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I decided last month that 2019 was going to be the year for immediate change. I have been at CDS for nearly 10 years and dentistry has swallowed me up and taken over every aspect of my life. For instance, I am always talking about it at home, with family and friends and even in my sleep!

It’s time to talk and do something different apart from work and escape this dental bubble I’m cocooned in. So whether it’s an activity, deep thought or reading a book, here goes my first attempt at opening up.

I took my six-year-old son Amin to tennis last Sunday; the day I’d usually be hyperventilating about Monday’s to-do list. Instead, I blocked out these thoughts and changed direction. Only then, I realised that I’d missed out on quite a bit of Amin’s development. Last time I recall him doing anything sporty was when he was a little chubby toddler trying to catch up with the other kids. However, credit to my wife who persevered and her constantly taking him to activities has paid off. Amin has been having lessons for the last month or two but I’ve not seen him play before. It was mind-blowing to see how a child who has never played the game until recently can hit everything that is thrown at him; forehand, backhand, pretend volley etc….

Don’t get me wrong, he is no Nadal or Murray, but he isn’t bad for a six-year-old. In fact, I recall the first time I played tennis; I was never coached and just hit the balls with friends and thought I was Agassi or Sampras. It was amazing to see this sudden confidence and development in my own son by a coach who believes in him. I never had that.

Afterwards, I got talking to Tom and I asked how he sustains the patience to talk to young children for hours and get down to a level or language they can really understand because he seemed to have a spell over my son. He looked at me with a big grin and said, “you underestimate how much kids can take in and how much they choose to ignore or pretend they didn’t hear”. I believe my wife calls this selective hearing. He then went on to explain how coaching youngsters is easier than coaching adults as they don’t have bad habits.

It struck a chord with me as I’m always asked by parents about their children’s oral health and hygiene habits. Often mummy or daddy will say, “little Luke doesn’t let us brush his teeth” and “he likes his sweets” or “he still sucks his thumb”.

By not applying the principle of the child’s ability to analyse and understand tasks is something I as a parent have fallen short of!

Perhaps it’s time to change the approach. Several pieces of literature show that kids do get it. So next time you try and explain to a child why they shouldn’t suck their thumb, don’t stop telling them. Amin was once the chubby kid in the playground that didn’t want to join in but through repetitive play, he now loves joining in. So they will stop when you explain to them the dangers of a bad diet. They will brush their teeth by themselves if we keep showing them how to do it and like Tom, believe in them just a bit more. Perhaps using a favourite teddy as an example could be an idea; there is surely a way. They’ll understand if we speak to them and repeat over and over again. They do get it! Just like Amin fell under Tom’s spell ?

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