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My doctor judges my parenting style

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The Question

Our family doctor took me aside during an appointment to express concern my child of 18 months had a behavioural problem and was "not like other two-year-olds." She recommended I watch Supernanny, made a vague reference to ADD and said I was "too nice." Her assessment seems inaccurate.  Should I confront her? Should I try to find another family doctor? Or should I ignore her comments and use her to get prescriptions? (P.S. I don't know what Supernanny is but I feel almost sure that it's not my style).

The Answer

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For those unfamiliar with the reality-TV show, Supernanny, British nanny Jo Frost shows parents how to discipline their children and regain order in their households, in part through the "naughty chair" theory of discipline. Families profiled are often out of control. Your doctor's suggestion to watch a TV show as a parenting tool was ill-advised.

Why would she suggest it? Possibly, she doesn't agree with your parenting style or perhaps she has been trying to tell you something for some time and in a moment of frustration suggested Supernanny.

As for the attention-deficit disorder – a diagnosis typically used to describe children who are inattentive and overly impulsive – I'm not sure what to make of it. I do know one thing: You must get to the bottom of this or it will eat away at you.

"The best thing," said Danielle Martin, a family doctor at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, "is to come out and say 'You are expressing concern about my child's development. What are you observing that makes you worried?'"

According to Dr. Martin, your physician needs to provide a more precise characterization of the problem beyond "Your child isn't like other two-year-olds." You need to find out whether she thinks your child has an issue warranting further investigation. Do listen to her answer; this conversation will be the litmus test for your relationship.

If it turns out she does not believe your child has an issue requiring further assessment and she was remarking on your parenting style, tell her you disagree.

So yes, you should confront her. If you can't get past these comments, do not limit her role to prescriptions: Either make this relationship work or find another that will. A relationship with your family doctor is not one to be had halfway.

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You can have a good rapport with a family doctor with whom you do not always agree. With doctors, this happens all the time: They often don't agree with those parents who fail to immunize their children, for example, but they find a way to make the relationship work.

It may turn out that you and your doctor are simply not a good fit, at which point you should look for another one.

One thing I do know is that everyone seems to have an opinion on parenting. Your doctor should have learned to self-edit before conveying her views.

The Patient Navigator is a column that answers reader questions on how to navigate our health-care system. Send your questions to patient@globeandmail.com .

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