When your child is sick (and it seems like they are always sick), you want to do anything you can to make them feel better quickly. But trying to get your kid to take medicine can usually result in tears (theirs OR yours), cough syrup on bedding and pajamas, soggy pills on the floor, gagging or a tantrum. In many cases no amount of encouragement, bribery or negotiating will work. So what is a frustrated parent to do? Try these five hacks for coaxing your stubborn kid to take medicine:
Deliver it differently
Sometimes it’s all in the delivery. Ask your pharmacist for a plastic oral syringe (without the needle) that squirts out liquid meds into your kid’s mouth. To do it correctly, slide the syringe or dropper along the cheek, toward the back of the mouth, and squeeze it slowly. This method delivers the liquid and bypasses the taste buds.
Change the flavor
The taste of syrup is a major obstacle for kids to overcome. You can ask your pharmacist to add flavoring to your child’s medicine – even over the counter cough versions. Over the counter meds usually come in flavors like cherry or grape, but those often don’t taste great either. Purchase the medicine you want to use and inquire about flavoring options at the pharmacy counter. If possible, let your child pick the flavor. This also helps with the “control” issue. And many pharmacies offer a service called the FLAVORx Pediatric System: For about $3, you can choose from tons of flavors—including watermelon, bubblegum and chocolate—to improve the taste of your child’s medicine.
Try a pill
Many kids have trouble swallowing pills or capsules. Try to select a chewable tablet instead or as your pediatrician if a chewable version of their medication exists. Some pills can be crushed and mixed with a small amount of your child’s favorite food or drink – food is more advisable because the crushed up pills tend to settle to the bottom of a liquid and then stick to the sides of the cup. And make sure you use the least amount of mix possible since you want your child to eat or drink the full dose of medication. Consult with your pharmacist before mixing a pill with food or liquid because this may make certain medication ineffective.
Other ways to get them to take a pill include “big gulp” method: Put the pill on your child’s tongue and then tell them to fill their mouth with water and then swallow. Or have them chew some food, like a cracker or piece of bread, and then place the capsule on their tongue just as they are about to swallow.
Bribery is a tried and true method! And although rewards don’t always work long-term (as your child often starts to expect them more and more), using short-term rewards that work for you is a good strategy – especially when it comes to giving your child medicine. Or try the long term approach for a course of treatment. For example, you could say, “If you to take this medicine for the next 7 days, there will be a big prize at the end.” A down-payment towards the prize is effective as well – so the child sees it building up.” The possibilities for bribery are endless. And of course, make sure you include plenty or praise, too.
Give them control
Empower your kid by letting them choose the flavor or color of their medicine if you can. Or let them choose between medicine in a syringe, dropper or cup. Even a small choice like letting them choose if they want the medicine before or after bedtime helps. Giving them a say will make them fell like they have some control over the situation. Let them own the process so it doesn’t come across as something you are forcing on them. Prepare the meds in advance and then use a reminder on your phone or the family iPad to alert them that it’s time for the next dose. Even letting a younger child practice giving medicine to a doll or stuffed animal makes them feel like they are in control of the situation.