did for them and how flexible I was and willing to help them out. I didn’t have the room at that time. Oh well. The parents that thank me and show appreciation make it worth it.

  20. juliet

    Hi joy hope ur feeling better by the time u read this. Listen no matter what you will never be able to please everyone. It may bus be a case of these parents loving the closenit preschool & one on one contact & thinking this will not be because the school’s much bigger. Anyway Joy prayer about this ask God to reliest you,remain calm & move on. U know what u are doing is fantastic so don’t beat urge up over this anymore. Keep keeping on,doing a great job,very inspirational. Don’t give this up look how many u’ve help including me. Blessings

  21. Shanell Townsend


    Boy are those situations the worse! I’ve actually found good and bad outcomes from parents like that. Before I owned my preschool, I was a preschool director, and of course you’d get parents in your office with complaint after complaint about something that’s not going well in your program. Be it the curriculum, the food, the schedule etc. Very often however, I’d come to realize that if one parent is upset about something and is complaining, more than likely another parent feels the same way, and just isn’t saying anything. As much I you try as a director/owner, you just can’t be in every classroom, every minute of everyday, so I always have tried to validate and value their complaint. First, because its professional and second because they help make my business run. Of course I learned along the way that all money isn’t worth the headache. Theres always another parent right around the corner! (hopefully 😉 something else I learned was to give all my parents whom withdraw before the end of the year, an exit interview. It helps…i’ve even gotten parents to change their mind at the last minute, because they saw how concerned the center was to fix the issue. I don’t want to sound desperate, but building a parents trust and enhancing their overall experience will only help a center to become more successful.

    Well that’s my two cents! I’m so grateful for your website and blogs. Its great having a place where fellow preschool teachers/owners can talk and share their thoughts!

  22. Cindy

    Dear Joy,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. I felt a bit like what you’ve described when a month earlier, a parent told me that I was annoying her when I informed her about her child’s performance at school. I’ve been really hurt since she also told me that her child did not understand a single thing in the chapter i’ve just covered in class… But the thing is that I KNOW I REALLY produce quality work in my class and that I do my best EACH single day….. This episode has made me realise that after all parents and pupils are not as close as I thought before.. and for them I’m just a teacher whom they need for a year or two and that’s it!
    I really think that your school is a GREAT one and not everyone is capable of all this progress. Hope one day, I’ll be able to start one here in Mauritius.
    Keep up the good work and best wishes for the future.

  23. Lafay

    Dear Joy. It is bettter to lose an angry or unsatisfied parent as oppose to an angry/unsatisfied parent sharing their feeling with other parents in your program. Many times when be are upset or heavily pressured the respond to their emotions and the their abilty to to problem solve is cloudy. It is difficult for them to see what you are say because their emotions has taken full control. After you have tried professionaly,Its best to use wisdom. A good program speaks for it’s self.

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