A parenting conundrum

Posted on: 02/08/2011

There’s an enormous game of snakes and ladders painted on the ground by the library, so we stopped for a quick game today.  Mid-game, however, middle child suddenly needed the toilet, zoomed back into the library, made it to the cubicle, but wet her pants before she sat down. After an extended no-show I whisked in, whipped off the pants, thanked heaven she was wearing flip-flops, cleaned up the floor and whisked her out to finish the snakes and ladders.

I have a theory. Middle child has toilet issues, as anyone who knows our family will know. But I also know that in spite of these issues she can hang on for 10 minutes or more if she is constantly encouraged.  We had an occasion once when middle child and I were in the middle of the state apartments at Windsor Castle. Ever been there? If so, you’ll know that if you’re in the middle it’s a ten-minute walk either way to get out and find a loo, especially if your accompanying adult is seven months pregnant. She nearly gave up, intending to sit down and wet herself a minute away from the toilets, but with constant ‘you CAN do it, I KNOW you can hang on’ in her ear, she made it. And she was so proud of herself.

When I’m right there next to her, she never wets her pants. When I’m not there, it’s like her confidence isn’t enough to keep her going on its own.  If I hadn’t had a baby in tow I would have gone with her today, but I did, and it was almost inevitable.  Do you think my theory is accurate? We had a little pep talk at bedtime, reminding her how she can be strong and determined if she believes in herself.  And, bless her, she pointed out that she did at least make it as far as the cubicle.  We agreed it would only have taken five more seconds of determined ‘hanging-on’ to have been a complete success.

Maybe one day it will sink in, and she’ll get it.  Better still, she’ll actually go with enough time to spare to start with. (I forgot to mention, I had asked her if she needed to go at five-minute intervals in the half-hour leading up to this point, with vehement denials each time. Having too much fun to notice trivial things like a full bladder.)

Confidence in a six-year-old is a fragile thing.  I almost wish I could re-do the potty training. Re-set the triggers so that she goes when she feels a mild urge, rather than when she’s hopping around with her legs crossed, and it’s touch and go.  A year back, we saw a paediatrician about this. She told us we needed to do some pavlov’s dog style training, insisting she goes two hours after every drink. This was really tough with a five-week old baby to deal with, but, with the help of the school, we did do this for a full six weeks. And it was working well.  The only thing is, it was too intense to keep up, so after six weeks we relaxed a bit, in the hope it would stay good, and middle child would keep it up by habit.

She didn’t.  Not surprising, really, when you consider that (a) she was barely five years old and (b) our family isn’t hot on routine and timekeeping at the best of times.

I need to reflect on how to deal with this now.  It’s rare that she wets herself. Once a week, if that, during the school term? But when there’s no routine to follow, we all lose track of when what was drunk and how near the nearest loo is.  It’s just an extra layer of stress we would rather not have to deal with…but now I’m kicking myself for not being on the ball.

Do I now need to revisit the pavlov’s dog style training?  Do I have the strength to see it through properly this time? And how will I know when it’s time to lighten up? Six weeks doesn’t seem to be enough.

If any of you have any words of wisdom on the matter, I’d welcome your thoughts.


6 Responses to "A parenting conundrum"

I totally get that confidence thing. Emilia (I nearly typed Robeka.. that would have me shot) is good with going to the toilet but occasionally when upset she’ll wet herself (maybe once a month) however we do get the sudden “I need to go NOW” thing in inconvenient places. Reassuring her definitely works. She once wanted to go when we were halfway out of town and heading to the car. We had a toss up of go all the way into town or head for the car. We reassured her and headed for the car, got in, drove home and got her to her potty without any real trouble. I don’t really know any advice but I think boosting the child’s confidence really does help.

Thanks Matt – I think you’re right. Well done Emilia for managing to hang on that long at her age!

I think your theory is partly correct, but as well as confidence there’s also incentive. When you’re there, there’s an extra incentive to managing (praise) and an extra penalty for failing (the embarassment of your observing the accident).

People are the same with any kind of incentive like that. If looking at a beer gave me a hangover I’d be much less likely to drink it. The same hangover deferred to the next morning on the other hand…

That’s a very interesting perspective. I hadn’t thought of it that way, and I think you’re absolutely right. Guess I need to keep on top of it then!

The important thing is that you are not punishing her for accidents. A lot of parents make that mistake, and the issue gets much bigger than it needed to be.

Like with most things when it comes to children, consistency and patience will pay off.

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