My DS is 21 months. We are roughly following the Unconditional Parenting model and avoiding punishment, rewards and bribes...among other UP practices.
Anyway DS has a little ear infection and I took him to the doctor today. He hates going there and is always screaming pretty hard during any kind of check. It's not massively traumatic or anything, just intense protest and I get why he feels that way. In any case, today after the doc's we happened to be near the toy store and I decided to buy him a little toy car and told him specifically that since he had had to go to the doctor I was getting him this car. I remember my mom used to take us to get a new toy after our doc appointments and it made that sometimes unpleasant experience much more palatable. I even considered if I should make this a sort of tradition; that DS gets a little toy after each doc's visit. But I felt really split if this was somehow poor parenting. Here are my thoughts:
I asked myself if this was some sort of bribe or reward, and decided it was not because it was / would be (if made a regular thing) absolutely not based on behavior...meaning whether or not he screamed at the doctors I would still get him a little toy. It is not a reward for "good" behavior nor an enticement to behave calmly. I would get it for him whether he protested or sat still peacefully.
However, it then occurred to me that this sort of thing may be discouraging him from learning to handle difficult or unpleasant experiences. Sort of like that adult feeling of : Man I need a glass of wine after a long hard day. Sure it's fine to have some wine sometimes in the evening....but it's not healthy to feel we need that wine in order to feel okay after a difficult day or experience, kwim? Am I teaching him this sort of addictive or self-medicating behavior by getting him a new toy after each doctor's visit (if I decide to keep this up)? Or am I just over-thinking this? And is this actually some sort of reward kind of thing that I should avoid in the frame of Unconditional Parenting?
I'd love to hear other parents' (especially those of you following the UP direction) perspectives and experiences. Have you done or do you regularly do something like this? Is it so bad, or even helpful ~or in the long run sending the wrong message?