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27 December 2007

Getting Shot is Funny

Getting shot can hurt. Notice I didn't say that they definitely hurt, but they sure can...

When Emily was going into 1st Grade, she had to go get her cornucopia of vaccinations as part of her back to school regime that year. I was told that when she was younger that her dislike of shots culminated into petechial hemorrhaging in her eyes. Those are the red spots in your eyes that people get when they are being strangled. So suffice to say that Emily did...not...like...shots.

So since we know that childhood vaccinations do not have to be so dastardly, we thought that Emily would better served if she had a different response to shots. After all, no where is it written that we have to cry when we get vaccinated, right?

Ivan Pavlov became famous for his experiments of Conditional Responses back in 1890 in which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1904. Americans mostly know his work in reference to the "Pavlov's Dog's" where he demonstrated where dog's would drool (response) after being presented their food (reinforcement) along with the sound of a bell (stimulus). After repeated trials, Pavlov would ring the bell, and the dog's would drool, even without the presence of the food. As simplistic as that experiment sounds, it provided the world with a basis of research and theory, and ultimately science on the laws of behavior that we all use and are subject to now.

But I digress...

Emily did not have an alternative response when she got her shots as a kid, so she went with the one that usually works for kids, crying their ever lovin' head off. So in the run up to the new round of shots, we started a routine where we would give her a shot with our finger (stimulus), which was of course harmless and asked her to start laughing (response) as vigorously as she could. Then we all grinned and high-fived (reinforcement). We did this early and often.

When the day came, Emily stood in the conga line of kids who, one after the other, grimaced, then cried when they got their shots....until Emily got in the chair. The tech gave her the shot and as he leaned back to avoid the ubiquitous, thrashing, crying kid, he looked up with shock as 6 year old Emily sat there laughing her head off. He said that in the hundred of shots he gives every day, he had never, ever seen such a response. Why? Again, nowhere is it written that we must cry when we get a shot. We do what we are conditioned to do, right or wrong, good and bad.

So as pleased as we are with how that process turned out with Emily, we got to start anew with young Ethan. And it is going to be a rolling start letmetellya'.

At his 2 month check up, he got 4 needle sticks. Ethan cried bloody murder. Tonya cried. And I stood by with nothing more productive than to tell Ethan to 'Cowboy Up, Young Buckaroo!', to which he of course ignored through his screams. I can only imagine the nurse (aka dispenser of the shots) writing in her own blog somewhere about the most recent yahoo father who tried to change the tried and true tradition of willing his infant son to be brave of character when he doesn't even know he has 2 hands yet.

I wonder if Pavlov also had another, lesser known experiment that looked like this: crying baby (stimulus) + bravado filled father overcome with ineptness to help either son or wife (response) = knowledge and perspective that some lessons are better left for another day (reinforcement).


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