Potty Trained Son Having "Accidents"

Updated on July 04, 2012
A.H. asks from Ontario, CA
12 answers

My almost 4-yr old has been having a lot of "accidents" lately. He had three in one week at daycare. Someone suggested that he might be doing it for attention at home (we both work full time and he has a younger brother and sister). So that weekend I took just him running errands with me on Saturday, and on Sunday, DH took him to the park while the other 2 were napping. The entire next week, no accidents.

Now yesterday, I had a softball game and took the kids with me. 20 minutes before the game, I took him to the bathroom. 5 minutes before my game started, he had an accident. I changed him, and 40 minutes later, he had done it again. I changed him again, and when we were leaving the field... he did it again. My games are only 1 hour long. Now today, the babysitter just told me he's had another accident. He has already lost all of his privileges for the week, just from Monday! I don't know what else to do at this point.

Has anyone else gone thru this with a child with younger siblings? Is he doing it for attention? After the week, weekend and the following week I described above, it would sure seem that way.

He gets his own story time before bed everynight (unless he loses his priveleges), but otherwise, with a 22 month old and a 9 month old, it's difficult to find the time to devote to just one child.

Any advice how to curb this? (Helpful advice only, please. no judgements.)

ETA: I could not bear to have him "sit in it' as was suggested. Especially when he is playing with other, older children who might tease him for it. And I in no way shame him for it. I do not yell at him for it. I take him aside, talk to him quietly about what he did, clean him up and change him. But he does lose priviliges when he doesn't stop playing to go to the bathroom. I know he's only a little boy, but he knows how to: clean his room, use an iPad and use the bathroom.

I will talk with his pediatrician about a UTI, but yesterday it wasn't just pee, so I'm not really thinking that's it.

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answers from Washington DC on

I am having a similar issue with my almost 4 year old boy. I am starting to think its a control issue. Yesterday he had 4 pee pee accidents at preschool and when his teacher asked him why, he said "MY pee pee does not want to do what YOU tell it to do". I have decided not to punish for accidents. I can lead him to the toilet but cant make him pee right? I have concerns with starting a battle I can't win. I am just going to give it some time and hopefully it will work out. If it lasts more than a couple months I'll talk to his pediatrician I guess.

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answers from San Francisco on

As I often say, when you get to where I am (grown kids), you will know that 4 years old was so very, very young. I don't believe that potty accidents at 4 are a reason to take away his privileges for a week. It's common enough, especially in boys.

Yes, lots of them do do it for attention. So give him the attention when you can, and clean up the accidents. It's unlikely he will be doing it in kindergarten, and extremely unlikely he will do it in first grade. It's not worth stressing yourself out over, or being mad at him about. He's only a baby. That's the beauty of washing machines and bathtubs.

(And any moms who don't think 4 is a baby, talk to me when your kids are grown and you look back on photos of that precious little thing.)

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answers from Seattle on

I hope you are not punishing/shaming him for having accidents. Really. That would be cruel and unhelpful.

Talk to your pediatrician. Maybe there is a medical reason. I have also heard that 4 or 5 yos sometimes regress a bit and have accidents (i.e., it's developmentally normal).

My 5 yo, who potty-trained herself in one day (both pee and poop) at the age of just-turned-2, has even been having occasional poop accidents lately. I don't know if it's from digestive ills or she's too engrossed in what she's doing, but it shows me that these things even happen to expert poopers.

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answers from Dallas on

I have two girls. My first didn't do this. Once she was potty trained, she never had any accidents. My second daughter, who is now 5 1/2, went through this phase, and I think it was when she was exactly the same age as your son. It was very frustrating. She was fully potty trained and then decided to have accidents, almost daily. I decided to handle it by not giving it much attention. Every time, I just reminded her what she should have done. Eventually, she stopped doing it. Just give it some time, he'll figure it out. I don't agree with handling potty behavior harshly or with punishment. I do believe in letting them suffer natural consequences of "forgetting" to go to the potty (like allowing them to sit in wet pants instead of rushing home to get them clean clothes), but just consistently remind him, and he will get it. He's still little.

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answers from Columbus on

I wouldn't assume this is for attention -- at 4, they get really involved in what they're doing and may not remember to stop and use the bathroom. When he's with you, you're giving reminders and breaks, but that may not happen at daycare. They can also regress during growth spurts, periods of anxiety, learning spurts, etc. Both my kids had regressions after they learned. I would clear him with a pediatrician to be sure there is no UTI involved or something else you might be missing, but I would doubt it's for attention.

