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My 4 year old son is very very smart, but he pees on himself at home.

Sometimes when we go out he goes to the bathroom in public. Some days he wets the bed at night at home, other days he gets up middle of the night and go potty. During the day time sometimes he goes to the bathroom busy or not and other times he doesn’t.

He does go to daycare and doesn’t pee on himself there. Also he goes to his grandma house just about every weekend if not every other weekend and sometimes for a week at a time and never pees over there. I can’t understand what he’s doing over there that he just can’t seem to do at home to not pee on himself. I’ve tried asking him why does he pee on himself all he say is "I don't know".

I tried timeout, tried taking everything away, no tv no toys and playing. I did recently have a 1 year old so that definitely could be why he’s doing this because it has been about 2 years give or take that he has been doing this so he’s not that little baby no more. I also have a 10 year old.

I’ve tried everything. I took him to the doctor to see a specialist and they said everything is normal inside wise. I just can’t understand why sometimes he goes and most times he don’t and don’t care if he wet himself or not I don’t know what else to do I’ve tried so many different things any suggestions plz.

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    Could you edit this so it easier to read? This is just one long sentence so quite difficult to parse.
    – R Davies
    Commented Mar 20 at 14:48
  • I've edited this to make it easier to read. Can you have a look through and see if I've got anything wrong? If I have then click on "Edit" under the question and you can fix any mistakes. Commented Mar 20 at 16:00
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    "Everything" is unhelpful when you describe what you've done. For example, I see only punitive measures. Have you tried rewards? Sticker charts? "Bribes"? Talking to his grandmother to see what they do differently? Timers and reminders? Special time with you if he goes, say, a week without wetting himself? If you've tried everything, including consulting his doctor about this, then there's nothing we can offer that you haven't tried, and you just need to be patient, gracious, be glad it doesn't happen at school, and don't make it into a bigger deal than it is. He'll outgrow it. Commented Mar 20 at 19:48
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    Have you considered that your kid isn't actually peeing themselves intentionally, and that bribing them, punishing them and that stuff isn't exactly going to help here? Seriously, when I was that age I peed myself a lot, but never because I didn't want to go to the bathroom. You said your kid is smart, maybe trust them a little more when they say "I don't know" and try to get more information instead of taking their toys away. Commented Mar 20 at 22:18

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Firstly, wetting the bed at age 4 is normal (if annoying for your laundry). Doctors aren't worries about night time dryness until age 7 or so. Depending on the frequency, maybe he needs night nappies still, there are also special protective/absorbent sheets and covers to make your life easier when it comes to laundry.

For daytime, clearly he can do it and stay dry all day, so I do see your frustration. Are you expecting him to be completely self directed when it comes to toileting, deciding by himself to stop doing whatever fun activity he's currently doing and going to the bathroom without encouragement? As that might be a bit beyond him! I have to intervene when I see my nearly 4 year old clearly needs the toilet and remind him he doesn't want wet trousers etc to get him to decide to go. What are his grandparents or school doing differently?

I would also say at that age, the 'punishment' must fit the crime, that is, be a natural consequence. The natural result of wetting himself is that he has to help clean up himself, and the environment. Which is boring. So he has to sort his clean clothes, put the wet and dirty ones away, wipe himself down, and help you clean up the floor etc. He can now immediately see that the decision to not go to the toilet meant he lost out on play time straight away. Keep your response neutral and not shaming (State facts, "oh dear, your trousers are wet, now we have to stop playing and clean up", "you pee in the potty/toilet, then you don't get wet trousers"). You're also helping him learn to be a responsible human with the skills to clean up after himself.

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I tried timeout, tried taking everything away, no tv no toys and playing.

Please don't do this. Seriously, don't ever punish a child for potty behavior. That's just not going to end well for you or your son.

Now, what can you do?

I highly suggest you stop worrying about whether he has problems "elsewhere" and focus on home life. There are two main reasons children his age pee themselves.

Anxiety

If they do not feel comfortable. That's why the joke at the start. Punishing around potty time can create anxiety. Anxiety leads to, "I don't want to go in that room; I always get in trouble there." One of the oddest ways that can happen is if you tell them poo smells yucky or that pee is gross. I have seen kids turn that into, "Well, I better not pee then because so-and-so thinks it's gross, and I want to make them happy," when what we mean as adults is, "Please don't try to lick your pee off the floor."

The point is that a seemingly harmless, even well-meaning statement can lead to anxiety. That anxiety can lead to a reluctance to pee.

The anxiety can be, but not always is the result of child/sexual abuse. (And I only mention this because it's essential. See the note at the end)

To help with that. Make potty time fun. Play a game. If Dad is around, pee together. Have Dad "show him how it's done". Make a big deal about it when you go pee. "Well, I'm off to pee!" Later, this can even become an excellent point to tie in other behaviors. "Well, better go touch my penis. What do we do after that. Best to wash my hands." etc. Make a big deal out of it when you go. Then maybe work in a bit of fun.

My favorite tip with that is to play "Target Pratice" with some cherioes or froot loops. Throw a few in the bowl and then aim and fire. Again, making it fun or a game. Getting the general idea that "I can't wait till I have to pee again. Then I get another try at sink to OOOOs. I bet next time I can hit all 5"

Attention Span

Having fun. The second reason is that kids are kids, and if you don't remind them, legos are more fun than potty time. This is the far more common cause. See the tip above about pee games. In addition to pee games, set a timer on your phone. About 2 hours should be ok, but you should adjust. When the alarm goes off, EVERYONE (adults too) go and pee. Rather "by example" or "wait in line" doesn't matter. You want to advertise that the alarm went off so it's time to go and pee.

"RING RING RING" - "Time for a pee break" - "Everyone up, and to the potty"

If he doesn't need to go, then do that running water, "just give it a try" thing. If he still can't go, make the next alarm half an hour. Adjust the 2-hour alarm accordingly once the event happens. (meaning if it takes three tries, 2 hours + 30 mins + 30 mins, make the next alarm 3 hours.)

Again, the general idea here is that pee breaks are something that everyone does. As adults, we tend not to make a big deal out of them, whereas they are an event for a young child. Heck, fireworks and peeing are almost at the same level.


A note about item one.

I mention Child/sexual abuse because potty problems like that are a sign one should be aware of. That said, it's far more likely that anxiety or attention span is the main driver. If you still have problems after trying for a while longer, it may be worthwhile seeing help from a trusted counselor, but for now, I would focus on the anxiety and attention span.

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