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4 Year Old Having Potty Accidents

 Help! My four year old little girl has been potty trained since the week prior to her turning three. Never an accident up until a few months ago. Now, she is wetting her pants daily. Sometimes emptying her entire bladder, sometimes, just enough to wet her underwear. I have taken her to the doctors twice when it first began and she had a mild urinary tract infection. The second time-nothing! Now it seems all behavioral. I tried time outs at first, then I tried ignoring it, now I make her wear a pull up after she has an accident for the rest of the day until she gets a bath. Nothing is working! She will sit in wet underwear ALL day without saying a word. I really don’t think it’s physical because she has yet to wet the bed during the night or nap time. Everyone keeps saying it’s a phase but for months at a time??

Dear Krieta,
What a frustrating situation for both you and your daughter. After her having mastered toileting, to have her begin having daily accidents is upsetting for you, not to mention inconvenient. It is also upsetting to her, even if she doesn’t show it.

I'm not sure I agree with you that this is not a physical problem. Urinary tract infections in little girls are sometimes a sign of constipation.  (Check the book It's No Accident: Breakthrough Solutions to Your Child's Wetting, Constipation, UTIs, and Other Potty Problems by Dr. Steve Hodges for more info on that.)

And constipation often is the cause of potty accidents, because an overfull rectum presses on the bladder. So the symptoms here are all pointing toward a physical cause: constipation.  Most parents don't know their child is constipated but an xray shows that the rectum is distended.  (88% of kids who are shown by xray to be constipated show no outward signs of it.)  So unless your daughter's stools are soft and frequent, I would start by asking your pediatrician for an xray of the rectum.

Now, I'm not a medical doctor, and you wrote to me for psychological advice, so let’s look at things from your daughter’s point of view.  She got a urinary tract infection, and naturally began having accidents. She has not been able to recover from that situation and once again master her own body. That is not unusual after a toilet-training lapse caused by a medical condition, stress (like a school change), or anything else. After all, adults have spent years using the toilet. A four year old has only been dry for a year. And many, many four year olds do have accidents and phases where they go back into pullups. Even something you would not notice or would think is a small change in her life can throw a four year old off.

Unfortunately, in your concern about helping her learn again to stay dry, you began punishing her. There’s been a lot of research on this, and punishing kids about toileting ALWAYS seems to result in more accidents. We aren’t sure why, although probably this is because the child stops seeing toileting as an opportunity for mastery — which all kids want — and starts seeing it as a power struggle with the parent, where the parent is in charge of the toileting and the child is no longer responsible.  The reason she sits in wet underwear is is probably that she is afraid to tell you when she’s had an accident. After all, that's better than enduring punishment and shame, right?

So what can you do now? Love your daughter unconditionally, and remove the stress. Treat this as you would the beginning of toilet training. I would sit down with her on your lap for a nice snuggle, and then say something like “I notice that you are having accidents a lot. I know it can be hard to notice every time you have to pee. Would you like to wear pullups for awhile, until you’re ready to remember to use the potty every time? And I am going to help you stay dry, too.  We are going to use the potty together every hour on the hour, no matter what. Ok?”

Then, remind her to void, every hour on the hour.  Do it with her.  That keeps her from being the bad kid who needs reminding.  Instead, it just becomes the norm in your house.  Once she gets used to this and is no longer having accidents, you can go back to  underwear again.

However, if she refuses to go back to pullups, the situation is more challenging for you. You might say something like “I can see you really want to wear underwear. But lately I see you have a lot of accidents. Will you agree to use the bathroom with me every hour on the hour?" 

Then, when she has an accident — and she will, almost certainly — you need to keep your tone very light: “I see you’re wet. I know it’s hard to get yourself to the toilet on time every time, but soon you will remember, just like you used to. But it’s not good to stay in wet clothes, and you’re in charge of your body, right? So go to your room and pick some clean underwear and pants out, ok? And drop your wet clothes in the hamper so we can wash them."   Resist the impulse to be at all punitive.

Try to set up her clothes so she can access them herself and you aren’t involved. That way, she isn’t getting attention from you when she wets herself, and you aren’t inconvenienced. Soon, she will decide that changing clothes is more trouble than using the toilet. If you can keep your tone light and approving, no matter what, you’ll be amazed how quickly your daughter will be dry again.

And I want to emphasize getting the xray of her rectum.  Many kids her age who have potty accidents are constipated, and it isn't fair to them to not get help.

