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January 8, 2002

Behavior

Question from West Virginia, USA:

My five year old son, who was diagnosed at 18 months old, sometimes "steals" food instead of asking me for a snack. It all started about a year ago when he stole a brownie and hid it in his room. He has only snuck a couple of things without asking, but I am not sure what to do about it and how to stop this from escalating. He just recently got onto the insulin pump, so I thought that this would not be a problem anymore, but it is at times. I allow him to have whatever the other kids at school are having, and I don't deny him snacks when he is hungry. I thought because I do allow him to have what he wants, within reason, that this would never be a problem. I have tried to explain to him that when he takes food without my knowledge, that I don't know to give him insulin, and he will get sick from a high blood sugar. I think I am just scaring him more then anything else. I don't want to scare him, but I don't want this to continue. What can I do or say to make him understand that he cannot take food and steal it without my knowledge? Can you please give me any advice you may have! It is just so hard, and I don't want this problem to escalate any further.

Answer:

It sounds like you’ve already told your child that there’s no reason to sneak as there’s no reason to avoid any foods. However, it might be helpful to review this with your child one more time. Perhaps you both can agree that your child will write-down (or draw a picture of) any foods he eats that are not at the scheduled meal/snack time. That way you’ll know why some numbers may be different than you’d expected and can try to fit that food into his meal or snack the next time he wants it. Please do not try and scare him or threaten that he’ll get sick with a high blood sugar. Not only will this not change his behavior, it may cause him to be even less willing to be honest with you. This is particularly true since having a high number does not necessarily make you sick, and then he might think you’re lying to him.

You might wish to read the book entitled Sweet Kids: How to Balance Diabetes Control & Good Nutrition with Family Peace by Betty Brackenridge and Richard Rubin. It’s published by the American Diabetes Association.

If these strategies are not helpful, please seek the advice of a mental health professional with expertise in diabetes. Ask your local diabetes team and/or your local ADA office for referrals.

JWB