October 30, 2007

Thanks for testing

I was reading an article in Cognitive Daily (CD to those of us in the cognitive know “A new cognitive psychology article every day” Wahoo!) and it got me thinking about an article on diabetes at CNN. (No doubt all this lofty reading has you thinking I have too much time on my hands – truth be told I have read exactly one article at Cognitive Daily and I skimmed a lot of it at that.) Anyway the CD article was about effectively praising a child and the CNN story was the rare fairly good one on type 1.

It seams that to be effective praise should be specific. According to CD, “When you are helping a child learn to read, saying "you are a smart girl" as opposed to "you did a good job reading" results in very different behavior when she has trouble reading in the future.”

Specific is good! I got it.

The CNN story quotes a young lady, "One of the hardest things about having diabetes as a younger child was being different. No one wants anything to make them stand out as a child, and having to take blood sugar readings and inject myself with insulin every day definitely qualifies." She also describes the feelings of guilt, "I thought I'd done something wrong to deserve diabetes. I was constantly searching and trying to understand why I was the only kid in my grade with diabetes."

The article goes on with the comments of a counselor of parents of diabetic children who says that diabetic adolescents "go through times where they want to forget about it. They pretend like they don't have it.” Sure enough the young lady quoted before goes on to say, “Whenever I had a bad blood sugar reading I would lie about it and say a different number, until eventually I was caught."

Now if you have stayed with me this long you may be wondering what, specifically, I have been smoking because there doesn’t seem to be much in common between the CD and CNN stories. You would be right, not about what I have been smoking, but about the wisp of a thread between them. Here it is, it strikes me that we need to be careful with how we praise the little diabetics so that we don’t feed into that pretending they don’t have it and lying about numbers.

The first step is to specifically praise testing (and correcting but that is the advanced class) not the number that comes from the test. The number isn’t good bad or indifferent, it is just a navigation check point telling us how close to the path we are. We are on course or left or right of it.


What important? That they checked to see where they are.

“Thanks for checking.”


“Whenever I had a bad blood sugar reading…” Remember the numbers are not good bad or indifferent. They are numbers. Period.

Were did she get the idea a sugar reading is bad? Our reactions maybe? Look in the mirror a few times when your kid tells tour the number.


“Thanks for checking.”

Not 102 GREAT! Not 309 WHAT did YOU *$@# eat!?


“Thanks for checking.”


Lord All Mighty this is a very hard thing to do!


It is harder than remembering washing sugar off the fingers before testing. (Thanks for washing your hands and testing.) It is harder than calculating new I:C ratios. It is even harder than getting used test strips into the trash. (OK that last one is scientifically impossible.)

But think about it, specifically, is there any behavior you want your diabetic child to adopt as a life long habit more than regularly checking?

“Thanks for testing.” Place your hand on your child’s shoulder. “I am proud of all the checking you do to manage your diabetes.”


What's the best way to praise a child? Be specific. - Cognitive Daily

Son's diagnosis 'knocked the life out of me' - CNN

1 comment:

Becky said...

AAAhhhh...thanks for testing...even better, thanks for washing your hands and testing...gotta learn those.

I try - but I have seen my 309 face versus my 109 face!!!!! And 309 is not the pretty one. I do keep telling her it is just a number, but maybe if I actually believed it, it would be more convincing!

Thank you for reminding me to praise the action not the result!