Advice on Teaching Good Hygiene to 4 Year Old Daughter

Updated on October 03, 2008
D.W. asks from Woodland, CA
15 answers

I'm at a loss on what to do about this, so here goes...
My daughter is just over 4 years old & is potty trained during the day, but still wears pull-ups at night. We've tried going without the pull-ups a couple of times, but she always ends up with a wet bed. I'm thinking of trying the Potty Pager & have told her about it & she seems excited to try it. Any input on that is appreciated...BUT, that's just a sidebar & not what I'm really writing this for. The problem is that she doesn't do a very good job at wiping herself after going potty & often doesn't bother wiping at all when she pees. She is coming home every day from school with an awful smell. Her skin is often red & she complains that it hurts. I suspect that this is from the urine just like a diaper rash. I've even had her tell me that she has had accidents at school & she comes home in her regular clothes (they are suppose to give them loaners if this happens). I've told the teachers about this already so they are aware she's done this & I've tried to explain to my daughter the problem, but she doesn't seem to be affected by what I say. At home I try to be with her to make sure she wipes well, but do not always aware that she has been to the bathroom. Any suggestions or helpful comments would be appreciated. Thanks.

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So What Happened?

This was my first post on this site & although I knew this was a great site, still I'm amazed at how many responses I received. Thank you all for your helpful input & advice.
We haven't picked up the flushable wipes yet, but I definately will be trying that popular tip. I've talked to her teachers about what has been happening & when I picked her up from school yesterday she had loaner undies on (boys undies no less, which made her giggle), so there seems to be some progress in the right direction. We will be visiting her peditrician soon, so we'll see if she has any additional insight, but as for the possibility of a bladder infection though, I very much doubt that this is occuring since my daughter is uncomfortable on the surface of her skin & when I was 4 I had a bladder infection & remember the severe internal pain of it.
I am so grateful to you all for sharing your stories which help me feel reassured that this is something that my daughter will eventually outgrow. THANKS!

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Regarding Pull Ups at night:

I don't recommend it. I blame Huggies to this day for the my sons wetting the bed at night. These wonderful diapers that keep you oh-so-dry keep the kids TOO dry! Its not cool to sleep through the night if you are peeing on yourself. But, diapers allow you to do that!

My 7 and 5 year old both still have nighttime wetting problems! They don't pee in the bed so much now, but it used to be an every day thing. It takes a LOT of dedication on the parents part. Every night, I would wake them up around midnight and carry them or walk them to the bathroom and make them pee. I knew if I didn't, I would have to wake up early and give them a bath and wash all the bed stuff. This also helps the child to understand they need to get up to go to the bathroom and that it is not ok to pee laying down. It will take a lot of dedication and persistence on your part, but it will pay off.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Well, I finally got my daughter to wipe completely after "#2" just a couple of years ago and she's 11! It seemed explaining to her the consequences of her actions made no difference whatsoever! What finally worked was getting totally clear and very specific on the instructions (wipe your bottom with 3 wads of toilet paper, then if you still see brown on the paper, flush the toilet and get another wad....) and promising her new "big girl" panties (silky ones that don't come from a package) if she could keep her current panties clean (and bottom) for one month. During the month she collected a dragon's tear (flattish glass marble) for each clean day to keep up morale until the final day when we went shopping for new silky panties and we threw away her old ones. No more skid marks or rashy bottom since!!! Of course, she was 9 at the time and 4 may be more difficult.

Oh yeah, and I mentioned I might need to talk to daddy or grandparents to help with the problem, and she was utterly embarrassed. That and the panties gave her real impetus to make the change.

In the meantime, protect her bottom with A+D Ointment.



answers from Merced on


I had the same problem with my daughter at that age. First things first though. You should DEFINITELY have her checked out by your pediatrician for a bladder or urinary tract infection. This could be why she is having accidents and would definitely explain the pain. If that is not the problem, you could try to get her to wipe with baby wipes EVERY time, or as our doctor told us, have her wash off with a wet wash cloth. (Just water on the wash cloth) I know, that just sounds rediculous. If you can't get her to wipe with TP, how are you going to get her to use a baby wipe or wash cloth? You could try some positive reinforcement...such as a sticker or a small piece of candy when she tells you that she is going potty so you can oversee the wiping process. For all the days that she comes home "clean", she would get something small yet significant to her. LOTS OF PRAISE is my best advise to you. Good luck, Hun. I know your pain and frustration.




answers from San Francisco on


Her little bladder might not be ready to hold all night long. My daughter is 7 and just now able to have dry nights with limited evening liquids and emptying out at bed time. She's finally realized the connection. She is still not able to make it a full week, so we keep her in pullups (generic) at night. Don't push it or it might take longer.

