Here's how to get difficult children to cooperate:
• Avoid physical struggles. If you start holding a youngster down to give him medicine, you may have to do it again and again. If you find you are physically forcing a youngster to take his medicine on a regular basis, this may be a sign that you should talk with your doctor, nurse or social worker for professional advice.
• Explain how medicine helps children get well. Young children don't always understand how medicine works. You could explain it by simply saying, "This medicine will help you feel better so you can go back to the playground." You could also mention what the medicine is accomplishing: "You didn't wake up at all last night. That's because the medicine took your pain away."
• Explain the consequences. If a youngster refuses to take medicine, explain that he is making a choice that has consequences. You could say, ‘I see you're choosing to stay in the house and not go outside and play until you take this medicine.’ If you're trying to get out the door you might say, 'I see you're choosing to have me give you the medicine, instead of taking it yourself.'
• Give medications at the same time and place. It helps to create a designated spot in your house for giving medicine and to create a routine. To stay on schedule, put a checklist on the refrigerator or your youngster's door. With every dose of medication, have your youngster make a check or put a sticker on the list.
• If your youngster still resists, give him an "out." Before you take away a privilege, try giving your youngster an "out" or suggest taking a short break. This allows him to save face and regroup, physically and emotionally. Perhaps you just take a moment and give your youngster a hug, or get a drink of water and briefly break the cycle. But make sure that a five-minute break is only five minutes long.
• Let another adult take over. For children who are truly resistant, parents might divide the responsibility of who gives the medicine. This gives one parent a necessary break and helps the youngster realize that both parents are capable of handling this.
• Make the medication taste better, if your doctor approves. Sometimes keeping liquid medications cold makes them more palatable. And if your doctor allows, you can also put medicine in juice or add flavorings to it. Ask your doctor and pharmacist if the medication will taste bad, and if it's safe to add a flavoring. You can also inquire if it's safe to mix a liquid medicine with juice or food. But check with your doctor or nurse practitioner to make sure, before you do. Orange juice is often used to conceal bad-tasting medicine.
• Offer choices whenever you can. Taking medicine is non-negotiable, but other things are. Even the simplest choices give the youngster a needed sense of control over the situation and over his body. Offer two simple choices, such as, "Do you want the medicine before you get dressed or after?" or, "Would you like apple, orange or grape juice with your medicine?"
Mark Hutten, M.A.
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