Stacey Simms -- "Rewards"
When we found out Benny had type 1 diabetes, the doctor told us to be careful about rewards. While it might seem tempting to offer gold stars and prizes for checking blood sugar and giving injections, Dr. V pointed out those tasks would have to become routine. We didn't want to be in a situation a few months later where we’d have to buy Benny a pony to get him to be compliant.
We laughed, but it was very good advice. Benny wasn’t yet two when we started poking his fingers and jabbing him with needles every day. Quite often, friends and family would ask me how we could possibly do it. "It must break your heart." Sure it did. It still does. But it has to be done and we all got used to the new routine.
It's been more than six years and we have found a few situations where, to us, a reward makes sense. Important changes that can seem overwhelming to my little guy are helped along by the thought of something fun. Changing the location of Benny’s inset is a good example. He'd only ever had it on his backside,so transitioning first to his lower back and then to his side was worth a trip to the Lego store.
We don't reward for "good" blood sugar numbers or A1Cs. We say the only bad number is the one we don't know. Benny understands that out of range isn’t a great place to be, but he's only eight; I don't want him to get upset or stop checking because he's worried about "bad" results.
I knew our most recent challenge would likely require a little help. I'd given Dr. V a heads-up that Benny was only checking his ring and little fingers. Benny does his own BG checks (unless I’m around and mommy-itis kicks in) and he had decided all the other fingers hurt. The four fingers he always checked looked just awful. Dr. V and Benny had a nice, calm discussion and agreed he’d give those fingers a break for six weeks.
Of course, as soon as we got in the car, Benny was upset. "This is going to be really hard," he said. I knew it would be, so we agreed on an incentive. If Benny could check his other fingers for the six weeks, we'd get him the Lego Minecraft set he'd been asking for. Lego + Minecraft = 8 year old boy nirvana. Now, he was excited.
But, that night, Benny was really scared that his other fingers would hurt. Like you, I probably have 6 or 7 different lancing devices in the diabetes cabinet, so we dug one out we'd picked up somewhere (probably a JDRF walk). I'd heard the smaller needle hurts less. We convinced Benny to try it and it really worked! Six weeks later, he made it through beautifully and he loves the Minecraft Legos (there's even a creeper!). I hate that we're always asking him to do something else for diabetes, but I know that's the way it has to be, and he always steps it up.
Dr. V. was right that first day. If I had my way, I wouldn’t stop at the Legos. I want to throw Benny a party for every diabetes milestone. I want confetti to drop every time he stops playing to check his blood sugar and a special guest-star celebrity high-five whenever changing his inset hurts. When it comes to rewards, I'm way beyond a pony. How much for a Porsche?