Smart, Healthy 5 Year Old Girl Still Peeing on Herself Everyday

Updated on May 10, 2013
M.F. asks from Riverside, OR
15 answers

Hi wonderful Mamas,

My quest to fully potty-train my daughter has been once misadventure after another. It started at age 1 year 10 months when her preschool teachers told me that she was ready to use the toilet and wanted to send the diapers home with me. Flash forward 3 and a half years, through talks, charts, mommy meltdowns, toddler crying, incentives and threats to be put back in diapers - and my amazing, gorgeous, gregarious, intelligent daughter still wets herself a little bit everyday.

I have honestly done my best to handle potty training in the right way. I've made charts, bought gifts, cheered, given candies, and promised treats. I have always wanted to preserve my daughter's dignity, but at times have also talked to her about smelling bad, tried to make her feel guilty about ignoring her body, tried to introduce the element of competition with other kids (all the kids in your class are listening to their bodies and staying dry - don't you want to?). I promise you, the most important thing to me is my daughter's emotional well-being. And yet, I've grappled with choosing to be tough with her about not using the bathroom properly, as well as my own personal and maternal frustration. Over the years, she has seen me cry over it, I have made her cry over it (:-( ) and I have cried even more tears when she is not around - how can I not get through to her on this??

She is 5 and a half, and we are STILL talking about going to the toilet. She is not soaking wet through her clothes, but she gets her underwear wet everyday. And when I ask her about it, my sweet little girl lies to me and tells me she stayed dry. Because she isn't super wet, there is no shame element with her peers - only she and I and her father know.

I feel very sorry that this issue has been open for so long and that my daughter feels that she has to hide from me. And yet, I feel that she is actually not trying to listen to her body! She gets busy playing and thinks she can hold it - but she can't. If I ask her if she needs the bathroom, she often says no - even if she's wet from holding it!

I want to be done with this - I want HER to be done with this, and I want us to move on. She still wears diapers at night - how can I expect her to get up to go to the bathroom at night if she doesn't even do it during the day!

So I feel guilty, frustrated, and kind of powerless to teach my daughter this basic human rule. I need your help!!!

Thanks in advance!

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answers from New York on

I don't have a potty trained kid yet, and you got some good advice, but I have to agree that being slightly wet doesn't sound like a potty training issue. Kids who have accidents completely void their bladder when it happens, don't they? I'm no expert, but I agree about seeing a good doctor.

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answers from Chicago on

I would take her to the doctor to rule out a UTI. I would say this to her, "I'm not going to remind you to go to the bathroom anymore. You are old enough to make that decision for yourself. I will send you to school with an extra pair of underwear and if you have an accident you have an accident - they happen. Just make sure you put your damp clothes on the washing machine so I can take care of them.

Seriously, you need to drop it. Once you stop making this a big deal, she'll stop wetting her pants.

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answers from Dallas on

Have you talked to the pediatrician? Because what if she's LEAKING and not peeing? Make sure this isn't something more than just her not paying attention. You "FEEL" that she isn't listening to her body, but you are not in her body, so you can't know. Make sure, find out. MOVE ON. My son is 6 and wears pull ups at night - some bodies aren't all the way ready.

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answers from Washington DC on

If she's just going a little, maybe it's just that she's got a little stress incontinence when she laughs, etc.
My dd also had this problem especially when laughing or screaming in fun on the playground.
Honestly, I resorted to putting her in black pants/shorts every day where you couldn't see if they got a little wet. The rest is up to her. I make her go to the bathroom before we leave anywhere and I tell her not to flush so I can check it (she started lying about going when she didn't)
That's the best I can do. I tell her that she needs to take control over her own bladder and use the bathroom. Every time her pants were wet, I told her that she couldn't go anywhere or do anything else that day. I also rewarded her with a quarter when she was dry.

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answers from Washington DC on

From what you describe, this issue has become THE defining issue of her relationship with you.That needs to end. You say she gets through the day and wets but only slightly-- can you see what an improvement that is? If so, why does it still rule your relationship with each other?

