4 Moms Q&A: Potty training, talking about difficult news stories, and YES I will pull this car over right now if you don’t stop.

4moms35kids 4 Moms teach what they dont know

Rachel has a question that I’m going to share this week not because I have the answer, but because I think she’ll be encouraged to see how many of us share her problem:

Question (and it’s a long one!): Have any of you ever had a child that struggled greatly with potty training? My almost 5yo boy has had such a difficult time with this particular skill and we’re at our wit’s end with how to help him (he’s very smart otherwise, reading and writing, doing simple addition, etc.). He has had weeks at a time where he does really well and I think we’re done. Then he’ll have a week or two where he’s having accidents of both kinds again. We’ve tried rewards/consequences, and his brain just doesn’t seem to work that way. His usual excuse is that he “just forgot”. I’m so frustrated with this situation! His two sisters (almost 7 and almost 3) have had no trouble in this area so it’s hard to understand what the deal is with him. :/ Any words of wisdom from any of you ladies? Not necessarily a solution, even, just a “there’s light at the end of the tunnel” kind of encouragement. Thank you!


I don’t think it’s a gender issue.  Half the time I hear that boys are easier to train, and half the time I hear that they’re harder.  I do seem to hear that they often train later, but that doesn’t really sound like what you are dealing with now.  I’m going through the same frustration with my almost-5yo daughter, and also did with another daughter until she was 5 or 6.  Both had many accidents, but the part that frustrated me was not the accidents.  It was the fact that they didn’t seem to care; they were content to wear their accidents.

In both cases, I think physical maturity played a role because both wet a lot at night, when urine production is typically very low.

In the case of one child, I think maturity of one sort or another was the main cause.  She was physically able, but just didn’t have the attention span, maturity or self-awareness required to really care about it until she was older than many.  She is a sweet and beautiful girl, but does tend to be a late bloomer in some aspects even now.  I’ve learned to be ok with that because she’s worth the wait.

In the case of the other child, I think accidents could also be a sign that she needs more attention.  I don’t mean that she does it on purpose, but maybe that she has a tendency to not pay attention to herself so that others will.  She is more needy than our others have been, and it takes a lot of loving to fill her love tank.   I can’t complain, because she gives it all back with interest and I know she will outgrow the accidents someday.  In the meantime, I just try to enjoy the times when she can sit on my lap without both of us needing to change our clothes.  😛

I do have a related question, though.  The second daughter mentioned above seems to have very low sleep needs, i.e. she needs less sleep than any 4yo I’ve known.  She lies down every day for a rest but rarely falls asleep, and wakes bright and happy after a 7 hour night.  I think she doesn’t sleep soundly at night either, often waking us just because she is bored, lonely, or can’t find her blanket.  I honestly think she could function well on less sleep than most adults, at an age when all my other children were still heavily dependent on naps.  Does anyone think this could be somehow connected to her incontinence, esp. at night?  Is she producing urine when the rest of us don’t because her body isn’t spending 9-10 hours in “hibernation mode”?

And I would also love to hear others’ solutions to Hadley’s problem, which I share:

Here’s my question for next week 🙂 What do you do with things like shoes, bags, coats, etc. that usually get dropped on our floor at the back door? Mail, things that need to be returned to folks, things that get brought in the car, etc. I’m trying to come up with a workable plan for all our junk at the back door. It’s OVERWHELMING!

What, indeed?  I’m full of great and useful threats that would doubtless solve the problem if only I were mean enough to carry them out:

“Any shoes left on the floor can be found in the goodwill box, which gets donated every Monday.  If you’re missing shoes, I suggest you look for them before Monday.”

“For every item you leave in a vehicle, you’ll have to bring in 3 extra items and put them away.”

“Anything left on your bedroom floor for the 9 AM inspection will go straight into the trash.”

“If your bedroom isn’t clean by the 9 AM inspection, you will miss breakfast.”

Probably the most useful plan was the rule that a person had to put away 2 extra things for every personal item left in a living area or other inappropriate place.  It didn’t teach them to put things away in the first place, but it did provide a convenient cleanup plan when they didn’t.

Sarah asked,

When did your sons learn to snap their pants (and had the hand strength to do so)? what did you do until that point? Special brands to buy or something?

This wasn’t an issue to me.  I just snapped when he needed help, and if pressed for an answer I would say that my children probably still needed occasional help until about 5.  A bigger potty-help issue to me: how long should I help them wipe?  Ugh.  We all want to be done with that duty as soon as possible – the helping, I mean – but if we rush it, the consequences are so much worse.  My general rule of thumb is to let them do it as soon as they can exercise a reasonable amount of awareness about the geography down there (exactly what needs wiping, and where is it?), then carry out regular backup wiping until I see consistent signs of good hygiene.

Just in case you didn’t already pick up on this, we’re in the throes of potty training once again.  Parker is at Day 7 and doing great!

I am wondering how you handle disobedience/ tantrums in the car? Do you pull over and discipline right away? And what if you can’t do that?

