My child started sneaking food! What should I do? Should I punish him? This is LIFE THREATENING. He could cause permanent damage! How do I teach him?? If this sounds like your house, let me tell you a story.
“Sneaking food” is a common problem that parents of children with t1d struggle with.
Frankly, I don’t like the term “sneaking”. It seems like they’re doing something intentional and wrong.
Whether it’s intentional or not, it can turn into a serious problem. So what do you do when you find out your child is sneaking food?
For me, the answer is simple…
The maple syrup incident
My 7-year-old son came up to me and said, “Mom, I’m going to tell you the truth.”
Oh great, this should be good. I wonder what he’s done.
“What is the truth buddy?”
“I accidentally spilled the maple syrup in the pantry.”
It was mid-afternoon. His siblings were playing in their room. We were not eating. It was not snack time. He had recently checked his blood sugar and it had been high at 16.8 (about 302 by US measurements). So what was he doing with the maple syrup?
My assumption was that he was trying to eat it.
As we walked over to the pantry, I asked what he was doing with the maple syrup.
He said, “I don’t know.”
I don’t know
I hate that phrase. It means he does know, but he knows he’ll get in trouble for the real answer.
I raised my eyebrow at him questioning the legitimacy of his answer. Then I looked in the pantry.
The maple syrup was back on the shelf where it belonged, but there was a puddle of brown, sticky, goo on the floor. There was a napkin in the middle of the puddle. He had tried to cover up his mistake, realized he didn’t know how to clean it up, and finally decided to fess up.
“So… were you eating maple syrup?” I asked him.
“Yes. I was going to, but then it spilled.”
What do you do when your child starts sneaking food?
- Stay calm. Getting angry and accusing your child of doing something wrong will not get you anywhere. Try to respond rather than react.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t assume what the situation is without the facts. If you decide that they are “sneaking” when they were really planning on grabbing a snack and checking their blood sugar, it could deter them from coming to you in the future.
- Remind them of the house rules. If it’s a rule that they don’t snack at a certain time or don’t eat certain things (eg: we don’t eat maple syrup!), remind them that it’s a rule. Also, it can help to point out that Mom and Dad or siblings don’t get to do these things either… seriously, we don’t eat maple syrup.
- Use “in the future” examples. “This didn’t work very well. Next time, let me know that you’re hungry and we can find a healthy snack for you instead.” Or “an apple was a really healthy choice! In the future, you have to remember to check your blood sugar and bolus for your food. If you’re not sure how many grams it is or how much insulin to give, I can help you.”
- Discuss different approaches. Talk to your child about why they were sneaking food. Maybe there’s something simple that you can do to help like putting a cheat sheet of common snacks with carb counts on the fridge and pantry doors. Listen to their ideas, they may have a solution in mind.
- Get them to repeat. Have your child reiterate what the issue was and how to better handle the situation in the future.
Back to the Maple Syrup
The punishment was more of a discussion.
I asked him if he had done this before. I mentioned that he knew he was high as he had just checked his blood sugar about 30 minutes ago. I pointed out that people don’t tend to eat maple syrup out of the bottle (no judgment if you do though!!)
We talked while we cleaned. We talked about how his siblings would not be allowed to eat maple syrup out of the bottle either.
I told him that I appreciated him telling me about it, but that he should have done that rather than trying to clean it up himself.
Yes, he could have shot his blood sugar super high if he had succeeded in drinking some maple syrup.
But, we check his blood sugar every 2-3 hours. Shocking as it would be, we could easily correct it and move on.
What he did was not healthy… for anyone.
When deciding how to react to a situation like this, it’s simple. What would you do with a non-T1 child in the same situation?
Would I have cried over spilled syrup?
Would I have grounded my child?
Would I run out and buy locks and chains to keep my child out of the pantry forever?
No. So I didn’t do it with him either.
I simply cleaned it up and told him you can’t eat syrup out of the bottle. Ever.
Because the thing is, they’re not “sneaking” food. They’re testing boundaries, forgetting to ask or check their blood sugar, or grabbing a snack because they’re growing more independent.
There are so many reasons our T1 children “sneak” food. It’s rarely malicious or self-destructive. Often, it’s a lot more simple than that.
At the end of the day
Not 20 minutes after we had cleaned up, I looked over at my son on the couch. He was looking straight ahead, his big brown eyes getting watery and his bottom lip starting to quiver.
“What’s the matter buddy?” I asked him.
“I just feel so bad about what I did.”
“Why do you feel bad?”
“Well, I shouldn’t have tried to eat that syrup. I shouldn’t have had sugar when I’m high and maple syrup is all sugar.”
“That’s true, but it’s not that you can’t eat sugar. It’s that if you want to eat something with carbs, you have to check your blood sugar and give yourself insulin for it. But also… we don’t drink maple syrup.”
Have your children tried to sneak food? What are your tips for handling it? Comment below!
Happy carb counting!