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Dental Shaming: Dear Pediatric Dental Hygienist

Dental Shaming-Dear Pediatric Dental HygienistI wrote the following to my children’s pediatric dental office. I did not want to mention their name, as a courtesy, because overall I’ve had a great experience there, and it takes a lot for me to put down someone’s business. We all need grace and second chances.

But I had to write it. And I had to share it. Because I know other parents out there deal with this. I know you struggle to get your child comfortable with going, and there can be something so subtle as tone and attitude that make or break the positive experience for a child.

I left the office before I spoke from my anger. I consulted friends, slept on it, prayed about it, and decided to send this. I measured each word carefully. I hope they take my advice and use it as a learning tool. If nothing else, I helped Little Man’s voice be heard. I don’t care how someone makes me feel, but he walked out of there feeling completely defeated, and a pediatric dental hygienist with a bad attitude is not someone we base our self-esteem on. Shake it off, Little Man. I got this. You worry about chasing butterflies and checking on your cabbage plant.

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To the attention of the office manager, the dentist, and the hygienist who treated my son yesterday:

I wanted to discuss my poor experience yesterday at the 4:30 PM appointment for my 10 year old son. What I’m about to share with you will hopefully be used as healthy feedback for your staff. We all have bad days now and again, but when I see a consistent problem that can drive people away from your business, I would like to share with you my experience in hopes that you use it constructively for the future.

First, let me say that I have had mostly wonderful experiences over the years with everyone in that office, from front desk staff, to all dentists I’ve encountered, and every dental hygienist, except for one, the one who did follow-up with us, alongside the dentist, around 5:20 PM yesterday.

We have had her before, and I was less than pleased by her tone and attitude toward both child and parent in several experiences, but my older son is a teenager and could blow it off. Not everyone is going to click. I don’t have to like someone to have them do a great job with my child’s teeth.

Fast forward to yesterday. My anxious/special needs child (10 years old) was reasonable and compliant. I even expressed some of his concerns and needs to the first pediatric dental hygienist who greeted us (different from the one who cleaned his teeth). When I came back for the report: no cavities. The dentist and I were having a lovely conversation when I asked about how well he was doing brushing. The dental hygienist interrupted and spoke in an inappropriate shaming tone, something along the lines of this:

“We called his bluff, Mom. He did a good job preparing today right before the appointment, and so now, Mom, we know he can do it, and there’s absolutely no reason he can’t take care of his teeth like this all of the time. That was far too much plaque for him. He shouldn’t have to be cleaned to that extent. There’s no reason he can’t do better. He proved it today that he’s capable so you need to hold him accountable.” 

This all was said in front of my son, by the way, as if he were an object in the room and it was her job to give him a lecture.

Let me just say that I don’t mind honesty, but the delivery was insulting and shaming to a child and a parent.

I sat there, stunned at the tone (not the content….I don’t mind honest content). It’s not the first time she’s left me ruffled in her lack of bedside manner and condescension.

What she doesn’t know is he spent 20 minutes brushing his teeth 3 times, flossing, gargling. 

What she doesn’t know is he was desperately afraid of displeasing her based on a previous experience.

What she doesn’t know is the toothpaste flavor is difficult, but he didn’t complain.

What she doesn’t know is he chews his toothbrushes for sensory feedback.

She doesn’t know I had already done a lot of work to get him comfortable coming in to the office to be less anxious in seeing her in the first place. I was already exhausted trying to make it a good experience for both my child and the hygienist ahead of time.

After taking a deep breath and composing myself, I said something like this:

“You know, what you just said may be important, and I agree that it is, but with this particular child I see so many specialists for so many things and get told difficult things all the time, that what you just said isn’t as important to me in light of that right now.”

When the dentist asked if I was okay, I said:

“I’m overwhelmed, to be honest, by this. I’m going to need to leave now.” 

My only requests:

1) My children’s charts get flagged so that none of them have this hygienist ever again. If that requires rescheduling future cleanings, I’m happy to be flexible about that.

2) Please make sure those involved read this. I believe every bad experience can lead to greater understanding and personal and professional growth. I would like to think the office staff involved in my situation feel the same way.

The moral of the story is: Yes, he does need to brush his teeth better. But, my son is a child with multiple issues. He was compliant. He did what you asked. He didn’t take up extra time, really. But you do not know his personal battles, and teeth do need care, yes, but so does the whole person. I have bigger battles right now.

There are ways to communicate truth about how to have better dental health to parents without shaming and embarrassing both parent and child. Her response was offensive and completely inappropriate. This is a pediatric dental office. You never know what someone is dealing with in the “whole child” when you express concern over the dental piece. The dental piece is one piece of a whole child. Instead of shaming, try encouraging and graciously communicating the concern. It goes a long way to build trust and understanding. These are children.

