Gone are the days when lollipops and stickers could appease a pint-size patient at the dentist’s office.
Today’s tycoons-in-training are savvy negotiators — holding out for big-ticket offers, such as trips to Disney World, sporting events and $2,500 go-karts — before they agree to settle into the dentist’s chair.
One local parent feels the only way to get her kid to cooperate is to take him to the Ferrari store.
“I knew my son was going to have a tough time with his new braces,” said Jessica, an Upper East Side mom whose 8-year-old got his hardware a few weeks ago. So she did what any parent with an enfant terrible and a large disposable income would do: “I promised him a gift. We went right to the Ferrari store across the street [from the orthodontist]. I told him, ‘This is for being a good boy and behaving yourself.’ ”
Like father, like son. His dad tools around in a classic Ferrari Dino, so Jessica got her boy the next best thing. The shopping spree included a Ferrari-branded watch, sneakers and other swag that was tabbed at several hundred dollars.
But that’s nothing compared to the youngster’s haul after he had his tonsils and adenoids removed six months ago. Then, Jessica bought her son a go-kart that takes real gas — for a cool $2,500.
“It wasn’t a bribe — it was a reward because he behaved so well,” she insisted. “It’s OK to reward a child to get them to do something they don’t want to do. For my kids it works now.”
She’s not the only parent who sees the reward system as the way to pacify petulant patients.
“My daughter refused to go to the dentist — she was so afraid,” said Lori Zaslow, a mom of two on the Upper East Side, of her now-10-year-old. “I’m not the type to bribe my kid — ever,” said Zaslow, co-founder of Project Soulmate, a professional matchmaking service. “But I’m not going to have a kid with snaggled teeth.”
So Mom made an offer the kid couldn’t refuse. “We said, ‘What’s something you really want?’ We bought her one of those electric [toy] Escalades. It was $500.”
Dr. Zev Kaufman, a prosthodontist on the Upper East Side who sometimes sees kids, has noticed a shift in parenting protocol.
“You want to go to the World Series? OK, we’ll take you, but you have to sit through the procedure,” is a refrain he has heard.
When a 12-year-old broke a tooth a few months ago and needed a root canal, “Her mom told her, ‘We’ll buy you the bag you want.’ They always promise a bag to the young ladies,” Kaufman said.
Another gift that usually works like a charm? Tickets to see the Knicks or Yankees.
Dr. Elan Kaufman — Dr. Zev Kaufman’s brother — has witnessed kids collect a steady stream of Apple products over the years.
“I’ve seen some outrageous [bribes],” the Brooklyn-based pediatric-dentist said. “[But] it’s usually cash. Bribing isn’t new, but they’ve upped the ante.”
Two years ago, a 10-year-old patient bragged to him about collecting $300 for the appointment. The dentist doesn’t think the kids who get gifted are any better-behaved, but adds of the parenting technique: “I’m not here to judge.”
Some kids are born to be masters of extortion. When Jacob Sheldon, an 11-year-old from Montville, NJ, thought the dentist would have to pull two teeth this spring, his parents agreed to pony up for a new mountain bike. Now that the youngster is getting braces, he’s going to score an Xbox.
“He’s been really good — he doesn’t cry at the visits,” rationalized his mom, Lina, a paralegal. “You could tell he’s scared as hell, so we’ll give him a little incentive to deal with it.”
Dr. Brian Kantor, a cosmetic dentist on Central Park South who sees children on an emergency basis, recalled the time a 9-year-old came in after a water-skiing accident that had resulted in four broken teeth: “He was fine, but to entice him, the mom gave him a trip to Disney World. I laughed the whole time.”
The bribery doesn’t sit well with some local docs.
“It gives a signal to the child that something bad is happening and they need to be rewarded,” said Dr. Mark Hochberg, a pediatric dentist on the Upper East Side. “With a lot of millennial parents, the parenting isn’t as good as in the past . . . They say, ‘When we’re finished, we’ll go to the American Girl store.’ ”
Dr. Zev Kaufman conceded, however, that payoffs can calm bratty tantrums.
“Any kind of bribery usually straightens the kid out,” he said.
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