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Effects of Poor Parenting

Dr. James Dobson tells one of my favorite stories about the effects of poor parenting choices on the life of a child. The young fellow in this story was a patient of California pediatrician Dr. William Slonecker, and his name was Robert. When Robert was scheduled for a visit to the doctor’s office, the news would spread like wildfire: “Batten down the hatches! Robert is coming!

Nurses steeled themselves in preparation for this ten-year-old undisciplined terror who tore magazines out of their holders, threw trash all over the waiting room, and wreaked havoc throughout the clinic. Each time his mother would simply shake her head and say, “Oh, Robert. Oh, Robert.” If the office staff corrected him in any way, he would bite, kick, and scream his way back to his seat. When his visit with the doctor was over, Robert would come out of the examining room wailing and crying—a practice that always terrified the other children waiting their turn!

During one of his examinations, Dr. Slonecker noticed that Robert had a few cavities, an observation that presented the doctor with a real professional dilemma. He needed to refer Robert to a dentist but hated to inflict him on a good friend or associate. Finally one dentist who had an unusual rapport with children came to mind, so he rather reluctantly made the referral.

Robert saw his trip to the dentist as a new and exciting challenge in an ongoing battle of wills. As he was ushered into the examining room, he announced to the dentist that he had no intention of getting into the chair. “Now, Robert,” the old dentist replied, “I’m not going to force you, but I want you to climb up into the chair.” Robert bowed his little head and screamed his refusal. The dentist patiently explained that Robert must sit in the chair so his teeth could be fixed. Robert refused once again—loudly. As the dentist moved toward him, Robert played what he was certain was the trump card: “If you come over here and try to make me, I’ll take off all my clothes.” Calmly, the wise old dentist said, “Fine, son, you go right ahead.”

Robert removed his shoes and shirt and stood defiantly. The doctor did not back down. Robert continued removing his clothing until he stood there just as naked as the day he was born. “Now Robert,” said the dentist, “you climb on up yourself.” And a naked (and surprised) ten-year-old terror climbed up into the chair and sat motionless as his teeth were filled. No crying. No screaming. No hitting or slapping.

When the dentist was finished, Robert climbed down and asked for his clothes. “No, son,” the good doctor replied, “I’m going to keep your clothes overnight. Tell you mother she can come by tomorrow to pick them up.” So a bested Robert walked out into the waiting room...naked. His mother took him by the hand, led him down the hall, and out into the parking lot to their car.

The next morning Robert’s mother returned to the office for her son’s clothes and asked to speak to the conquering dentist. When he came out she said, “Doctor, I want to thank you for what you did to Robert yesterday. Since he was very young he has threatened us with a host of things if he did not get his way. We never called his bluff. But since you did, he has been a different child!

From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings, by Ed Young, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publ., 1994), pp. 57-58.