Accidents After Potty Training
Q. "My son is 3 years old and has been potty trained for seven months now. In the last two weeks, however, he's been having accidents (wetting his pants). At first my husband and I thought it happened because he would get so involved with playing outside he'd simply forget about using the potty, but now he wets his pants indoors as well. He stays dry throughout the night and during nap time. We are confused and upset. What could be going on here, and how should we handle the situation without making our son feel ashamed or frustrated?"
A. Since your child is dry during naps and throughout the night, he's probably not suffering from a bladder infection or any physiological difficulties related to urinating. Nevertheless, you might consider making an appointment with his pediatrician just to be sure. Aside from that, ask yourself if you're inadvertently contributing to the problem. You might be doing so by paying too much attention to the accidents, talking about them unnecessarily, or becoming angry and emotional when your child wets his pants. While you want to avoid any of those traps, it's important to remind him hourly of the need to go potty. Approach him gently, kneeling down to his level and touching his tummy. When you've gained his attention, say. "Is you bladder full? If it is, you need to use the toilet." It's up to him to determine whether his bladder is full or not, and then to make his way to the bathroom. If he wants you to accompany him to the bathroom, do so. If he insists on going on his own, that's just fine. If he claims he doesn't need to go, so be it. In fact, you can say, "Oh, your bladder isn't full? Okay, it's your body. You're the only one who knows for sure." With this approach, you're conveying the message to your child that determining when he needs to use the toilet is his responsibility, not yours. You're there to guide, remind, and coach, but the rest it up to him. If you notice that he's had an accident, take him to change his clothes right away; don't leave him in wet underwear. You want him to be most familiar with and comfortable in dry, clean pants, not wet ones. He should be responsible for taking off his wet underwear and trousers, putting them in the laundry, and putting on a clean set. You can be there to verbally coach him through each step of the process, but most of the bother should be up to him, not you. It could take up to three months for the accidents to stop completely. If you're expecting them to stop immediately, you're setting up your son for failure and yourself for frustration. It's understandably disturbing that this wetting situation is taking place, since he was already trained seven months ago. But the wetting is the reality of the moment, so accept this and move on from here, looking to your son to gradually take responsibility for toileting, and trusting that the accidents will come to an end.