My 7-year-old granddaughter refuses to use the bathroom. If my son or I ask her to go use the bathroom, she refuses and regularly messes herself. What can we do to help her?
When an older child suddenly struggles with potty issues, the first thing you should do is take the child to the pediatrician. A physical issue may be the reason for a change in bathroom habits. If the child continues to refuse to use the bathroom and continues to have accidents once any physiological issues have been addressed and treated, it’s possible that an emotional cause may be driving the physical behavior.
A professional counselor can help uncover the emotional root of the issue and help the child overcome any fears or anxieties that may be driving the behavior. A counselor can also help parents and children establish healthy bathroom routines. For your granddaughter’s health and emotional well-being, it’s best to get her to the doctor and a counselor, if necessary, as soon as possible.
I have a friend who has a 4-year-old daughter whose dad is frequently away for his job. During her father’s absence, the little girl consistently wets herself. Once her father is home again, she goes back to using the toilet. My friend has warned her daughter that she will have to go back to wearing diapers, but this does not seem to concern the little girl. What can my friend do?
Children often exhibit behavior changes in times of stress. It sounds like your friend’s daughter is having difficulty handling her father’s absence, and she is demonstrating her stress through bathroom behaviors. While this is not unusual, it does need to be addressed.
What is the relationship between the father and daughter like? Are they close? Were they close before he started traveling? Does Dad make time for his daughter when he is home? You need to try to understand how she perceives their relationship and how she would like it to be.
Do not assume that all is OK with her and that she understands that her father loves her but just has to be away for extended periods of time because of his job. She has to know that he really cares about how she feels and what she thinks. Try to put yourself in her shoes to see how she is looking at the situation.
Has her father addressed her pants-wetting? Since she does not seem to care if her mom puts her back in a diaper, we can deduct that the problem isn’t with her mom. It’s with her father. Have both parents sat down with her to talk about the situation? Has Dad talked one-on-one with her?
A conversation about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors needs to take place. This is not about having accidents. Those occasionally happen. This is about knowing that there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things.
Once they have talked to their daughter, they need to establish a system of rewards and consequences for her behavior. Everyone must stick to them. It may work best if Dad and daughter develop the system and Mom acts as mediator.
The rewards and consequences can be simple, but everyone must agree on them. Rewards for using the toilet should be things their daughter likes the most. Consequences for wetting herself should be things she likes the least. If her parents – and especially her father – consistently give out the rewards and consequences, she has ample incentive to change her behavior.
But consistency is essential. Follow through every time she either uses or doesn’t use the bathroom. Be prepared for the little girl to test the waters to see if her parents are really serious. If Mom and Dad remain calm and consistent, the wetting should stop.
I am having difficulty getting my 4-year-old son to use the bathroom for his bowel movements. He knows when he has to go. He urinates in the toilet and is perfectly able to do the same with bowel movements, but he simple won’t do it.
Your son might just need a little more time to be comfortable with using the bathroom. It’s frustrating, but try to encourage him every time he uses the toilet, including when he urinates.
Since you say that he knows when he has to go, you must know the signs as well. If he gets antsy or hides in a different room, this may alert you that he has to use the bathroom. When you see these behaviors, take some toys and books into the bathroom. Tell him to sit on the toilet and read his books or play with his toys. Keep it as relaxed as possible.
You don’t want your son to become tense because then his muscles will constrict, making it harder for him to release his bowel movement. Just wait it out. If he goes, make a HUGE deal out of it. Celebrate with a piece of candy, a sticker or whatever else is meaningful to him.
I need help in three areas with my 4-year-old son. First, we need a better way to communicate. My son will not listen to me and treats me like I am his slave. I have turned into a yeller, and I don’t even want to be around him when he isn’t listening to me and is testing me. Second, he will not give up his sippy cup despite my changing cups and reminding him of the rules. He wants his milk all the time. Third, he is still wetting the bed at night and has to wear a pull-up. I think this is related to the sippy cup he likes to take with him to bed.
Much of parenting is trial and error. First, consult your pediatrician to determine if there are medical causes for any of your concerns. If it is behavioral, your pediatrician can inform you if it is age-appropriate or a reason for concern. Additionally, pediatricians have a wealth of experience, which makes them extremely useful referral sources.
All behaviors have some function. So determining what that is and what skill the child should learn will improve the situation. Your first issue is that your son will not listen to you. By not listening, he avoids doing what you are instructing and he is controlling you because he can make you lose your temper. Here are some useful tools for more effective communication with children of all ages:
- Talk face to face and look into each other’s eyes.
- Remove all distractions. Turn off electronic devices, put down toys and set aside the newspaper.
- Get on your child’s level.
