My son needs to take his medication, and I am having an increasingly difficult time making him take it. How do I motivate him to stay on it?
Pulling My Hair Out
Dear Hair Puller,
Unfortunately, you don’t say what the medicine is for. Is it ADHD meds to help him focus at school? Is it anti-psychotic medication to control mental illness? Is it an inappropriately prescribed antidepressant to a teenager whose real problem is not depression but a screwed up family? Thus, the answer depends on the situation. Let’s just pick one scenario: ADHD medication for a fifteen year old boy. Being respectful of our teenagers takes a lot of self control. The fact is, unless you’re going to do a Three Stooges gig by shooting it down his throat with a giant pea-shooter, he is in charge of swallowing. Eliciting his cooperation takes some clever negotiating. If he agrees his school performance is suffering, you can paint a potential picture of success. Picture a modified version of the movie Limitless: a magic smart pill. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s typically not quite that dramatic, but sometimes it can be. Often times, if the diagnoses was correct, it can be a big help in concentration and performance. Additionally, you can offer a deal: “son, are you willing to try an experiment? Let’s begin the Ritalin experiment at the beginning of the semester. At the conclusion of the semester, let’s see if it was of any value to you. If it was, I think you should consider continuing the medication. If it wasn’t helpful, stop taking it.” If he agrees, you will need to ask him how you can help him to remember to take it. As it was probably your idea, you have the responsibility to assist him. Be sure to watch for initial side effects such as sleeplessness or loss of appetite. Be loving and clever in helping him through this transition. If you change your demeanor from frustrated boss to patient teacher, you will usually meet with considerably less resistance.