Gay Dad Life

American Horror Story: Getting Your Child to Take Medicine

I just got finished pitching Ryan Murphy my idea for the next season of American Horror Story, where two Dads repeatedly try to get their stubborn (yet ridiculously adorable) 6-year-old to take his medicine. Ryan felt it would be too dramatic for network TV. I don’t blame him.

As someone who’s endured brutal East Coast winters, debilitating migraines, the occasional childhood bully and three uneven seasons of Amazon’s Transparent, I thought I could handle just about anything. I was wrong. Nothing, I repeat nothing could have prepared me for the horror that is getting my 6-year-old to swallow his medicine.

Our son, Maxwell, has struggled with asthma-like symptoms for a few years. Typically, it’s kept under control with inhalers, which he has no problem using. But because he has hypersensitive airways, a typical cold or flu triggers nonstop coughing fits, nasal congestion and hoarseness that can last for months at a time. And they usually turn into post-nasal drips. In other words — we’re use to trying an array of different medicines.

And despite what you’ve heard — a spoonful of sugar does not help the medicine go down. We’ve tried it. We’ve tried everything. Mushing it in apple sauce … peanut butter … yogurt … ice cream? Tried it. Mixing it in chocolate milk? Tried that too. Letting him do chaser shots with his favorite juice? Yep. Offering him a crisp 20-dollar bill. Tried that twice. No takers. Seriously, nothing seemed to work. And for over-the-counter medicines, we can deal with it because there’s always another brand or flavor to try. (We once bought seven different flavors of Benadryl.) But when it’s a horrible-tasting antibiotic, sometimes there’s no other choice. And doctors tell us we must get him to take it. That’s when things get messy.

Max does to medicine what most of the country has done to Trump: #resist. He refuses to accept it. Every. Single. Time. And his gag reflexes are comparable to Stan's from South Park. So if he doesn’t like the taste, texture or smell, he’ll instantly throw up. When Maxwell decides he doesn’t want something, he means it. Our used-to-be white-but-now-brownish-green sofa is living proof of that. Jokes aside, this medicine-taking thing is serious and not finding a solution can have severe ramifications.

All this madness got me venting to everyone and anyone with a child. I sought advice on social media. I asked teachers, doctors and pharmacists how to get Max to take his medicine. And I got a lot of helpful information on how to not just get your child to take medicine, but get them to swallow it too. Some of the advice worked for me, and some of it didn’t. But in any event, I thought it might help you.

So without further ado, I give you the 10 most often employed medicine-taking tricks (Note: I am not a doctor. I am not a pharmacist. I’m just a desperate dad willing to try anything.)


    For me, asking “Are you ready for your medicine” ends with Max screaming “NO!” and locking himself in our wine cellar (and by wine cellar I mean broom closet next to a half-empty bottle of Manischewitz®). Instead I say something like, “It’s time for your medicine. Show Dada and Papa how a big boy takes his medicine.” Additionally, you should watch your body language and always try to mask your feelings. It’s important to stay calm, positive and reasonable. The more desperate you become, the more they will resist. They can zero in on your energy. Make sure your child feels that you’re on their side. You’re in this together. In other words, it’s not the time to enforce “because I said so” demands. Save that for their pre-teen years.


    You could try asking your pharmacist for dye-free medicine. Then let your child pick and mix in their favorite food coloring. Trust me, any excuse to turn their tongues green is a good one. Alternatively, you can ask your local pharmacists to add liquid flavoring. There’s a product called FLAVORx that comes in all the flavors children love from root beer to bubblegum. The awful taste of a cough medicine can be masked by a delicious flavor your child prefers. There may be some additional costs for the custom flavors, so be sure to ask first. Also, while you’re at CVS, grab an extra box of ear plugs. Because if this idea doesn’t work, you’re going to need them!

