4 1/2 Year Old PEES Bed DELIBERATELY!!!

Updated on February 24, 2013
K.S. asks from Salem, OR
21 answers

Hi, i have a 4 1/2 year old daughter and she has been potty trained since 22 months and did great in the day at keeping dry but just 2 years ago quit peeing her bed. (she wore pullups) Now my husband and i added our second child to the family last December and after that my 4 year old started wetting the bed all over again. so i thought ok she is jealous. i bought pullups again and she soaked them every night. then i tried spending more time with her, one one one just her and i. still she pees the bed! its to the point where i change her sheets DAILY and wash her clothes daily! they reak of pee. my room REAKS of pee! she sleeps in my room with my husband and i on the floor on her bed. So 2 weeks ago my inlaws came for a visit and my mother in law and i were talking and she said Hailey smelled like pee......so i said yeah she pees the bed. so later that day i went out to do some errands and left her here with her grandma. she talked to her and she told her that she pees the bed cause she wants to be a baby like Emma! (my 10 month old). so my mother in law said no your a big girl and big girls dont wet the bed. she got mad and said i will never stop peeing the bed and i do it cause it makes my mommy MAD. so i thought i would talk to her. well, she told me the same thing! i told her if she tried really hard not to pee the bed then she would be rewarded. she just said NO and yelled at me and stomped off. she didnt want rewards she wants to be a baby. i am at my wits end with this kid right now. she is 4 1/2 and she just is such a monster! she is always being mean to her little sister, everything is NO and i dont have to, you cant make me. and her newest thing when she is in trouble she picks up her pretend cellphone and calls the police on me and tells them i am a mean mommy and she wants them to come get me!! she has always been a monster but now its just getting worse. and now that i know she is peeing the bed on purpose i dont know what to do!!!!! anyone have this problem??? i need HELP!! im ready to dial SUPER NANNY!!!!!!!!

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answers from Portland on

I would first make her start cleaning everything up herself with strictly enforced consequences. Then I would come up with a good reward for when she changes. One idea -If you have the abillity to give her a big girl room all to herself you should make a big show of getting it ready. Painting the walls, putting a nice bed and new blankets in it. Then take all of her big girl toys and set them up in her big girl room. Let her help set it up and put things away. Then close the door and let her earn the privilege of using it. Until she is ready to be a big girl with a new big girl room, she can play with baby toys, wear diapers, eat baby food, take 2 naps a day, etc.

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answers from Portland on

Wow, K., your statement "she has always been a monster but now its just getting worse" is a sign of deep trouble. I hear in that label that at least two possible things that could be going on.

One is that Hailey has one of many possible developmental or personality disorders. Very few parents would describe a 4-year-old as "always" having been a monster, even in a moment of stress. It sounds like you have a really tough time with her. She also sounds very clever, so you should be able to have some reasonable communication with her. Have you described her behavior to your pediatrician? It might be worth having her evaluated for underlying problems that could be treatable, if she is really beyond reasoning and calm discipline.

Another is that you are over-stressed by trying to parent two kids when you weren't having too much success with just one (and maybe another one coming - good heavens!), in which case you might do yourself a tremendous favor by getting good family counseling, parenting classes, and/or reading lots of books on parenting. A need for training is nothing to be ashamed of, either. Kids don't come with instruction manuals, and mamas may not have had the best modeling of good parenting themselves. Sometimes there's even a personality mismatch between a parent and child that creates special challenges.

I was the first child of a mom who was pretty dysfunctional and needy, and so my parenting chops needed plenty of tuning up. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on during pregnancy and for the first several years of my daughter's life, and they were wonderful. They took me from an uncertain, inconsistent parent to a mommy who really "got" my little girl, and we had a terrific relationship. I know it's hard to find time to read – I worked full-time while my daughter was still very young, and my husband was seldom home, or when he was, he needed constant babying himself. So finding time to better myself was really tough. And it was the best investment of my time I could possibly have made.

