I gotta say, I’ve lucked out in the last few years. James should be in that surly, disrespectful-of-authority, eye-rolling, preteen phase of life, but he’s just not. He’s still a real pleasure to be around pretty much all the time. I realize that might change. I also wonder if maybe, just maybe, he got all his “hardness” out of him when he was a young toddler and into EVERYTHING. I don’t think I sat down from the time he was born until he was 4 years old! Maybe this is my payback time?

He IS grouchy when his blood sugar is high. And he can be weepy and melodramatic when his blood sugar is low. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to handle these moods as a parent and what the best approach to take is.

I’ve also been talking with other adults and kids with type 1 diabetes about how it feels to have a low blood sugar and a high blood sugar. I think this is good to recognize. I’ve never experienced this myself, and James isn’t great at explaining it to me. But hearing descriptions of the symptoms and feelings gives me a lot of empathy for our kids. I think it helps me to think collaboratively instead of being too quick to punish or condemn.

I also think that grouchiness during highs and disobedience during lows need to be addressed separately, as there is something really different going on during these two presentations of less-than-ideal blood sugars. Experiencing a high blood sugar supposedly feels really crummy, akin to how you and I might feel if we’ve got the flu, and a low blood sugar is pretty much the brain not working properly. I know one of James’ symptoms of very low blood sugar is loss of motor function. He starts tripping and falling and can’t seem to walk across the room in a straight line. This is a manifestation of something not right in his brain! Because of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that if James is acting up during a low, he simply does not need to be punished. Not for acting out, not for disobedience. His brain is not operating properly, he is not capable of thinking clearly, and no amount of discussion or scolding or incentives or punishing is going to give him the tools he needs to act in a different way in that moment. What he needs is juice or glucose tabs or candy, some way to get his blood sugar back into target range. That’s the “discipline” for misbehaving during lows!

Highs are trickier. Supposedly high blood sugars make you feel terrible, but kids ARE capable of making choices even when they feel awful. This is the area that is more heavily debated among my friends. I think this is one of those things that is just extremely personal.

I know James really, really well. He gets grouchier when he’s really high, for sure. I always try to make him more comfortable first by giving him insulin and lots of water to drink and (if possible) letting him rest. I might even give him something like extra time on the tablet while his blood sugar is coming down, or he can watch a show quietly in my room. If he needs to do something—like if he’s at school or an activity—and his blood sugar is high, we talk about trying just a little harder. This is part of our strategy to help him adjust to the real world. We talk about it. We praise him for trying even when he doesn’t feel well. We try to be empathetic but realistic about what will be expected of him as he gets older and his responsibilities are increased. We try to take just one step at a time.

It is true that our kids will need to adjust to the “real world.” It is my opinion that the best kinds of adjustments are made as children practice becoming gradually more capable of handling responsibility, a little at a time. This works best for James anyway! What about for you and yours?

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

Related topics:
People in the Know: Low Blood Sugar and Bad Behavior
In the Spotlight: Discipline and Type 1 Diabetes
In the Spotlight: When Children Become Tweens

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