I just read an interesting post by Dr. Rod Moser at All Ears about how NOT to get your kids to behave. It reminded me of an incident that happened when I was a student nurse.
I was working in the pediatric outpatient clinic at a major teaching hospital and my next patient was about 4 years old. He'd been in the waiting room much longer than his attention span would bear and was more than a little anxious about his checkup. When I called them back his mom was had a little difficulty getting him to come along, so she took his hand firmly and tried to get him to come. He struggled. His mom said, "If you don't stop that right now, the nurse will give you a shot." Then she turned to me and said, "Won't you?"
I'd heard of this sort of parenting, but it wasn't my mom's style and it wasn't something we'd covered in class. Never at a loss for words, though, I looked at the child and said very firmly, "No. I won't."
Not wanting to totally humiliate the mom, I continued more gently, "When your mom was little, nurses did give shots to bad girls and boys. Your mom just doesn't know that we've stopped doing that. Now we only give shots if you need them to help you get better or to keep you from getting sick. We don't give shots to punish children. I'm not sure what your mom will do if you don't cooperate, though."
Mom stood there with her mouth hanging open for a moment, then closed it and followed me to the exam room. To my delight the boy cooperated with me and with the doctor through his exam. I'm pretty sure the outcome would have been different if I'd gone along with his mom.
Dr Moser says he still hears this type of comment in his clinic. I thought parents had given this stuff up. Apparently I was wrong. Parents, if you aren't sure how to handle your rowdy children, head over to Dr. Moser's blog. He's written some excellent posts on the subject and has links to additional articles with suggestions for positive parenting. As an experienced mom, I can attest to the results. Positive reinforcement works. Scaring your kids with threats of what someone else will do to them simply scares them -- and undermines your authority.