I’ve noticed that this rarely happens when I have been consistent about enforcing rules.  Of course children will act up now and then, but in general they push the boundaries that seem worth testing – the ones where they think they have a chance at victory.

I have pulled over to deal with incidents right on the side of the road when I felt it was necessary.  When I felt it could wait or just wouldn’t be safe/appropriate to do it NOW, I switched my pinky ring to my index finger (my way of tying a string ’round my finger so I won’t forget) and dealt with the incident as soon as I reasonably could.  After just one or two roadside incidents, nobody felt the need to test that particular boundary for a very long time.  Added bonus: when they know you’ll stop the car, they also believe you’ll get up off the couch, get out of bed, lay the baby down, or do whatever else it takes to address disobedience promptly.  Stopping the car = major score in the Mean What You Say category.

I don’t remember if I asked this before, so kindly disregard me if I did (chalk it up to postpartum Mama brain.) But how do you ladies handle difficult news stories? Things like Newtown, Boston, Gosnell. We have no TV so our children aren’t bombarded with inappropriate images daily, but our kids do listen to the radio, and even christian news outlets cover these stories at length. We address the questions as they come, but I wonder if I should address them in a specific manner? I don’t want to sweep it under the carpet. The world IS an evil place, but I wonder sometimes if having my 6 year old hear about these tragedies is a grievous parenting error. But, I can’t avoid it altogether either!

We listen to a lot of talk radio and tend to discuss the big stories, so our young ones are exposed to some of the horrors of what happens in our fallen world.  However, we try to avoid getting too wrapped up in the details and especially about filling the heads of the very young with those details.  It’s not uncommon for me to say, “We don’t need to talk about the details of what happened.  It was very, very sad.”  Or, “We don’t need to know all about his sins.  We know that he broke the 6th commandment and did some very wicked things.”  I think it’s important for kids to understand that wickedness is defined by breaking God’s law, so they need to know His law and what sorts of things people might do to break it, but it’s up to parents who know their children best to decide how much detail is healthy for that child right now.

I also think that questions should be answered to a certain level, even about horrific events, because a child’s imagination is likely to run away and just wondering can cause him to dwell even more on the wickedness.  But like other delicate subjects, it’s helpful to avoid offering more detail than the child is requesting, and sometimes the answer can be, “You don’t need to know that right now.”

How would you answer these questions?  See what questions the other moms are answering today:

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  1. Regarding potty training. My youngest, a son, didn’t outgrow overnight wetting for a LONG time. He simply slept too deeply and his brain didn’t wake him up in time. And then, one day, he was done. Whatever connection that was needed was finally made.

    In my life experiences regarding late training…make sure there isn’t an allergy at play. Dairy allergy especially. Allergies somehow can mess with the system and make it harder for a child to get to the potty on time. Perhaps keeping nerves or receptors irritated and unable to receive the message, not sure. Make sure there is no actual physical issue as well. A friend has 2 daughters that needed a few adjustments at the chiropractor for their tailbones and the potty issues improved greatly. There are other issues that can affect it as well. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong, sometimes it just takes more time. Also, there is a wristwatch that you can set for intervals of your choosing, like a little alarm, to remind the child to go use the restroom. I believe it has a vibrate setting as well.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I have a question maybe you would answer? How do you catalog/keep track of your books? I keep forgetting what I have… I would love to have them organized by author and title is there something online perhaps or do you just make a document on your computer? Thank you 🙂

    • I found a book organizing program called book colectorz. it works well. I can’t figure out how to post links here, so just google it. it works well, and you can use a bar code scanner to enter them really fast. (works well for my hundreds of books)

  3. Rachel B says:

    Thank you for all the tips and wisdom and encouragement, ladies! This is exactly what I was hoping for when I asked the question. Practical advice and “there’s light at the end of the tunnel”! One more related practical question. How do you handle wetting the bed. We’ve been using disposable training pants at night but I don’t even like to think about how much that has cost us and we’re at a point right now where we’re trying to trim expenses in every way possible. I use cloth on the baby, but a bulky cloth diaper just seems like an insult to an almost 5yo. :/ Do you just put them in underwear and wash everything in the morning??

  4. HeatherHH says:

    About the pants and snaps. My preschool boys wear pull-on elastic waist pants for this reason. In some sizes, they may have dress pants for Sunday that they need help with, but everyday wear are pull-ons.

  5. I have a 4yo that does not stay dry at night and does not nap regularly during the day.

    I also have a 3yo who frequently wets herself and also isn’t dry at night.

    I was going to try the bedwetting tincture at trilight health. But I haven’t yet, so I don’t know how/if it works. But it might be worth looking into. I was going to get it this week.