    3. CHILL OUT:

    All right stop, collaborate and listen. You can give your child an ice cube to suck on for a minute. The cold will help numb their taste buds a little bit so the medicine goes down more smoothly. And if it’s a gross-tasting medicine, let them suck on the ice cube between sips to mask the taste. If you’re like me, and you worry about your little one choking on the ice, you can also try ice chips, juice popsicles or wrapping the ice cube in a thin washcloth. So, if there was a problem, yo, I possibly just solved it.


    While it doesn’t seem to work for me, many parents have luck camouflaging the bad taste of medicine by combining it with a sweet-tasting food or drink to mask the bitterness. I’m told white grape juice is the best mix-in. Yogurt and applesauce are good choices too. Just make sure that the masking agent you choose doesn’t have an interaction with the medicine you’re giving, causing it to be more or less potent. If none of these ideas work, try dipping a spoon in chocolate syrup before pouring the medicine. Chocolate's strong taste apparently blocks out any bitterness. If that doesn’t work, nothing will.

    5. MAKE IT A GAME:

    A simple way to get a child to take medicine is to turn it into a fun game for them to play. For example, start with three spoons (or syringes). Put their favorite juice in one, chocolate syrup in one and medicine in the other… and ask them to swallow each to tell you which is the medicine. Little clever games can make all the difference. Some kids respond well to imaginary role play. (Yep, that’s not just for parents 😜.) Depending on their age, it might help to have your child pretend to give a doll or stuffed animal medicine first. Playing doctor can help them get more comfortable with taking the medicine themselves. I know … the things we do for our kids!


    Lying is never the answer, whether it’s about inauguration crowd size or telling your children their medicine is going to taste yummy if it's not. When your kids are around the age of 3, you can probably start explaining that taking medicine will make them feel better or make their hurt go away. Another good tip: Never refer to medicine as candy. You don't want them to seek it out when you’re not there to stop them. I mean, a couple of Flintstones vitamins never hurt anyone, but some of the others can.


    Asking for help is not admitting defeat. You should always feel comfortable asking others for advice. A friend suggested I ask the pediatrician for a higher concentration of my son’s prescription — that way we were able to finish it in four days instead of seven. For example, instead of one teaspoon of a drug at a 50-milligram concentration, your child could take half a teaspoon of the 100-milligram concentration. It's the same amount of medication in a smaller dose. Also if your child has an easier time taking chewables than liquids, ask the pharmacist if that's an option. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.


    I knew that would get your attention. These days, medicine can take on lots of different creative forms. For example, now you can ask doctors to prescribe medicine in lollipop form. They even make kid-flavored dissolving strips to suppress coughs. Or you can be more creative. My neighbor told me she puts amoxicillin in the center of raspberries and her daughter eats it right up. While another dad-friend dips a pancake into the dose until each bite soaks up the medicine. So don’t be afraid to be original — it works for Queen B.


    Since taste buds are concentrated on the front and center of our tongues, try using a syringe or a dropper to bypass those fussy taste zones by placing the medicine near the back of their tongue. Even if your child seems too old for this approach, it’s a surefire way to avoid your kid spitting out their bad-tasting meds.


    Sometimes it’s going to take some good old-fashioned bribery. Like his Dada, Max has a ravenous sweet tooth. And so these days, when it’s time to give Max his medicine, I’ve been known to sneak into our secret stash of sugar-filled treats. His drug of choice? Reese’s Pieces. I offer him four pieces per sip of medicine. I just put the syringe in his mouth, inject it, and before he’s able to spit it out, I say, "Here's your four Reese’s Pieces!” He’s been known to automatically swallow the entire dosage in one gulp to get his hands on the candy faster. I created a monster!


    There you have it. All the getting-your-kid-to-swallow-medicine tricks I’ve learned along the way. I hope the road is much smoother for you than it’s been for me. That’s a lie. I hope it’s just as bad for you. Knowing other parents struggle too makes me feel better. #kiddingnotkidding

    Now if you need me, I’ll be helping my son search for his Reese’s Pieces that I ate last night.


