Just about everyone knows something about the placebo effect. Essentially, it refers to any pretend treatment that has no direct effect, but somehow induces hope, which in turn produces positive results. For example, it is well-known that placebo (or sugar pill) performs just as well as antidepressants. It is also highly effective for many pain syndromes.
I use placebo all the time with my kids for minor injuries like scrapes, bumps, bruises, odd pains. One of my favorite is “The Miyagi Treatment”; I actually call it that, so it sounds important and even medical.
I don’t need to tell some of you exactly what it is—you remember the movie. But for any of you who never saw “The Karate Kid”…
All you have to do is calmly tell Junior that you know exactly what to do (you have to look serious and intent about it). Go ahead and tell him that you learned this treatment in Vietnam or something—he won’t know the difference. Carefully and powerfully clap your hands together—hard—and start to rub them together, hard and fast. Do this for about 20 seconds. You can do a meditative sounding “mmmm…”, but make it a bit guttural and very serious-sounding.
After 20 seconds, press your warm hands onto wherever the bump, bruise, or scrape is. Put a little pressure on it and ask your child to count to 20, slowly. After 10, tell him/her that after 20, you will let go and the injury will feel mostly better. As soon as you take your hand off, say “See?” Don’t show your amazement when your child says “Yeah, it’s almost all better.” Then pat Junior on the head and say that the rest of the pain will go away soon.
It works every time. Miyagi would be proud.