Son Will NOT Pee at School

Updated on June 25, 2011
E.W. asks from Jackson, NJ
15 answers

My 3.5 yr old son recently started a new school for the summer months. At his previous school he was only there for 2.5hrs so not peeing wasn't a big deal. Now he is there for 5 hours! He absolutely won't pee while there. The teachers take him. Have him stand, sit (we even brought in his potty seat from home), offered a prize- nothing. He sat on it today for 15 min and nothing! He is a VERY very shy kid. But still I worry about him not peeing for that long. He hasn't had any accidents but I know its only a matter of time. Plus, he takes a nap there- that can't be comfortable trying to sleep while needing to pee. Also, I worry he is going to fall asleep and have an accident. Any ideas?

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answers from Dallas on

My daughter is 4 and not going for 5 hrs is nothing! Honestly she pees 3 maybe 4 times allday! Maybe he just doesn't need to go? He's not having accidents even at nap time. I wouldn't worry about it mama.

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answers from Detroit on

Having an accident is not the worst thing in the world - just make sure he has an extra set of underwear and pants to change into in case he does. You didn't mention his age but I'm sure the teachers there have dealt with sort of thing before. If he gets uncomfortable enough, eventually he will decide to just go pee in the toilet, or he'll have an accident and maybe then he'll decide he's better off using the toilet. Sometimes my daughter doesn't have to pee for 5 or 6 hours if she hasn't been drinking very much, so I don't think it's that unusual. There is a book though that I liked called "How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk"...maybe after reading it you will have some ideas on how to communicate with your son, and maybe then you'll be able to find out from him why he doesn't want to pee at school. Then you can work together at coming up with a solution.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Yeahhhhh..... my daughter was like that too. She had one or two accidents but then accepted that she had to go at school sometimes. She was 4. She NEVER went at school. They only had a half day and she would hold it until pick-up time. Of course, as SOON as she got in the car she would tell me she needed to use the bathroom... :( Good thing we lived close to the school. She is also my child that almost never had an accident overnight. And I mean ever. She potty trained by 2 and was night time dry (with regular panties even) before 2 1/2. She has had...grand total... about 4 wetting the bed incidents in her life. She turned 10 yrs today.

I agree with the caution to not make a bigger deal out of it than needs to be. You will only make him more anxious about it. What helped my daughter (who is VERY rule/justice oriented) was to explain how to go about it when the need arose... i.e., if she was in reading group and it wasn't her turn to read, she would not raise her hand or interrupt the reader to get permission (or even just get up on her own without express permission) to go use the potty---not that express permission was required, it wasn't. But SHE thought she should get permission first. So she would wait. So, I had to have a talk with her IN FRONT OF her teacher, so that her teacher could confirm that what I was saying was perfectly fine: that she could get up to use the potty ANYtime. Even without asking. That it was always better to go use the potty first, and then explain after, if need be, than to end up with wet clothes. Once we understood some of her issues (the rule following thing) then she never had an accident at school again.
So maybe letting him do what comes natural to him is okay for right now. Then, if/when he has an accident, you can talk to him about that specific incident and try to pinpoint why he didn't use the potty instead. It might be a more productive way to approach it. In the meantime, keep a gallon ziploc bag at school with a fresh change of clothes in it...including SOCKS. Trust me on the socks. :)

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answers from Portland on

Hi E.,

Your son has to learn on his own that holding his urine isn't to his advantage.

It sounds like the teachers are doing all the right things. I do think that prizes are a bit much, but that's me: I don't feel rewarding a child for self-care is a great idea. Too much of a trap in the long run.

What may eventually happen is that he's going to have an accident, which is informative. The only thing to mention is that we don't want to overtalk the lesson of it. Waking up from naptime wet might upset him, but it's not the worst thing in the world. It's a natural consequence of not using the toilet.

