I have no problem forcing my kids to do a lot of things. There are certain things in this life that we just have to do, and the earlier they learn that, the better. For instance, they really don’t have a choice about whether they brush their teeth, get dressed in the morning, go to school, or do their homework. They don’t have a choice about whether or not they clean up after themselves, and I’m not going to allow them to have dessert without also eating nutritious foods or go into unsafe places or situations without proper supervision.
There are also a lot of things that really don’t matter, and I’m more than happy to let the kids have choices in those areas. For example, my oldest son Daniel really doesn’t like eating hot dogs. I’m not going to force him to eat a hot dog, because really, they’re not very nutritious. Another example: Our whole family just decided to go to the movies to see the biggest new animated movie. My younger son, Jonathan, and I are sitting at home right now, because he saw a preview for the movie, and for some reason he feels really nervous about watching it. Yeah, I’m bummed that I’m not there watching it right now, but again—not going to force it.
Lots of other areas provide the kids opportunities to make choices—riding roller coasters, choosing what clothes to wear (within reason), what kinds of books to read, what games to play or sports to participate in … I could go on and on. I might strongly encourage something for the sake of family together-time, or because I think it would be to their benefit, or simply to get them to try new things. But most of the time, I’m not going to force their decisions on any of these non-crucial choices.
Unfortunately, Kaitlyn really doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she manages her type 1 diabetes. It’s a simple truth for her that if she doesn’t keep her blood sugar levels somewhat in range, she may not be healthy enough to be able to make a lot of other choices in life. For this reason, we try to allow her as many choices within her diabetes care as we can. The question becomes not IF you take care of it, but HOW will you take care of it? Let me give you a few examples …
- Kaitlyn needs insulin. She gets to choose (with a lot of help from Mom and Dad) how to get that insulin. She’s been on a pump for over three years now, and she loves it, because it gives her more freedom around eating and she can get corrections without always getting shots. She will, however, choose shots sometimes rather than getting a new pump site right away. We usually leave this choice up to her.
- If Kaitlyn’s blood sugar goes low, she needs to treat it with fast-acting sugar. In most cases, she gets to choose where the sugar comes from—juice, candy, glucose tabs, frosting, soda, chocolate milk, etc.
- If Kaitlyn’s numbers go high, she needs insulin. She gets to choose from all kinds of activities to do while she waits for her blood sugar to come back into range. Her favorite is doing craft activities. And if she has to delay having a special snack because of high blood sugar, she loves getting her “treat pass” to turn in later for whatever kind of treat she wants.
- Kaitlyn carries all kinds of gear around—her pump, her continuous glucose monitor (CGM), her glucose meter. She gets to choose how she carries it—she has tons of belts, purses, and cases that she can choose from, and one of her favorite things to shop for online is cute new purses to use.
Give it a try with your own kiddo. Try to give a choice with every task, and see if it helps to maintain a positive attitude despite the never-ending challenges these kids with type 1 face. I know it helps for us!
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.