One other thing that jumps out at me is that you asked your daughter why she pees (to be like a baby), but you didn't ask her what she needs from you and her daddy to change her behavior. I wonder if you could have that conversation with her. You could find out what she needs that she feels she's not getting (really, few children will choose negative behavior and consequences unless they are desperately certain they will not get their needs met any other way). And she doesn't have the life experience to know that things will eventually turn around as her baby sister grows older.

Now, this does not mean you have to give her what she says she wants. But you can acknowledge her legitimate needs, and express a wish to make her happy, and assure her that you love her (you do, yes?), and tell her how you'll do your best to meet her halfway if she can come the other half. If she feels that you recognize that she is hardly more than a baby herself, and that you care that she is hurting, you might be amazed by a change of heart. She didn't ask to be brought into your family, and it sounds like she is suffering.

I hear other moms suggesting that you be harsh with her. It sounds like plenty of harshness exists already, and is not helping. Try gentleness, and see if that helps. I've transformed teenage delinquents with little more than respect and tenderness. It seems counterintuitive to some adults, but it works where nothing else did.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hi K.,
My little girl is now 17 and it seems that she was just 4 it happens in a flash. I am a bit concerned by the amount of advice that encourages you to punish her for this behavior. Please remember that she is trying to communicate to the best of her little four year old ability. She sounds amazingly bright and articulate. She sounds sad and left out to me and is trying to get your attention even though it is bad attention. Remember that sometimes any attention is good attention when you are desperate. I think the advice of letting her know that her baby sister is also her's is right on. Try not to take this personally which is difficult at the moment yet when you look back on this years down the road it will look differently. My daughter acted out at the same age during a very stressful time and I didn't always handle it with love and feel badly about that now. If you can use love and patience (not my strong suit ;-))you will be able to never have future regrets. This will pass and you will have different challenges as she grows up. Good luck and give her all the love you can you will feel better about you and her. Cheers, L.

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answers from Seattle on

Dear K., (and anyone else who encounters a mother who has a child exhibiting signs of regression as a result of the birth of a younger child),

I am not a therapist and always encourage people to seek out a knowledgable therapist to the extent that they are able to afford it. In the meantime, I will share what I have learned from capable, caring, qualified therapists through the years.

It is not uncommon for children to exhibit signs of regression with the birth and introduction of a new child to the family. Contrary to the instinct of many parents, the best course of action is actually to provide nurturing to the age level that is being exhibited by the child. So, this 4 1/2 year old who is wetting the bed and asking for infantile nurturance, well, you can actually hold and rock that child in a similar manner that you would an infant. You might have her hold her sippy cup and encourage her to drink from it like it was a bottle. Give her baby time. Give her that nurturance. Then, when it comes time to clean up the soiled bed sheets, have her be in charge of that. Have her take off the dirty sheets, carry them to the washer, carry the clean sheets to the bed, and make up the new bed. If you have her be in charge of this process, over time she will get tired of cleaning up and quit peeing in the bed. Natural consequences (people have to clean up their bed if they pee in it) combined with providing the nurturance being sought (in this case, holding, rocking) will allow your child to successfully advance through this phase to more age-appropriate behavior.

Remember, we are teaching our children, so let's try meet their needs with kindness and talk them through their expectations without yelling, blaming, or shaming. Also, know that good parenting is something learned over time and that if you are doing a good job of things 80% of the time, you are doing an excellent job!

Good luck!!

(M., if you pass this along, please just refer to me as your sister who has worked in residential child care facilities; I do not want to be accused of practicing therapy without a license. - thanks!)

An addendum to our last posting from a therapist friend...

I would advise the mother to try not to be punitive at all on the bed wetting. It is best to be very matter of fact about her daughter having to change her sheets again, and even expressing sympathy for her having to do all of that work.

She might also find ways to reinforce how great it is to be the older one and remind her of the things she gets to do that the baby can’t do.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

K., it looks like you've gotten a lot of advice so far. I saw a video on "difficult" children before I had mine, and the thing I took from it it "children do well if they can". If you keep that in mind, it may help. Your daughter wants to be a good kid, and she will if she can. She's reaching out the only way she knows in order to get what she needs.

