Whenever my six year old son, Sacha, says he’s tired, hungry, or expresses a strong emotion, I whip our the test kit. He didn’t use to complain, but has begun so lately. “Daddy, stop testing me!” he yells. “It’s just normal hungry, not diabetes hungry.”
Sometimes, he’s right; sometimes, he’s not. At times, his blood sugars have gone really low, requiring urgent intervention.
So here is a real dilemma. Checking his sugars is the best thing to do, health and safety wise. We are privileged to have good health insurance, and can afford the extra test strips. But from the long term parenting perspective, there’s a case to be made for being less quick on the draw. After all, we want to encourage Sacha to develop his own diabetes management perspective. And we certainly don’t want to build up resentment against testing and the glucometer.
When do these conflicting imperatives resolve themselves, if ever? Six years is awfully young, but already, Sacha has begun to develop strong feelings about diabetes.
While on the surface this response may seem somewhat esoteric, I believe the answer to a child’s attitude toward diabetes can be shaped using behavioral psychology. I wholly believe that diabetic parents should find an expert in child psychology specializing in behaviorism and learn the principles of effective reinforcement. This is a skill set that requires studying, practice, practice, and more practice. Learning about “fixed-ratio” or “variable-ratio” reinforcement schedules is foreign to most parents. However, parents who master the principles of behavior reinforcement are able to better shape their child’s attitudes to diabetes management.
Thanks for this. Can you please say more about your ideas? This is fascinating. Any details you can share would be most welcome. Thanks,
As a parent of a 10 year-old T1D also diagnosed 4 years ago, I believe the best thing we have ever come across for our child’s diabetes management is the Dexcom G4 CGM. Also, fortunately the MM Enlite CGM is coming soon and European reviews indicate similar accuracy and little pain–just like the new Dexcom G4, giving parents even more options. We used Medtronic’s currently approved CGM in the past, but our child found it painful and it lost sensor constantly. The new G4 CGM has been problem free and cut the fingerstick checks in half. However, the CGM doesn’t… Read more »
I’m 30 and still get annoyed that I can’t ever “just” be tired or grumpy. It’s frustrating not to be able to “own” your feelings all the time. But testing at these times isn’t optional. Diabetes is just unfair that way. I think Barabara Z’s idea is a good one, though, since unfair is a hard concept for a six year old.
We have the same problem on occasion and the way forward during those instances is for me to ask Alexandra (who is 11, by the way) where she thinks her sugar is first. Then we play the “If you’re right” game. She agrees to test — there is no if ands or buts about that. If she’s right about her number (i.e. she’s in the range she believes she’s in) then she will get some sort of consolation prize for being a good sport and testing. But if I’m right we’ll just fix the problem.