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Potty training

An easy strategy for night-time wetting

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz October 11, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,
Another potty training question for you, this one is with regard to night wetting. Our daughter just turned 3 and has been potty trained during waking hours for over a year now (she expressed interest in the potty very early). That said, she has always had difficulty staying dry while she sleeps (our pediatrician explained that a different part of the brain that controls continence when you are awake vs. asleep.)

Within the last month, our daughter has had some continued success staying dry during her nap (which is usually 1.5 – 2 hrs) and has been so proud of being a “big girl” and that she doesn’t have to change into a pull-up anymore for nap.

Of course, now that she doesn’t have to wear a pull-up during nap, she is pushing back on wearing one for nighttime sleep. We have let her wear underwear a few times, however, she usually wakes between 2-4 am after having an accident (bedtime is 8:30pm). She has always been a great sleeper (in her own bed, not getting up at night, settling herself down etc.) but I have noticed that after we change her clothes and sheets after the accident, she has been having trouble settling down back into sleep and then asks to get into our bed etc. I want her feel like a big girl, but I also don’t want this disrupted sleep pattern to encourage bad sleep habits and create a sleep problem where there isn’t one.

My question – what is the best way to proceed? Should we continue to let her wear underwear (and have accidents in the middle of the night?) Or should we keep her in the pull-ups until she is dry through the night (although it isn’t what she wants?) A side note – she sees the pull-ups as free license to pee - when she wears one she doesn’t even try to hold her urine and usually pees immediately once she lies down in bed and we end up giving her a fresh pull-up as part of the bedtime routine. But when she wears underwear that doesn’t happen – but she just isn’t quite mature enough to make it through the night yet. Oh, and we do limit liquid intake after dinner so it isn’t like she is drinking a ton before bed – and she uses the toilet right before bed as well.

Thanks for your help!

From:: Kate, West Roxbury, MA

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Is this potty-training question a red flag about the caregiver?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz September 20, 2012 06:00 AM

In response to your question and answer about "potty trained at daycare but not at home"... My little guy seems to be the same way. He will be 3 in two weeks and my sitter says he has been willing and able to use the big potty and wear underwear at her house. With my husband and I, however, the talk of underwear and the potty brings tears and seemed tress[ful] so we haven't pushed it and have really backed off. My sitter doesn't really seem to agree with this- she now also wants to stop since she claims I am confusing him. I had originality thought she could keep it up at her house and told her so as long as there were no tears and stress since my husband and I aren't comfortable with that. What do you think? Lay off at daycare as well and hope that training at home will come? Or keep it up at daycare and maybe this will help it happen at home too? Thanks so much for your help!!!

From: Catherine, Troy, MI


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Potty-trained at daycare, not at home.

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz September 14, 2012 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara!
I am having problems potty with potty training. My daughter will be 3 in November and is completely trained at daycare. She uses underwear and asks to use the potty when she has to go. At home, it's a different story. She refuses to even sit on the potty and won't even wear pull-ups, it's diapers only. I've tried setting a timer for 30 minutes and that works until about lunch time and then she will refuse to try anymore. I've done stickers and m&m's and prizes from the dollar store and nothing seems to help. Her brother is 1 month old and everyone seems to say it's because of him, but the problem was even before he came home. I will admit now that he is here the problem is worse because she seems to purposely hold it. An example of this is the other day we sat on the potty (after a bribe) for a good 15 minutes and then when we walked into the living room she went in her pants and looked at me and said " I tell you I only go on da potty at Ms. Annie's house". My thoughts now is to totally back off. My question is do I still send her to daycare in her undies? Do I try pull-ups or just use diapers at home? Is backing off really what I should do? Any help will be appreciated. Thanks!!

