Parents: Customers or Partners?

I wrote my first Google Business Review and it was not good. I simply went to ask a laundromat if they would help me sow some buttons on a few of my dress shirts. I was laughed at, asked several times why I didn’t know how to sew, as well as why my wife didn’t know how to sew. To say the least, I was an upset customer who promptly cut the transaction short and left to write my honest review on Google.

Customers pay for a service, this is no surprise. The success of a business depends upon offering a quality service at an affordable price. But at a classical Christian school, a customer/client relationship is not our goal. Instead, we desire to partner with parents for the education of their child. Ephesians 6:4 states that the parents are primarily responsible for the education of the child. But are our classical Christian schools partnering with parents or in a customer/client relationship with parents? Does the relationship that the parents and the school have to look any different from the public school mentality? I think it would be of much help to distinguish for both parent and school the often blurred understanding of what a customer is compared to a partner.

Customer/Client Relationship

  1. The customer is always right—This business quip is a dangerous concept in the relationship between a school and family. If the family is always right and the school takes a complete backseat to the desires of the family, the school will suffer. When the school suffers, so do all of the families. This one sided customer/client belief will do damage in the long run of the relationship.
  2. Fickle relationship/Deal hunting—Partners make a commitment to each other. Customers look for the best deal that day. In a relationship that has no commitment to each other, the customer is free to see if the grass is greener constantly. This freedom cannot sustain trust and has a “what can you do for me today” attitude.

Partners

  1. Win/Win—Partners desire for mutual benefit of each other. They care about the well-being of the partner as well as themselves. Trying to find common ground when problems arise, partners fight to find a winning situation for each.
  2. Mutual Vision—Partners must have a shared vision as to where they are headed and what is to be accomplished. When the vision is different for the partners, friction will inevitably occur. It is imperative that both parties are clear on the vision of the partnership.
  3. Trust—Partnerships are built on trust and the belief that each party believes that the other is well-intentioned and faithful to their word. Lack of trust will slowly erode the partnership and can quickly turn into a customer/client relationship if not well guarded.
  4. Long Term Commitment—Specifically regarding the education of a child, a partnership is a significant commitment. Many hours, days, and years can possibly consist of this type of partnership. Dealing with precious gifts such as children and a possible long term relationship, both parties must recognize that ups and downs will occur. Like all marriages and friendships, the partnership can grow stronger through these trials if parents and the school have a mutual vision for the good of the student.

Aristotle once remarked that “friendship is essentially a partnership. As classical Christian schools, we should strive towards true friendship with parents, not settling for a customer/client relationship. Otherwise, count on several Google Reviews heading towards your Google profile.

In subsequent posts, I plan on exploring different sides of the parent/school relationship and outlining specific ways in which they both can practically pursue a partnership.

One thought on “Parents: Customers or Partners?

  1. This is excellent, Scott. I have found that this distinction is also important for upholding the Matthew 18 principle in our schools.

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