How NOT to Handle Bedwetting: Mystery Blogger

I'm terrible at taking blog breaks, or relaxing in general. But just in case I do happen to feel like relaxing with this new baby when the time comes, I've asked some of my favorite bloggers to guest post for me. But not in the usual way.

Blogging is a great way to share insights and experiences. But, sometimes, as much as we'd like to start a discussion, it's not our story to share, or feelings could be hurt, or relationships damaged. So, for my guest posting series, I asked some of my favorite bloggers to share here, anonymously, posts they felt they couldn't put on their own blogs.

I hope you'll find them as compelling as I have.


Not one of my children has night trained easily or early. They have all worn pull-ups well into elementary school, and some into middle school. I feel like it's the dark secret of my parenting. But it shouldn't be, because it's not my fault. And I've come to realize that it's not their fault either. But it's not something you want to go around discussing on the internet. So, I'm glad to be able to talk about it here, as a mystery blogger.

After my oldest son had been successfully day potty trained for about six months, I was still waiting for him to start waking up with a dry pull-up from naps or overnight. And it just wasn't happening. Ever. A friend told me that she had forgotten to put her three year old son in a pull-up one night, and he just woke up dry. So she never put him in one again.

That didn't happen with MY three year old son. It didn't happen when he was five, or nine, either. He was nearly twelve before he could stay dry overnight. And it was never as simple as forgetting to put on a pull-up. After years and years of well-meaning (but in retrospect quite mistaken) efforts, we finally found a plan that worked to get him night-trained.

The same system worked on my middle son at nine, but has so far been unsuccessful with an eleven year old daughter and a seven year old son. I have confidence that it will work eventually, it just hasn't worked yet.

I'll tell you about it. But first, I'd like to share some things I learned that hard way . . .

1. It's not his fault.

Day potty training accidents for my kids are almost always preventable. He doesn't feel like getting up, or stopping what he's doing, or he thinks he can make it a few more minutes . . . and he has an accident. So most of those accidents can be avoided by vigilant mama reminders, and rewarding successes.

But night training is not the same. Bed wetting is NOT a result of laziness or poor planning. It is completely out of his control. Whether or not a kid wets the bed is a function of his physiology (bladder size, etc) and how deeply he sleeps.

It doesn't mean I'm a bad parent. It doesn't mean he's a lazy kid. Making him feel in any way guilty about it does not help. Allowing him (or me) to feel guilty about it isn't right either. He needs to understand that it's just a thing that's a particular struggle for him. It's not anything anyone is doing wrong. We just need to keep a positive attitude and sort it out as early as that's possible.

2. The standard advice doesn't work for everyone.

We tried all the standard stuff: limiting liquids, waking him up at night to go, just getting rid of pull-ups and hoping for the best, having him do his own laundry, pep-talks, stern talking-tos, big potential rewards. None of it had ANY effect at all on his nighttime wetting.

You can't be motivated out of behavior that isn't in your control.

Even if we woke him up to go he would wet again, later in the night (and waking him up enough to go was nearly impossible).

I'm sure that those tips work for some kids, or they wouldn't be so ubiquitous. But they definitely don't work for all kids. They definitely don't work for mine.

3. It takes time, but time's not necessarily enough.

When I finally talked to our pediatrician about it when my son was seven, he really encouraged me not to worry about it. He said that most kids who wet the bed will grow out of it on their own eventually, usually by around ten.

My son didn't have any physical problems, and we weren't interested in using medication except as a last resort.

So, we decided to just wait it out. But ten came and went, and it hadn't taken care of itself. My son really didn't want to miss out on being able to go to summer camp for yet another year.

It was at that point that our doctor recommended a book called Waking up Dry , that we could use in conjunction with a nighttime alarm (<< that's the one we've used previously, but I just ordered this one , to see if more expensive means louder and more able to wake up very sleepy sleepers).

And that did the trick, in the blink of . . . almost three months.

It's not an easy solution. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication from both kid and parents. It's disruptive to the sleep of kid, parents, and any siblings who don't sleep like rocks. But the book is really sweet and encouraging and scientific and empowering and the program was eventually completely successful. My son no longer has night wetting issues.

My daughter and second son both wanted to try as well, at nine and ten. The program was successful for my son in about two months, but a year later, my daughter is still having frequent wet nights, even when using the alarm. Our doctor doesn't believe she has health issues. Our plan going forward is to just keep at it, keep using the alarm and keep encouraging her and being understanding, and figure success will come eventually.

Our seven year old also wanted to try it, but it was SO impossible to wake him . . . by wet alarm, or alarm clock, or vigorous shaking by his parents, that we decided to hold off for a few months and try again.

So, one thing I have NOT learned through this process is a fail safe cure for bed wetting. But I HAVE learned to be more patient and understanding. And I have a plan that seems to work eventually. And that's going to have to be enough.

Me (Kendra) again . . .
Just in case anyone is interested, here's my DAY potty training method:

Potty Training in Three Days, Or Bust