  6. Rachel R. says:

    I have a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl who are potty trained but we still have “bathroom issues.” I struggled to potty train my son when he turned 2. I should have waited another year, because at age 3 the lightbulb came on and he started using the bathroom by himself. Now his only problem is that he is a germophobe and gets upset with me if the bathroom isn’t perfectly clean. It is on my “to do list” to teach him how to clean the bathroom.
    My daughter occasionally has accidents because she doesn’t like to have her play interrupted. She also complains about having a bowel movement (and really has had a problem with that since she was 16 months old although her pediatrician can’t find a problem) and I have to constantly remind her to have one every day. If I forget to remind her, she will be constipated which seems to be preferable to her than using the potty. I have sat in the bathroom with her longer than I care to admit trying to encourage her to have a bowel movement.
    Okay, so now my 22 month old son is trying to potty train himself and I am scared to death. The other day he was walking around half naked. I found his diaper on the floor and he had peed on the floor beside the potty. I had no idea that he was even interested. Now he always lets me know when his diaper is dirty. In fact, because of the potty-training nightmares I have already endured, I planned to keep him in diapers for a very long time.
    I still consider myself an entry-level mother…definately not a seasoned pro…so I promptly went to the library and got all the books to read to preschoolers about using the potty as well as the self-help books for parents on potty training.
    After all it would be nice to have him potty trained before baby #4 arrives in July!
    I said all that just to encourage you moms out there. Each child is so different, but you are the mom God gave them so hang in there. Personally, I’ve done alot of praying for patience in the bathroom and sometimes I think these potty training trials are just meant to build my character.

  7. Thinking of the potty training issues… have you tried a timer? We used a timer when we were potty-training, starting with really short intervals (20 minutes or so) and gradually increasing the time until the child could reliably manage on his own.

    Maybe your boy still needs a reminder. Set it for every half-hour, or every hour, or whatever interval is reasonable for you and him. Every time the timer goes, he goes to the bathroom. (Whether or not he actually needs to go potty, he goes to the actual bathroom.)

    I know this isn’t necessarily getting HIM to take ownership of being aware of it, but he may dislike his day/play being interrupted frequently, and maybe that will help motivate him? At the least, it gets him into the bathroom to take care of his business, instead of in his pants.

    You know your own kids better than anyone. If he really CAN’T handle it – if he’s not aware of his body’s signals – I’d ask the doctor. But if my kids got to the point that they were just ignoring their urge “to go” because they didn’t want to interrupt their play, then they clean up the mess. They get themselves cleaned up, they rinse their soiled clothing and get it into the washer, they clean up any mess in the bathroom (or wherever), etc. That is a MUCH BIGGER interruption than just going to the bathroom in the first place.

    I’m not angry, but I’m not soothing and making it all easy. It’s not punitive, it’s a natural consequence. Win-win.

    Good luck!

    Julie G

  8. Hello there! I normally don’t comment but I saw something about one of your daugthers that is having problems potty training and sleeping and I thought I might offer a suggestioin, based on something I have personal experience with. I have partial Diabetes Insipidus which is a disease that has nothing to do with insulin or sugar, but actually a hormone our body produces to conserve water called Antidiuretic hormone. I do not produce enough of this hormone, and therefor I have to pee with a lot more frequency than others. I have several problems with my hormones, besides that, and because of that I also know that melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that signals to ones body that it is time to go to sleep. I was wondering if perhaps something might be off with your daugther’s hormone production? It is more common that you might think in young children and teenagers, but may doctors are not very skilled in this area and normally do not recogize it (we went to over 6 doctors before they found I had a mass near my pituitary causing me to not produce hormones correctl). Maybe you could gve her some melatonin (I think you can buy this as just a supplement), or get your doctor to perscribe very low dose Antidiuretc hormone (around .5-1 micrograms) for bedtime wetting and see if it helps. It could just be that her body functions different, or a maturity issue, but I hate to see a situation like this and not comment on it from my experience!

  9. For children with problems wetting (day or night), please don’t neglect the possibility of physical issues. Besides structural abnormalities, I have known and read of children who have been greatly helped by even minimal chiropractic care. I also read a doctor’s theory that constipation, even though it doesn’t appear to be present, can be involved. All this to say, the child may not have the ability to control as much as we think he should and may care more than he will let on. It’s worth trying for his sake and everyone else’s to see if there is something physiological to address.

    • I agree with this. I finally took my 6 year old daughter to a urologist and discovered she did have a medical issue. Once this was resolved there were no more problems, day or night.

  10. My biggest difficulty used to be the behavior of my pirates while with me in the grocery store. They knew I wasn’t going to spank them right there in the store, so they got to feeling like they could get away with stuff and nonsense, until… I started writing the initials of any offenders on my hand. I mean, I had my pen in my hand because I was doing the grocery list, so, if I stopped to chat with an acquaintance (the worst time for unruly, bored boys) and they got ridiculous I just wrote their initial on my hand. They’d see me do it (they knew that when we got home anyone whose initials graced my hand would get a spanking) and they’d get really still and quiet all of a sudden. I had one friend who noticed this phenomenon while we chatted in the store and her jaw hit the floor. Fun times! These days I HATE going to the grocery without any boys, they’re so much help. 😀

    • Thank you, Jenny! That idea is perfect for my situation. I have 4 between the ages of 3-9. Just perfect. Thanks again…

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