Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Disciplining and Diabetes.

It is the elephant in the room. It is what every mother of a child with type 1 diabetes dreads. How can we discipline our children when they have such a burden to bear? How can we discipline a child who is high or low...especially when that high or low was from boluses that came from our very own hands?

Don't they deserve some mercy? Their gene pool didn't give them any, the world isn't giving them any...

Isn't it my job as a mother to give them a break?

How can I discipline a child who bears the world of this 24 hour disease on their little shoulders. A child who single handedly captures my heart as he smiles through tears during a set change? The child that already suffers, and struggles, and needs my support and love more than anything in this world?

This is how...

I want you to think about the people you know in your life. People you KNOW. People you have met, who you have spent time with...people throughout your life that somewhere in the attic of your brain, you have filed away relationships with.

Now...what percentage of these people have problems?

I hope you said 100%. Because if you didn't, then maybe you don't know these people as well as you think you do. Or maybe you have kidded yourself into thinking that other people, who do not have disease, have perfect lives.

Everyone has problems. Their problems can be intricate, they can be simple, they can be heartbreaking, they can be terrifying, they can be hidden...more problems are hidden than are not.

Now think of your children. Do you think that life is only going to hand them problems that relate directly to diabetes? Can we say that our children's hand has been dealt? That they stood in line and received the burden of diabetes and they are free to forget everything else?

Unfortunately, I can answer that one for you with a definitive no.

Is it fair?

As a mother, I would have to say no.

But life has a way of moving on no matter what your disease. No matter what our ailment. No matter what is fair.

Life continues...and the burdens of life are like the smoke of a fire. It gloms into the pours of our souls and can't be washed away with emotion...or fairness.

Our children must be prepared to live as adults in this world of drama and confusion.

They will be handed more problems to solve.

They need to learn how to work with people who are rude.

They need to learn how to take care of their bodies and their surroundings.

Even though they have diabetes, they still need to know how to make their bed and put the dishes in the sink.

Our children need to grow up and learn the same lessons everyone does. They need to know that it isn't ok to hit their brother, or it isn't ok to scream and have a tantrum when they are no longer a toddler.

I've struggled with this issue for years...because I'm not a callous human being. I love my bundle of joys more than my own life. Punishing them is the LAST thing I want to do.

But I made a mental list of rules...and my children know that no matter how cruddy they feel...some things are just not ok.

I feel strongly it is our responsibility as parents not only to raise responsible diabetics, but responsible adults that don't feel like they are owed anything.

Because the world doesn't give a yankee doodle dandy that our children have diabetes.

So when I punish, (which honestly doesn't consist of more than timeouts and privileges taken away,) even though it hurts me as much as it hurts them, (or more,)...I KNOW...I am doing the right thing. I know that I would have given them a time out if they didn't have diabetes...so why wouldn't they deserve one even with diabetes?

Maybe, because of diabetes, I'm kinder about it all. If I believe it has anything to do with their blood sugar numbers I give them a hug first. I let them know, that I know, they aren't feeling well. I give them insulin, or food...or water...and then I leave them in their time out. Because it isn't ok to turn your anger onto the people around you. It isn't ok to take your stomach ache out on your brothers.

I'm not pretending that I have it all figured out...I've made my share of mistakes.

Hand to heaven...I fail a lot, or at least I feel like I do.

But it is the question I get asked the most.

And my answer always is...if your child is acting in a way that is not acceptable...than it isn't acceptable. Even if his or her sugar is whacked out. Sure, they are allowed to be grumpy. Sure, they are allowed to vocalize the miserableness of this disease...but there are lines that you need to draw. And when you do, you can't feel like you are adding more weight to your child's shoulders.

Because in fact, you are taking the weight away. As adults they will thank you for allowing them to feel...but at the same time, not allowing them to walk all over you.

I've had to dethrone the king before. It is not easy...not even a little. But if your prince or princess has taken over the palace...and they are no longer a toddler...it is time.

It isn't your fault they have diabetes.

It isn't your fault.

It isn't your fault.

No, it isn't their fault either, but setting limits is ok.

You will find one day, that it is the kinder thing to do.


  1. So, I read and read and read....my mouth drops and drops and drops in amazement. How is it you can write something so damn perfect Meri??? Beautifully said and I agree 100%.

