Wednesday, 13 January 2016

How to effortlessly get your 4-year old to accept vaccination shots

Maternity leave has gone by in a blur, seemingly punctuated with continual routine Doctor’s appointments for various family members. We had an awesome time getting the 4-year old’s flu shot, so I wanted to share my amazing story to inspire other parents who may be hesitant about this experience.

First – be sure you talk a lot about the importance of vaccinations with your kid ahead of time. Small children are extremely logical and will totally follow your train of thought and get on board with the plan.

Next – if the flu vaccination is the one that you are aiming to get (perhaps to protect your tiny newborn baby from familial exposure), be assured that kids over 2 years old can get a burst of mist up the nose instead of a shot! Discuss at length with your child how much better this option will be, and how it won’t hurt at all.

At the doctor’s office – be sure to do all the other scheduled doctor-stuff for your visit before the vaccination. This will give ample time for your kid to get worked up into a frenzy of apprehension about being sprayed up the nose with something that is supposed to protect his little sister from invisible bugs.
The 4 year old in his natural habitat. Do not be fooled by their diminutive stature; 4 year olds are very strong and crafty.

Once your kid has gotten all frantic about being sprayed in the nose, ask the doctor to break it to him that you were wrong, and his little sister is actually too young to be exposed to any live (though weakened) virus he might shed after receiving the Flu mist, and therefore he must instead get the (dead) vaccine via shot.

Be sure there is lots of extra time between breaking this news to him and the nurse coming in with the needle. This will provide your kid an opportunity to dispel some of his pent-up fear via screaming at high volume, and/or throwing objects around the room. You will then get the chance to practice your hostage-negotiation skills to try to calm the situation down. This is a good time for lots of lies (delivered loudly over his yelling), for instance: the nurse is a magic fairy and she knows how to give shots with no pain at all. Or: the shot is guaranteed not to hurt because it has magic ingredients and will actually tickle if he is quiet and calm. This may also be a good time to try some bribery (cookies, ice cream, lots of extra TV), and/or threats if you start to get desperate (no TV, immediate nap, etc.). But none of these will work anyway.

Perhaps try interpretive drawing as an explanatory technique when you are appealing to the 4 year olds highly developed logical side before you head to the doctor.

By this point, the baby will almost certainly also be crying hysterically, so you can also practice your remaining-calm-amongst chaos skills, which may come in handy in a future natural disaster scenario.

Once the nurse finally comes in with the shot, don’t bother requesting backup. You are totally strong enough to hold down a writhing, kicking, biting 4-year old while the nurse stabs around with the shot, trying to get it into his arm.

Actually, you are not strong enough. Send the nurse for backup, while you keep cycling between the above lies, bribery, and threats in a vain attempt to get your kid to calm down and accept that he needs to be poked briefly for health’s sake. Also be sure to dodge his flailing arms so he doesn’t punch you in the nose.

Once the cavalry arrives, they will help hold your kid still enough to receive his tiny, 5-second prick in the arm. A short moment of (loud) calm.

Then they will all flee, throwing a few pamphlets and post-visit summaries at you, and you will once again use your chaos-triage skills (let’s be honest, ninja skills) to give the baby her pacifier (again), intercept shoes that are being thrown at your head in mid-air, stuff all the papers and strewn around articles of clothing/toys/etc into your diaper bag, dodge punches your incensed kid is exhaustedly attempting to lay on you, then pick up the angry 4 year old in one arm and use the other to awkwardly push the stroller while opening the door with your foot and get the hell out of there as fast as possible before your kid sets off all the other kids in the office.

You will be operating on 99% adrenaline and 1% leftover morning coffee at this point, but you will soon collapse. Hopefully your kid wears out first, or realizes that you have left the doctor and he didn’t even feel any actual pain anyway, so he will let up on the yelling and kicking. In a few minutes, he will just act like his normal self, while your body goes into recovery mode from that trauma. The baby will hopefully have fallen asleep by this time as well. Perhaps by now you are all sitting quietly in the car, or on a bench waiting for the bus or looking at the calming fountain outside the doctor’s office. Wherever it is, just try to be sitting before you go into collapsing-mode.

Now suggest and then head directly towards whatever food/beverage item you feel will revive you – coffee (well, perhaps suggest a hot chocolate to the kid), milkshake, ice cream, etc. Chat normally with your kid, as if nothing just happened. Perhaps ask him if he arm hurts, just for kicks (because he will say “no” as if you just asked some obvious question like what his name was). Sigh and pat yourself on the back. Perhaps think of a different strategy for next time, like surprise shots when they least expect it (while eating ice cream!? Is this why Rite Aid offers shots?!!). Or just push it to the back of your mind until next year.


  1. I am exhausted reading this and from laughing so hard my stomach hurts. Hope you all managed to get a nap afterwards.