I recently wrote about saying “no” in a “yes” world. I focused on parents saying “no” against the backdrop of their big to-do lists.
But teaching the value of saying no is even more important: The “no” we all want our children to say when communicating their boundaries. The “no” that tells others what is and is not acceptable to them.
Of course, there are many different situations. But let's start with doctors, dentists and those we contract with to help us. They are in a position of knowledge and power, but that doesn't mean we can't tell them “no.”
Learning the Value of Saying “No”
Last week my son, who finally loves going to the dentist, had an appointment for a simple cleaning. He also just got in his bottom two teeth and wanted to know when the top two will pop through.
We usually have one of two hygienists, so I was surprised when someone new greeted us. I did what I always do: I made sure she knew about his food allergies, especially being right after lunch time. Her response was my first red flag: “Yea yea, I've read his chart.”
Then he asked his question. After looking at his history on the computer, she said he was due for some x-rays. The second red flag went up when we looked at his old x-rays first. After looking in his mouth, she pointed to his top two baby teeth and said those were his new teeth. She then proceeded to try to wiggle his new teeth coming in on the bottom, thinking they were baby teeth. I stopped her of course and explained that she got it backwards. She didn't seem to understand what I was saying.
Moving on, she proceeded to try to take an x-ray, which we all know is uncomfortable in and of itself. But her not knowing where to put it in his mouth and leaving it there for him to do himself while he's gagging? So he cried for the first time in a few years at the dentist. After she held it there, expecting him to figure it out himself, I told her to stop and that we should get our cleaning in first and try again after.
I took him by the hand and told him not to worry, whispering to him that she was new and it wasn't his fault. As he steadied himself and got into the chair, she was fumbling around for a while and then handed me a paper to sign saying I declined x-rays against the dentists wishes.
Replaying her trying to wiggle my son's permanent teeth and clear inexperience with x-rays, the adrenaline kicked in and my mommy gut really started churning up the adrenaline. As I looked at the paper and then at his sweet face as she started to put her hands in his mouth without switching gloves, I got up and put out my hand and said politely, “Stop. I think we will come back another time.”
I gently took my son's hand and helped him out of the chair. I whispered to him that it had nothing to do with him, but that I didn't have confidence in her, I told him we are allowed to say “no” when we don't feel comfortable. I asked him if he felt the same and understood, and he smiled and said he agreed.
At the front desk, I could feel my cheeks getting read as I started to say we wanted to come back another time and that she made some errors. As I explained a bit more, the front desk lady nodded and winked at me, saying she understood. As if this had happened before. Or at least hinting that my instincts were right.
When we got into the car, I told my son that if we ever feel uncomfortable with someone, we have every right to say “stop” and “no.” That goes for dentists and doctors too. I told him she was new and didn't seem like she knew what she was doing, so I didn't want her hands in his mouth. I asked if he was glad we left and if he understood, and the smile and relief I saw in his eyes was all I needed. I was so glad I acted on my gut!
We've come such a long way at the dentist. The last thing I wanted was to backtrack. Too, the equally important part of this was her putting on gloves but then touching everything–file folders, computer, x-ray machine–and proceeding to put her fingers in his mouth without switching gloves. We food allergies mamas know what to say to that.
Listening to Our Guts
How many times do we let something happen and afterward wish we had listened to the red flags popping up in our guts and said “stop” and “no”?
I was proud of myself for stepping up and showing my son how to say “no.” I walked my talk. We finally have such good health professionals that I haven't had to do it in a while, but I'm glad we turned it into a lesson I feel really hit home with my son.
He is important. His feelings and body are valued. They are his. His wishes matter. And now I'm sure that he knows it.
When is the last time you listened to your gut? The last time you told someone “no”? Please share your experiences so we can learn from them!
Image courtesy of Flickr.