Best,

Bonnie Lyn Smith

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Dental Shaming- Dear Pediatric Dental Hygienist2

*This blog has been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon & Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.

More of my personal story of uncovering my child’s special needs can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).

 
 

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When Thankful Changes the Atmosphere

When Thankful Changes the AtmosphereShe had just put a huge meal on for tourists and was about to reload the table for her family of 9. It was almost 8 PM, and they were coming in from the harvest. The corn had to be collected before the rains came. Her youngest child, a boy of 7, had helped late into the evening the night before, but they still had some work to do. She had a twinkle in her eye, but there was a shot of weary and concern as well as she turned her bonneted head toward me and chirped happily in her heavy accent:

“I have so much to be thankful for. God has given me many blessings.”

Her words grew feet and scurried right into the center of my heart.

It was the Amish way, and yet, as tired mothers: one the “worldly English” and one with the “plain life,” the only thing separating us in our common mama sighs was our lifestyles. Otherwise, the weightiness of our hearts beat to the same sound. We shared the same God. We each wanted to express love into the other’s world, if only for a few hours, without making her world become fully ours.

And yet those penetrating words. Despite the fact setting the table for her six-course meal was on its second round, she was grateful.

Counting blessings—

—with another sinkload of dishes in the almost-dark.

I grew up not far from this community. We regularly came “up the country” to Lancaster County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Horses and buggies were part of my childhood tapestry. But now, with my parents living amidst the Amish community in surrounding farms, I have come to pay greater attention to my Christian brothers and sisters in solid, dark colors.

And as I left her house that day, this 39 year old mother of 7, with worn hands from many years of caring for her family, gave me a gift I can never exercise enough. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Responding With Honeycomb and Health

Responding With Honeycomb and HealthI read it right before finishing preparations for a talk I was going to give to a group of moms at a local church. I was also in the middle of praying for my father and seeing how his cancer treatment went that day.

It was an unnecessary and petty distraction, a message sent with absolutely no other purpose than to make trouble where, as far as I knew, there wasn’t any to date. In my own personal book of boundaries, it crossed several lines, but more than that, there was no recognizable good intention within it. I’m limited in my perspective, obviously. I don’t have God’s eyes. From where I was sitting, however, it was right up there in the Book of the Absurd or Ridiculous, and it could have flamed old fires of aggravation.

Know that familiar scenario?

The one where other people want to stir our pot?  

Where they can’t leave well enough alone? 

Where they insert themselves somewhere they don’t belong?

This same scenario, with a few changed details and characters, has played itself out several times over my life. I’m sure from time to time we all encounter: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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The Very Best Kind of Freedom

The Very Best Kind of FreedomI grew up just outside Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell and, for that matter, the Statue of Liberty, were important visuals to me of all that America stands for. As I’ve been walking through stores and seeing red, white, and blue adorning every aisle, I’ve had a lot of opportunity this week to consider what freedom really is.

I could focus on so many different topics: what our soldiers uphold for us every day, the Constitution, freedom from religious persecution, opportunities to receive an education, safe harbor within our own borders, and even our leisure, which is completely unheard of in so much of the world.

While I love my country and appreciate everything about it that protects my liberties, I celebrate my freedom in Christ every day because Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (and resurrection) makes all of the following possible (and more!): Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Someone Else’s Courtroom: How Exactly Did I Get Here?

Someone Else's Courtroom-How Exactly Did I Get HereLately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by people stepping across boundaries into each other’s lives where they may not belong. Ever feel that way? Sometimes, they are my own toes being stepped on, but often, I am merely witness to someone landing in another person’s courtroom without realizing it.

How did we become so good at grabbing the judge’s gavel and slamming it around?

I’m not talking about expressing public opinion on social, political, or spiritual issues. I’m referring to people jumping into our marriages, parenting, and family business without receiving an invite.

You know those little comments made half in jest or with a veil of concern? The ones that really have nothing behind them other than that person’s different standard, unsolicited opinion, or insecurity? It can look like this:

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Espressos of Faith!

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Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving!

I truly appreciate those of you who regularly follow “Espressos of Faith” as well as those of you who stop by to check it out! You have made this blog what it is, and I’m thankful for you.

I’m going to make this short, since we are hopefully all with loved ones and/or taking some good rest and food to restore ourselves. For those of you working, blessings on your day, and thank you for working a holiday for others who do not have to work it this year.

