Discipline and Chronic Illness

February 25, 2012 by Rieshy

Warring Factors

All young children, well at least all my children, have been known to throw fits.  When a young child is prone to hypoglycemia how do you determine on the fly, and in real time how to deal with both the fit and possible treatment needs?

Most importantly how do you deal with misbehavior in a chronically ill child that does not:
  1.  emphasis their illness.
  2.  create an atmosphere in which illness becomes an excuse, or a manipulation point.
  3. put them at increased physical risk.
All while:
  1. maintaining an atmosphere of love and trust.
  2. keeping the home "fair" for healthy siblings.
  3. enabling the child to grow in their abilities to self-regulate along normal developmental lines.
A 6 year old arguing intractably with his younger brother over Lego property rights that escalates into screaming and crying can be a normal, albeit unpleasant, sibling squabble.  Or it can be the beginning of a medical emergency.

At my house I have to remind myself that an ill child has no more right to be abusive than a healthy child.  They may have more cause, but not more right.  I've been a parent for 20 years but dealing with my chronically ill youngest two children has required that I develop whole new skill-sets.  

What we have worked out at our house is this- when either of my affected children fall apart they are automatically sent to bed for a moment alone With 4 oz of milk.*  No exceptions.  

In this way, possible blood sugar issues are taken care of without fuss and without introducing the notion that they can't help their behavior.  Without suggestion that their older siblings have to coddle unreasonableness.  

If their metabolic system is indeed responsible for the majority of a fit, there is invariably a second fit about drinking the milk.  If you have not seen a person in hypoglycemic-induced irrationality it is hard to describe just how suddenly and extremely they can freak out.  It is as if you are suggesting that they drink poison.  Once I get milk or some sort of sugar into them, fit over.  They can then take some extra time in private to pull themselves together without being embarrassed in front of siblings.

If the fit was not due to a metabolic issue, but a behavioral or maturity issue, time alone to adjust and regroup is still valuable.  The action of drinking the milk creates a concrete time period in which the child has to stay segregated.  

Either way, poor behavior is not treated as acceptable.  But the framework within which this must take place is a framework of general obedience.   I have to keep my household running in a way that teaches self-discipline and self-control among all the inhabitants, including myself.  And most importantly I have to teach my children to obey me.  Tall order- one that I'm constantly working on and often failing at.

It's also quite an old-fashioned notion.  

But the instinct to obey must be knee-jerk enough in my affected sons that in the midst of a hypoglycemic fit the instinct to obey wars with the irrational fight-state.  Which gives added dimension to one of the 10 commandments:

"Obey your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land."

because it really is a matter of life and death.

*My children are not diabetic.  Their hypoglycemia is due to a different underlying metabolic disorder- see sidebar.  This is simply what works right now for our family.



CristyLynn said...

GREAT POST! (and I'm not shouting at you, I'm just happy to reading someone else's thoughts about this. As Isaiah's been getting older and realizing that he has his own opinions, we've been dealing with how to discipline him appropriately as well. How do you help your extended family understand your discipline and how to join you rather than work against you? I'd love to know!

CristyLynn said...

Oh, and there was supposed to be a closed parenthesis after the first period. I do know some simple grammar rules. I'm just a little tired. We're waiting through Isaiah's surgery right now. It was an early morning.

Rieshy said...

Exactly Cristy! Only our older children have baby-sat our Littles. -Even they will sometimes be perplexed about a tantrum, and I have to remind them, FEED HIM!

I don't know what the surgery is, but I'll pray anyway, Blessings!

Melanie said...

This is a really good idea, chronically ill child or not. Why do I see all the good stuff now that my kids are 21 and 18!?! Can I get a do over?

CristyLynn said...

Susan, thanks for your prayers. I'm finally getting back to your blog to check for comments. :) It's been a rough week with slow improvement, but there has been improvement.
Isaiah had VEPTR surgery, placing titanium rods in his back that will be able to be extended as he grows. The goal is to keep his scoliosis from progressing so that in the future we can do a spinal fusion. Oh so fun.

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