Just my opinion, but 15 minutes sitting is way too long. Please tell his teachers not to keep him on for more than 4 minutes. This is only going to make it more of a battle of wills. I'm a preschool teacher and if they've 'tried' for a few minutes, I'm really ready to let them move on. I figure an accident will be more helpful in their learning process at that point; my making them sit there is only going to up the ante for both of us. The teachers should let him change his own clothes after an accident. They can bring him a plastic bag for wet clothes (and will likely need to hold it open for him, from my own experience with kids this age) and have him dress himself in dry clothes. Keep spares at school.

I have dealt with the same situation before with a couple of my former preschoolers. My guess is that it might be a month or so before he gets comfortable with the teachers. Everyone just has to remember that this is his challenge to deal with. (LOVE the suggestion of "How to Talk...." great book. Good call there, DVMMOM) If we try to make it ours, then power struggles increase. He must learn this on his own.

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answers from Washington DC on

I feel for you. My son has a phobia of public bathrooms and will only go in specific single stall bathrooms and places he knows well. We found when we went to Disney World that he could hold it for up to 8 hours, and would cry in pain before he finally would go (with a candy bar as a reward). Luckily his preschool room had a small bathroom that met his specifications, but he wouldn't poop there, only pee. After about 7 months his teacher managed to get him to go into a different bathroom by showing him that his best friend used it and talking about how magical the urinal was. I have no idea how full day kindergarten will go next year, and he didn't go his entire day at camp the other day because he claimed the toilets are just "too tall." If you find a solution please let me know. We have had to end our activities early because of this issue before.

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answers from San Francisco on

Not to worry! Many kids feel uncomfortable with using public toilets and it is very natural. My son did not use toilet in school until he was 7. Until 6 he would not go to any place other than home. He slowly expanded his choices doc office, shopping mall, friend's house, and then school. He can easily hold on for as long as 8 hours. When he was 3 & 4 and sometimes we would get late coming home from a party at night, he was uncomfortable but fine. He usually goes three time in a day, morning, evening, and before bed. Never had any accidents and no bed wetting even with drinking plenty fluids before bed time.

Whenever I were in public places with my son, I would just tell him that I was going to use the bathroom and if he would give me company. And he would come along. Then, I would ask, would he like to try sitting on toilet seat. He would say no I don't have to go. Then I would say he does not have to go just try sitting and see if something happens. And sure enough he peed. I said nothing after that and refrained from saying 'I told you so'. When he started Kindergarten school, I went to his school bathroom at pick up time and said the same thing to him. In time, he started to go on his own. So, I did it in a subtle way without pressuring him or lecturing about medical reasons to go or telling his teachers. I think that makes children too conscious and makes them more resistant.

As long as your child is comfortable and can hold with ease, I would not push him. Support him, not lecture or punish. He will come around on his own. Tell him it is okay but if he feels like going he can ask his teacher or a friend to go with him.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My guess is that you and his teachers making a big deal about this is making it much worse. I would back off of the issue if I were you. Also-where is the bathroom located? My son did not go at all during Kindergarten b/c the bathroom was in the back of his class. He just felt strange going and I gave up worrying about it and he was fine. AFter that when the bathroom was in the hall and they had official breaks he was able to go no problem.
One last thing-I have found that kids bladders are much better at holding it and not needing to release than ours. When I take the boys out for the day I find that I go at least 3 times and they don't go at all. This is in the course of 8 or so hours!

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answers from Cumberland on

I would add that it is important that the solutions you try or the teachers try don't heighten his anxiety about it as well. This is an anxiety issue so you don't want to heighten the fear anymore. Maybe try some relaxation techniques or teach him to sit on the potty there and close his eyes so he can imagine being at home? Do the teachers stand there with him? I would think a shorter trying time would be better and that they should leave him to have some privacy. Eventually he'll go when he needs to. But the experience can't feel stressful, the repetition of it should become a relaxing routine. Maybe a potty buddy?