Please write and let me know how it goes.
I wish you and your daughter every blessing.
Dr. Laura

View Older Comments

Anonymous commented on 11-Jun-2009 05:24 PM
My kid is going through something similar and I have tried the approach above being "gentle" and loving. This has gone on now for months and continues still. My daughter refuses to wear pull ups and also refuses to go to the bathroom when I remind her in a very gentle way. while I agree that its important to make children feel accepted and loved, to say that anyone can solve this problem quickly is unrealistic. It really depends on the kid.
Anonymous commented on 17-Sep-2009 11:08 AM
My son is 3 years old and all of a sudden he started having accidents.I asked him why and this was his answer"I do not want my sister take my toys" Since then I promise him every time he goes to potty I keep eye on his sister so she doesn't take his toys.He is still having accidents here in there but I know he is very jealous and this is gonna take some time.JUST BE PATIENT....
Stacy commented on 25-Nov-2009 03:32 PM
my daughter is 3 1/2 years old and has accidents everyday for over a year. She pees enough just to wet the liner part of her undies. I'm very frustrated and at wits end. This information is helpful. I've tried everything!
Anonymous commented on 02-Mar-2010 09:27 AM
My daughter too wets the lining of her panties and then does the rest in the toilet, but lately she's having poop accidents. It is frustrating for both of us and I admit to getting upset with her a few times. I will try the reward approach with her next. I feel like I'm potting training her all over again. I think this is just a phase and that she doesn't want to break away from playing because this is when it always happens. Good luck to everyone in the same situation - it's tough.
Laura Markham commented on 02-Mar-2010 09:34 AM
Just want to direct you to another letter that has advice that may be pertinent to your situation -- Good luck! Dr. Laura
Vanessa commented on 15-Mar-2010 10:43 PM
Hi, My daughter is now 4 and a half and we had tried toilet training since just before her turning 3. She would go to the toilet and then half hour later, pee in her pants. She has been diagnosed as having 'bladder instability' . It is common and affects the smooth muscle around the bladder (the detrusor muscles) whereby they spontaneously spasm and out comes the pee, even when the bladder is not full. She also at times has no sensation that her bladder is full. Maybe ensure through a GP referral to a Childrens Bladder Clinic that the child does not have detrusor muscle instability. I struggled for 18mths before finally getting a diagnosis and many time and volume charts and ultrasounds. The poor thing couldn't help it. Fortuntaley with treatment and age, they can grow out of it as the muscle becomes stronger. Hope this helps.
Tracy commented on 19-Mar-2010 01:51 PM
My daughter is 4 1/2 and has been potty training for about 18 months. We go through days of her keeping her panties dry and without any fuss of going to the bathroom. She will even take herself. Then we go through days of her having multiple accidents and completely refusing to go to the bathroom. She still wears a pull up at night and it us usually saturated when she wakes up in the morning. I am 99% sure this is all behavioral, because when we are out in public, she stays dry & even tells me or daddy when she has to go! Which bring me to daddy, he was deployed for 12 months and came home about 4 months ago & went back to his civilian job 2 1/2 months ago. Thinking this might be a stressor in her life we have been very patient with her, but she has been pushing the envelope and somthing has got to change. We have tried being understanding, taking cartoons and movies away, having her get clean clothes and take responsibility for her actions...we even tried a reward system of stickers and after so many days of dry clothes we will get to do something fun. Haven't made it yet! Her younger sister will be 3 in 6 weeks and is almost ready for underwear. We DO NOT compare them to each other, but we were hoping the older would see little sister's progress and want to do the same. We don't know what to do.
Cathy commented on 03-Oct-2010 09:29 AM
My 3 1/2 year old has been potty trained since she was 2 1/2. Just recently she started a new school (catholic) Pre k-3. even the first day of her new school is when the accidents started and is just getting progressivly worse. She does not wet the bed, she tells me that she does not make it to the bathroom on time, I cannot put her in pull ups because the school does not allow it. Any suggestions on what I can do to get this to stop?
caren commented on 12-Nov-2010 08:48 AM
My daughter is having the same problem, she has been potty trained since 2.5 and is about to turn 4, she has always had her accident here and there (NEVER at night), however all of a sudden a few weeks ago she pees herself about twice a day, it's driving me crazy...I am tired of accidentally stepping in it, mopping my bathroom floor and washing clothes. The only thing I could think of is that she started pre-K, she was ok for the first month but then started missing mommy and would cry when I leave, and that is not like her she is very independent, it's like she is going backwards I don't know what is going on...
Laura Markham commented on 12-Nov-2010 10:50 AM
Caren- Dr. Laura here. Just a very quick note about your comment. Sounds like your little girl is having a hard time adjusting to Pre-K. That often happens after the novelty wears off. My advice is to ignore the accidents as much as possible, but to immediately call the teacher and see if she can make a special effort to bond with your daughter. AND spend as much loving time with your daughter as possible, let her be as dependent as she wants, and give her some opportunities to "play school" with you, with stuffed animals, so she can work out whatever emotional issues are coming up for her. Good luck!
Kirsty commented on 22-Nov-2010 07:15 PM
My daughter is 4 and half, she was dry at 3 years old, she had a urinary infection a few months ago and now she cant stop having accidents and is happy to sit in wet knickers, she also needs to pee every 10 mins, we have tried everything, what to do next?
Erica commented on 13-Dec-2010 12:53 PM
My son is 4, has been potty trained for a year and has started having accidents. he'll be good for 2 weeks and then have 3 accidents in 1 day. he says he doesn't want to stop playing. I have a 5 month old baby which is a big change but the accidents only started 3 months ago. They are getting more frequent and I'm not sure what to do about it. I live in an apartment and don't have a washer, which it makes it all the more frustrating for me when he has multiple accidents. I'm trying to stay calm and not punish but the boy knows better!! I see the pee pee dance and make him go to the bathroom but i don't always catch him in time. i don't know what else to do.
