Hylton I Lightman MD DCH(SA) FAAP

Things must have shifted in society-at-large and my pediatric office is a small microcosm where a different phenomenon is emerging. Allow me to explain.

Pediatricians are, for the most part, warm, friendly, kids-centric people. Not every child wants to come to the pediatrician’s office. That’s normal, also for the most part.

So years ago, in order to make visits to our office “fun,” we instituted giving each child a sticker when the visit is finished. Our patients leave feeling “gifted.” There’s a wide array of stickers available — Frozen, Cinderella, Thomas the Engine, Peppa Pig, Star Wars. It seems like there’s a sticker for everything possible (and we proudly keep ours “G-rated”).

The rule has always been one sticker per child who has been seen. We relent a bit when asked if siblings have accompanied the patient. For the most part, children and their parents ask for a sticker and say “please” and accept the sticker with saying “thank you.”

Lately, my staff and I are noticing a shift. What’s that?

First, some kids accept the sticker, look it over and say they want something else. In the olden days, which seems like a few short months ago, children gladly took the stickers, said “thank you” and left happy.

The other shift is parents are asking for more than one sticker and/or for stickers for the siblings at home. We explain to the parent that it is one sticker for each patient seen. The parent replies, “But his sister is at home and will feel left out if she doesn’t get a sticker.” The front desk person states the rule (a new phenomenon, having to set and state parameters for sticker giving) and the parent rolls her eyes and says, “But it’s only a sticker.”

Mommy and Abba – You are so right. It’s only a sticker. But it is really something so much bigger.

Instead of focusing on the sticker, please think about that there are rules in life wherever we go. Whether or not we like or even understand the rules should be immaterial. What matters is there are rules, which are in place so things run smoothly. This is called “policies and procedures.” No effective, meaningful entity – whether it’s a family, interpersonal relationships, school or yeshiva or seminary, restaurant, hospital, airline or anything – can function without them. Businesses have employee handbooks because the terms for employment are clearly stated. People with Global Entry have one queue at passport control while those who don’t have it have another. Following rules ensures that missions are accomplished.

Rules have been thought through and thought out, despite what you think. Are they arbitrary? Absolutely. Why? Because each being or unit or whatever makes the rules as it deems fit and necessary. You may not like them because it means that you may not necessarily get what you want, how you want it, when you want it. You may see it as punitive, a punishment designed and carried out specially made for you, when in reality, such is life. I’m sorry. It is your privilege not to like the rules. Disrespecting them is something else.

Respecting the rules is important as they tend to minimize chaos. Even more important, when we adults respect the rules, we role model for the younger ones in our lives the essentialness of rules.

Sometimes, it is better to bite your tongue and say nothing in front of your children. If you choose to have a discussion about the rules with whatever entity, do so privately and respectfully. No one says that everyone in the entity has to agree on everything. However, respect the rules and respect other people. Dissing the rules means that your children are learning how to diss your rules. An unpleasant picture might otherwise emerge, G-d forbid. Kibbud Av V’Eim is the foundation of Yiras Shamayim.

As far as all the siblings at home who are salivating for stickers – Please. No two children get exactly equal all the time from each person in their lives. A mother of a large family recently became a grandmother to a baby boy in Israel. In her words – “Dr. Lightman – My oldest child gave birth in Israel and I left my nine other kids for 10 days to go help her. It’s crazy that I left nine needy children at home because one child 6,000 miles away really needed me.”

It’s not crazy. It is reality.

It is the job of parents to explain to their own children that you don’t always get what you want and how you want it. It is your responsibility to teach your children “No.” You will be doing them and you a huge Chessed by learning the word “no” and adhering to it. Not every young frum Jewish man or woman gets into their first-choice yeshiva or seminary – and it is not the end of the world, despite however painful it is in the moment.

But no matter what, you always have to follow the rules. By doing so, may we raise generations of children who grow into functional adults who are Mikadesh Shem Shamayim in everything they do. HaShem has given us a Torah with rules, regulations, and boundaries. The purpose is to make us into a better, more functioning human being.

As always, daven.

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