Your Child’s ‘BAD NUMBERS’…….They Must Try Harder…….Right?????

Bad numberThere is a commercial on the air that shows when a woman receives a report from her Doctor and her cholesterol (bad) has dropped,  she is ecstatic.  She high-fives the world……and goes bowling; she is very happy.

When it comes to diabetes and numbers, I have always thought it better to take a different approach.  When Kaitlyn was younger, each time she checked her blood sugar, we tried our hardest to show no reaction and always just thanked her for taking care of herself…… served us well.

Here is my cautionary tale to all parents.  My disclaimer here is that you may disagree with me, and perhaps even disagree strongly, but what I want to do today is start a dialogue.  I WANT TO KNOW what you do and why.  You would be surprised on how many times I am told by PM or in an email, “I don’t really respond online anywhere, but I read everything.”   So here we go.

In as much as good numbers seem worthy to shout from a mountain top and posting pictures of your child holding a meter with a number like 92; my question has always been; what happens when your child is 341? When you don’t shout about those numbers….what else can your child think but that THEY failed.

Now hear me out.

I’m all for 1000% positive reinforcement for any child.  Lord knows how much I love kids and would do anything to make their lives easier.  I’m not asking this question to you, from your point of view………I want you to think of it from their point of view.

If you tout a great number or a great A1C number, undoubtedly there will be times when a less than optimum number will be present…..if you build up one it is only natural that your child will feel like they failed when that not-so-good-number shows up.


There is nothing they could do to prevent this disease.  So if given the choice, if they are trying (I leave that to you to define) their best; the number should not matter in relation to doing well or not.  The number is a gauge that allows them to adjust.  The number is a means to correct something going on inside their body.  I cannot warn strong enough, to be very careful how you reflect that number on your child—–good or bad.  Because if you highlight the good, the bad will be taken to heart.

Think about it.  “Great number honey.”  “Wow, one hundred; way to go.”  “What a great day of numbers you are having.”  “GREAT! Second number in a row below 120…good job honey.”

And what happens when the numbers do not reflect so good?

(             we —– say —–nothing            )

What is your child to think?  However if you think of something to say, for the simple reason they are checking their blood sugar to make sure they are staying healthy (over simplified, I know) as a positive reinforcement—-fabulous.

My dear friend Dr. Richard Rubin, and truly the world’s best at the psyche of diabetes and children, told me once that after we check Kaitlyn’s blood, to ask her why she thought the number was what it was; 100 or 280?  Of course depending on how high or how low matters when to ask that question but his point was clear; do whatever we could so that the number had no direct reflection on our child……..because even if ‘they were bad all morning’ eating what they were not supposed to (geared to the teen years)—it’s STILL NOT THEIR fault they HAVE TO EAT a certain way.

Now I never stated this would be easy.  We have all gone through the teen years and it is very difficult when they are not doing what they ‘are supposed to be’ doing.  But when it comes to diabetes, IT IS NOT THE SAME as clean up your room.  If your child ‘shuts you out’ because you have made THEIR diabetes YOUR mission to correct them at every turn——-your voice will be ‘muted-out’ as they get older.

Be creative.  Dr. Rubin (Lord, how I miss this man) stated to always make it about choices.  As fast as possible, change out the focus on the number with asking them what they should do about it?  “You are 325, should you take insulin, or just a glass of water?” (and ask them why).   The younger they are, the simpler you make it……..but make it about choices.  “You are 100, do we need to do anything?”

After a while, these questions will become their questions which they can, and will, address themselves.  When it comes to diabetes, I always tell people numbers are a gauge……make sure your child is not taking them as their reason for failure. The more you celebrate those ‘good numbers’, they will most assuredly take the ‘bad numbers’ in a way that they are doing something wrong.  Easy? No.  In the long run it will serve them much better.   Leave reflections to the mirror.

I am a diabetes dad.

