When out with my 4 year old, we go to the bathroom at EVERY place we go to. I call it bathroom tourism. I don't think he has to go nearly as often as he indicates, but, since he manages to conjure up some poop or pee at each stop its hard to tell if he felt a real physical urge or if he just wanted to check out yet another ladies' room color scheme.

My question is, when is it appropriate for me to start requiring him to "hold it"? How long can I expect him to be able to wait to relieve himself?

Some history and relevant facts:

He was a bed wetter until very recently; we still wake him at 11:00 to go to the bathroom, just in case.

He has only had one accident (urine) since potty training, and it was because he was holding it and refused to go to the bathroom, despite our repeated efforts to get him to go.

This kid drinks A LOT of water and milk. It's just who he is; we had him tested for diabetes, etc since his thirst seems excessive, but all tests indicate he's normal. Obviously, because of this the volume that he puts out is more than the average kid.

He stands up to pee.

He doesn't have any problems with constipation.

  • 1
    (I know that there's some kind of formula for puppies involving months of age and hours between walks...kids under 5 are a lot like puppies, right?... ;-P)
    – Jax
    Nov 7 '16 at 0:42
  • I edited the question with more specific facts, but, an answer for a generic 4 year old would be helpful too, since it would give me a baseline to which I can compare my son's behavior/ability/progress.
    – Jax
    Nov 7 '16 at 13:03
  • Here's one more comment: I have several kids, and each one is totally different – also in this regards. I have one child which was like this until twice the age of your son and older, who even now still goes to the bathroom thrice as often as everybody else. Shrug Each child is different. You need to adapt.
    – sbi
    Nov 8 '16 at 14:16
  • @sbi lol, I love the use of several. Now that I have 4 kids, I find myself saying I've got a "whole bunch" of kids since to most people, anything more than 2 is so mind boggling-it doesn't matter how many more than two it happens to be.
    – Jax
    Nov 13 '16 at 18:53
  • All I've publicly admitted to is that I wouldn't say "many kids" of it were only three. :-/ The one thing all my kids have in common the most it's that each and everyone of them is a totally different personality from all the others. And that shows in their second week, while you're changing diapers: "This child, reacts totally different from all the others!"
    – sbi
    Nov 13 '16 at 20:11

First, be thankful your son is telling you rather than just going in his pants without mentioning it ahead of time. At age 4, if he's able to tell you when he needs to pee, and if he is asking as often as he seems to be asking, he may well be able to hold it for a short period of time. I've asked my 4 year old to hold it with success when I knew that he could usually last for longer between bathroom trips.

I'd suggest picking some times when you know there will be another bathroom available within, say, half an hour, telling him there isn't time to go just yet, and asking him to hold it for the next bathroom. Increase the intervals until they are either long enough that they're not a burden for you, or he starts having accidents. If the latter, back off to an interval that he can handle without accidents.

Also, if he is not yet peeing standing up, you can make most of the bathroom visits a lot quicker by teaching him to do so. At age 4, there's a good chance he can learn to do this with a standard toilet height.

  • 1
    I would suggest working with smaller intervals -- in the beginning, holding it for an hour is asking a lot. Nov 7 '16 at 3:41
  • @aparente001 - valid point. My 4 year old needs to go at intervals of 2-3 hours, which I consider reasonable, but the appropriate increment might depend on how urgent the need becomes before the child says something. I'll edit the answer to suggest a half hour interval. If the kid can't hold it for half an hour, it's probably pointless to try to ask him to hold it longer than it takes to get to the next bathroom.
    – Warren Dew
    Nov 7 '16 at 3:43

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