Getting Toddlers to Take Their Supplements (or Medicine)

It can be gut wrenching when your child is sick and you need them to take their medicine, and they refuse!  You want them to have autonomy over their bodies, you want to parent positively, but when the stakes are high, you find yourself triggered and resorting to force and coercion… or just giving up entirely and not administering their supplement or medicine.

I have been there!  I have forced my kids to take something and paid the price!  They only resist MORE, and it becomes a total uphill battle to gain compliance.  Rest assured, there are many ways to undo the damage and get your little ones to even enjoy their medication or supplement routine!

There is a crucial first step however.  Like everything parenting, you need to be calm and confident.  This stance is an imperative energetic step before you follow through with the strategies below.  In order to gain the required confidence, you must be 120% convinced in the necessity of the product you are using, or the subscription you are filling.  Some people trust their doctor or practitioner blindly, but others are information gatherers.  As Dr. Sears says, “Show me the Science”! 

Ask your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist questions.  Don’t be shy about asking a million questions, and get second or third opinions if needed.  You want to know about dosage, any possible side-effects, bio-availability and whether there are any studies to prove that the product is beneficial.  These studies should be ethically conducted on humans, and be randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, and published in peer-reviewed journals.  

Once you know that you are giving your child something that will benefit them tremendously, it is much easier to have the tenacity required to follow through with whatever plan you choose, or to switch gears when need be.

Waste Not, Want Not

We have to do some internal un-programming when it comes to this one.  Children live in a world full of being imposed upon and controlled in various ways, from their perspective.  They can only control their food intake, toileting, sleep and mood, and so these are precisely the areas they will exert their will.  Allowing them to “play” with their food through experimenting, lets them warm up to trying new things.  Instead of hovering and worrying whether they will “waste” it, give them their dosage and walk away.  When possible, you can even allow them to make their own concoctions, for example, opening capsules and pouring the “sprinkles” over their apple sauce or yogurt. Don’t hover, don’t pressure.  

Positive Reinforcement… or No Reaction 

Some kids (like my highly sensitive one) actually react negatively to praise when it is attached to functions like eating and toileting.  It can be construed as actual pressure to continue to meet these expectations for which they crave autonomy over.  My second born loves to please, and loves to receive high fives and happy dances whenever he can 🙂  Know your child, and follow their cues.  I firmly believe the old Sticker Chart method of Behaviour Modification does NOT work for many children, and can actually backfire.  It might be better to not react negatively or positively when it is tied to taking medicine or supplements, for the long range goal of intrinsic motivation.

Desperate Times…

If you have a baby or nursing child, you might have to resort to administering their medicine or supplement while they are in a deep state of sleep.  If still breastfeeding, they will still have the instinct to swallow fluids during sleep.  In these cases you can give them their dose very gradually while they are asleep.  Very tiny increments is important, to mimic the amount they would receive while nursing.

If your child is older than that, you might have to have a serious conversation much in the same way you would regarding using a seatbelt.  When driving in a car, wearing a seatbelt is not negotiable.  We cannot go anywhere if we cannot follow the rules.  Sometimes we have to explain about wearing our “nutritional seatbelt” or the connection between food and body function, in ways that are age appropriate.  We mustn’t fear-monger, so remember to gather the facts and remain calm and confident.  Feel free to reach out to me about your specific situation for additional tips, suggestions and verbiage.

Consistency is Key

It can take dozens of times being offered a new food or supplement before a child will take it.  Just keep at it, each and every day, do not give up!  It might help to motivate yourself by reminding yourself through re-reading or self-education WHY you are giving your child this product.  For me, I would much rather be self-disciplined in consistency, no matter how much gets “wasted” (perception), than deal with constant colds, flus and systemic inflammation (the root of most disease).  

I have experienced both sides of the coin –I had foresight to start my first born on whole food supplementation when he started solids.  Because of metabolic programming (wisdom of the gut), he began to crave fruits and vegetables at a very young age, and despite all odds (sensitivity and sensory processing disorder), he was never a picky eater.  I had a health blip in 2015 after my second son was born, and we had stopped taking our Juice Plus+, and all of our health took a serious toll as a result of losing this tool and lifestyle at the wayside. 

When I reintroduced our favourite supplement, Beau did not have the metabolic programming that his brother did, so it was challenging to start him on it during the “Terrific Two’s” as it were.  But we are at a point today, that he takes his whole food supplement, Omegas and smoothies with joyous zeal (most of the time) ha!, and I have to tell you what a winning feeling that is for us all!

Share the love.


Leave a Comment