10 Fun & Disturbing Ways to Get Kids to Take Their Medicine

After a week of strep and stomach bugs in my house and three different antibiotics that I had to coax my daughters into taking -- long story -- I got to thinking about the ingenious methods moms use to get their kids to open up. Somehow, without promises of anything, my mom managed to impart the seriousness of the situation at hand with nothing but a look. A slightly scary look, but still. I remember simply resigning myself to spoonfuls of that sticky pink bubble gum stuff when necessary. I wish I could say that "a look" worked on my kids, but truthfully there's a lot more bribing, bargaining, strategizing, accommodating, and promising going on. And from an incredibly informal poll of other parents, it seems I'm not alone. Here are 10 of the most often employed (but not often admitted to) medicine-taking methods that are well beyond a spoonful of sugar.


1. Shameless bribery. TV shows. iPad time. Horseback riding lessons. You name it.

2. Emotional trickery. This one is impressive: Some moms manage to convince their kids that medicine itself is a treat! Usually helps if it's flavored, but true masters don't need such a crutch.

3. Candy before, during, and after. Yup, even if it's first thing in the morning. Fruit pops, gum, M&Ms, which even our pediatrician suggested. Chocolate's strong taste apparently blocks out any bitterness. Just go with it.

4. A sense of agency. Put the medicine in one of those plastic syringes instead of a spoon and let the kid squirt it into their mouth themselves. Talk up the feeling of empowerment. A lot.

5. Regression enabling. Allowing a few minutes of thumb-sucking or whatever behavior you are trying desperately to dissuade the rest of the time. One genius mom admitted she even covers her thumbsucker's thumb with honey to get the job done.

6. Excessive flattery. It works on us so why not? Tell them they're such a "big" boy/girl and that you "know they can do this." Throw in comparisons to a scaredy-cat younger sibling but note that that can backfire if the scaredy-cat hears the conversation and needs to take his/her meds a few days later.

7. Reverse psychology. If they're afraid of throwing up, make it clear that they will 100 percent throw up if they DON'T take the medicine.

8. Blatant threats. Something like, "You know that kid on the playground that licks the slide? You're going to end up like him if you don't take this."

9. Pry their mouths open and hold them down. No one's proud of admitting this one, but occasionally it does happen.

10. Money. Modest additions to the piggy bank, but also $20 bills. Sometimes after each milliliter.

What tactics do you use to get your kids to take their medicine?

Image via rockindave1/Flickr

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