I recieved the following question last week in response to my post, A Common-Sense Approach to Potty-Training:
My sons are 4 & 6. They can stay dry for days or can have 5 accidents in 3 hours. It can be hard to know how extra sets of clothes to bring places.
Sometimes they go themselves and other times they have an accident if I don’t tell them to go.
My 6-year-old night-trained on his own soon after turning three and gets up at night to go potty. How can I encourage them to stay clean and dry during the day after they seem potty-trained?
It sounds like your sons may be a lot like I was as a child. I remember having accidents long after I was toilet trained, simply because I would get so engrossed in whatever I was doing that I would completely forget to go to the bathroom until it was too late.
The more distractions available…
- new toys at a playdate
- art supplies at a children’s museum
- frogs, lizards, and horned toads in a garden
…the less likely it would be that I’d remember on my own to take a bathroom break.
A couple of my children struggled early on with that same tendency, but I can assure you that we all eventually outgrew it! 🙂
In the meantime, here are a few suggestions that may help:
- Provide frequent reminders.
This will be especially important when you are out and about, experiencing new things. If you tend to get distracted yourself (like I do), set a timer on your watch or phone to help you remember. Your child’s bladder is smaller than yours, so you can’t just wait until you need to go yourself before prompting your child to do so. He will likely need more potty breaks than you do.
- Focus on successes.
Instead of zeroing in on the occasional accidents, keep track of all the days your child stays dry. (Or if his accidents are happening daily, track all the hours he stays dry). Encourage the good as much or more than you correct the bad. I’ve designed a couple of potty-training charts that might help (scroll to the bottom of this post to download the free printables).
- Always be prepared.
Make peace with the fact that accidents may happen, even long after you thought you’d be done with all that. Keep at least 2 changes of clothes in your car at all times. If your children are close in size, you needn’t pack a whole closet — pack generic outfits that would work for either sex in large-enough size to fit the bigger child, and let those serve as backup for both.
- Understand medical issues.
If your child has started having frequent accidents after a long period of potty-training success, it could signal an underlying and even life-threatening health issue. Frequent urination is a tell-tale sign of Type One diabetes (other signs include excessive hunger, excessive thirst, nausea, and weight loss).
This is exactly what happened to us when our firstborn was almost two. He had been doing very well with daytime training, but then got sick and couldn’t stay dry to save his life. It took several trips to the doctor before an accurate diagnosis was made (it was much more unusual twenty-five years ago for such young children to contract Type One diabetes than it is today). So if there is any question that something of that nature might be going on, please have it checked out ASAP.