You've let her see you cry, more than once I figure, and I assume you realize that it was not a good idea ever, right? Because that tells a child that mom's happiness is dependent on something the child can't really control, and that's not a message you want to send. Please try to think like she does, not like an adult does. She needs the message that this does not matter so much to you, because the message for years seems to have been that it makes mom so unhappy when she lets mom down.

She is indeed trained. She's wetting a little, not enough for anyone else to notice. Yes, it's imperfect and frustrating, but even more, it keeps her toileting in the forefront of how you and she relate. Again -- that may not be the case in your mind, but what is she thinking and feeling?

Having her in diapers at night sends her the message that you consider her a baby. Even if she is saying "I want them at night," isn't it possible that she says that because she's now so afraid of making mom upset that she'd rather deal with her feelings that she's a baby (which is a big upset for a kindergartener, who wants very much to be a "big kid") than to see you upset? You said she's in diapers at night because you can't trust her to stay dry at night if she can't stay dry by day; but have you actually tried letting her go diaperless at night? Tried getting her up late, before your own bedtime, for one last trip to the toilet so she's empty? That can help a lot -- parents hate to wake kids but it does help the child stay dry at night.

And in that long list I didn't see a mention of any visits to the doctor when she was younger to see if she had any physical issues that might be behind this. Have you? She might have a chronic infection, or this might be stress-induced, and some of that stress is coming from the knowledge that she must hide things from you because she upsets mom when she can't control her body.

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answers from Las Vegas on

I did that around her age. At the time, I wasn't sure why I did , but now as an adult I know it was stress and nerves. Of course, it didn't help that I was surrounded by drinkers and dysfunctional people ....

Now, this might not be the case with your DD, However, she may be encountering some stress that she has not verbalized to you and moreover, doesn't know what to say..

I read that at night, right before a child is going to sleep is when they are most relaxed and therefore it's a good time to have a talk with them about their day.. In some cases, they may be relaxed enough to open up and talk about something that could be bugging them..

When you put your DD to bed, gently ask her about her day and see what you find out. Do this for awhile and perhaps something will materialize in regards to her wetting her pants.. Maybe she is nervous about school in some way.. you just never know..

Also, could be she does go but doesn't wipe well enough.. which in her eyes, is going to the bathroom... it's just the clean up that is a bit tougher.

All in all, 5 is still VERY young.. In my son's Kinder class, they always had us bring in extra pants for the kids because they knew some would have accidents..Have you talked to her Kinder teacher about this? I am sure if it's an experienced teacher that he/she has dealt with this time and time again... The teacher may also have some advice..

good luck

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answers from Washington DC on

My DD is 4.5 and some days are good and some are not.

One of the things I have done with DD is make her responsible for her own accidents. I have also, quite frankly, pointed out to her that even little accidents that she doesn't report dry and make her pants smell bad. She said once, "I shouldn't have told you." I said, "No, hun. Telling me is fine. But we need to figure out a way to stop this." Mine has seen a doctor and has no UTI or infection.

I have also told DD when she is having a bad week that I will not send her to a friend's house if she continues to have lots of accidents. Nobody wants to have to clean up another kid's pee.

Right now we are back to reminding. It's mostly that she doesn't want to stop. Anytime she is squirming around or acting a little odd, I tell her to go to the potty. Not ask, tell. Go now. Or the <insert thing here> ends right now. I remind her if she's fast, she'll be done in about a minute. If she wets herself or is slow about it, then she'll miss more of <insert thing here>. We also ALL use the potty before going somewhere, so DD is in the habit of using the toilet before outings. It is always pee. Whenever she tells us and we make it to a potty before she is wet, we celebrate. I know she can. Most of her accidents are at school or home. Places she is possibly too comfortable.

So, I totally sympathize with you. My dear sweet girl who doesn't like water on her shirt will sit in wet pants and I don't know why. Not every day, but often enough for me to be frustrated.

