The very first patient I treated in the morning of this new year in Sparkle The Dental Clinic turned out to be one of my regular ones… 7-year-old Neil. I have seen him right from his baby days. In fact, his mother Shirin has been my patient for more than a decade. And a very conscientious one too I must say. Having herself suffered from dental problems in her youth she had vowed to not let the same thing happen to her son’s healthy smile.

As a result, Neil has visited Sparkle The Dental Clinic at the end of every Christmas vacation and at the beginning of every school year. Like a clockwork!

We finished sealing the fissures of his newly erupted first permanent molars, a procedure known to prevent decay of permanent teeth and Neil happily collected his gift for “being a very good patient” and he was ready to go home.

Shirin, however, wanted to speak to me and told him to wait in waiting room. “Past few month Doctor, I have noticed a change in Neil. You remember how happily he used to brush his teeth in the night? Right from he was a small baby. But nowadays he tries to skip night brushing. Often he will give a reason why he does not want to brush. Or sometimes does it only after one of us scolds him for the same. I have tried explaining how he will develop cavities otherwise. But he refuses to listen. Why so? And how do we handle this?”

I remembered the same thing happening to Aarav my elder son.

What we as parents sometimes forget that our kids are growing rapidly. Not only by age but also by experience… And they start thinking on their own and arrive at conclusions own their own too. They do not remain, babies, all the time.

A preschooler who can be fooled into a disciplined behaviour by telling him “God will punish you otherwise” changes into a young kid and experiences that “God rarely punishes anyone for bad behaviour” and stops being obedient!

We should not look at this behaviour as unruly but rather change our way of handling the child. And yes we should also look at our own behaviour and wonder if we are the cause why the child has changed his ways!!

“How often does Neil see both of you doing the night time tooth brushing Shirin?” I asked.. And Shirin looked a little uncomfortable. “We try to do it regularly but yes we do skip when tired,” she replied.

“But even then Doctor we sleep after 11 PM and Neil’s bedtime is 9:30 PM. So even if we brush he never actually sees us do it!”

That solved the matter. In fact, same had happened with Aarav too. As a child developing the habit of night brushing was done by us the dentist parents. But he never saw both of us practice what we preached!! As a result at the similar age, he started skipping it. “If Mom and dad only tell me to do it but don’t do it themselves, it surely is not THAT important” is the logic his young mind must have used.

I told Shirin the trick that we used to redevelop the habit in our son. After calling in Neil once again in the operatory, very seriously I told Neil….

“From this new year, you are going to do a very important job for me, Neil. After you finish your dinner everyday you are going to get the toothbrushes of everybody ready along with your own and see that they too do the night brushing.. Will you be my assistant at home and see that Mom and Dad too do not develop cavities?”

The beaming face of Neil told he was ready to take this responsibility. It was something within his capacity n something that made him feel important. And it also told him an important fact that not only me but Mom n Dad too will develop cavities if they don’t brush twice a day…

Received a feedback from Neil’s Dad yesterday that indeed not only Neil but the whole family has developed the habit of night brushing now. Who can refuse the smiling 7-year old who sincerely brings everyone’s brushes to each after dinner?

Finally, the end justifies the means right?