I hope you are able to figure things out quickly to help both her and your entire family.

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answers from Portland on

Hi K.-

I'm with Peg on this one. I'm not sure punishment or harsh consequences are the way to go in this situation. I know her behavior must be infuriating, but it sounds like she's trying to reach out to you in a way that she knows will get her attention, even if it is negative. Sometimes it's hard to remember that our little ones are just that - little - and they don't always have the tools or reasoning capabilities that adults do.

The fact that you referred to your daughter as a monster twice in your posting also tells me that you might be overwhelmed. At 24, you have a lot on your plate kid-wise, and I'm sure that being a SAHM can be extremely challenging and exhausting. Is there any way you can get some help from friends or family, both with the kids and/or just to get some time for yourself? Even an hour a week all by yourself (or with your spouse) can do wonders.

Good luck to you. I hope everything works out for the best!

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answers from Portland on

Hey there~ Congrats on the new baby (babies). Now for the "old" one...take a deep breath...

Yes, it's on purpose, but not on purpose to be mean. It's to get your undivided attention. She feels left out and that the baby is loved more, and she is going to do whatever it takes to get you to pay attention to ONLY HER, even if you are yelling. Try never to punsih her for the peeing. Clean it up and ignore it. Hard I know, but blaming, making her clean, chastising or shaming will only make it worse. Two things that will help:

1. Make some time for just her. Even if it is only a trip to the grocery store, invite her and tell her "Emma is staying home with daddy, because I want to be with just you". Try to do this a few times a week. Invite her to color with you, without holding Emma or having Emma distract you, bring her into the shower with you, whatever is just you and her. Ask Daddy to try to do some Hailey only things too.

2. Let her know that you still love her even if she's big, but give her some babying. Coo and cuddle, ask if you can dress her, kiss her feeties, rub her with lotion...do what you do to a baby. She is grieveing the loss of that and it makes her sad and angry. In turn, she will make you sad and angry, Make her feel loved and cherished, and she will be safe enough to stop fighting for attention.

A two pronged approach of showing the perks of being the biggest girl (stuff alone with mommy) and some babying to show she is still your little love should work.

As for being mean to Emma, absolute "NO", and no flexibility. Hang in there - I have a tough first daughter too, who is now 9 and much better :-)

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answers from Spokane on


I think you got some good advice already, the cleaning up after herself and getting treated like a baby. I would just like to comment about the fact that you say she is a monster and always has been...You as the mommy need to nip that in the bud...It's not going to get better all by itself. If you stand by and do nothing about her behavior in hopes that she will grow out of it, you are going to be in for rude awakening! Give her some rules and stick to them. When she doesnt follow them there has to be consequences. You say you have 2 kids with one more on the way?...they are going to learn how to act by watching there big sister...I'd get on that pretty quick like.

Dont forget...You are the Mommy, it's your responsibility to teach them and you can do it!


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answers from Portland on

I am an Early Childhood Education Major. I completely agree with Miranda T.
I am in shock at how many people are suggesting horrible punishments to a CHILD. She is only 4! She is not an adult,she does not have adult manipulations and mindsets as expressed here. I can't believe the punishments suggested. I think some parenting courses would be very helpful to people who feel that shame,fear and humiliation are the paths to teaching children. You would call the authorities on any educator who would treat your child with humiliation,(or gave your child vinegar in the mouth as a punishment!) why should things be different in the home?
When you teach your children to respond to fear, I believe you are only teaching them to have relationships as adults that are fear-based...i.e ABUSE! Respect is not taught through fear, but through understanding, and kindness and ADMIRATION!
KUDOS to those who offered kind insights and experiences.I agree that the girl is only communicating her NEEDS and FEARS as best as she knows how. If you punish her for communicating as best as she knows how, you are only punishing her NEEDS and FEARS.
We are not civilized if we do not treat our children with respect and kindness!