Today, I am thankful for family and friends, for healing and things still in the process of healing, for a published book (Not Just on Sundays), and for all those who made that possible (editors, artist, photographer, book marketer, printer, pastor, readers, and people who encouraged and prayed me through).

I’m grateful for lessons learned and for places where God is working out my character and peeling off areas of pride and replacing them with areas where I hopefully rely more on Him. I am thankful for His Holy Word, which brings the only true wisdom to me in managing marriage, raising children, getting through challenges, fighting things that come against us, seeing blessings even in the valleys we walk through, and healing relationships.

This has been an intense year for our family for many reasons, and I’m so thankful for lessons learned—sometimes painful—in the valley, where answers still were not on the horizon, and all we had was faith in things unseen. I’m grateful both for the people who walked through the valley with us as well as those currently in a valley of their own who allowed me in to hold their hands for a while.

Hebrews 11:1, Author unknown but he is recording the words of God, ESV 
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

We are thankful for the warm hand of Jesus in ours as each step we take—in work, our families, and our faith—is often uncertain, except for with Whom we are walking.

May you know the peace, rest, love, grace, mercy, and incredibly deep love of Christ this Thanksgiving and always!

Grateful for you,
Bonnie

[Did I mention I’m also thankful for chocolate-covered pretzels? And pie! 🙂 ]

 

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A Letter to Parent Volunteers in Elementary School Classrooms

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The following blog is written the way that it is, in letter format, because of a wise friend who saw my Mama Pain in a brief vent on social media today and encouraged me to write something that informs parents from the perspective of a parent with a child who struggles. He is often the recipient of harsh treatment from perhaps well-intended parent volunteers. Sometimes, this has happened right in front of me at volunteer times in the classroom, and sometimes, my child tells me days later, in tears. He is sensitive, but not overly so. He knows not everyone will jive with everyone else. In his short school tenure, at age 8, he has had teachers he really clicked with and those he hasn’t. He knows not every person will really try to know him, and that’s okay. That’s true of life.

But I have been growing very weary of parent volunteers going in to a lower elementary school classroom lacking humor, patience, and compassion, especially for kids with struggles or who think outside the box, and “playing uptight parent” to someone else’s kid. I know the lower elementary school teachers benefit from rotations of parent help for reading times, math games, and research, and we have wonderful staff, but if a parent is going in to exert a power trip over little kids, perhaps they should not volunteer. I volunteer to help children and teachers but also now to babysit out-of-line parents. Happens every year.

Not on my watch.

In my opinion, being that harsh to a child with or without struggles (not their own child…mine or someone else’s) is without excuse. The school environment should be a safe place for little hearts.

Some of the most cutting, sharpest comments are made to my child by parent volunteers. Little Man sat at my breakfast table this morning in tears thinking he had done something wrong when he was being creative. (I cleared up the details of what was said, why, and if there was misbehavior or teacher intervention. There wasn’t.) His exact words: “She [snappy parent volunteer] connected with all of the other kids there but me. She didn’t make a good connection to me.” This was after letting me know what she did say to him. I spent part of the morning praying down my mother rage. I don’t even know her or her name.

It motivated me to write this. Thank you for reading it.

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Dear Elementary School Parent Volunteer:

There are a few things I would really like us all to know, to think about, to swirl around in our minds and hearts before we enter the classroom to help with math games, reading centers, research units. Going to volunteer training is not enough. We must go in deeply, firmly rooted in an understanding that we are not the parents of every child in that classroom. We can’t possibly know each situation, each struggle, each backstory, each tender heart. We do not know what each child faced that morning over his/her bowl of cereal.

  • He could have heard his parents threaten each other with divorce for the tenth time this week.
  • She could have heard that anger rising in the voice of a violent family member or encountered the malaise of a depressed or ill parent.
  • He could have had his fifth meltdown because the tag on the neckline of his shirt was irritating him.
  • She could have had a panic attack about the small oral presentation she had to give today for her book project.
  • He could have washed his hands 12 times before, during, and after getting dressed because he was worried about germs.
  • She could have struggled to get her math facts the night before, and everyone else in the class seems to catch on more quickly.
  • He could have struggled to write neatly and color in the lines because of a fine motor weakness.
  • She might not be able to focus because something happened on the bus on the way in that was too loud for her, too much for her to process at once, and she’s still in the middle of processing it.

Dear Parents: We don’t know whom and what we are walking into when we go in to help. We are not experts on the issues of all children. Let’s face it: Some days we don’t always even know the “right” approach for our own. We do not have full perspective.

We are not there to parent other parents’ children. The class discipline is really up to the teacher’s discretion and discernment.

