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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? 

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?