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answers from Seattle on


Hailey is peeing the bed because it is one of the few things that she has control of. Her life is spinning out of control, in her eyes, and she doesn't like it. In her eyes she had Mommy and Daddy all to herself for 3 years, then here comes Emma the interloper and takes Mommy and Daddy away from her. H*ll yes she's mad. I would be too in her situation.

I'm wondering why, at 4 1/2 she is not in her own bed in her own room? At 4 1/2 she should not be on the floor in any room but her own. But, anyway that's a small thing compared to everything else that's happening in your life right now.

First, with the peeing her pants I would have her clean up the mess in the bathtub. I used the coldest water out of the tap I could get; my son hated it.

Second, I would also have her change her bed when she pees that. If she makes the mess, she can clean it up.

If that fails (if she still fits) I'd put her back in diapers and treat her like a baby. That means morning naps like a baby, afternoon naps like a baby. All of it. She should hate it in a day or two.

Here's a link to all the advice I got when trying to potty train my son (he just turned 5) back in Feb/March: http://www.mamasource.com/request/8244745171971866625


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answers from Seattle on

Teach her that the new baby isn't YOUR baby... it is HER baby. Teach her how to relate to the baby and talk about what SHE will get to teach her new sister and what they will be able to do together. Acknowledge that the baby takes a lot of work, but show her how to make that baby laugh, play peekaboo, etc. Help her foster her own relationship with her sister. Concentrate on "them" together and just clean up the pee with a little fanfare as possible.

I have seen the whole "I hate the baby" go away almost instantly when the older child is shown how to have their own relationship with the baby. I have children the same span apart. My daughter takes responsiblity for him when I ask... like standing with her hand on him while a step away from the changing table or entertaining him when he is a little bored.

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answers from Eugene on

Kids have different ways of telling their parents that they are needy. Some keep it all inside and try harder to be good. Others show you with bad behavior. I have two of each and the ones who loudly express their anger are easier. I'll take "monster" behavior any day because you know right away there is a problem and can deal with it then. It is more painful to have a child who you think is fine and then find out 15 years later that they had problems that you didn't take care of because you never knew.

Your older daughter has incredible insight and self-awareness for a 4 year old. Many adults cannot tell you honestly why they do what they do. Since she is willing to speak up about her desire to be a baby, perhaps she could also tell you exactly what it is about being a baby that she wants for herself. Does she want to be cuddled, helpless, cooed at? It may be something you can actually do for her by giving her some regular one-on-one cuddle time or allowing her to pretend to be a baby for an afternoon.

It is perfectly reasonable for a 4 year old to want to be loved and adored for herself. Perhaps by getting that need met, she will realize it's not always so great to be a baby, or to sleep in pee.

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answers from Portland on

It sounds to me like your big girl is needing some special mommy attention, and this is her way of getting it. Try to find a way to spend some time alone with her, doing something she likes. Try to keep this activity going on a regular basis, I'll bet she'll come around once she sees how much nicer it is to get positive attention rather than negative.

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answers from Anchorage on

well this is what i have done with my step daughter, she was doing the same thing, and just wanting to make me mad, and wanting to be a baby so she could be cute again. I put a plastic sheet on her bed, and now am making her clean it up, I no longer do this. So when she pees the bed, she has to strip her bed, put the sheets in the washing machine and than she has to put them in the dryer. Than i make her make her bed. She like once every 2 weeks pees the bed, but she doesn't like to do the work, so she doesnt pee so much in her bed.

