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What is the best way to handle bedwetting?

Q.I have a 4-year-old son (he'll be 5 in 2 weeks) who is having a great deal of trouble staying dry at night. After he was first potty trained at around 3 1/2 he stayed dry at night and would get up by himself and go to the bathroom.About 6 months ago he started to wet the bed.He seems to go through intermittent spells of this. He may stay dry for several nights in a row and then wet the bed every night for a week.Lately the dry spells seem to be getting shorter and shorter.My husband and I try very hard not to make a big deal of this, but my son is very upset about it and it does make it hard for all of us to get a good nights sleep! What's our next step?Should we take him to a urologist?Could anxiety be causing this?

Thank you for your help,

A.You should definitely take him to a doctor to see if there are any physical causes.It could also be developmental.One clue that bed wetting is developmental is if a child is a heavy sleeper and has difficulty waking up in the night.Don't wake your son up, or try to monitor his fluid intake before bed, or ask if he has gone to the bathroom before he goes to bed. Instead, let him know some people take longer to develop bladder control,and that you are sure he will be able to handle it on his own schedule. Anxiety is also a possibility.Is there anything going on that is creating stress for him?I'm glad you and your husband try not to make a big deal about it.Allow your son to express his feelings about the problem and then work together on solutions.

The following suggestions are taken from our book," Positive Discipline A-Z", which covers over 1001subjects, including bedwetting. Take time for training and then stay out of the way.Teach him how to use the washing machine.Also you could teach him how to change his clothes and sheets in the middle of the night if he is uncomfortable.Once you have taken time for training, keep your nose (then you won't have to smell it) out of his business and allow him the opportunity to take care of himself however he chooses.He may choose to sleep in wet and smelly sheets and experience ridicule from his friends.There is no reason for all of you to be up in the night.Let him handle it. You might want to cover the mattresses with plastic sheets.You might want to make special sleeping bags out of old sheets that are easy to throw in the washing machine. You may choose to stay out of his room because you can't stand the smell.Whatever you do, do it with dignity and respect instead of a punitive attitude. Share respectful stories about bed wetters so your son will know it can be a common problem.

Michael Landon wrote a television movie about bed wetting based on his childhood experience.We have a friend who shared that in the Marines there was a special tent for bed wetters.The sergeant in charge of the bed wetters tent woke them up every two hours.One Marine peed his pants while signing the wake up sheet. One of my sons was a bed wetter into his early teen years.We knew it was developmental and very embarrassing for him.At the age of fourteen he was invited to an overnight campout with his friends.He stayed up all night because he was afraid he would wet the bed and be subject to ridicule.We didn't add to his problems by hassling him.We simply gave him empathetic understanding and worked with him on many possible solutions.The funniest was our agreement that we would tie a string around his toe.Since I have to get up several times in the night to go to the bathroom, he asked me if I would pull on the string around his toe to wake him up.The novelty of this plan soon wore out. We became so unconcerned about the problem, and my son became so good about taking care of his own sheets, that we don't know for sure when he stopped wetting the bed.