We have fantastic families. If they did not love adventure they probably would not send their children to camp. But every now and then we find a family that is not a great fit. We have three criteria when it comes to making this decision.
- Are they kind to our administrative staff? Every parent has bad days, and some are more direct than others, but it’s a red flag when our people start asking me to take a parent’s call because they do not feel comfortable talking with them. We can work with rude, but no one gets paid enough to work with angry. One intermediate step is to have a frank conversation with both parents and ask that you only have contact with the “not angry” one.
- Do they have confidence in our decisions. Yesterday I had a parent tell me I was irresponsible for encouraging counselors to be vaccinated. It’s hard (dangerous?) being responsible for a child whose parents expect you to make bad decisions. If someone is looking for us to make a mistake they’ll probably find one, and keeping them at camp sets us both up for failure.
- We always balance a camper’s likelihood of success when making these decisions. Often these are the campers who need camp the most so I will try to have a picture of the camper in front of me when talking to their parents. If that does not work then there’s probably too much weight on the other side of the scale.
Of course the next question is, if you decide to “fire a family,” how do you do it with kindness?
- Be direct. The more you talk the longer they will feel dragged through the mud. Rocky may have wanted to go the full 12 rounds with Apollo Creed, but he’s the only one.
- Remove them from mailing lists. Every contact from that point forward will cause them more frustration. In this circumstance, silence is a kindness.
- Ask if they would like help finding another camp. Sometimes they just need a chance to start over. Sometimes we all do.