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answers from New York on

My oldest is the same way & she is now 13. She only feels comfortable going in the nurse's office, which up to this point has been allowed. For some children this can be a big deal and with us it has been, numerous UTI's, a pediatric gi since she was about 3 yrs of age. It has been a long, hard road traveled but some children can be more stubborn then others. I would suggest speaking with your pediatrician about it now to see what suggestions they could offer (if they are male, they may be able to have a talk w/him that may hit home a little better then what you would say or then that of what your husband would say). We all know how that goes, it always makes so much more sense when anyone but the parents says it! Best of luck to you.



answers from Minneapolis on

My son was the same way, so his teacher took him to the bathroom separately from the class and let him go in by himself and he was okay with that. I don't know if there's a way for him to go by himself, but I know mine just needed absolute privacy.



answers from New York on

I wouldn't make a big deal of it. If he's not having accidents, he may really not have to go. 5 hours is really not a long time when kids are active--especially if they are not drinking a lot (remember during summer people pee less in general too). Heck, my 4 month old will go for 3-5 hours without peeing depending on the time of day and he drinks A LOT :D

My daughter has been fully potty independent (no accidents at all) since she was nearly 3 and she will only go on her own schedule. So if someone says it's time to go to the potty, but she doesn't need to go, she won't. I just remind her that she will probably have to stop her playing later to go to the potty on her own and she's fine with that.

Get him used to the school pottys by taking him before and after school yourself. When you drop him off and pick him up. Tell him "let's go potty before we go play now" and "let's go potty before we get in the car to go home" and have him sit for a minute (no more). If he really has to go he probably will. Once he's used to the teachers, he'll probably start letting them know when he has to go. But give him a routine (go when you get there, sit on the potty before/after lunch and before getting in the car to go home. Don't have him sit for a long time, just a try and if he doesn't go, he probably doesn't need to.



answers from New York on

He may be okay holding it. I rarely ever used the school bathrooms in elementary school--I just didn't like them. Some kids are just like that. You could try going in with him to get him used to it at pick up time. That is what worked with my son at 3.5 or 4. Otherwsie an extra set or 2 of clothes is a good idea.



answers from New York on

My son (also very shy) had exactly that problem at that age. He and I brainstormed solutions, and it turned out that he was reluctant to call attention (anyone's attention) to his potty needs. He didn't mind GOING as much as he minded telling people he needed to go. We came up with a code word ("squeak," don't ask me why), and I asked him to identify one teacher who could learn the secret word. I had a 2-second conference with said teacher, and, problem solved.

Today, at almost 5, he still won't say "I have to go to the bathroom"; he'll spell it. As in "Excuse me, B. A. T. H. R. O. O. M."

More generally, kids that age often don't do well with open-ended questions (e.g., "why is this a problem?"). Try offering a range of solutions, and chances are one will stick.



answers from Orlando on

5hrs isn't really a long time between potty times, he may not have to go, if he is going before school. Ex.) My daughter is the same age, and only goes 2-3 times a day, with the 12 hour over night stretch. I would not expect for her to go during that 5 hour period, if she went right before leaving. So, I wouldn't worry, or put that much emphasis on it, I think if he really had to go, he would. Btw, I think sitting on the potty for 15 mins. is excessive, they should know that not all kids need to pee very 5 hrs. Poor little guy...



answers from Rochester on

Sounds backwards, but try having them NOT worry about it altogether. Leave it be for a week, and then casually mention to him - when your BODY tells you to, go to the restroom! Don't belabor the point, don't focus on it, just leave the message and move on to something else.

Adults are not badgered into going, they are not held by the hand until they go, they are not put on the pot for any period of time (barring in the hospital, but I think that's an exceptioN!)

No child should be badgered into going - and his refusal to go (conscious or unconscious) can lead to health problems as well as issues with self-esteem.

Leave your worry at the door. Tell him you are confident in him, tell him to have a great day, and tell him to have fun! The three most important things a child can do while away from their parent.

He is shy - but he is himself. You're not going to force him to do anything, and to start here, you'll only move on to harder and harder issues. Defuse this quickly and quietly and let it go.

Good luck,

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