Problem children at the practice


How to talk to parents.

We've all had those supermarket moments when a child on the loose does something unruly in Aisle 5. But when it's at your place of work, you have the right to step in. Here's what to do:

Recruit a co-worker to watch the little one while you pull the parent aside for a disruption-free chat. Next, give an exact account of what you witnessed. If the parent happens to work with you—let's say he or she is your boss—include any client reactions you saw or heard. Then stress how the behavior is keeping you and the rest of your team from being effective, efficient, and safe.

Steer clear of statements that describe the child, and stick to the behavior. For example, don't say, "Your careless son almost killed someone." Do say, "Mrs. Jones was tripped when the leash Billy was playing with went between her feet." Be assertive and understanding, not accusatory and aggressive. No matter how irritated you may be, it's still not your place to call others out on their parenting skills—or lack thereof.

If this is a constant problem at your practice, brainstorm solutions. Suggest a kids' corner with coloring books to keep children from running amuck. And if there's no change, you'll have to decide what's an acceptable work environment for you. Either way, don't give parents—including co-workers—an ultimatum. Not only is it insulting, but it's also ineffective. —AMY

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