Kaitelyn commented on 23-Dec-2010 10:56 AM
sad. just sad. dont punish him/her and be gentle.
Michelle commented on 11-Jan-2011 03:49 PM
I'm definitely seeing a theme out here today... just because my kid has been potty trained since she was 2 1/2 (and she's now 4) doesn't mean no accidents or very few accidents. I've been overwhelmed by 4 and 5 accidents a day over the last few months. The toughest part is that the other kids in her PreK class (1/2 days MWF) don't have accidents and her friends close in age at church don't either. It kind of makes us feel like we're "freaks" and I'm not doing the training right since she's not mastering it. I can't tell you how much better I feel after having read others here with similar struggles to mine. I know now that we're not alone in this thing!
Anonymous commented on 02-Feb-2011 04:20 PM
I have a 4yr old going through the same thing. It's very frustrating. Thanks for the insight. I'll try your suggestions.
Amy commented on 15-Mar-2011 11:57 PM
Thank you for this answer! I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter that has been potty trained since she was 18 months old (on her own). She will still always poop on the potty, but has a lot of accidents. We totally regressed when her baby brother was born, she was 21 months. She has been in big girl panties again for about six months now. She wears a diaper to bed, because she will not wake up to go potty. She doesn't make it to the bathroom in time, most of the time. I am even rewarding her with a quarter a day, to save up for a toy she wants. Today was the first day in a week that she has gotten one! I have really struggled with this! To top it all off, her 18 month old brother pooped and peed 2x on the potty today! That doesn't go over to well with her sometimes. It may turn into a competition for her at least!
Feeling helpess commented on 19-Mar-2011 09:22 PM
I have a daughter that turned 3 in December she has been potty trained since she was 2 1/2. All of a sudden in the past month she has started peeing in her pants again. She will still #2 on the potty never in her pants but will go squat down anywhere and
pee in her pants even if i just asked her 30 seconds ago to go potty or even if she just sat there. I am so confused and frustrated! There have been no life altering experiences for her and I have taken her to the doctor and they said that everything is fine
I just don't know what to do. She won't wear pull ups cause they are for babies and I am so tired of changing wet clothes 5-8 times per day. HELP!!!!
Stephanie commented on 23-Apr-2011 09:43 AM
I have a similar situation to all of you. My daughter is 4 1/2 (going on 5) and we have been struggling with potty training since we started it at age 2. She seemed so promising in the beginning (she wanted to go on the toilet!) but she has lapsed MANY
times since then. Where our stories differ, however, is that she is not only having pee accidents. Though it has improved over time, we are still finding poo in her underwear on a regular basis. There have been numerous changes in her life over the last year
(she started Junior kindergarten, her father and I split and I am now with a new man - who she adores, mind you) but she was having toilet issues LONG before any of these changes came along. Prior to splitting, my ex and I tried all sorts of things - from
rewards, to encouraging words, to punishing her with a time-out (that generally happened when she was put on the toilet while protesting she didn't have to goonly to have an accident mere minutes after getting off the toilet). One big issue that does make
things hard, however, is that I'm a shift worker. I only work 14 days a month but they are long shifts (7-19 or 19-07 hrs) and my rotating schedule means that when I'm working nights she has to spend the night at her aunt's (who is also her daycare provider)
or at her father's. It does mean a number of nights away from home every two weeks. She doesn't appear to get any worse with her accidents during that time. Last month I finally took her to the doctor after a particularly trying week. The doctor and I both
agreed that the problem appears to be behavioural. (she is dry throughout the night and she is capable of going days at a time with no accidents). She suggested I try the sticker rewards chart again. (we had done that when she was younger but the appeal of
practicing her counting seemed to make it a better option this time) The past month has been hit or miss. The last 5 days, however, she's been particularly bad. Several accidents in a day. When I nonchalantly bring it up to her, and urge her to do a good job
so she can get another sticker, her response is "It doesn't matter if I don't get a sticker, Mommy. I don't really care". I am at my wits end. My sister calls me almost on a daily basis to complain about my daughter's accidents, it's put a strain on my new
relationship and her teachers have started to take notice (she doesn't have pee accidents as often as poo so it tends to go unnoticed by the teachers).It's incredibly difficult staying calm and indifferent to her accidents. I can completely relate with all
of you - it's embarassing and incredibly frustrating! How can my daughter be so brilliant for everything..and yet be incapable of mastering her own body? I never really had the support I needed from my ex and now that she's only with him 5 or 6 days a month
it's only made the problem worse for me. I realize this will not be cured overnight...but can anyone suggest something else?
Anonymous commented on 24-Apr-2011 07:16 PM
my 4 and a half year old, has been having "accidents" the quotes are because i think she does it on purpose. just today she stood next to the toilet and wet herself. when i ask her to go, she says she doesn't want to, or she will go in the bathroom and
pretend to go. i have to wash all of her clothes every day. she refuses to use the bathroom unless we are in public. when we are out, she tells me she has to go and has no accidents. once i asked her to go to the bathroom, she said no and then spread her legs
and peed right in front of me. she is also defiant in every other possible way. as soon as she figures out that we want her to do something, or not to do something, she goes out of her way to do the opposite of what we want. every time we go to her grandparents
house i have to bring 6 changes of clothes. she doesn't respond to anything. i now have her changing her own clothes, that doesn't seem to phase her at all. she is only doing it to defy us, i am fed up. i have followed every piece of advise i have found online
