86 Responses to “Community Question: To Placebo or Not To Placebo With Your Wily Kids?”


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  1. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate
    to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking
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  2. Shannon

    My oldest started getting leg cramps at a young age. I never knew what to do for him so I would give him “magic water” aka plain water(like I said, he was young so it worked!) and for awhile it actually worked. He would drink the water, stop complaining, and go to sleep. Since then we have discovered a rice-filled sock heated up works just as well. So we use that on him still and younger siblings. I would loooove a fake medicine to give them when they have complaints(my 8 yr old is amazing at trying to stay up at bedtime…every excuse in the book within a half hour!) because like you said, I know when it’s real and when it’s not. I may try to cook something up myself that tastes enough like medicine to be believable, but good enough to actually get them to swallow…all while not being bad for them. This could get interesting.

    • 1789

      I actually use homeopathy as a placebo! I have the essential kit from Ainsworths and the little handbook that goes with it telling you what to prescribe. I have no idea if it’s the homeopathy remedy itself working or the placebo effect of taking something, but it does wonders whenever my kids hurt themselves (cuts, scrapes) or have colds, constipation, hayfever etc etc. It seems to make them feel instantly better – especially my eldest child who is prone to anxiety at stressful times. She just takes a gelsinium homeopathic remedy and tells herself it’s in her head and she’s fine!

  3. Deb

    I personally don’t like the idea of “fake medicine.” My concern is that when kids are given a placebo we are teaching them to reach for a pill or “medicine” anytime they are stressed, anxious or not wanting to go to bed. Teach them to self soothe, which they will carry with them into adulthood. Massage that big toe until it stops feeling weird. (They probably won’t massage it very long if they are faking the discomfort.) Bedtime routines like reading on their own for 30 minutes before lights out can be relaxing. Herbal, non-caffeinated tea can be relaxing. When our kids were young they would ask us to “scratch” their back when settling into bed. We would lightly run our fingers down their backs or softly run our fingers around their faces until their eyeballs rolled back into their heads. It works! Love the rice-in-the-sock idea. Microwave it until it is warm (not hot!) and place it on their toe, leg, back. The weight alone causes pressure which can also be soothing. How about giving them a relaxing facial massage before bed a couple times a week? What oil would you suggest Crunchy Betty? Their own special bedtime oil would be sweet! (We do it for ourselves!)

    • Iisha

      Exactly. Teaching kids that medicine is always a cure-all isn’t really a good lesson, even if it’s a natural medicine.

      • Sandy

        I completely agree as well. The medicine industry is always just an ad in a magazine or advertisement on tv away. Seeds are being planted that drugs are the cure. I feel being honest with the child is ~ always the best policy. Giving your child some 100% attention, even if it’s for 10 minutes so they can drift off to sleep feeling comfortable and secure for the night is worth a lot when it comes to emotional well being. If the routine is called what it is – time to wind down for bedtime, then why lie to them? Anymore, it seems as though the children rule the roost with “I don’t want to’s” when all it takes is the ‘fact’ that they can have your undivided attention with the back rub. Or make a pleasant deal being made that if you read them a chapter in their favorite book (even kids in elementary school will enjoy it) then their part of the deal is to accept it and go to sleep. Try it a couple nights (cell phones off, etc) and if they still balk, then ok no story but it’s still bedtime. After a few nights I bet you win. You win by the child going to sleep (with no arguments allowed.. a deal is a deal) and you also win because you had the parental privilege of spending one-on-one time with your child that soon will not want so much time with you. And of course, they win because they feel secure in their own home, they feel loved by the parent due to 1-on-1 time, and they are snug in their own bed. If you have two children, the youngest one enjoys their time ‘without any sibling interruptions’ and then it’s the other child’s special time. Again, break the agreed upon deal and the one who breaks it? No story tonight. Tomorrow we’ll try again. Display of love and attention just before bed is far better than a child believing he or she is taking medicine. If it’s a hurt toe or a scraped knee – a couple minutes of a special hug will go a long way as long as you have time to give one. If not? Find time.

        • Rachel

          Piggy backing on piggy backers alert! Short and simple. Please don’t give your kids a placebo. Just as they have said, you are conditioning them to turn something they truly don’t need and neglecting to reinforce good habits and will power. Unless it truly hurts and they are really in need of some kind of medicine, you need to be stronger than they are and have a discussion why we don’t take medicine unless it means x, y, or z. I have a 6 year old and have had to do this very thing. Good luck Jennifer! You’ve got this.

          And no, it’s not harmless just because it’s a gummy bear. It’s classic conditioning in its infancy, no pun intended.

  4. got2catz

    Fruit juice. A tiny, little, offcial-looking medicine cup full of fruit juice. It works for me because my kids never get straight-up fruit juice otherwise; the consumer is two and ony wants medicine because he sees his big brother (who has severe asthma and GERD)get medicine every bedtime. Who knows what I’ll do when he gets wise- maybe add some water kefir so it has that “good-for-you” taste?

  5. lacey

    so this is probably a bit after the crisis but I created a placebo for a friend lol which is funny when you hear the fact that I am a mom to 7 children (4 are step kids but yah know potatoe pototoe) we have one 20yr old who also now belongs to a 2wk old an 18yr old 2 15yr olds a 13yr old and 2 10yr olds well my friend has a 2yr old who now lives with us this would be where karma comes into play she would bring him over when she was first dating our room mate and at night I would give him what he lovingly although loudly refers to as lacey tea this came about because my 10yr old told him about magic tea ( so cute that at 10 he still calls it that) it is basically chamomile tea or chai tea whichever is handy with a bit of honey, in the 2yr olds case blue agave nectar and lemon juice at our house this is a bedtime staple because the 10yr old is autistic/adhd and the 2yr old is well a 2yr old of course now after my children are old enough to make their own magic tea you will once again find me frantically running around the kitchen putting together magic/lacey tea while a not so little voice screams from the other room not mommy tea lacey tea no no no no lacey tea (it does vary from night to night but you get the idea lol. anyway I was thinking the whole placebo thing was well not a great idea and than the other night I was curled up on the couch between 2 sweaty little boys one that is 2 one that is 10 drinking our cups of magic tea and I thought you know the placebo may not be a great idea but the memories and the thought that one day they will both be grown men and will catch a whiff of chamomile or chai tea and it will make them think of those magic tea moments that makes it well worth it

  6. danielle

    We use honey around here all the time. I have a local beekeeper I buy from. Honey really does have some healing properties. I also have a small, special jar of Manuka honey and if the children are feeling out of sorts I give them a small spoonful. It perks them right up to get something special and just the attention and time contributes to the healing.

    I’m not averse to placebo though. I have, on occasion, given my children elderberry syrup for ailments unrelated to colds or coughs. There is value in having the trust of your children, the trust that the adults in their lives will know what is appropriate when the time comes.

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