When my son was four years old, he was still having bathroom accidents — both day and night — and it concerned us. We’d see a wet spot on his pants in the middle of a baseball game and we knew; it happened again. All the way up through his 9-year-old well check, the doctor assured me that this was normal. It was “just developmental,” and given more time, the problem would resolve itself.
However, feeling in our gut that it wasn’t just developmental, we took some brave steps forward which included: getting specialists involved, making it a real priority, and sticking with it through many ups and downs.
What can a parent do to help her child through this process? And how can you be on the same team with your child? Here are 6 essential things that will help you get over this hurdle in as little time as possible:
1. Shaming the child in any way is detrimental.
He doesn’t want to be having these accidents, and he doesn’t want to disappoint you either. You might feel frustrated, but shaming a child is only going to cause the child’s self-esteem to spiral downward. Find someone you can talk to about your frustration when/where your child can’t hear it.
You might feel frustrated, but shaming a child is only going to cause the child’s self-esteem to spiral downward.
2. He needs to know he is not alone.
This kind of problem can make a child feel different, broken, or very much alone. Tell him that lots of other kids deal with the bed wetting issue (1 out of 10 in the fourth grade). The specialists that we saw would say this to our son every time we met. I watched that truth sink into his heart like water to thirsty plant!
3. Nip lying in the bud.
Many times, pressure to change tempts kids to lie. Our son lied often about it, and that became a hurdle in and of itself. Our doctor told us, “When you think there is even the slightest chance that he’s lying about it, he is. Don’t ask him if he’s lying. Just state it: ‘I know that’s a lie, and the consequence is this.'”
4. Consistency is key.
You have a million other things to remember to do, but this one has to take priority for a while. Do whatever will help you both to remember “the plan” from the doctor — whether it’s keeping the medicine out on the counter, making a chart, or setting alarms on your/his watch.
5. Don’t give consequences for having an accident.
When he slips up and has an accident, it might seem natural to give him a consequence. However, remember that the issue is often physical — and especially at the beginning of the process, he can’t control it yet. His body needs more time to adjust and learn to work properly. Only give consequences for things that are truly done on purpose — i.e. lying or refusing to cooperate with the plan.
6. Keep telling him, “I know we will solve this problem, together.”
Letting him know that you are in this together is probably the most important ingredient for success. Use this as a bonding opportunity. After all, you had your own challenges as a kid. Even if bed wetting wasn’t one of them, think of something similar that you had to overcome as a child and share it with him.
Tell him daily that this problem is solvable. He needs your confidence and encouragement that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You may have your doubts (in all honesty), but you’ve got to take the high road and believe it’s possible, or he will lose hope with each bump in the road.
And it can be a bumpy, long road. But it’s so worth the travel. It took us 1 ½ years to come out on the other side. Remember, there’s always a bonus for going through hard things. Our son learned that sometimes life gives you problems that require hard work and perseverance, and you might think it will never get better, but stick with it. It will.
What techniques have been successful for your kids when it comes to bathroom accidents?