and absolutely nothing works, at all, ever. i am convinced she will be wetting herself in college.
Anonymous commented on 25-Apr-2011 10:35 PM
My daughter is almost 4yrs old and has been having accidents since last September on a daily basis. I really don't know how long this can go on. I Love my little girl so much. She will not wear pull ups. Its frustrating for both of us. She does get upset
when she wets. She doesn't want to have accidents but she gets distracted and forgets. I have everything accessible to her so she is in charge of changing her own clothes. She gets upset and a little embarrassed and asks me to look away while she is running
into the bathroom. Gathering from the advice above, I guess I am just going to have to wait it out and thats okay by me. Of course I don't want her to be doing this but I am finding out that she is not singled out with this problem that there are a lot of
little girls that have this same issue and even a lot of her little friends from preschool are going through the same thing. PATIENCE is KEY here.
m&m commented on 23-May-2011 01:50 AM
My 3 year old daughter is fully potty trained and has no problems at home or at school. But all of a sudden she's having accidents when visiting her father. WHY!? I don't understand. She knows how to go on her own. I have set up a stool and everything
there at his apt. But why is this an issue? Fear? Feeling not at home? What?! Anyone have ideas, web links, books suggestions? Let me know asap. Thx
Wendy commented on 26-May-2011 07:34 AM
My daughter is 4 1/2 and she was daytime potty trained at 3. She did great for about 6 months. Then she started having accidents. We then started the potty training over agian, at home and at school. She did great again for about 6 or 7 months with very
few accidents. We then booked our trip to Disney and the enire month of Feb and March she had 3 accidents. Then came April and she only had 3 days where she didn't have an accident. And when I say "accident" it was not like she completely peed her pants, they
were just damp and she would then go to the potty. I am getting frustrated because I believe that she is just too busy to go. She seems to be afraid of missing something. We have tried rewarding her, disciplining her (she would say she doesn't have to go and
then 5 min later she is running to the bathroom and her panties are wet. I am taking her to the pediatrician today to see what else todo. I am at a loss. I think what bothers me the most is that she doesn't mind sitting in damp panties all day. Then she gets
a rash...
Gems commented on 18-Jul-2011 01:14 PM
My son is 3 1/2 yrs old and he has been potty trained for the last one yr. He will starting Pre-K in August. He is fine @ home. When he need to pee he says "Big boy pee-pee" and run to the bathroom and finish the job on his own. But in school, he is having
@ least one accident per day. There are times when he return dry for weeks from school and then suddenly the pattern changes. Wonder what is happening to him @ school. We have shared his behavior @ home with his teacher and she was surprised. Not sure if he
is scared of something in school. It usually happens after his nap time in school. I have tried talking to him and asking him if everything is okay @ school and encourage him to do "big boy pee-pee" in school too. It is not helping. Have tried rewarding him
if comes home dry from school..this worked for sometime. Any suggestions?
vicki commented on 01-Aug-2011 06:36 AM
My daughter just turned 4 a few weeks ago and for the past couple month or so she has been having daily accidents.I will ask her if she needs to use the potty and she will say no and within 5 minutes she holds herself and runs to the bathroom..she will
only run to the bathroom if i make her go,otherwise she will sit there and pee her pants.I am not sure if this is behavioral or not.Her gramma has always been a big part of her life and now has moved on and is doing her own thing..the potty training has become
alot worse since she has been gone.Any suggestions on what i can do to help her.It is very i speak,i have her bedding in the washer because she has started wetting the bed as well as accidents during the day.I am not sure if it solely has to
do with her gramma leaving or not..she did have a painful bladder infection about 6 months ago.I am not able to make her gramma come back but would like to help her and i would love to understand her situation a little better.any help from anyone would be
great.thank you
Melissa commented on 19-Aug-2011 10:08 AM
My daughter is 3 years 9 months. She was potty trained August last year. She still had occasional accidents but they were mainly due to not getting to the toilet in time. Since January, it's as if she's never been potty trained. She sometimes has 3-5 accidents
a day, 7 days a week. We went back to giving her a reward each time she went and then seemed to help but she rarely had a dry day. Then all of a sudden, in April she started being accident free. This lasted about 2 weeks and then she went back to having accidents
all day long. In the last 8 months, we have tried rewards, punishment, ignoring it, even going back to basics and scheduling potty breaks but nothing seems to help. She will do the pee-pee dance and tell me that she doesn't need to go. Two weeks ago she started
saying that she didn't have ANY accidents all day (at nursery) but then when we got home she wanted to go in the bathroom - alone. She said she didn't want me in there. I insisted and I discovered she'd been sitting in urine soaked underwear all day...the
smell was unbelievable. Because I felt that she was now trying to be sneaky, I've put her into pull-ups. We never used them except at nighttime so I thought maybe it would nudge her into wanting "big girl" underwear. It didn't. She has as many accidents in
the pull-ups as she did in her underwear. Any help would be greatly appreciated. The nursery manager has consulted several organisations for help or suggestions but we haven't learned any new tricks...
Anonymous commented on 26-Aug-2011 06:38 PM
My dau is 4 & has been using the pot for probably a year & a 1/2 now...usu once or twice a moth we go thru 'spells' of "accidents" for several days to a week or more @ a time. I have tried being nice, firm, time outs, pull ups, diapers, no toy/cartoon/show
she likes for the day, etc. She is prone to getting uti's but more often than not its because "I want to play" or "I didnt want to use the potty" or "I'm scared".....HELP ME! Im gettn desperate!
Tegan commented on 27-Aug-2011 11:30 AM
I have been having a similar issue with my 3 1/2 year old she has been potty trained since a little after she turned 2 with occasional accidents. Now we have accidents almost everyday and every night. I am at my wits end with it and am beginning to think
