16 answers

3 Year Old Peeing Everywhere....

The Culprit: My Son, Cameron, is 3 1/2 and has been potty trained since 2 1/2 (day and night). Strong willed, but very sweet child- "generally" follows directions. Has no toys at this time due to not listening and acting out of line- is slowly earning them back with good behavior.
The Problem: Sunday I discovered that he went into my office and peed on my work shelves. I was in shock, and he acted like it was no big deal- even admitting to it without hesitation. The next day he did the same thing in the bathroom, peeing on the cabinet and all over the floor. Then this morning- he stood in his room and let it rip right on the floor. (I was not near him during any of these occurences- found them 30 seconds too late...) He is not doing this at school, only at home.
Our Solution: Each time he has done this, he has assisted the clean up. The first time he peed, we took away his precious "woofy" (security toy) and all privelidges, i.e. cartoons, movies, top bunk- everything now has to be earned back. We also implemented a chart that lists everything he has to accomplish in a day to earn his priveledges back. He was thrilled (still is) and loves the system...although he is still not using the toilet and I have no clue why. He does not offer up any information and is now lying about where the pee came from and is extremely apologetic and promises to not do it again. Last straw, as of this morning I told him he now has to wear diapers (act like a baby get treated like one)- I have nothing else to take away...I am at a loss.
If anyone has gone through this- or any advice for me, I need to know the root of this behavior so I can try to resolve it.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for the responses. It is not easy raising a strong willed child...karma I guess :). As for now, I have decided to keep him by my side at all times and nixed the diaper idea (we also gave woofy back, he proved to have a good day at school and filled in his chart). We started this last night- and I left him for literally 30 seconds and I caught him about to pee on his bed....so- tonight his dad is going to have a talk with him, show him how to go standing up at the toilet and also choose a place outside that would be okay too. I think that it is a good idea to give him options, and it is not fair that he sees his Dad going outside and he can't. Thanks again, and I will keep you all updated as things progress.

Featured Answers

At the moment, the only thing that comes to mind is whether he may have a bladder infection that is causing him to HAVE to pee everywhere - and just not understanding how to tell you things aren't right down there. Other than that, it could be that he has discovered how absolutely fascinating it is to be able to whip that puppy out and go anywhere in the world. MEN!!! seriously - I hope you find an answer quickly!! M.

More Answers

I know what you are going through is frustrating. I can see you are trying everything you can think of, but I have to say I agree with most of what Susan M. said. The punishments you are using are more for an older child, maybe 7 or 8 and up. Your son is trying to get attention! Your punishment is backfiring... he is getting all sorts of attention from you when he does this. Kids that are 3 1/2 love to clean... so having him help really isn't a punishment. When he does this again do what the other poster said... put a diaper on him and ignore him. He will not like this! Then when you see good behavior, tell him so and spend some one on one time with him. Using charts at this age is ok, but I would make it more for rewarding positive behavior than earning back his toys. As for taking away his security toy... that is just mean. He will only act out more if he is feeling insecure. Good luck.


Honestly, my first reponse to this post was laughter. I'm sure it isn't funny to you...but boys are crazy little creatures.

My gut reaction is taht maybe he wants more attention. Dogs pee to mark their teritory and for attention.... Maybe he is having trouble using his words to express something and this action is getting him attention...even though it isn't good attention.

I would not take away his woofy...if he is having any sort of issue that is causing this behavior, taking away a security toy, could make it worse.

I know this isn't the exact same thing...but when I was potty training, my Dr. told me not to punish.

If I were you... I would call my Dr. and ask for his advice. YOu should be able to do so over the phone.

Good luck.

Is he peeing in his pants or directing it to somewhere else besides the toilet? If he is not peeing in his pants, there is on need for diapers. Patience and consistency is the key. Any changes/adjustments in his life? You are doing everything right, and continue to do so. As ridiclious as this sounds, I suggest that you keep him on you all day everyday right next to ou wherever you go. IT is like you have to housebreak him. You cannot trust him right now, and you need to be on him like you were when potty training. Let him know that this won't be fun for him. When you work, he will sit next t oyou until you ar finished. It's not like you are going to give up doing your work and play with him instead. He will realize that once his life isn't fun anymore he will follow the rules. Good luck , and I wish you patience.

Hello H., The style of disapline that you are using is a good one for a teenager, but is backfiring on you with a pre-schooler. Attention and security are what he craves the most from you at this stage. Meeting his basic needs are important also, quality food, enough sleep, warm in cool weather, cool in warm weather, he cannot communicate these needs yet. Now for his acting out. Simply say, wow I thought you were a big boy now, but I was wrong, if you are peeing in your pants then you are still a baby, then put a diaper on him and ignor him. Simply treat him like he is a year younger. He will hate this, and feel embarresed. The more attention(yelling, lecturing, etc) he gets from the behavior, the more he will repeat it. Cleaning the mess up is one on one attention, a reward for the bad behavior. A chlds full time job is playing, that is how their minds grow and develop, so it is up there with the basic needs. A good scedual at this age is breakfast as soon as they wake up, followed by playtime. Lunch around noon, followed directly by nap time. Snack when they wake, then play time. Dinner, bath and bedtime. This age needs lots of sleep, and they will become hyper and cranky if not enough is given. Hope this helps. Good luck.