That is my suggestion.



answers from Portland on

My sister-in-law had a similar problem with her daughters. She just let them suffer the natural cosequences of their actions until they agreed to stop then she put cream on their girl parts to help them heal up. She would also not change their clothes or their sheets. They were not allowed to sit on the furniture or on the floor they had to stand. She planned ahead to do this for a couple of weeks. She filled up her cubbords so she woulnd't have to go out for food. She premade as many dishes as she could ahead of time so she could watch them like a hawk. It may seem like forever but a little time of serious attention like this may be just what your daughter needs. It's getting cold outside and after she pees it will be nice and cold on her bottom if she plays outside with a coat of course. You might ask her if she wants to go live with someone else because you don't want her to be unhappy. Maybe even if you can call the police or a friend and have them get a badge and come pick her up and watch her for the day make sure she won't have fun at the other person's house. No drinks after dinner, she had plenty of time all day to drink. Another mom showed me how to make my daughter really miss her toys, She bought a huge plastic bin and would put the toys in it and seal it up with tape and put it where her kids would see it all day so they could see what they couldn't play with and if they tried to open it it was put up high were they could still see it and they lost it for one more day. Try the websie loveandlogic.com they are all about no sweat parenting and have plenty of strategies and options for all kinds of situations.

I also give my daughter Vinegar when she has a nasty mouth.

All this is harsh so make sure you are communicating how much you love her with lots of hugs and kisses as well; at the appropriate times. It is good for your kids to know when you are mad sometimes. Other times it is better for them not to know. When she acts good praise ,praise , praise. Let her know now she is old enought that all her choices have consequenses good and bad. Make sure she understands good choices are the ones to make. Don't stress about not being in control it will only make you tired. Simply take control in the ways you can(pick your battles).

Out think her you are an adult come up with ways to deal with her behavier, be creative. Write them down so you won't forget.
Hope some of this helps.



answers from Eugene on

So, your daughter wants to be a baby, then treat her like a baby. She gets fed baby food, sippy cup or bottle, play with only baby toys, no going outside to play, only watch baby shows, wears a diaper, take two naps a day....try to put her on the same schedule as your other little one. Maybe Hailey will realize that being a baby isn't what it is cracked up to be. That is my first reaction after I read your situation. I would even go as far as giving her formula in the bottle, but I don't know what it would do to her. I'm sure it would be fine - it just tastes so nasty to us....lol. I hope that you get through this battle. Wow - I hope that I don't have to go through this when we have our next child....it will be about the same time. Hugs.



answers from Corvallis on

It sounds like a general discipline problem. You just can't let her get away with things. It's hard to give exact advice, but... I mean, can't she be embarrassed yet? Maybe not, all kids are different, but perhaps you can explain to her that kids will laugh at her if she is still peeing the bed when she's in kindergarten, or something along those lines.
One thing that seems to work is to not let her do something until she does something else. For example, "We are not going to have any X until you stop peeing the bed." Maybe she can't play with her toys unless she doesn't pee the bed the night before.
She might also do it as a way to get attention, so if she does it, don't pay attention to her (too much) that day. Like someone suggested, don't change the sheets or her clothes or whatever, just let her see if she really does enjoy her bed and clothes smelling like pee, and basically, you need to show her that it won't get your attention anymore. Perhaps you can explain that to her once before you start doing it. "I'm only going to change your sheets once a week. If you pee the bed, you'll have to wait until I change the sheets again to get clean ones." Likewise, if she doesn't pee the bed, maybe you can give her a little more attention than normal, especially the first few times.



answers from Seattle on

This will seem simple and harsh maybe--funny? But take the bed away. Put down one of those plastic water floats that you can blow up. Cover it with a sheet.

That way when she pees, you can wash the sheet, hose down the bed, and not get so excited. You can tell her when she gets potty trained at night again, she can have her bed back. Be very nice and calm.

Don't get mad, or condescending. Don't ask for explanations--just pretend it doesn't matter. Be joyful and nice to her in other areas.

She will probably try to provoke you somewhere else, because she is in a real power struggle with you. You need to stay calm and not respond. Very Hard To Do. (I've Been There!)

If she throws her toys pick them up and put them away--don't give them up--don't say a word.

If she has a temper tantrum, put her in her room, and shut the door, and walk a way. If she comes out put her back it. Get your husband to back you up.

You might have to take everything out of her room so she is in there by her self and is really miserable.

This really needs to be resolved (even if you need to call super nanny) before the new one comes, because she will be sooo mad then. She is a powerful personality.