it is just behavioral. When she has an accident she says "mommy accidents happen" or "i just couldnt make it". i have tried the loving approach and the discipline also rewards nothing seems to work. I just dont know what to do.
Daniela commented on 29-Sep-2011 11:40 AM
My daughter is 3 /12 now, and we started potty training around 2 1/2. After the first six months she got a little better every day. When she turned 3 she was only in underwear but with a few accidents a day. For the past two months, she has been a lot
better. She stayed almost 2 weeks with no accidents, and now, she's again peeing in her pants anytime , anywhere. I asked her and she says that she knows that we are supposed to pee on the potty, also she says she doesn't like been wet. She actually never,
never ask to go potty. We always have to take her and remind her ALL THE TIME. If we don't do that, she will do in her pants. She also have speech delay, could that be related??? Lately I have been loosing my mind, I just don't get WHY???? I've tried everything,
but I got to the point that I feel sometimes she doesn't even care what's going on. I got upset with her, then she cries, than I feel bad, and so on. I JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO! PLEASE, HELP!!! Thanks
Amber commented on 11-Oct-2011 08:06 PM
my child is going on 4 yrs old and everyday she wets her pants numerous times and we cant control it! i dont know what to do anymore we have tried everything for punishment she was completely potty trained at 11 mths old had and no incidents like this
til she turned 3 for a couple mths everything will be fine no accidents and then well go months will everyday sometimes 3-6 times a day peeing her pants and she knows shes doing it! she will stand right in front of you and pee and look at you and say mommy
i peed! i am lost! doctors say there is nothing wrong with her "its just a phase" and i believed that at first then, it continued! can someone share anything that might help me with this! PLEASE & Thank you! you may email if you would like also!
Miranda commented on 22-Oct-2011 11:20 PM
I have a 3 year old daughter who has been trained for a year and she also keeps having accidents. We go days without one when she is at my parents visiting for the day but that night as soon as we get home she pees her pants. I am fed up and don't know
what to do. Please help. Email me if u want.
Erik commented on 07-Nov-2011 12:40 PM
We have a 3 1/2yo who along with her 2yo and 9mo siblings we are fostering. She was potty trained when we brought the home over the summer. Just within the last month, she started wetting the bed at night. We even out her in pullups while sleeping at night.
Last week, she took a nap and peed in our bed (her brother was asleep in their room) and didn't even notice until she woke up. Over the weekend, we had to wash the sheets once (she peed, then while the sheets were in the dryer and during her nap, she peed
the bed. This is getting ridiculous. She knows better than to do this. It's very upsetting to my wife and I. What do we do?
Ummal commented on 07-Dec-2011 05:27 AM
My Daughter is 3.5 yrs old and had been potty trained for about 12-12 months.For the past 2 months she refuses to go to potty or urinate and waits till the last minute and goes in her pants. She had been a year back in US nad had been going to school there
and we moved to chennai india for about 6 months and she had been going to a pre-school there and we had stayed with her grandparents and now we have moved to bangaolore, india and she has been shifted to another new schooland is attending it for about 5 months.
She used to even get up at night wake me up to go to potty at nights before. She was alright till about 2 months and now she is started ahaving potty accidents as she doesn't go for a full day and the next day she started going in school and now she is starting
to have urinary accidents also not only in school.. but also in the house. I am at wits end as i have tried reprimanding her( i think that was a wrong choice after reading the first answer by the doc).. rewarding her with stickers.. but tries not to go fo
one whole day.. and again it happens. Any idea what might be the cause.
Anonymous commented on 08-Dec-2011 04:34 PM
My daughter is having the same problem. She pees herself and will sit in it until I notice. I have to say I am going to try this advice it sounds like very good advice. It's really hard to not get upset because she pees everywhere not just at home.
esk commented on 12-Dec-2011 07:00 AM
Gosh... I am not alone. my daughter has been potty trained. She is approaching five years of age and just this weekend wet herself on 4 occasions. I asked her why she did not go to the toilet and all she said was sorry. I got her changed and put her on
my knee and asked her to try and explain why. She never wets the bed at night. She does have a constipation problem andd is taking lactulose for her poos which I have to explain get stuck. She has had to wear pull ups for some time now because of poo accidents
which she can't control. Its frustrating she is such a smart child and only recently she told me that some of her school friends spotted her with a nappy on and laughed. I did advise her teacher of this when she first started school. I am sitting home worried
in case she has a pee accident now as well. I am dealing with 2 issues now. I really upset about this the effect that this will have on her. I understand the poo problem (her diet is terrible) but wetting her pants, gosh I don't know what to do.
Laura Markham commented on 12-Dec-2011 09:16 AM
ESK and others whose child is constipated -- that can easily cause potty accidents in the form of urine leaks. Please see this letter: AND a five year old should not
be having poo accidents. This is a problem that you need to address before she gets any older. Here's a letter about that: Good luck!
Anonymous commented on 16-Dec-2011 03:32 PM
I have a 4 year old boy, he just turned 4 and he has been potty trained since around three years old he did great and never had any accident but here recentyl he has an accident everyday if not two or three times a day, its very frustrating. me and his
father are only 20 years old so we arent that experienced and it's very frustrating and we also have another on the way. we have tried putting pullups on him and he absolutely freaks out about that but once we get them on him he acts like it doesnt bother
him and then he will go to the bathroom so i will put his underwear back on him but then he will just go right back to going in his underwear. i'm stuck with any other ideas. it might be because of his sister on the way, im not sure. and we try to be calm
with him but he still does it. i need help with this.
Peggy commented on 05-Jan-2012 06:37 AM