Even if some of us have degrees in special education, social work, or child/family therapy, if we do not live with a child with those challenges, we only know the outside story. We do not know the inside one. We do not know what it is like to work around the challenges and struggles, big or small, typical or atypical, on a daily basis of those specific kids.

We also do not know what it is like to be a child with adults towering over him/her trying to be part of a “solution,” one that is assumed, while the child is silently trying to figure out where and why he/she is failing expectation.

Here are some things we need to remember: Everyone struggles with something. In any home, there may be:

  • academic super-achievers who are a little immature or socially behind
  • dyslexia and other learning disorders
  • developmental delays
  • autism spectrum
  • ADHD/ADD
  • anxiety/depression (yes, young children can legitimately struggle with these for a host of different reasons)
  • speech delays
  • processing disorders
  • a combo meal of several of these

And the list goes on.

Really, do any of us know what those all look like in individual children and families? Are we reading IEPs before we go into the classroom as parent volunteers?

Of course not.

So we need to allow for the fact some kids are going to be slower to process something, have trouble focusing, melt down emotionally more than another kid. We don’t have access to this information, but we absolutely should go into the classroom to volunteer wearing:

  • grace
  • patience
  • compassion
  • understanding
  • kindness

I’ve had a parent hover over my child who couldn’t complete a drawing/coloring task anywhere near the time other kids could. She kept on him as if he were her personal “fix-it” project for the day.

I wanted to say to her:

“That is not why you are in the classroom today. You need to let the school specialists help my child in that way. Your job is to encourage him, perhaps kindly redirect, but to help him at whatever point he is at. It is not to tell him over and over again he isn’t as quick as everyone else and to hurry up and catch up, and why is he coloring like that?

Your job is to keep him on task, to make sure everyone is including each other, to build these kids up, to make sure they understand the instructions.

Your job isn’t to roll your eyes when one kid is fixated on dinosaur facts. Or another talks louder than others.

Can you see inside his ear? Do you know if he has a hearing problem or processing disorder?”

No, we just work around whatever we find in the classroom. We don’t try to fix, control, or judge it.

One day, my child could not move beyond the glue on the end of his fingers that came off of a Valentine someone gave him. He thought it was a germ. A volunteer yelling at him to hurry up and finish his own Valentine wasn’t going to help him stop fixating.

Again, the voice in my head had an internal conversation with her:

“Because you don’t live with him, you don’t know that he is having a massive, internal panic attack, one that, not being visible, is almost more crippling. It’s not your fault you can’t see it, but please approach him with kindness and not judgment. He is my ‘project.’ He was given to me. Along with specialized staff, I’ll take it from here. Please know your part is just to do classroom tasks and not to make everyone fit into the same size box of expectation.”

To be fair, I see so many parent volunteers do it well. Because they bring grace in with them—and the perspective that they do not “know it all” and can only come at it from their own limited experience. Just like mine is limited. We each come in with only one piece of the puzzle.

Like all of the adults in the school building directing small kids, volunteers make an impact and leave an imprint. My son often receives the message that (his exact words): “She connected with all of the other kids there but me. She didn’t make a good connection to me.” Young kids are smart, intuitive, and sensitive. They know when adults don’t like them or are irritated.

For 45 minutes, can we please just walk in, turning off the following buttons in our minds and hearts (we all have them):

Judgment
Diagnosing
Criticism
Impatience

Can we please go, approaching tender hearts as if we didn’t have all the answers yet?

Because none of us do—even in our own homes and situations.

Let’s take the burden off ourselves and let the staff “figure out” the kids. Some kids might not read as fluently as the rest of the class or color inside the lines. Let’s meet them right where they are and just grace them to the next logical step, or even just help sustain the learning of the moment.

Today might be a rough day. A child may have already been necessarily corrected by several staff at this point. He/she might be weary, frustrated, or sad.

If you have three to five adults (parents, teacher, principal, special services teachers, specials teachers) in your life every day that you expect to be leading you, having several more in your face—some outright strangers—can add stress when you’re 5, 7, 9.

Let’s go in and be stress-reducers, speaking in soft tones.

Let’s remember how our kids are all still works-in-progress—how we all are.

Sincerely,

The Concerned Parent of a Child Who Struggles

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In the middle of writing Not Just on Sundays, I heard the squeaky, growing voice of my youngest child begging to be heard, and a children’s book deposited itself into my heart; I asked all three of my children to collaborate with me. It attempts to shed light on how it feels to be a child when adults aren’t really listening to them. Why Don’t Grow-Ups Listen? should be out in 2015/16.

*This blog can also be found at Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up #25, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin TuesdayFaith-Filled Fridaysand Grace & Truth Link-Up.

 

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