I think you should put that power to work.. in swimming, ballet, gymnastics, something that wears her out. Two or three times a week. Do you have a climbing gym outside your house?
Does she have regular play dates?

I've read some of the emails and I would like to insert a note of gentleness. There must be firmness and gentleness I think with your daughter.

I will tell you a story.

I use to teach 1st grade in a area that had some low economic houses. One boy was a problem. He was messy, smelly, didn't do his work, and left out of his peer activities. And I frankly didn't like helping him. I have this philosophy that a circle always has room for one more. So the class was having a group hug and there he stood, left out. I put my arm out to invite him in and he smiled, "me?" In he came, smelling bad. But he was in the group.

Hi performance improved--not a lot. But I liked him more, and I remember him.

Gentleness and acceptance, with firmness. Put her in sports to wear her out---that's what I did with my strong willed daughter. Six days a week, straight A student in Gifted program. She was to tired to fight.



answers from Portland on

No more drinks after dinner. That is what we did with our daughter. She goes to bed around 8:30 and we still don't let her have anything to drink after 7. She is 9 now. If she is really thirsty she is allowed a little bit of water. We told her she has plenty of time to drink water during the day. No accidents in years. I know she is 9, but was wetting the bed still at 7.

Also, start taking things away from your daughter. She is old enough to know consequences and rewards. If she wants to be a baby, then take all her big toys away, tell her she can just play with baby toys. Take away things that she gets now that she is older. Make her wear a diaper all day...to school would be embarrasing...if she goes to school. I hope I don't sound mean, but 4 year olds should not control us.

Best of luck,



answers from Seattle on

I have a 3 1/2 year old that does the same thing. I have done a lot of research, even met with a child psychologist who met with me alone then my daughter and I together. What I've found out for sure is she is needing more of your attention for whatever reasons(i'm sure you guessed that since your daugther even told you that in relation to the baby). They will use any method of getting attention, positive or negative, and the psychologist said when they use their excrement it is because it is the very last thing they can completely control in their world, it is powerful, nobody can control or change their behavior except them, and it works because it is so frustrating! (Unfortunately). What I was told was during the heat of the moment to unplug my emotional reactions that are rewarding her negative attention scheme. You must never let them see your anger, frustration, rage, nothing. You must turn away from it and walk out of the room, give attention to the dog the baby the plant, anything but your child during the heat of the moment. Then when you can control your emotions, put on a poker face and go back in, make it all a buisiness transaction. Have her clean herself up, have her help with the sheets, take the stuff to the laundry, even help you wash, dry, fold, and replace, all with the bare minimum of essential words that are only concerning the business aspect of what you are working on. My councelor also said not to offer her clean pull ups. Provide them, but don't insist she change them or that she stay dry. Give her a little control in those departments. You can also let her earn special sheets when she keeps them dry. I bought sheets and panties my daughter LOVES, and she doesn't get them unless she keeps them dry. She earns them after a day or so (baby steps) then I take them back if she misuses them. Again, the most important thing is to treat it like a business transaction. Don't ever let her see your true feelings during the heat of the moment. Then after the moment has passed, and throughout the rest of the day and night make up for it with huge emotional rewards, have a party, put out the tea set, lots of hugs, kisses, attention, when she stays dry. My daughter is very proud when she gets to tell me she stays dry now, and we have a huge party every time! She gets much more attention for that than for the peeing stuff. It essentially takes the wind from their sail in the negative attention department and they focus on where the reward is in the positive zone. A good add campaign I play and replay all day long "never let them see you sweat!" The hardest moments of our day are always the biggest teaching moments. We must realize that and not crack under the pressure but find the silver lining and raise a well established, kind and loving adult.



answers from Seattle on

When my daughter was 4 and still having accidents, I taught her how to do her own laundry. With my supervision, she would take off her wet clothes, put them in the washing machine, get the laundry soap and start the machine. I told her that she was a big enough girl that if she peed her pants, she could take care of it. This did double duty in taking a responsibility away from me and making her see the consequences of what she was doing. I don't know if this would work with your daughter, but it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.

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