It's so encouraging to see that so many others have had this problem!! My almost 4yo daughter took over a year to toilet train (more like 18 months if you include the getting used to the toilet stuff) and finally was dry, all day and most nights about
six months ago. The battle with toilet training was that she had no idea that the wee was coming and it would just come out. I didn't believe that she really didn't know and it all got a bit serious & she stopped telling me and I'd find poo around the house.
It wasn't until I left it all alone and didn't mention it, just quietly cleaned up the accidents, that she got the hang of it on her own. At Christmas we all had a stomach bug and since then she's been having almost daily accidents again. She tells me that
she just doesn't feel the wee coming and when she does feel it there's not enough time to get to the toilet. This time I believe her and I'm staying calm & I'll just pull out the cloth nappies and mop up the spills and wash the undies, but I'm going to try
a new plan. Since she is toilet trained, I'm going to give her incontinence pads (since that's what grownups use for the same thing). I'm going to show her how to put them on and make her in charge of using them and changing them when they get wet. Now that
she's older she's willing to work with me to get this sorted out, so fingers crossed it'll be temporary and I'll report back in to let you know if it worked!
Michelle commented on 13-Jan-2012 08:11 AM
My dd is 3yr 4 mo. Just yesterday she pottied in her pants 3 times! Ugh! ok, here's my plan of action....I am going to do the same thing I did to potty train her...She luuuuuvs stuffed animals, right? So....I have a "prize bag" with "wild potty animals"
that she picks 2 out and they sit high on a rack in the bathroom and wait for her to come and potty on the toilet. When she does they get all excited and "swoop down" and come and play with her until she gets bored with them and she lays them down somewhere.
That is when they magically "fly back up onto their perch" when she is not looking and wait for her to come potty again later. What makes them "wild" potty animals is that they do not belong to her, they are wild, which means they come and go as they please
and she doesn't get to keep them, they are wild animals that just come to play when a girl goes potty on the toilet. When she gets bored with these "potty animals" she gets to go through the "prize bag" and choose 2 new animals to sit high up on the towel
rack and they will come play with her next but not until she goes potty in the toilet. We'll see if this works. She did eventually get to keep some of these animals once she quit pottying in her pants altogether but now maybe it's time to open the prize bag
up again as using the toilet has lost it's fun.'s another cure...maybe I'll do this one she potties in her pants I do not act upset but jsut lovingly say ok, we have to get you rinse off and put her in the tub and rinse her off
with cold water...she doesn't like this at all but i just lovingly say "I'm sorry honey but it takes a while for the water to get warm and we're not using enough water for it to get warm shen we just need to rinse" and act like I cannot help it. Maybe I'll
do both or these things as they seem to have worked quickly with training...I'll let you know how it goes...
Anonymous commented on 15-Jan-2012 04:45 PM
My son started having wet accidents at 3 1/2 years when we moved, and at first we got upset since he had done so well for a long time. I think our response made him stressed, so he would hide and pee. When we were kind to him, and changed him without frustration,
he stopped. So, my advice would be to understand that children have accidents especially during transitions, and treat them how we would want to be treated.
Frustrated Mom of One commented on 16-Jan-2012 04:24 PM
My daughter is 3 years 1 month, and has been potty trained since August of last year. She's pretty much been dry day and night without accidents for about 3 months. Occasionally, she'll wait too long to tell us that she has to go and wont make it there,
or her panties will be a bit damp. This doesn't really bother me. What bothers me is in the past week, at least once a day (last Thursday it was 3 times) she just "goes" in her pants... and we notcie she's all wet. She wont give us an answer as to why she's
doing it, and we talked to her about it, we've tried rewarding her with special stickers, throwing Pottty parties like we did when she first started training. But last night, even after getting a special sticker for being such a good girl, she went in her
pants, while sitting on the couch playing with her Daddy. I was sitting next to them. She didn't make ANY indication that she had to go. My husband was very upset as was I, and he tok away one of ehr dollies, telling her that if she went in the potty all the
time the next day (today) she'd get it back. I don't want to punish her, but I don't know what else to do... I see a lot of people writing that they are going through the same thing, but no one has written how they actually got through it! Any advice? Please
tell me this is just a phase.... she was tested for UTI, nothing. AND She wakes up in the middle of the night and tells me she has to go... If she can tell at 4am that she has to pee.. she knows when she has to pee during the day and is choosing to ignore
it. What can I do to make her understand?
Nikki commented on 17-Jan-2012 02:45 PM
My daughter is four and a half and started school nearly five months ago. She has been potty trained for around two years now but has recently started wetting herself almost daily! I have looked a the obvious things such as changes in circumstances or
how she is as school and have also spoken to her teacher. She has never had many accidents and has never been told off when she has in the past. In the beginning I just told her it didn't matter and just cleaned her up and carried on. I have tried everything
from reward charts, encouragement and praise to telling her off and confiscating things.... nothing works. She is leaving it so late to go until she is busting. I think it is because she doesn't want to miss anything. She doesn't wet the bed but does get up
to go to the loo most nights. She has been tested for a uti and is all clear and she does know when she needs to go so I am sure it is not a medical issue. To make things worse she has soiled herself twice in two weeks and I am really worried that this too
will become a regular thing! Please help, I'm out of idea's :(
Laura Markham commented on 18-Jan-2012 12:55 PM
To all the moms and dads posting here because their child was potty trained and is now having accidents-- I am so sorry that you have to go through this. I know it is a ton of laundry, is frustrating, and is scary. (What if this lasts forever?)