From: Rachael, Marshfield, MA


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News bulletin: preschool can't send your child home for a toileting accident

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz August 10, 2012 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,
I have two boys. My older son was potty-trained when he was 3.5 years and was done in about 10 days. Nights, poops everything. It was remarkable. My younger son who is almost 4.5 has been training for a little more than a year. He was in early intervention from age 12-18 mos for motor delay and is still a younger 4 than his brother ... but is deemed age appropriate in his skills and is on target per his pediatrician and preschool for motor, language etc. He wears underwear during the day and remains dry but wears pull ups at night and they are wet every morning.
Our big problem is poops. He will go days or sometimes even 2 weeks without a poop accident and then will have several a day for several days. It's usually solid so I don't think it's from an upset tummy. I can't deny that sometimes I get extremely frustrated and yell. Then he cries. Today we had 3 poop accidents inside of 4 hours and I put him back in a pullup and he freaked. I don't want to torture him obviously and I feel like the worst mother in the world but I have no idea what to do. He's starting a prekindergarten program next month and if he has accidents there they will send him home. (PS- he rarely has accidents at his current preschool that he attends twice weekly). Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you--

From: J, Boston, Submit Submit

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Accidents on step-parents' watch make them wonder about stress

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz August 6, 2012 06:00 AM

Barbara,
My step son is turning 4 next month and has forgotten his potty training skills. My husband gets him for seven weeks during the summer. Within the first week, he had a potty accident. And now, in the sixth week, he's had at least one each week and then an awful #2 accident tonight. My husband is frustrated beyond consoling and I am just searching for answers. His mother lives out of state so this is not a typical every other weekend schedule. When we have him, he's here for long stretches of time. Also, she was in a very traumatic car accident in April, crushing both of her legs, leaving her very incapable of taking care of herself and son. I'm just wondering if you think these potty accidents are caused by the traumatic change in his mom's quality of life, or if it's simply because he's with us and his environment is different..? He's a very smart child and his explanation is simply, 'it was an accident.' He even smiles about it, which frustrates us more.

Any suggestions on the root of this problem may help us get through it.

Thank you for your input!

From: Miranda, Searcy, AR

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What to do about night-time accidents?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 14, 2012 06:00 AM

I have a four year old daughter who is still having accidents. She can sometimes go up to 12 days without accidents yet she can have 3 days in a row with an accident [each day]. She still wets the bed three or four times a week, sometimes even twice [a night]. I have tried everything I can think of to stop them from potty charts, ignoring it, punishing it etc. At the moment if she has accident, she doesn't get a story at bed time. It upsets her a little but she still has the accidents. I wondered if you had any ideas.

From: Sarah, Hartlepool, UK


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Could this potty struggle have a medical cause?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz February 6, 2012 06:00 AM

I have twin boys, one of them is potty trained, the other one is not. Every time I ask him to go to the bathroom is a battle, I have been forced to put diapers back on him since he won't go on his own or tell me or the teacher he has to go. I put him back in underwear and he just pees and poops in them and doesn't even tell me!!! I have NO IDEA what and how I am supposed to handle this . No one in his class is in diapers except for him...
any suggestions will be more than welcome!!!!

From: Maggz, Los Angeles


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This potty struggle is enabling toddler to lie

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz January 24, 2012 06:00 AM

My son is 3 years and 4 months. He has expressed only a vague interest in potty training and his daycare and we (mom and dad) are trying to encourage him. But what's most frustrating is that when he makes a poop in his diaper, he lies where we can smell it and ask "do you have a poop?" "No" "I know you do" "no I don't" and this goes on and on. Finally after periods of time ranging from minutes to hours, he will admit he has a poop and let us change him. He's getting too heavy and strong for me to force him to a place where I can change him. Any suggestions for getting him to be truthful and do you think this is related to reluctant potty training? Thanks in advance, I look forward to your feedback.

From: Rachel, Billerica, MA

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When is he going to potty train??!!

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz December 30, 2011 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,
I have a 3.5 year old boy who is not potty trained. We have tried everything, including bribery, to no avail. I try not to pay much attention to it, but just ask him once in awhile if he would like to go. He has gone twice and was rewarded, but that was over two months ago. My question to you is, should we force the subject, or wait until he lets us know he is ready? He is still in diapers and wears pull ups occasionally but still makes no effort to go.
Any info would be appreciated.

Thank you,
From: Stephanie, Hingham, MA


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Shame on this daycare center for its toileting policy

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz September 14, 2011 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,

I'm hoping you can point me to your column about kids who are late to potty train. My daughter turned 3 in May and is still in Pull Ups. I have tried to not make this a power struggle and let her go at her own pace, but I am getting a lot of pressure from her daycare. She was not allowed to move up into the next preschool room and her teachers tell me she is the oldest girl they've ever seen who isn't potty trained.

Thank you,
From: MC, Wakefield

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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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