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Pediatrician's Bedside Manner Rubs Mother the Wrong Way

DEAR ABBY: I recently took my 5-year-old, "Ralphie," to his pediatrician. While we were waiting to see the doctor, Ralphie played a game on my phone. Then the doctor knocked on the door, entered, said "hi" and smiled. He called my son's name and immediately, without any prompts to get Ralphie's attention, proceeded to take the phone from my son's hand.

You don't simply take things from people's hands to get their attention. Ralphie may be a child, but he is also a person. I would feel different if, after the doctor had tried to get his attention, my son had ignored him.

I understand Ralphie had to get ready to pay attention and follow instructions. If he hadn't, I would have removed the phone myself. This doctor is very competent and has seen Ralphie since the day he was born. He has always been dry and a bit brusque.

How do I tell the doctor that I find what he did unacceptable without risking the relationship? I'm not very assertive. The reason I don't say anything most of the time is because I become angry very easily, and while I understand there are ways to say things, I simply do not possess those skills. My emotions are so strong that I can't find a way of being assertive without saying something rude. What can I do? -- LAURA IN NEW YORK

DEAR LAURA: Ideally, YOU should have asked your son to return your cellphone when you heard the doctor enter. Write him a letter and tell him you were "taken aback" that he would take something from your boy without asking because what happened seemed to you to be disrespectful. Put the letter aside for three days before sending it to be sure your message wasn't written in the heat of anger. You are entitled to express your opinion. And if the doctor's "brusque" manner is off-putting, find another pediatrician.

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