BUT it is well within the range of normal for a three or four year old to have potty accidents. They happen when a child is under stress. The best way to stop them is indirectly, by helping your child with his or her stress. How?

1. Notice obvious stressors and eliminate them.

2. Use positive discipline

3. Welcome your child's upsets and help her to cry about them. Kids have a lot of big feelings. These may express as anger, or potty accidents, but underneath you will always find fear or sadness or hurt. Help your child to cry these feelings out. How? When
he or she gets angry, even about a small thing, stay calm and understanding. Say "You must be so upset"...when they start to cry, hold them. This alone may "cure" the potty accidents. There is a lot of info on this website about helping your child with feelings.

4. If your child doesn't cry easily, he probably has a lot of fear inside. Help him melt it with play. Roughhouse, wrestle, horseback ride, pillow fight. For more info on this:

I urge you NOT to punish your child when there are potty accidents. That causes more fear and more accidents.

If you need support, please come on my weekly chat:
Gianna commented on 27-Jan-2012 10:30 AM
My son is 3 and a half years old and has been potty trained since he was 2. Just a couple months ago he started having accidents at home and at his preschool. He has been going to the same school since he was 2 so I don't think its the problem. I am a
single mother (father left during pregnancy and I never heard from him) and back in June of 2011 I started dating this guy who my son loves. He squeals and gets so excited every time he sees my boyfriend coming through the door to visit us (they met in October
2011). I am not sure why he is having accidents though. Everytime I calmly ask him why he didn't go to the potty he says "I don't know". I don't make a fuss I just say "Ok, let's get new pants and underwear on." Have any advice?
maddy commented on 11-Feb-2012 02:15 AM
hi i have a 3 yr old child thats been potty trained for the past 2+ months done awesome dry days nd nights could hold himself if need be nd about a week ago his brother brought his baby over to the house where i watch him will hes at work nd hes in diapers
and my son started haveing multiple accidents daily nd even at night i was just wondering if you would think hes reacting to to another baby in the house i have 6 boya ranging from 12 down to 3 so normally hes the baby in the house he potty trained well i
always thought it was because he wanted to be like his big brothers now i just dont know wats going on????
Anonymous commented on 12-Feb-2012 03:33 PM
My grandson is 4 1/2 and has occasional potty and pooping accidents. His father reprimanded him at a extended family event by sitting in a chair in only a diaper. I know the parents are at their wits end but it is hard to watch such discipline that we
feel borders on abuse. Any ideas which can help all of us - especially our grandson?
Alecia commented on 23-Feb-2012 12:14 PM
It really is nice to read other parent's experiences on here! My son is 3 1/2 and has been potty trained for about 6 months. He has not had any accidents at our house and just recently has really started trying to test his boundaries in regard to everything.
Wanting to tell us no and be more independent. Although the independence is great and we encourage it, sometimes it goes over the top! I will have his jammies almost all the way off and he will say he "wants to do it himself" and instead of just removing the
rest of the jammies, will pull them back up and rezip them to fully start over! He has now had 2 accidents in three days at his sitter's at home daycare. She can tell he needs to go and will ask him and he says "no." He is playing and it's like he doesn't
want to leave whatever he is doing. It is hard, because I KNOW he knows better. But I agree that punishment is not the way. It is just something that can really test your patience when you KNOW they know better. We will just keep working with him!
Lord help me! commented on 28-Feb-2012 12:06 AM
My 4 1/2 year old girl is a very defiant child. Constant behavior issues and the most recent ( the last 2 months) is that she will pee and poop in her panties and smears it everywhere. I just went to tuck her in and noticed all her clothes were on the
floor and when I asked her why I noticed poo smeared all over her blanket and sheets. Her bathroom is just across the hall. I don't know what to do. About a month ago she started going behind our couch and pooping on the floor, or pooping in the bathtub, or
pooping on the floor beside the toilet. I am so very frustrated and I realize there is something that has to be going on with her, but I can't figure out what it is. Nothing has changed with our lifestyle. I am at my wits end. Nothing gets through to her.
Punishment, encouragement, rewards, nothing. I have to bathe her at least 4 to 5 times a day and change her clothes 4-5 times as well. She starts Kindergarten in August. What am I going to do?