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answers from Albuquerque on

I'm going through the same frustrations with my 4.5 year old dd now, too! In fact, just this morning, I got her up and dressed and told her to go use the potty and brush her teeth while I got breakfast ready. I go to check on her and she's brushing her teeth and replies "I don't need to potty." I told her that everyone needs to pee when they wake up and she needs to just try--so she did. A few minutes later, we're loading up in the car and I realize that she's a little wet (just enough to barely wet through undies & pants). So, we went back inside to change clothes and I asked her why she was wet. My guess is that she had the "accident" while she was brushing her teeth. Either way, her response was just "I'm sorry." Why?Why?Why? How many times did I ask, then tell, you to use the potty? Yes, it's an ongoing battle. She's too busy, distracted, having fun, to stop and use the potty! However, she has only ever wet the bed at night once! Her nighttime diapers/pullups were the first to go (when she was about 2.5)! Very frustrating. I don't really have advice, except to try to not let it upset you. Remind her that she's a big girl and it is her job to take care of herself (her body). I constantly remind mine to go throughout the day--no pressure, just "hey, I'm going to do this real quick, go use the potty and come back to help me!" It usually works. Also, she rarely has these accidents at school, at family/friend's houses, or when we're out in public. It's almost always when we're at home!

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answers from Detroit on

how do you know she get a little bit wet..? I do not inspect my kids undies to see if they are wet. I am sure you have been to the dr and ruled out physical problems... if there is no physival problem.. I would ignore this ignore ignore ignore..she is a big enough girl to change her clothes if wet.. I would not give any more attention to this. she should be dry all day.. but if she is not... let her deal with it.

night time is another issue.. my daughter is wet at night... she wears a pull up.. we don't talk about it.. she puts on the pull up and throws it away in the am.. we don't say it is bad.. your daughter will be dry at night when her brain wakes her up to tell her to go potty.. you cannot do anything about this.. I would ignore it also.

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answers from Toledo on

Daytime dryness and nighttime dryness are really two separate ... I don't want to say achievements, but nothing else is coming to mind.

Daytime dryness is something that they learn. We have to help them learn that, but they are active participants. They have to want it, too.

Nighttime dryness is something that they have no control over. Their bodies have to be ready for it. It's a physiological change that will happen when it happens. My oldest was dry at night long before he was potty trained. My youngest is 4 and still wakes up to a very full pull-up. We'd love to be able to stop buying them, but I'd much rather buy them than change sheets in the middle of the night. Also, I know he has no control over this, and I'm just really happy to not be changing diapers anymore.

So try to disassociate the two concerns. Nighttime dryness she has no control over. Daytime dryness she does. But honestly, it sounds like you've talked this issue to death. I would try letting it go. Just don't talk about it. Let her be. If she pees her pants, she pees her pants. Life will go on. Part of growing up and going to school means making mistakes and learning.

But really, I think if you try and let it go (ie, do not talk about it at all), you might find she feels more in control than ever and will improve.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I struggle to remember all the reasons why (I'm 41 now), but I had this same problem when I was young - including the bed wetting until I was about 7 or 8. I think the urge just came on quick and strong, and I probably procrastinated too much. Not much has changed, but I did eventually learn to manage without peeing my pants. :) I can go from not feeling the urge to pee at all to OMG I've gotta pee NOW!! Then the urge will go away completely, then come back strong, etc. I still hate to take time out to use the bathroom. Seems like such a waste of time - jk :)

Also, I get up almost every night to go pee - sometimes twice during summer months (something to do with the dry air during the winter vs summer). There is something called "nocturia" that I've read about, which sounds like what I have - might be she does too. I'm pretty sure most of this urinary stuff is genetic - based on what I've heard and read - although my parents never had issues (my brother did though not to the same extent).

I used to dream I was going pee on a toilet, when in reality I was still in bed - doh! I actually still have these dreams from time to time, but I'm smart enough to know I need to get up and use the REAL toilet. I also avoid procrastinating - esp. at night, since it disturbs my sleep so much otherwise. My kids thankfully do not have any of these issues - maybe it skips a generation or something. Ha!

My point is, that it's very likely this is physiological - NOT psychological. That doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to help (e.g. scheduling bathroom visits, avoiding drinks after 6pm). I remember having an alarm to wake me up during the night (we didn't have pull ups in those days). I would say embarrassment is not likely to help (didn't with me, and I'm easily embarrassed/shy), punishment never did either (my parents would make me wash my own sheets). It's not like I WANTED to do these things - they just happened...