As for day time, my daughter also will "forget" to wipe. At home we use the Pamper Natural (greenish-blue box) wipes. She remembers these, which is helpful in removing all putty messes and helps cleanse the area. We haven't found a way to have them at school. I remind her every morning about what she needs to do at school while she's on the potty at home.

I also resorted to daily showering in the morning when she's come home not clean. She would rather sleep than get up 30 mins earlier to shower. Yes, I chose morning time because it had the biggest impact on her. Bedtime didn't work, even starting 30 mins early.

Fortunately, I had a little boy in my class who was struggling with caring for himself and it was obvious to all, but him. She knew who he was and I talked candidly about caring for herself otherwise she might be known as the smelly girl. She didn't like that idea. I explained that she had to manage her body, just like I manage mine. She sees me take a shower daily and use wipes too. She's much better about it.

When she was 3-4 yrs old, I took her to the doctor and the team talked to her about wiping herself every time. That seemed to help too.

Good luck,



answers from Fresno on

One important note about potty wipes ... PLEASE be sure to get the unscented/sensitive ones. My little one sometimes gets red and it's painful. This happens if she doesn't take a bath or shower at least every other day, and I'm sure it's because they aren't quite clear on what "good wiping" means.

When it is red and inflamed, as you know it's very painful. The scents they put in wipes STING like you would not believe. (I know because I used one once when I had a paper cut - OUCH!)

We've now graduated to toilet paper, but the wipes were successful for teaching that they clean. We switched to toilet paper just so she'd be drier - not sure the wetness of the wipes helped with the red.

To help with the redness, we used Balmex. Whenever we'd put it on (sometimes it would sting), we'd just explain that the rash wouldn't happen if she wiped better and bathed more often. Also, when we started potty training, one of the rules was she always had to tell us when she had to go potty. Well, even though she's got it down perfectly (she's even trained at night), she tells us when she has to go to the bathroom.

She's doing MUCH better now ... who doesn't want to avoid pain if at all possible, right?

I hope all my ramblings helped!



answers from San Francisco on

Bathe her frequently, and keep reminding her about the hygiene throughout her life. She's still only 4. She'll get it eventually. Also it wouldn't hurt to have baby wipes by the toilet. It's a nice habit even for adults.



answers from Fresno on

Unfortunately I have nothing really helpful to say except don't give up. I have been with my 9 year old stepdaughter since she was 5 and she was experiencing the same problems. We tried everything we could think of. I even made her start hand washing her soiled underpants herself as an attempt to motivate her to wipe better. This didn't seem to be effective because then she started hiding them in her drawers so she wouldn't have to wash them out. Now at 9 years old she still doesn't wipe well, periodically has to go to the doctor for treatment related to lack of hyigenic practices and she even has a tendency to develop yeast infections. She now does her own laundry at 9 years old which some people think is too early but honestly my husband and I got tired of fighting with her over the soilings due to lack of wiping and such, so we make her treat and wash her own cloths. Hand washing is also a problem but seems to be getting a little better since we are on her all the time due to having a 13 month old in the house. I'm sorry I dont have any magic solutions but I would say don't give up. We still talk to our daughter about it and implore her to see how she could potentially be hurting herself by not following proper care and hygiene rules. Her doctore has been recommending that when she develops the "rash" she soak in about 2 inches of warm water with 4 heaping tablespoons of baking soda. Then she applies a medicated cream call Vusion. Hope you find a way to solve your problem... I will be checking the responses myself!



answers from Redding on

You might try the Kandoo wipes. They're made flushable, and easy to dispense for the kiddos. She might wipe better if she has those "special" wipes, just for her!! If she prefers to do like Mommy, you can use them too, or the Cottonelle wipes. They're very nice, I got some as a gift after my son (now 1 year) was born.

As for bedtime, I hahve to agree with the other responders, limit fluid intake at least an hour before bedtime, 2 is better, be sure the bladder is emptied before bed, and remember, accidents happen. My daughter is 7 and we have an accident every now and again. Heck, I had one when I was 12, these things happen. Keep clean sheets on hand, and put a waterproof bed pad on her bed.
Persistance is key!



answers from Sacramento on

Since you seem to be more concerned about the soiled clothing during the day, I'm going to address that. I'm sure she's so busy with her friends and the school routine that she simply forgets to go. That isn't uncommon among children. As far as the school not giving her 'loaner' clothing... why don't you simply take a couple of outfits and put them in a bag marked with her name that they can use to change her. Include several plastic bags for them to also put the soiled clothing into for return home. That will be a reminder to the school that you want her to be changed, and eliminate you having to wash and return their 'loaner' clothing. Many schools simply do not have the clothing to loan out, but even if they do, I think sending her own clothing is a preferable option. If you don't want to risk losing her nice clothing, go to a thrift shop and buy a couple of inexpensive outfits just for this purpose. Be sure to include a change of underwear, including socks, for each clothing change you send. Your daughter, at age 4, probably can take care of most of the changing process herself, and should only need a 'boost' from the teacher to get her to do it. As far as how to get her to wipe thoroughly, I've found showing them how to properly wipe, and that they should wipe until the last paper comes clean usually works. Having the flushable wipes is a good idea, however we've found that they need supervision or the whole box gets used in one potty time. (They are a neat toy I guess!)



