A simple trip to the dentist. Routine for some, pure torture to others.
After several attempted-but-not-successful trips to the dentist for a checkup, there was much discussion, negotiation, bribery and preparation for our most recent trip.
Our first attempt was incidental, when I needed a checkup and the kids just had to come. I was the perfect patient, participating in light conversation, making fun of my silly glasses and demonstrating to my children ‘see, no big deal… just another day’ (I think I got away with clenching my fists and my whole body for that matter without them seeing).
My lovely, unsuspecting dentist then invited the children to come and sit on the chair so he could ‘count’ their teeth. They could wear the glasses, they could sit on my lap, they could have a sticker…. Alas, no deal. Neither of them would move from the waiting spot, let alone open their mouths wide enough to squeeze in a pea.
Never mind…. Next time.
Second attempt we tried a different approach, a dentist who dressed up as the Tooth Fairy. Miss 5 decided this would be the best way to have her teeth checked. Obligingly she flung herself on the chair, opened her mouth and was the perfect patient…. Until she got the fluoride treatment that was required to stay on for half an hour… not popular, there were tears.
Following this, Master 7 had decided that no manly person such as himself would be seen by a fairy, that was for girls. Jaw clamped shut, the Tooth Fairy practiced her ‘prying mouth open’ action (rather unsuccessfully) for the remainder of our appointment. In that moment, there was nothing I could have done or said to make my kids cooperate – they were freaking out and beyond seeing reason for this whole event.
Third time lucky, right?
Besides needing a stiff drink, I needed to get to the root (get it?) of the problem. Unless I bailed out and made my husband take the kids to the dentist next time, this would be an ongoing association for my kids (and myself) with the dentist.
So, consulting my bible (How to talk so kids listen) then having a brainstorming session I decided it was time to sit down with my kids for a heart to heart…. when everyone was calm… and not anywhere near the dentist.
Step one, acknowledging their feelings. I knew that going to the dentist had become a traumatic event for them. By putting myself in their shoes and recognizing this helped put them at ease. I couldn’t change the last visit but I sure as heck could try and improve on it for the next time!
After a chat we negotiated that Mr. 7 would come to my ‘grown up’ dentist, or attend on ‘non-fairy’ days. Miss 5 thought if we could omit the fluoride treatment the exercise would be bearable (a quiet chat to the dentist beforehand made this possible- she would try it again once she gained her trust next time).
Now, to some people this would seem they ‘got away’ with this behavior but to me understanding their fear and breaking the negative association with the dentist was at the forefront of my parenting. Having these conversations before and preparing them for what to expect next time – while reminding them of their commitment to compromise was respectful but gave them responsibility too.
So, third time lucky? YES! All parties cooperated! We left with gleaming teeth and trinkets from the prize box!
The biggest prize though was knowing that next time the dentist won’t be an issue. Now, onto getting needles….