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The Bribe Bag: Don't visit the doctor without it

 The new vaccine schedule for kids came out today... have you packed your bribe bag yet? By Jane Traulsen"You’re packing what?" I asked my daughter."My bribe bag," she answered calmly. It was time to take her 3-year-old to the doctor for her well visit, and supplies needed to be assembled.Supplies? I wondered if having three children under 6 had addled her even more than I’d suspected. “S

 The new vaccine schedule for kids came out today... have you packed your bribe bag yet? 

Mommy math: One shot = one lollipopTim Boyle / Getty Images / Today

By Jane Traulsen

"You’re packing what?" I asked my daughter.

"My bribe bag," she answered calmly. It was time to take her 3-year-old to the doctor for her well visit, and supplies needed to be assembled.

Supplies? I wondered if having three children under 6 had addled her even more than I’d suspected. “Supplies” sounded kinda military to me. The whole strategy seemed, well, a bit extreme.

But a bribe bag, my daughter patiently explained, is just an evolved diaper bag, filled with things that can be used to divert a child who doesn’t want to get a shot (is there any other kind?) and does not see any point in waiting for one, knowing that it is coming. The worst thing in such a situation, my daughter told me, is running out of distractions.

Preparation is key, according to my daughter, a veteran at wrangling small but surprisingly strong children. Thus her bribe bags are customized to each child’s particular preferences and age. She also sometimes brings a drink for herself in her own self-bribing bag. (When I gasped, she assured me it was diet soda.)

Here’s what was in the most recent bribe bag for her 3-year-old daughter:

The Basics

  • Cut-up scraps of paper and five crayons (crayons always get lost; five seems to be the magic number).
  • Ballerina stickers (a former fave fading in popularity).
  • Animal stickers (mostly horses, the newest passion).
  • Pocket-size sticker books.
  • Two books for reading: the current fave, and an up-and-comer that hasn’t been read in a while.
  • Her tot’s lovey, which fortunately is a small stuffed animal whose limbs can be sucked. (That wasn’t so easy with her eldest daughter, who conceived a passion for a stuffed dog as big as she was.)
  • A complete change of clothes. Good for when too many cups of water in the waiting room get spilled -- or undermine the very good progress younger ones have made with potty training. And a necessity if anxiety grows to the point of vomiting.
  • Lip balm. For some reason, her children love the stuff and enjoy slathering it on.

Secret Weapon: Mom’s cell phone. Even the most basic model fascinates children, and if you have photos or a Net connection, it provides even longer distraction. (Sign of the times: My daughter tells me some kids in her pediatrician’s offices watch movies on iPads.)

The Reward: This is the crème de la crème of the bribe bag, though not usually contained within it, unless you need to use it as a prop or a pre-bribe before you even reach the office: The lollipop. My daughter suggests to her children (not the baby) that one lollipop per shot is a good formula, and they emphatically agree.

But sometimes even lollipops don’t help. Sometimes even a personal visit from Dora the Explorer wouldn’t help. In those cases, my daughter said, she eats the lollipop.

What’s in your bribe bag?