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answers from Columbia on

Before you get too wrapped up on trying to figure out what's going on with him emotionally, I recommend taking him to the pediatrician and having him tested for a bladder/urinary tract infection. A UTI can make you feel like you need to pee ALL THE TIME...and it can cause little ones to have accidents.

If he comes out clean, THEN talk to your ped about other reasons.

Best of luck!

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answers from Portland on

I first read this as poop accidents. I think I got that wrong, but for those moms who are dealing with poop accidents, this is still worth considering:

If he's making solid, chunky poops, I'd guess it's a bid for greater attention. But if it's more like diarrhea, he may be an unable to control a fast, intense urge. If it's more like "skid marks," he may be suffering from encopresis, and simply not be aware of passing small amounts of poop when it happens (google the term for lots more info).

Assuming that this is in his control, you may be able to get wonderful results using this technique: http://www.rogerknapp.com/medical/pottytrainingrefusals.htm

I also agree with ℜ❀$eღud❧ , in that a 4yo is still very young, and quite a long ways (expecially in boys) from being able to apply rational thought to all decisions. Emotions are very strong and controlling in young children, and an awful lot of their behavior stems from their very immature tactics for trying to get what they need.

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answers from New York on

It is for attention, or something going on at school. He is regression backwards to the age where Mommy did not get mad when he had an accident. When you get made it makes the situation worse.

Maybe, you should set a time or two just for him whether it be with your husband or yourself. Remember he is just a kid who needs his Mom. Sharing attention is not easy. As a parent I know that my children often regress when a younger cousin or friend is in the house and the attention goes to him.

He still wants to be a kid and have to attention of his younger siblings. Yelling, Screaming, Punishments send the wrong message. You are telling your son that if he has accidents he will be punished. To reassure the situation you spend one on one time when him. Then, when he is not with you he pees. So, by being punished he gets what he wants and you get temporary what you want. Be proud of him when he has an accident be proud of him when he does not. Tell him you know that he trying to not have accident and you love him either way. Ask him if he needs to wear a pull-up then he can wear one to school too. Until, he gets it right. Love him

Stickers are cute but Mommy time and Daddy Time or the Best!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Talk to your pediatrician before you do anything else. There are lots of reasons this can happen. Attention is one of them. But so is a UTI, prediabetes, and even constipation. Constipation is a really common one for young kids that many people don't realize, especially if the child is a picky eater without a diet with a lot of fiber (and what 4 year old isn't a picky eater). When their intestines get full it pushes on their bladder and makes them lose control. It's easily fixed with a few doses of Miralax, but you need to check with your ped first. You don't want to punish a child for having accidents if there is really a medical cause behind it.



answers from Los Angeles on

I'd take him aside and talk to him about it, saying that you are so glad he is a big boy and can use the potty and how his younger siblings are watching him and learning from him how to use the potty. Also, when he has an accident, tell him (not angry), "do you really want your friends to smell you've had an accident? You don't want them to not sit by you because you don't smell good. Is there something going on that I should know about?" He may surprise you with something like someone is bugging him or they're doing some new routine at school. I wouldn't let him sit in it. We had our boys help do the dirty underwear laundry; matter of fact, no anger no judgement, just this is what we have to do. I notice that when my younger son is stressed about something, he'll have accidents. Good luck!



answers from Oklahoma City on

It's actually very very very normal for kids the ages of 4 and 5 to start having accidents. They grow their bladder or bowel doesn't. They start a huge brain surge at this time and potty training sort of takes a back seat.

It is something we see in child care over and over. The more of a big deal you make of it the more of an issue it will become.

If you think about it like this, he's only about 50 months old...seriously, compare that to how many months old you are. Isn't is possible he's just a kid who is having accidents? I tend to think, since I saw it all the time in my 13+ years in the field of child care with almost every child, that it is normal for kids to make mistakes and have accidents. Even when they get older they'll still wait too long to get to the bathroom on occasion.

It is normal at this particular age.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Seems to me like you answered your own question.
When he gets attention, it doesn't happen, when he doesn't, it does.
He sees the little ones getting attention (diaper changes, etc.) so it makes sense to HIM. Play up the fact that he's the BIG one. The HELPER. The ELDEST.
Don't take away his story time...poor kid. (Not a 'judgement" -- opinion!)

It's pretty rare for a boy to get a UTI but I guess it wouldn't hurt to get it checked out.

Next question: Four Year Old Son Having up to Four Accidents in a Day, All of a Sudden.