How come nobody has coined 'Potty Forgetfulness' as a syndrome?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  October 15, 2010 06:00 AM

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Barbara, I have a son who is 6 years old and in first grade. For the last few weeks, he claims to forget that he needs to use the bathroom. At first I thought it was something in school that was making him not want to use the bathroom, like being afraid of the teacher or being afraid of asking permission. He usually comes home with new clothing that the school provides, or when he gets home he pees in his pants. But more recently his accidents happen at home, too.

He said he just felt like going to the bathroom but just forgot he needed to go use it. I took him to the doctor and nothing seems to be wrong with his health. I have taken his toys for a while and it seems like it works, and for a while he uses the bathroom normally, but than a few days pass and he starts forgetting again. I would love how to help him. Thanks!

From: Yesica Jurado, Cody, Wyoming

Hello Yesica,

Ruling out a medical problem was smart, and presumably the doctor did a urine check to make sure there's no infection.

It's not unusual for boys this age to forget to use the potty, especially at the beginning of a school year when they are engrossed in an activity and don't want to be bothered. Try helping him figure out a way to remember to listen to his body and put the pee where it belongs: in the toilet. At home, you can be the reminder, but it's better if this is something he can internalize. A beeping watch set for every two hours would be one way to put this under his control.

One more thought: Are there other signs of distractability or inattention? In hindsight, this sometimes turns out to have been an early clue of attention challenges. Keep an eye out on his behaviors in school and home.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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3 comments so far...
  1. " I have taken his toys for a while and it seems like it works"

    Do you mean you punish him for this? I don't think that's a wise move. And though it might seem to work in the short term, it doesn't work in the long run. He is not being "bad" -- he either has a medical issue, or an emotional trauma issue, or is struggling with new routines and experiences, as Barbara said. Punishment isn't the answer to any of those things.

    Posted by jlen October 15, 10 08:34 AM
  1. Been there done that at EXACTLY the same age. Be patient, It has passed (fingers crossed) for us.

    Posted by Lee October 15, 10 01:54 PM
  1. Just saw a Potty Watch in One Step Ahead catalog for $11. You can set an alarm to go off every 30,60 or 90 minutes. Maybe that would help?

    Posted by Amy October 18, 10 11:40 AM
 
3 comments so far...
  1. " I have taken his toys for a while and it seems like it works"

    Do you mean you punish him for this? I don't think that's a wise move. And though it might seem to work in the short term, it doesn't work in the long run. He is not being "bad" -- he either has a medical issue, or an emotional trauma issue, or is struggling with new routines and experiences, as Barbara said. Punishment isn't the answer to any of those things.

    Posted by jlen October 15, 10 08:34 AM
  1. Been there done that at EXACTLY the same age. Be patient, It has passed (fingers crossed) for us.

    Posted by Lee October 15, 10 01:54 PM
  1. Just saw a Potty Watch in One Step Ahead catalog for $11. You can set an alarm to go off every 30,60 or 90 minutes. Maybe that would help?

    Posted by Amy October 18, 10 11:40 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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