    Read more of David Blacker's blogs here.


    Show Comments ()
    Gay Dad Life

    8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

    Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

    Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

    And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

    Keep reading... Show less
    Gay Dad Life

    'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

    Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

    When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

    I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

    Sending Nola love to each of ya!

    Keep reading... Show less
    Gay Dad Life

    Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

    After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

    In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

    "Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

    On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

    On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

    Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

    "As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

    Check out video from the couple's special day below!

    And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

    Coming Out

    My Gay Shame Is Officially Cancelled

    After years of feeling ashamed of being gay, David Blacker has finally overcome it. And his son had a lot to do with it.

    Scrolling through my social media feeds, reading all the posts about National Coming Out Day reminds me just how valuable it is for us to share our stories and be as open, vulnerable and authentic as possible. Warning: this article is about to get real AF, so now might be a good time to switch back to the Face-Aging app that gives Russia all your personal data.

    Oh good, you stayed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

    Keep reading... Show less

    Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!

    Keep reading... Show less
    Personal Essays by Gay Dads

    Growing a Thicker Skin

    Experiencing hateful and hurtful comments, Erik Alexander had to learn an important lesson: how to ignore the trolls.

    Photo credit: BSA Photography

    Twenty years ago when I came out, it was unbearably hard. As I have written before, I am from the Deep South. Anyone who dared to deviate from social norms was sure to be ostracized. It's not that these people were born hateful or mean; rather, it probably had more to do with them not being subjected to other lifestyles. Anything different from their own experiences sparked fear and confusion. Homosexuality, interracial relationships, religious differences – these were all unfamiliar territories to the average person I grew up around. Thus, growing up was particularly difficult.

    I remember lying in bed at night when I was a little boy. I would pray and beg God to not let me be gay. Every single night I would end my prayers with "... and God, please don't let me have nightmares and please don't let me be gay." I remember crying myself to sleep many nights. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I wanted God to cure me.

    Keep reading... Show less
    Change the World

    10 Inspiring Coming Out Stories From Gay Dads

    Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our recent stories about gay men with kids coming out to live their most authentic lives.

    Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our best articles of gay dads coming out to live their authentic lives.

    #1. Former NFL Player Jeff Rohrer, and Father of Two, Comes Out as Gay and Marries Longterm Partner

    Jeff Rohrer, a father of two teenage boys via a previous relationship with a woman, is the first NFL player to marry another man. Read the article here.

    #2. Coming Out to His Wife Was Painful, Says This Salt Lake-Based Dad of Four. But it Started Him on a Path of Authenticity

    After Kyle came out to his wife, with whom he has four children, "she listened, she mourned and she loved," he said. Read the article here.

    #3. Gay Dads Share Their Coming Out Stories for National Coming Out Day

    We asked several gay dads to share their coming out stories in honor of National Coming Out Day, whose stories are heartwarming, instructive, and everything in between. Read the article here.

    #4. Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

    Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News. Read the article here.

    #5. One Gay Dad's Path Towards Realizing Being Gay and Christian are Not Mutually Exclusive

    Gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally talk about coming out, parenting as gay men, and reconciling faith and sexuality. Read the article here.

    #6. Republican Utah Lawmaker, and Dad of Two, Comes Out as Gay in Moving Video

    Nathan Ivie has many important identities he's proud of: Mormon, Republican, Utahn, father of two... and gay. Read the article here.

    #7. How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

    Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown." Read the article here.

    #8. Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

    In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. Read the article here.

    #9. The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

    "I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out. Read the article here.

    #10. These Gay Dads Via Previous Marriages Have Adopted a Motto Since Coming Out and Finding Each Other: "United We Stand"

    Vincent and Richard both had children in previous marriages with women; together, with their ex-wives, they are helping raise seven beautiful kids. Read the article here.

    Fatherhood, the gay way

    Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

    Follow Gays With Kids

    Powered by RebelMouse