I did struggle to potty train my youngest, so I completely understand your frustration. It became an obsession for me, and I was soooooo relieved when he finally was dry at night and during the day (he was only 3 1/2 though, and his was definitely mental not physical). My son's pediatrician finally gave me a "plan" that worked. I also had to up the anty on the bribes ($1/night he was dry, and BIG toys for pooping in the toilet).



answers from Chicago on

When my SD was 7 years old, she was still wetting her pants because she'd wait too long to go to the bathroom. Then, she'd have to go so bad that the anticipation of going would make her wet her pants en route to the bathroom. I don't know how many times she peed in the hallway outside the bathroom!

We set a timer for one hour. The rule was, she had to go sit on the potty every hour when the timer went off. She didn't have a choice to say "I don't have to go." She had to go sit on the potty every hour. She no longer wet her pants after that, although she was always super annoyed at being made to go every hour! Then we moved it to 1.5 hours, then 2 hours. Eventually she got tired of being made to go, and she made the decision herself to go when she needed to.

After that, we installed habits of when to go. She was to go as soon as she woke up in the morning, before every meal, after every meal, before we left the house and before we left any building (like a store.) Installing these habits helped her remember to go.

I also want to mention that she may not be releasing all her pee when she goes, and therefore is wetting herself a little bit after she goes. I remember I used to do that as a child, so one thing you can do is make her sit on the toilet long enough to try to pee twice. Eventually I stopped, but I was doing it around age 4-5. Sometimes kids do that when they are stressed, or eager to get back to playing. She should get checked out by a doctor.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

HI. At 5 years old there may be other issues at hand. I would talk to her doctor. She may have a small or weak bladder. Or something else may be going on.

My brother wet the bed for quite sometime and when my uncle watched us, he woke him up two times during the night to go. I know it would be a pain, but that may help. I don't know much about those night time pull-ups for older children, but do they make some with that cool liner? You know to help them feel when they get wet. That may help too.

I really think you should contact her doctor.

Good Luck mama.

ETA: MY lil man is 6 and will occasionally have accidents at night. It happens. I make sure he doesn't drink anything after dinner and goes before he lays down at night. I also told him that if you feel like you have to go in the middle of the night-get up and go. I think he thought he HAD to hold it all night. Also he can't drink tea, for some reason it acts as an extreme diuretic for him. If he drinks tea he goes so much he can't hold it and leaks a little. I don't if that's what going on with your dd, just a thought.



answers from Denver on

Many may not agree with this but I think I might to best to minimize this issue and take a positive stance.

By such I imply teaching her how to actually hold it in and telling her All ladies have to go sometimes, yet have learned to avoid accidents by using the restroom before they leave the house or before they go outside to play or travel.
Make it a lady like thing and help her develop the habits of going to the restroom to avoid accidents.

Yes I understand your stress, yet she feels it too and may be embarrassed by going to the rest room so often; thus thee accidents. She is at an age where having fun and playing with new friends is more important but of you talk to her and let her know that all 'Ladies' have to go when it is inconvenient to go, then they learn how to go before they play, go out or outside or even to schoola nd inbetween classes just like the teachers do.
For kids there isn embarrassment over going to the Restroom often, so tell her that is what Rea Ladies and Princesses do.

Positve over Negative is always a better approach no matter how stressed the adult is!


answers from Dallas on

When I was in kindergarten I was afraid to tell the teacher I had to go to the bathroom. I was embarrassed. I clearly remember trying to "hold it." Sometimes I couldn't "hold it" but I was so embarrassed I said nothing and prayed no one would notice. Once my mother showed up at the door and signaled me out. The teacher had called her to bring a new set of clothes. I was so relieved! My mother never said a word. Just smiled, changed me and sent me back to class. Well, I grew out of it and I bet your daughter will too.

I do think you should let this go as much as possible (assuming a doctor has already been consulted and you are pretty sure this is emotional). I would stop having melt downs and making big deals. Just remind her to "go" and help her to realize it will be more comfortable for her if she runs to the potty more often.

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