- Use simple, clear words. Show and tell what you mean. Teach him good listening skills. At a neutral time, describe what you want him to do when someone talks to him. He needs to 1. Stop what he is doing and look at the person; 2. Stand or sit quietly; 3. Say “OK.” Give him a good “kid” reason for doing it that way. This reason will show him how listening benefits him. Have him practice by saying something in a normal tone while he pretends to be busy to see if he will stop, look at you and wait and say “OK” like you taught him. If he does, reinforce the behavior with a hug, high-five, etc.
Your second issue is the sippy cup. A pediatrician will likely recommend that milk only be given at meals that occur at a table. Introduce milk in a regular cup at the table for meals. In between meals, he can have water or diluted juice in a sippy cup. Drinking milk all the time is not good. It will fill him up so that he does not have room for healthy foods.
Your pediatrician can tell you the recommended amount of milk your son should consume. Begin immediately putting water in his sippy cup. This may curb his desire to have the cup all the time.
Your third issue is bed-wetting. Wearing a pull-up at age 4 is not unusual, especially for boys. They often sleep so soundly that they can’t wake up to use the bathroom. Decreasing his liquids after dinner will lessen the strain on his bladder. Give him a little drink of water prior to tucking him in at night. He does not need a drink in his room at night at this age.
I have a 2-year-old who will be 3 at the end of October. He is my third child. I am having a very difficult time potty-training him. He shows no interest in it, and he throws a fit when I put him on the toilet.
Though initially difficult, my first child was trained by 3 to 3 ½ years of age. My second child was very easy. I don’t know what specific steps to take with my youngest. I am concerned because he cannot attend preschool or any fun classes until he is fully trained.
He also is still attached to his bottle. He is capable of drinking out of a cup, which he does during the day. However, when he naps or goes down for the night he has to have a bottle in order to fall asleep. I once tried to break him of this habit by letting him cry it out. He screamed for two hours until I gave him the bottle. He then fell asleep.
Everyone keeps telling me that this is fine because he is my last one. But I don’t want him to suffer or to be developmentally behind. How can I solve these issues?
The ease with which a parent potty-trains her children varies with each child. Some toddlers are trained easily; others require great effort. This makes potty-training very frustrating for some parents.
The fact that your son is 2 and is not showing any interest in potty-training is neither surprising nor particularly concerning. When he throws a fit, he is essentially telling you, “Mommy, I am not ready for the potty.”
Potty-training is something that comes at different ages and stages for all children. Many parents start potty-training based on the child’s age, but children have to be emotionally, physically and mentally prepared as well.
So while it is difficult, try not to compare your son developmentally to your other children because they all develop differently. He’ll get it when he is ready. Be patient with him.
Do not force your son to use the potty. He will start to associate going potty with negative feelings, and you don’t want this to happen. Start small by doing little things like reading potty books, playing with his potty chair or changing his diaper in the bathroom. You can even just talk about the potty but not force him to sit on it if he does not want to. Introduce him to the idea and concept, and eventually when he is ready he will be more willing to give it a try.
Please remember that if you are ever concerned about the development of your child, you can contact your pediatrician. He or she can help with potty- training questions and tell you if your son is ready or not .
My five year-old daughter is calm, generous, fun, caring and sensitive. We’ve always had a good bedtime routine and she has always slept in her own bed without any problems. After reading, I bring her to bed and spend 10-15 minutes with her, but over the last few months she is increasingly unhappy sleeping by herself and only wants to sleep in her younger sister’s bedroom. She says she’s afraid of tigers and fire. I think she’s very content and happy and secure in general but wonder if she has some underlying insecurities. Once she's asleep she sleeps all night but I don’t want the fears to escalate.
Many parents go through this exact situation. It’s so good that you are reading to your daughter and making it part of her bedtime routine. When kids are afraid of something it is important to explore what they're afraid of and why. If having the five year-old in the room sleeping with your two year-old messes up both of the children's routine then we suggest changing or decreasing the behavior.
From what you described, it sounds like reading time happens in a place other than the child's bedroom. Perhaps reading to her in her own bedroom would give her the extra 10 or 15 minutes to get comfortable with her surroundings. Another suggestion would be the increase the amount of time that you spend with her in her room after reading and before turning out the lights. This is something that can gradually decreased if her fears start to subside.
Your daughter is still exploring her world and it's boundaries. She is in a continuous state of learning, and research shows that our brains aren't fully developed until we're in our mid twenties. Her ability to conceptualize and rationalize is not at the same level as an adult. As parents the best thing we can do is teach our children and offer comfort as they try to make sense of everything. As with potty training and feeding, it can take multiple repetitions for a child to understand something. Be consistent and patient. Your daughter will outgrow this!