I understand your frustration. I am potty training a child right now. But I do have to say your method of punishing/dealing with this problem seems very harsh and antiproductive. Children NEED to play they need to be a child. Your child is going to start acting out in nasty nasty ways if you start treating him this way. It looks as though he may already be reacting to your methods. Another thing is you need to find the source of this "sudden" acting out. Then deal with the problem. What has changed in his/your life that is causing him stress? And I agree with another post you need to ask a professional opinion of how to deal with this situation. I think this may be a little more serious than you are putting on.

It sounds like you've handled it really really well!!! I don't know but it sounds like there is a big issue going on inside his head that he's trying to tell you about, in a round about way, acting out.

I'd seek some professional help here, and I would NOT go back to diapers! This happened to a friend of mine at about this age and he suffers from some sexual perversions which HE ties back to this instance - the false security of the diapers at a very vulnerable age. Also it is shaming, and shame can just make problems like this worse! I'd suggest finding someone who does play therapy with children, this would be perfect for his age!

This must be stressful, but you're doing the right thing, and I hope you can get to the bottom of the situation. Also I would recommend reading the 5 love languages for kids. Just in case you're missing out on one of his needs somehow. This book really helped me when my 18 month old started having behavioral problems completely out of the blue. Best wishes!!!!

A couple of random thoughts come to mind, reading your story. Just for background, this never happened to me.

In your telling, there is an obvious connection between having everything of 'his' removed and him starting to pee everywhere but the toilet. Since taking away everything seems to have started it, I'm not sure how it is logical to take things away to end it.

3yos are not capable of lying, because they don't understand that there is a difference between what is real and what is not. Their brains are not developed enough (and won't be until around 7) to know these are different. Just as a 5yo will think 'I killed my baby brother because I wanted him to not be alive,' a 3yo is incapable of discerning truth from preference, fantasy, imagination and pretend.

This is one reason for promising to do one thing and having no way of following through. But children are not legally able to sign binding contracts, and it is mostly because they do not understand the term 'binding' in any practical way.

Children are well aware of the fact that they are at the mercy of their parents, and have no way of entering into equitable negotiations with them, which drives them uncontrollably to 'say anything' to gain approval, cooperation or security. He gets that you're mad at him, and he can't cope with that reality emotionally, so he'll say or do anything (in the moment) to make that stop happening.

Children have a very keen sense of ownership, so your lad can't understand how something can simultaneously be 'his' and you be allowed to take it away. If it's yours, it's yours to control (take away, give back). If it's his, you've stolen it.

I would suggest reading Alfie Kohn's book, Unconditional Parenting, for an excellent explanation for why punishment and control simply do not work. It's not that they're bad or wrong tactics, it's that they are universally ineffective, and every single attempt to control another person, even if it appears to 'work' in front of your face in the moment, will have unintended consequences like those you are experiencing.

How about letting him pee outside? After all, there is probably some strange delight in peeing in strange places when you are a boy. I see why your bookshelves are right out, but perhaps if you could give him a few more choices, your strong willed little guy might find that he can have fun following the rules. Just a thought. Good luck.

At the moment, the only thing that comes to mind is whether he may have a bladder infection that is causing him to HAVE to pee everywhere - and just not understanding how to tell you things aren't right down there. Other than that, it could be that he has discovered how absolutely fascinating it is to be able to whip that puppy out and go anywhere in the world. MEN!!! seriously - I hope you find an answer quickly!! M.

He sounds angry and also I'd say that all this negative attention is meeting some kind of need in him. Is there anything else going on in your lives that might be on his mind? Be thankful he's not doing this at school.

This must be awful for you but I think at this point, since the negative approach is failing miserably, that I'd stop it. As crazy as it sounds, I'd switch to a more positive approach, try to get him to talk to you (maybe on an outing, in the car, etc.) and try the tactic of treating this in a very unemotional way, having him help you clean it up. I'd say something like "I see we have another mess to clean up. Here's a rag. If we work together, we can get it done quickly." I may be wrong, but it sounds like your reaction and your taking away things is playing into a power struggle he's having to try to exert more control over his life. I'd put him in control more and try not to make a big deal out of it. He also might be angry about something that's going on. When my daughter returned to college classes, her bright/hyper 3-yr-old son set fire to her textbooks! We didn't have to read between the lines there! He's 22 now, lives with a buddy and runs his own business and takes college classes when he can afford them. By the way, he's a very loving, considerate guy and my daughter is now a doctor!

When things get so negative, sometimes it's best to show them you empathize with them, value them, and understand that growing up can be difficult and they need your support to get through the process. You may need to make life fun again. He may need to experience your adult authority in a different way right now. He sounds very smart - it's the smart ones that always give you the kind of trouble you never dreamed you have! Hang in there, H.! This too shall pass! One more word - white vinegar is cheap and great on urine! You probably already know that!

