Threatening our children causes many problems

The little girl ran from one side of the waiting room to the other, almost tripping the adult walking by. Her mother tried to stop her, but the three-year-old ran out of her reach. When she finally got her back to her seat, she stood up and began jumping up and down dangerously close to the edge of the chair. The frantic mother told the child to sit down or she would not get a treat when they left. It didn't work. When all other negotiations failed, the mother seemed to have had enough. She said to the child with exasperation; “When the nurse comes out, she’s going to give you a shot!” The little girl stopped dead in her tracks and looked at her mother.

The little girl ran from one side of the waiting room to the other, almost tripping the adult walking by. Her mother tried to stop her, but the three-year-old ran out of her reach. When she finally got her back to her seat, she stood up and began jumping up and down dangerously close to the edge of the chair....

About that time the door opened and there stood the nurse. The mother looked up at the door and the little girl followed her eyes. Absolute terror appeared on her face. When the nurse called her name, the child broke down in tears. By the time she reached the examining room, she was hysterical. When the doctor came in, he had a very difficult time examining her sore throat. My friend at work told me that her parents used that as a form of discipline when she was a child and she is still terrified of shots. She suffers from a condition known as Trypanophobia. It is “a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of injections,” that affects countless people each year and can significantly impact the quality of life. It causes panic attacks.

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Of course, nobody really likes getting shots, but people with Trypanophobia have symptoms that typically include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread. It is caused by a past event in their life that links injections and emotional trauma. That doesn't mean every child who is threatened with a shot will become Trypanophobic, but some can.

When our children were small, I learned a valuable lesson about threatening my children with other people's behavior. Our youngest son was so active. He seemed to wake up thinking of ways to get into trouble. Some days I could hardly wait for my husband to get home so he could take over. Occasionally, I was guilty of saying, “When your dad gets home…”

My husband asked me not to do that, because it made him feel bad when he had to come home and discipline our son for misbehavior he did throughout the day. One day when he came in, I told him Jay had been in trouble all day and he needed to talk to him. He looked at me for a few minutes, and then walked outside and came back with a stick (what some may call the switch). Before I could say anything, he told our son to go into the bedroom. I started to protest and he said, “You told him I would handle it, so stay out of it.” I hesitated as the door closed. After a few minutes I heard a loud whack followed by the sound of our son crying out in agony. My husband seldom spanked our children, so I opened the door to see what was going on. There he stood hitting the bed with the stick and Jay standing beside him with his eyes closed, yelling as loud as he could after every blow to the bed.

The little girl ran from one side of the waiting room to the other, almost tripping the adult walking by. Her mother tried to stop her, but the three-year-old ran out of her reach. When she finally got her back to her seat, she stood up and began jumping up and down dangerously close to the edge of the chair....

I got the point. It was easier for me to threaten my son with his dad’s impending arrival as the great disciplinarian than it was for me to deal with his behavior. My husband said when he came home he wanted the children to be glad to see him. He did not want to be portrayed as the big bad guy who only dished out their punishment.

Children’s minds are like clay when they are little. We can shape it without even realizing what we are doing. When a parent tells a child that the police are going to come and get him if he is bad, he becomes confused and loses trust in authority. The policeman becomes the bad guy, just like the father does when the mother uses his name to discipline their child. That also happens when we use threats like, “That doctor or nurse is going to give you a shot if you don’t calm down.” It builds unnecessary fear and distrust in the heart of a child. There are other ways a parent can help a child with the wait in a doctor’s office.

My daughter has a little red and blue backpack she carries with her when her child has to spend time in the waiting room. It is packed with a few of her favorite books, a coloring book and crayons. Some children have hand held video games that they could bring with them, and it helps to put a little snack and a bottle of water in their bag. If a child does need a shot, the parent can truthfully explain that the shot may hurt for a moment, but the medicine will help to get rid of the bacteria that are causing them to be sick.

There are so many things that are frightening our children now. Everyday they see the devastation of war blaring on their television sets, children being kidnapped, killed and molested, buildings plowed down by terrorist-driven planes, and in some cases, their own parents walking out and leaving them for no apparent reason. There is no need to add to their fears by threatening them with other people’s behavior, especially if you know those people care about them.

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Deana Landers
Author for Morningcoffeebeans.com

Deana Landers has had many roles in life — Pastor’s Wife , Nurse/Health Educator, Writer and Motivational Speaker ... more