answers from Chico on

I was going to suggest the Kandoo wipes (as someone else did); Target even has their own brand of flushable wipes. Maybe she could have a pack of those at school in her cubby? Also, maybe she could wear a panty liner, too, that would catch drips (you know her well enough to guess if she'd use it as a diaper and "ruin" the whole plan!!)and help keep her dry. The school should catch the smell, or she should be able to tell them if she has an accident. Do you notice the smell at home? Unlikely, but possible she has an infection making her red and itchy: hopefully you can rule that out!

About the night-time wetting: tread softly. I wet my bed until I was almost 7; not every night, but often. It didn't matter if I had no drinks with dinner or after. My mom made me feel very ashamed, and I even used to hide the wet sheets and try to change my bed in the middle of the night. It wasn't because I was lazy or didn't want to be a big girl!

I have had my own potty issues with my 4.5 year old: the potty problems are pretty universal, I think. Best wishes for a speedy solution!



answers from Sacramento on

First of all, I would ask the school why they don't have her change clothes. If you notice the smell as soon as she gets there, they should notice at school as well. You might consider sending a change of clothes with her, so she feels comfortable changing into her own clothing at school if its necessary. The school may need to help her along -- you don't want the kids to notice and start make comments about how she smells.

As far as wiping, maybe she doesn't like the texture or feel of the toilet paper on her skin. Maybe try the flushable wipes and see if she likes those. That would be more expensive, but well worth it if she will use them. Kids do get rashes or irritated skin when they don't wipe well and it will hurt, so getting her on the right track will be helpful for both of you.



answers from San Francisco on


Is your daughter one of those kids that is constantly on the go and once involved in something has a difficult time putting it down? If so, she's gonna do very well for herself...that much focus at such a young age is very rare and those types of children end up being the over achievers.

But, if your daughter is 5 and still wetting the bed it's probably because she sleeps just as she plays: HARD! I would try limiting her liquid intake 2-3 hours prior to her bed-time. I would also suggest that just before you put her down for the evening you make certain she empties her bladder and if you retire a couple of hours after she does then you wake her up and take her to the potty again. She will begin to do this on her own after a couple of weeks. Keep in mind if she's a heavy sleeper you will get some resistance so patience is key. If you don't see a marked improvement after several weeks I would then encourage you to see the pediatrician as there may be a health issue.

Now as far as the wiping goes, try the flushable baby wipes; a tub for the toilet and and a purse pack for school. This way you'll know shes clean and this may encourage her to wipe. I myself started using them rather than toilet paper when my daughters were babies. I've never really liked toilet paper and you get a much cleaner feeling from the wipes; especially during that time of the month. In my house...toilet paper is for guests....;-)

I hope this information is helpful. Good Luck!



answers from San Francisco on


I agree with most of the other don't want to push night time without pullups...We had several false starts with our son...backed off and when we had a few months of dry diapers went back to it with complete success at 5 years. Our son, 6 yrs, still is not thorough when he wipes but we have a reward system in place for good aim and wipe, flush and wash. He likes computer time well enough to work on the points.





answers from San Francisco on

Hi D., it sounds more like your daughter is having accidents in school. I have a hard time imagining she smells from not wiping. Kids don't need wiping as much as adults do.



answers from San Francisco on

Can I say something controversial? LOL. We never used pull ups at night. (We never used them during the day either, for that matter. Wet undies are very uncomfortable and proved to be great motivation) For one thing my kids didn't want to. For another thing, if they wet the bed, they felt it, woke up, got cold, had to change their sheets etc. Sure it meant more work, but if you get a good bed pad, and use a few pairs of old sheets, it will work out fine. Both my sons got through the night wet free within the first few weeks, with rare accidents. Of course, restrain the fluids after dinner! Small sips if necessary, but until they gain control, restrict fluids in the pm.
AT least that was our experience.I'm sure you're getting lots of good advice!
As for the wiping-this one is harder. We've used wet wipes, they are a little more efficient. They make dispensers especially for potty trainers. But still, my four year old is a little less conscientious. He's getting better, but now uses half a roll of toilet paper! Watching him, reminding him and being consistent with the supervision is helping.

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