You Are Not Alone: Potty Issues

When I was a young parent, I had the vague idea that when my child was potty trained, it would mark the end of my involvement in the elimination process. I think most parents assume that when their child is old enough to think “I have to go to the bathroom, I believe I will go do so,” they will no longer have to deal with someone else’s pee or poop.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Bedwetting is the most common post-potty-training problem.  The most prevalent statistics I could find state that between five and seven million children wet the bed after potty training and it breaks down like this:

  • 15% of all children still wet the bed at age 5
  • 7-10% still wet at age 7
  • 3% of boys and 2% girls still wet at age 10
  • 1% of boys and a very few girls still wet the bed at age 18

It is absolutely true that bedwetting is hard on the whole family.  As a parent, you can get frustrated, depressed or embarrassed, and then you feel guilty about complaining because you know that it must be worse for your kid than it is for you. What helped me was that every single person I talked to knew someone who had the same problem. When I heard “My son wet the bed till he was 14, then he just grew out of it,” or “My brother wet his bed till he left for college,” I knew that it wasn’t all my fault. It helped me relax and look at things more objectively.

My son was one who just had to grow out of it.  We tried everything – diet changes, scheduled pee breaks, alarms, medication, meditation, therapy – none of it made any difference.  We kept trying new solutions until my son broke down one night. Something his doctor said had given him the impression that it was all his fault (the doctor never meant for him to think this) and the stress and frustration of his “failure” to stay dry just got to be too much for him. At that moment I knew that I was done trying to “fix the problem.” I told him that it was not his fault, I knew how hard he had tried to stop, and I didn’t care if he peed in his bed every night for the rest of his life, it would never change the way I felt about him. Some kids just needed to grow out of it, and I figured that he was one of them. Shortly after that, I asked him if he would like to try night-time diapers. We had avoided them before because of the big-boy diaper stigma, but he thought about it for a little while and said he would like to try them. He wore Good Nights until he was about twelve or thirteen. I honestly can’t remember when it was. I had stopped wondering when he would grow out of bed wetting, until one day I realized that it had been two months since he had told me he needed more Good Nights. I remember thinking “Wow, they were right.  He really did just need some time.”

If you have a child who is still wetting the bed after age five or six, I definitely recommend going to the doctor and exploring your options. There are a lot of treatments out there, and they can help. However, obviously, I also believe that they are not as foolproof as the manufacturers want you to believe. At some point, if nothing is working, you move from helping your kid get control of their body to pushing them to do the impossible – and that’s not good for anyone.

Those are my thoughts on number one, what about number two? While some kids are worrying about peeing to much, others are worried about not pooping enough. I had a hard time finding exact figures for childhood constipation aside from “It’s extremely common.” As far as I can tell, constipation’s big brother, Impacted Colon, is less common than bed wetting, but it still affects a lot of kids – and their parents – every year. An impacted colon is like compounded constipation.  Stool gets stuck in the rectum because it is hard to pass, more stool enters the rectum on top of what’s there, making it even harder to pass, and eventually you end up with a blockage that is too large to go anywhere and has roughly the same consistency as concrete.

The first-resort treatment for an impacted colon is large doses of laxatives. This can cause a young child to have uncontrollable bowel movements. Not only are they uncontrollable, they come on so fast that the kid often doesn’t realize that they have to go until they are, in fact, going. And on top of that, when the colon gets impacted it creates a back-log, if you will, in the rest of the intestine so you need to continue the laxatives for a month or so to avoid having the build-up turn into another impaction. Again, the parents find themselves in the diaper aisle when they thought they were long done with that sort of thing.

As I said at the beginning of this post, most parents assume that when their child is potty trained, they are done with diapers and butt-wiping. If you are one of the many who learns that this is not necessarily true, all I can say is that I feel your pain. You are not alone, it can happen to anyone and I promise there will come a day when this is all a distant memory.

By [E]SaraB

Glass artisan by day, blogger by night (and sometimes vice versa). SaraB has three kids, three pets, one husband and a bizarre sense of humor. Her glass pendants can be found at if you're interested in checking it out.

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