  2. Amen sista! I don't want Justin to grow up thinking that he is "owed". He's not. He was given a challenge that he has handled better than most adults(ie me) could. I can only hope that I do something right when it comes to teaching him.

  3. Perfectly said, as always. You're right... we aren't doing them any favours by letting them get away with bad behavoir. But yeah... it sucks having to do it.

  4. Amen! And a standing ovation Meri! I totally agree.
    Joe S (Polish last name I cannot spell) of Johnson and Johnson, who I have heard speak on this sort of topic (and he has Type 1 himself) says the same thing.
    Great post. This is the hard stuff no one talks about. Thanks for talking about it.

  5. I could not agree more. Perfect.

    It is so hard to balance, but you are so right. And as much as I want Liam to feel loved and happy and take good care of his diabetes, I also believe that the bigger job is delivering him through the challenge it leaves us with to be a good and responsible human being.

  6. I agree! Thanks for this post...I need to print it out to post on my wall somewhere. :)

  7. Great post. I know this is something my mother belived in raising me as a diabetic child in the 60s and something we tried to with out child in the 80s. He turned out to be a great adult, so we must have been successful. That's really all you can hope for-that they turn out well and happy.

  8. Thank you for this! My kids are only 2 but I'm mentally preparing for all the things I know I need to do to be a good mom as things get more challenged in the sense that my expectations of them will increase and such. I really agree with your point of view! I was raised along with three non diabetic siblings and another diabetic sister and sometimes I thought, "Why do I get treated like my siblings who don't have diabetes? I already suffer more!" But you know what? Just as you mentioned, the real world does not care what is going on, it treats me the same and because I learned from my parents that I am still responsible for my own actions, I now feel that they did me a big favor in life and I am eternally grateful :)

  9. When J got dxed, Dr in hospital said.."remember you're raise a child with diabetes not a diabetic child".

    Great post!

  10. AMEN!! This is so beautiful, thank you!

  11. Absolutely! Our kids benefit in the end. And not just the end, but the here and now as well. It's definitely a tough issue that should be discussed more often.

  12. Meri you have such a beautiful way of writing! I absolutely agree that our children should be disciplined and that we would not be doing them any favors by treating them differently. (By the way, this is something that my mind has known but my heart doesn't want to agree with :)

  13. I was just thinking to myself yesterday 'Meri hasn't posted in a while. She must be mulling over something 'big' and it's gonna be awesome'
    Yep and yep!
    It's a tough line to tow but it must be done, D or not. Yes, there is some grace when numbers come into play, but a free ticket for brattiness is it not.
    :) rockin it as usual!

  14. oh meri, such a beautiful and honest post. i agree with all you've said here, though i've never put it all into words as well as you have here. thank you so much for sharing.

  15. Meri, you are a wonderful writer and this was a superb post! Thanks for giving words to some of the guilt I have felt when disciplining my daughter. I am also a diabetic and my mother never "cut me any slack" for the dx. Her guidance helped me learn to function through highs and lows while juggling other life issues, like work and school. As my mom would say, "Life doesn't stop for your injection so you better keep up." I used to consider her words harsh, but I now know her love made me strong! Thanks for this post - it hit home!
    Tammy Rambler

  16. I may need to come back and read this again, and again, and again...we deal with this situation on many levels in our home. Especially with MIL feeling that her son still "deserves" a break from facing his behavior when he is high/low...I say NO WAY. This is how we're trying it in our home, it's tough, but darn it I want to make sure that our kiddos know we're doing more than just raising them to feel their behavior is excusable. We want them to know that they are responsible, amazing people that have so much to offer that no disease, stomach, headache, heartache or what not can be used as an excuse for unkindness, cruelty or plain ol' being mean. Thanks for this post Meri. I hope your summer is going great ;)

  17. written perfectly. I admit I feel guilty when disciplining and our BG is not in range, but I do it anyway because as you said "if your child is acting in a way that is not acceptable...than it isn't acceptable." simple.

  18. Yes, yes, YES! Beautifully said, as always. This is exactly how we approach discipline with Isabel. You are absolutely right!

  19. So well said! Thanks for another amazing post!!! :)

  20. Amen Meri ---- wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post. It is sometimes hard but really I just always think about the greater goal.

    Hey - I heart you! Just sayin'!

  21. Even for a toddler, this all holds true! Awesome post - thank you. :)


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