Taking your child to the doctor is rarely a fun event. Parents everywhere will give you the Katniss Everdeen three finger salute of solidarity if your visit involves getting shots, too. As a parent, you likely spend time thinking about ways to make the trip easier or less scary for your little one, but what about their physician? As it turns out, you may want to shift your perspective because there are actually quite a few things pediatricians should never do during an exam, according to pediatricians. Sure, there are the obvious red flags when it comes to keeping your child safe, but there are also more subtle ways your child's pediatrician could be negatively affecting their check-up experience.
Thankfully, rather than making speculations, pediatricians and family physicians have shared what kinds of things parents should look out for at their little one's doctor's visits. Of course, if you ever feel uncomfortable for either your child or yourself in a medical setting, don't hesitate to voice your concern. I know firsthand how intimidating it can be because, "they're doctors and I'm just a parent." But honestly, you shouldn't be afraid to trust your gut instinct — even one of our expert physicians echoed that sentiment — especially when it comes to the safety of a child. Check out the things pediatricians should never do during an exam so that you'll be fully prepared and empowered at your child's next check-up.
1. Only Address You
"Pediatricians should never ignore the children in the room," Dr. Sharon Somekh, a pediatrician, tells Romper during a recent interview. "They should also acknowledge children who are there but aren't scheduled to be seen." Whether your child is shy or the room is full of their siblings, your little one's doctor should never disregard their presence. "Although much of the focus when seeing young children is on the discussion with the parents, both parents and children appreciate when a pediatrician acknowledges the children first," Somekh further explains. If you feel like your child is invisible during their exam, then you should bring this poor practice to the attention of the pediatrician.
2. Admit They're Not A "Kid Person"
Is having children for everyone? No, of course not. But if your child's pediatrician lets it be known that they are not a "kid person" — like the way you may not be a "dog person" — then you'll be interested to learn what one expert has to say on the matter.
"Being warm and friendly is a must when working with children," Dr. James W. Brown, a family medicine physician, tells Romper. "It doesn't matter if you're a 'kid person' or not, proper care and attention should be given to every patient who comes into the exam room." For instance, I've experienced this with doctors who aren't specifically pediatricians, but still see children as part of their family practice. Kids are people, too, and your child's pediatrician should treat them as such during an exam.
3. Move Forward Without Consent
"Pediatricians should never conduct an examination without consent," pediatrician Dr. Faisal Abdul Karim Malim tells Romper. "Examination without explaining to the parents what you are doing and why you are doing it," is also a major no-no. Personally, I believe it's never too young to teach your children about bodily autonomy and that no one is allowed to touch them without their permission — not even doctors. It can be a tough conversation to have, but I don't regret at all telling my son that he is allowed to say, "stop," or, "no," at any point during his doctor's visit. In my experience, most pediatricians actually appreciate that a child has such a strong sense of self and consent.
4. Be Rough
"Pediatricians should never use excessive force to examine a child," Somekh says. "They should use the parents' assistance whenever possible, but using excessive force to examine a child — even on non-sensitive areas — will make the child scared and cause the parents to lose trust in the doctor." I know my son hates having to sit still during a check-up, but even the most difficult child should never be aggressively touched at the doctor's office. You are your child's best advocate and you have every right to speak up or step in if a pediatrician acts this way.
5. Ignore Limits
It doesn't matter if it's a phase or something more serious — a pediatrician should never brush off your child's fears, preferences, or idiosyncrasies, and its the parent's job to voice said triggers, especially if the child is not old enough to communicate it themselves. During the exam, "parents should communicate if the child has a phobia, like, 'Johnny will freak if you touch his hair'," pediatrician Dr. Anne Francis told Parents. Children with sensory issues, for instance, cannot afford to have a pediatrician who ignores their limits.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.