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12 replies on “Your Child’s ‘BAD NUMBERS’…….They Must Try Harder…….Right?????”

Totally agree! It’s no a bad number or a good number it is just information that needs to be acted upon. Doing a BG check and taking appropriate action is what we celebrate.

We don’t really celebrate good or bad numbers. We don’t even call them “good” or “bad”. For us there are “high”, “normal” and “low” numbers, that’s all. We merely use them as a means to determine what we are doing wrong or right. When the number is normal we ask ourselves why? And take notes of what was done i.e. He drank water, went for a bike ride, swam at the pool, had kept a balanced eating schedule etc. When the number is high we review what he ate and when he ate it. When the number is low, we look at his level of activity, school work, personal issues and eating schedules.
Why do we do this? It’s been only 2 months since his diagnosis, (we still count as “new” to this), and by asking those questions and keeping track of the outcome we have been learning what affects his BG levels and how. For example, stress makes most people BG level sky rocket but it makes him go low; drinking water between meals helps him process the carbs tremendously, fried chicken and french fries take him longer to process than pasta or boiled potatoes.

We don’t praise or scold the number, we praise or scold what he does or neglects about his care. The number is just a number, a gauge of sorts, it does not define or control him.

I love this attitude and the feedback question, it gets the focus off the number and begins shifting the responsibility onto the child. My son is 12, diagnosed March 2013, and he’s really good at figuring doses but I’d think him to start figuring what to do with the numbers. The other day he opted not to have a milkshake with his meal because it had so many carbs and chose a small ice cream later after walking around a shopping plaza for a while first. That thrilled me more than any “good” number could have.

I love this attitude and the feedback question, it gets the focus off the number and begins shifting the responsibility onto the child. My son is 12, diagnosed March 2013, and he’s really good at figuring doses but I’d think him to start figuring what to do with the numbers.

When our daughter was younger we always used the metaphor that the bg numbers were like a GPS – they told us where to go and what to do next. It still works today. We try very hard to instill healthy choices in food, exercise and lifestyle – maintining “perfect” bg control sometimes is not possible despite doing ALL the right things. Thanks for this post!

I agree fully. But what happens when you get a letter from the hospital saying to your eight year old…”sofia your long term test HbA1c has increased again to 71 mmiss which is getting too high ideally this should be in the fifties”
Of course we know it is too high, but illness and severe anxiety attacks make it hard to manage. She is now saying she doesn’t care because no matter how hard we try, it’s never good enough.
We have been trying to get a CGM since last October and we both feel we have failed 🙁

Failed according to whom? If you KNOW you are doing all you can; what else can you do? But ask yourself honestly. The ‘gauge’ needs to be adjusted, so work diligently to adjust as needed. With proper medical guidance always, of course, but doing ‘everything’ you can is a relative term. If you need to take a few steps back and re-look at everything to figure out what will and can work—-feel free to do so. A letter should not throw you into a tizzy—-keep at it. No one should MAKE YOU feel any way……ask questions, to your health team, to others who DO/MIGHT know, and others. Very little of anything in our diabetes word is completely new…..someone has experienced what you have……find them and talk to them. You are doing GREAT….do not let anyone tell you otherwise…….but keep asking until you find what YOU NEED. Good luck.

This post feels like it was written to wake me up. I still let numbers dictate my mood, my day, etc. My wife, the best diabetes partner, always reminds me to not let is show as our 2.5 year old (diagnosed at 14 Mo) is starting to see how it happens. This post is a huge tool for us and I thank you. Any other tips on how to just let the numbers be just that…numbers? Any words of advice how to take that next step, personally? We are starting to share numbers with him and decisions based on numbers. Thanks for sharing.

I nodded all the way through reading this. Well done! It’s so true. The numbers are not the child and often have no reflection on what the child has done. We sometimes guess what they are going to be and then laugh when we are so wrong yet the day before the same activities, same food, same mood gave a completely different reading.

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