I just wanted to let you know that your methods are not too harsh for a 3 and a half year old. I was a little bothered by some of the responses you got because they make it sound like at this age kids are not that bright. The thing is to start early with teaching them responsibility and good behavior, and giving him a chart to work towards rewards is a great idea for this. My suggestion is this if the taking everything away and earning it back is not working then try this with the chart like earning money to get a new toy he might want, or a special trip to his favorite place. For others to say that this method is for teenagers is far from the truth. I have five children 16, 15, 14, 11, and 8. Three are step children. From preschool and all through elementary school I have seen the charts being used and they earn play money to buy stuff from the goody store and if they were bad got priviledges are taken away. Do they have this same chart method in middle school and high school NO, but they still do get priviledges taken from them. So no it is not just meant to use for teenagers. My youngest which is in the second grade now, but when he was in preschool at age 4 in which your son is not that far from had did something and he got sent home and was not allowed to participate in fun day, in which really upset him, but he learned from it. In my son's class this year they have a card system green, yellow, red, and black. Green is good day, yellow not so good, but not too bad, and red means lose recess and phone call home, black meeting with teacher and parent. Just last month I got a phone call from his teacher cause he was having a very hard time listening and following directions, and up until that point I had asked him how his days where and he said all good and never got his card filled. After talking to the teacher I find out that he had got it flipped once a few times. When he got home we had a long talk and he got all his tv, games, and computer time taken away for two days just for the phone call, and then he had to give me two weeks of all green to get it all back for lying, and if during that two weeks his card got flipped he would have to start the whole two weeks over and the teacher was sending him each Friday a report for the week. My little boy not once had to start all over, and got his stuff back in two weeks. Now I give him little incentives for having a whole week of green to places he wants to go like bowling and the new safari playground. I do this to encourage him to keep it going. Just keep the communication going with him along with rewards for good behavior. Kids at that age can communicate very well, and are smarter then what we give them credit for, I know cause my son at 3 and a half taught himself to ride a bike without training wheels and it amazed me in some many ways. He might be wanting more attention from you and is just going about it the wrong way, and just needs to know how to get your attention in a different way and that is were the communicating with him comes into play. It might take some time but eventually he come around and even throughout his life he will still need reassurance that he can come to you with anything. Just try different things and find out what works for him. Best of luck.

I have no advice for you only remember you WILL laugh at this someday. I think it gave all us of mom's with boys a chuckle. Do you scrapbook? What a great page! Good luck to you and your little one..

You have a lot of good answers here. Bottom line he seems pissed off,literally, obviously. About what you will need to figure it out. I would think if you can figure out why then you will be half way home with getting this to stop. Small children do respond to rewards,that is a tactic to use.You need to figure out what else might be bothering him? What has changed in his life? Are you working more?Just some thoughts.


My bet is he saw someone pee outside on tv or heard about it in preschool. Something triggered this fascination with peeing anywhere but the toilet.

I would recommend you give him a choice, he can either pee outside in your backyard (only in a specific spot) or in the toilet. But, if he doesn't follow this rule then he loses a specific privilege and he has to clean up the mess by himself with your supervision.

Strong willed children need to feel in control of their lives by making their own choices. But, if you over-react they will begin to act out in passive ways - like peeing all over your house.

Good luck!


My son did this once - and only once - out of anger for getting in trouble. It was his way of showing that he was still in control of something. We confronted him very directly and let him know that this was never OK. If he was mad then he needed to talk about it. We encouraged him to put his anger into words so we could help him work through it. If you have taken away all of his toys and his security toy he is probably doing this to show he is still in control of something in his world. I would suggest backing off a bit by giving him back some of his toys - especially the security toy. Not all of them - you don't want it to look like you are rewarding him for peeing all over your house. Let him know he doesn't have to pee in other places to get your attention. I would also not go back to diapers as this only takes more control away from him. At 3 years old he absolutely knows what he is doing. I would very directly tell him that he doesn't have to pee all over the house to get my attention. I would also tell him that it is never OK to do that - even if he is angry about getting in trouble. We have always told our son that he could be angry with us but he would always be expected to express that anger appropriately.

Good luck! This has got to be very frustrating for you but I'm sure you will work it out with him. One day when he's older you can tell him the "funny" story about the time he started peeing all over the house.

I hesitate to answer this...but I think you are being too hard on him, and he is acting out because of it. You cannot take away "every" toy and privilege expect him to just sit back. When a child does something wrong, you have the right to punish him, but taking everything away at once will not help. He will only fight back. And the whole diaper thing is belittling him. He will just take it off and pee anyway.
My advice is to take one thing away when he does this, for a specified time, or sit on a chair for 15 minutes with nothing to do...it will feel like eternity for him. I know is sucks, but it is just a phase and he will get board of it and stop.

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