My son was diagnosed with pneumonia and needed antibiotic treatment a week ago. My husband and I were worried how to feed him the medication, as he had stronger willpower than a year ago when he needed the treatment the first time.
The first couple tires were as horrible as we imagined. It was like a serious fight. When we tried to put the syringe of 6 mL pink antibiotics in his mouth, he cried out loud, pushed away from the syringe, closed his mouth tight, melted down, and did everything a 19-month-old could do to stop the liquid from flowing into his throat. After two days of this feeding pattern, we tried something new. We started the conversation with him to take this pink liquid at least half an hour ahead of time. Of course, his answer was no. Then we explained we understood that he doesn’t like to drink the antibiotics in the syringe. The medicine is necessary for him to cure his lung, and thus we have to feed him. He seemed distracted with his toys and did not say yes or no. Then we drew about three mL of the antibiotic liquid from the medicine bottle and keep the syringe inside the bottle. As he was playing the toys, we provided this bottle in front of him and asked him to draw the liquid by himself. Magic happened. He dipped the syringe into the bottle a couple of times, pull the syringe out, put it in his mouth, and started sucking the syringe by himself. We helped him push the syringe a bit at a time to suck in all the antibiotics. There was no tear, no meltdown, and it felt like a casual thing that we do every day. My husband gave me a look of being amazed.
My son has seen the same bottle, the same syringe, the same liquid as before, and the taste of the liquid is also the same. What has changed to have this dramatic change of behavior? What my husband and I did was a modified version of Method III in P.E.T.
Method III in P.E.T. is called the No- losing method for conflicts. It has six basic steps:
• setting the stage,
• defining the problem,
• brainstorming solutions,
• evaluate solutions,
• choosing a solution,
• plan for and take action,
• check result.
We first made an announcement ahead of time, so my son was aware what would be coming up soon. This step is the setting the stage. Then we acknowledged the feelings that we understood that he doesn’t like how we feed him. We also made ourselves clear that we wanted him to cure pneumonia. He has to drink the antibiotics to cure his lung. Because he is 19 months old, he cannot do the brainstorming with us quite yet. We used the trial and error and tried to see if he will accept other ways to drink the antibiotics. What seems surprising to us is that by providing the bottle and syringe to him, and allowing him to "do" it by himself, gave enough power that he felt that he can decide. He then chose to drink the antibiotic himself. There are many other ways we could try, but the problem has already solved by itself, and there is no need to go any further with the following steps.
The Method III is most likely to work when the needs are defined clearly. Sometime Method III doesn't work because the needs of both parties are not clearly defined. So I take a further analysis of what is the needs of the my son and us.
Method III - Define needs:
What are our needs?
Our action: Feed him antibiotic with the syringe with power and force.
What will that do for us?
It will allow us to get the medicine into his stomach.
What will that do for us?
Our needs: Cure his lung.
What are my son's needs?
His action: Refuse the syringe to be put in his mouth.
What will that do for him?
To feel that he has the power to decide for himself. That is a psychological need, to feel significance and belonging.
He also has a physiological need. To be able to feel better and cure the disease, he needs to heal his lung.
The basic needs of the child and us are the same.
Once the needs are clearly defined, the "you have to drink the antibiotic vs. I won't drink the antibiotic" situation is no longer a conflict, it becomes a problem to solve.
Many might wonder if P.E.T. will work with children younger than three. Apparently, it works perfectly for a 19-month-old.