Anonymous commented on 28-Feb-2012 04:50 PM
My daughter is 4 and been potty trained since sh was 18 months but never a week without accidents some big some small. Is she likely sick or stressed? What do I do? I have tried all methods love punish ignore reward grrrrr. I feel like I deserve the worst
mommy award.
Greg commented on 16-Mar-2012 02:48 PM
Our son is almost 5, is in preschool and goes to the in school daycare the balance of the day. The school has a policy that 1 accident constitutes a warning, 2 and the child is removed for a week, 3 and the child is removed for the rest of the school year.
My son just had his 4th. Only 1 prior this recent accident received a warning. I'm still waiting to here if they are going to consider this recent one worth suspending him. I realize there's some carelessness involved, but even so, 4 accidents spread out over
7 months? I just don't see where that should constitute suspending a 4 year old. To my knowledge, none of these happened in preschool, but rather just daycare, yet their daycare takes no responsibility for potty accidents. In fact, even if the child has his
own spare pair clothes, they call the parent every single time and make them come to change him or take him home. Both my wife and I are about 30 minutes away, so he just has to sit there in his wet pants. I don't know whether to be appreciative that they've
been lenient on making formal warnings, or feel angry that they're so stand offish about situations that are normal to a child's existence. I do not think 4 times in 7 months should be considered a problem by their "policy" Thoughts anyone?
Sara commented on 27-Mar-2012 07:58 PM
My daughter is 4 1/2 year old and has been potty trained since she was 3 1/2 but at daycare she is constantly having accidents and we don't know what to do about it. Her teachers are putting her in a pull up hoping that she will stay dry but she continues
to pee in them and I feel this option is getting us no where. She also have gone to the doctor and she is perfectly fine they said it is just behavioral and just constantly have her go potty. We try and have her change herself and we tried rewards nothing
seems to work. She is starting Kindergarten in September so I hope she will get over this soon because I don't want to have to make her wait to start kindergarten because she is constantly having accidents what do I do?
Bec commented on 31-Mar-2012 07:34 AM
OH THANK GOODNESS!!! I am soooo glad to see we are not the only ones! Our 4 1/2 year old has been having accidents on and off for the last 6 months. She is fine if we are out and about but days we are at home we get lots of accidents - even a poo accident
yesterday that she didn't tell me about. I am trying not to be upset about the accidents but the lying about them is driving me mental! Our older child is disabled and at her last appointment at the continence clinic, I asked about the 4 year old. The nurse
suggested that maybe I have been too diligent in getting her to go to the toilet and she has poor bladder capacity. She thought this could have been triggered by her getting constipated when she doesn't drink enough at Kinder. The new rule is that I am not
allowed to prompt her to go to the toilet except before bed. Do you know how hard that is when she has been doing the toilet dance for 10 minutes? OMG! I will try putting out the clothes and see how it goes. Thanks for everyone's comments though - great to
feel that she is not too abnormal (we already have enough of that with her big sis!)
Laura commented on 05-Apr-2012 06:07 PM
My daughter is 5 years old. She has been using the toilet since she was about 2 1/2. In January, she had a UTI and hasn't been successfully using the toilet since. This isn't just night time, it's all the time! Her doctor says that there isn't anything
medically wrong with her. We never have poo, just pee. I will try the advice listed above, but what happens if this doesn't work? When she was toilet learning, she was completely self lead.
Liz commented on 16-Apr-2012 11:25 PM
As a radiographer myself, I think the first port of call here is to monitor the frequency of bowel movements, and adjust your child's diet accordingly. An X-ray is not needed to diagnose constipation. X-rays are radiation, and one of the first principles
of radiation usage is to minimize the dose to healthy tissues, especially radiation exposure to children.
Sanya commented on 22-Apr-2012 08:31 AM
We are also having a problem with No Time To Get To The Loo so wet knickers are an issue but I can relax now knowing it's such a common thing at this age, actually I think I need to deal with myself first and stay calm about it then deal with the accidents;-)
Michelle - I love your ideas about wild animals etc. Will try that next time we need it;-) Good luck everyone we'll get there in the end...

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