Tracy, it would mean the world to me if you read my entire message to the end! A reply would also be the best and sweetest thing ever! <3
Normally I’m a private, timid and soft-spoken person. But, Ima be real real with you, because I have T1D and was diagnosed at 14, and I used to have a boss who was going through what sounds like exactly the same situation. I tried to gently guide her about how to help her then 13 year old son,but she was a stubborn, mean, mean mom. My dad is the same way, and when I was diagnosed I was also taken to a dialysis clinic, and a retirement home where he called ahead to make sure someone with amputated feet was there. My boss once yelled at her son for a low blood sugar “if you want to kill your self just use a gun. It’ll be faster and we can all move on with our lives.” Then she had the nerve to ask me why I though he wouldn’t dose for eating. Umm…because he has no motivation to live because you told him you want him to kill him self. Duh. I wasn’t brave enough to tell that T1D mom what a bad parent she was and that the things she was doing were in humane, cruel, and building strong and deserved resentment. I haven’t talked to my dad in 12 years, and the way he handled my Diabetes formed a significant part of how I perceive him. My parents withheld my permit and license saying vague statements like “until your sugars are better”. How on earth is he supposed to try to reach an imperceptible goal with no real markers or ways of measuring it? My parents held off until I became more unbearable than their fear, and I snuck out to parties and places I shouldn’t have gone to spite them, then lied to them about everything. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SON!! And right now, you are doing some things right and a TON of things wrong. But, you still have time to change your actions and actually give him a fighting chance to have a healthy life. I’m going to tell you 4 rules for parenting a T1D teen I wish my parents had known.
First: DO NOT do any of the cruel things I mentioned above. It is unfair, depressing, scarring, and frightening to a child who already has an unfair, depressing, scarring, and frightening disease. They’ll hate you for it and it will do the opposite of teaching them how to live a healthy life with the disease.
Second: FORGET the words “putting my foot down”, “consequences”, and “punish”. You used them before in this thread and that HAS TO STOP NOW!! The words you know now are “praise”, “reward”, and “prizes”!! Again, he already has a disease and feels different, you as his mother should NEVER pile onto his burden. I know you are scared but don’t take it out on him. It isn’t his fault. At all.
Third: Give him what he wants. Well, not exactly. 2 points here, I’ll go into more on the fourth piece of advice. So, if kids his age are getting to go on a trip, he gets to go. If they all start getting their driving permits, he gets his too. He didn’t choose Diabetes and no one else has the fun parts of their youth withheld for an arbitrary reason. If you are worried about his driving, tell him that he can only use the car once he texts you his blood sugar and let’s you know he is leaving a place. He should also be required to text when he gets to where he is going. These are normal rules for any teen driver and you should also make sure your daughter has to follow the same rules: texting you before leaving and when arriving at a destination, never when driving. Withholding a driving privlage is a reasonable consequence for not following a driving rule, like texting you when leaving and arriving, and hopefully that’ll put your anxiety somewhat to rest. If not, you gotta learn to cope with your fear because your fear isn’t his problem, it’s yours. If you are worried about him going on a school trip, keep that to yourself. That’s your worry and you need to deal with it, it isn’t his job to rid you of your worry.
Fourth and finally: GIVE HIM WHAT HE WANTS!! What do you want? D.U.H. You want him to check his sugars and keep them in line and dose for everything he eats so his A1C is less than 7 so that he doesn’t have complications, right? He wants that too, but he doesn’t know how to do it and can’t seem to learn and keeps getting beat down for not being able to do something he hasn’t been reasonably taught to do. So, sit down with him and let him know what he needs to do in order to be healthy. Then take one aspect of Diabetes management (and there are so so so overwhelmingly many parts you’ll never run out of things to reward him for) and say you are going to work on it together. Ask him if there is something that he really really wants. For example, say he wants a drone real bad. Get together a chart to keep track of when he eats and when he doses. Set a reasonable goal and give him a sticker or check mark for every time he eats and doses (NO MATTER WHAT HE EATS - type 1 diabetics can eat whatever we want as long as we take insulin. Over time will eating a ton of junk make you fat? Yes, like it would with any person. But you aren’t working on him staying trim right now, your working on dosing when eating), and ignore the times he doesn’t dose but eats something. If they are more frequent than times he eats and doesn’t dose, point out the chart and the drone. If that doesn’t work, check in with him gently and see if the goal feels unreachable or if he still wants a drone. You can change those things around, and will probably have to if he is depressed like many diabetic teens. STICK WITH IT and modify it until his goal feels reachable with some additional effort from him. Once he reaches the goal, even if you’ve moved the goal post 10 times, he will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and he will also get his drone and be super happy because of that! Then, do it all over again until it is a habit for him. Then you can move on to checking sugars regularly, eating healthy foods, for the next few years before he goes to college.
Objections some parents may have include:
Why should I reward him for doing something he is supposed to do? My mean boss asked me this, and I tried to tell her why but she wouldn’t listen. The reason is Because that is how people learn new habits and skills, and because he wasn’t “supposed” to get diabetes so he can’t be expected to just handle it. Rewarding the behavior you want increases the frequency of the behavior. It’s been proven again and again and again.
His sister will get jealous if he gets all this stuff:
It wasn’t fair that he got Diabetes, it isn’t fair that he gets rewards and she doesn’t, life isn’t fair. It’s true and they were going to learn it eventually.
What am I, made of money?: a drone, a trip to Disneyland, or a car will all cost less than years of emergency room visits, hospitals stays, and counseling for depression that’ll come if you don’t teach him how to manage his disease and cope with it. If you can’t afford the thing he really wants, just reward him with cash and he can save up for whatever he wants. Cash is very motivating to teenagers.
This will take forever!: Sadly we all have the rest of our lives to learn to manage and cope with this disease. The plan outlined above is the one outlined in almost all of the Diabetic management books, behavior modification books, and many peer reviewed studies. Your current behavior of punishing and telling him about the dangers of diabetes obviously aren’t working, so change them. Google “positive reinforcement resources” to get some free resources.
Ok, so sorry for being so blunt if it hurt your feelings. I’m 30 and am just now learning how to manage and cope with my diabetes. I have to make my own sticker sheets and withhold something I want from myself until I reach a goal!! It’s MUCH harder to learn now, and I wish my parents had known how to teach someone a habit. I also wish I had told my dad and ex boss that they a terrible parents for treating their children like they did. But, I was too shy and scared to tell my boss at the time. And my father would not listen or care or accept any responsibility. I feel so much pity for my ex-boss’s poor son, and for all her children. I worry that one day he will just kill himself like she told him to and I never stood up to her.
If you read the whole post, thank you so much! I’m not really mean, but I think some blunt talk about what needs to change is needed here. Remember, if nothing changes, then nothing changes! You can only change your behavior, not his, but by reinforcing good behavior it will become more frequent, it’s scientifically proven.