12 and still wetting pants, HELP! - FamilyEducation
12 and still wetting pants, HELP!
02/27/2008 at 22:21 PM

My step-son, DJ, came to live with us 9 months ago and he will be 12 in March. He has issues with wetting and soiling his pants on a daily basis. He has lived with his mother all of his life. When he was in 1st grade mom's fiance beat him with a board for wetting the bed and put the fear of god into him. The school at this time saw the bruises and contacted his mother as well as athorities. This fiance was locked up and lost custody of his own kids. DJ saw the schoold counsiler and outside help as well at this time. These "accidents" continued to happen. When he was in 3 or 4 grade his mother took him to the doctor to have him check out physically and there was nothing wrong. She took him back to a therapist and they found nothing wrong, they stated that this is not anything metal. At the end of 5th grade, his mother was having financial issues so he came to live with us. He was very happy cause he liked here with us. He has come along way since then. I took him to the doctor in October for his check up and told the doctor about these "accidents", and while i was in the room, the doctor asked him if he could feel it when he has to go. DJ told the doctor that he feels it, he just ignores it.(my thought that he was just lazy.) since then the poohing has almost stopped (a few "skid makrs" and that is about it but the peeing continues.Also if he goes to anyone elses hous, freinds, grandparents, moms etc. he has them constantly and they do not tell us, they help him hide it by washing the clothes he came in(no help). We have tried everything, making him go to the bathroom after breakfast and after dinner, paying for new underware out of his allowance, making him clean out the dirty undies in the toilet(dr suggested), taking away the things he loves the most. He seems like he dont care about it. Recently we have told him that he needs to give us a reason for this and that he really needs to work on fixing this. If he knows that he has to go then he needs to go!! Bottom line. My husband and i are at our witts end, and really dont know what to do anymore. He is going to Florida in April with his mothers parents, and i am afraid that he is going to come home with a suitcase full of nasty underware. I just need some suggestions. Please help.

I just heard of this idea -- don't remember if it was a friend or something I heard on the radio.  Anyway, When the boy tells you something he wants or wants to do, make it dependent on him going in the toilet (start on a day when he is not at school).  He has to produce every two hours while he is awake.  you can listen with the door ajar. 

  So he says he wants a video game/movie or to play with a friend or something.  You tell him OK, this Saturday morning, starting at 9 a.m., you have to pee in the toilet at 9, 11, 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.  Again on Sunday, you have to pee in the toilet at 9, 11, 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.  Set a timer so that it sounds at those times, and then listen at the bathroom door.  Let the rest of the day play out however it does.  If he fails, just say you are sorry, and then he doesn't get what he wants.  If he succeeds, also no big emotional deal, but follow through--he gets what he wants.  Make any unusual thing a lever to accomplish this particular goal.   Remove your emotions from the problem. 


Don't know if I would like to make a child dependant on producing pee for what he wants! And are you going to go into the toilet to check he has produced.
Has he had any medical checks to see if there is a bladder problem or anything else which could cause this?


I'm sorry I wasn't clear--just listen at the door to see if he produces.  Also, this is a short-term intervention, using something he wants badly enough to change his own behavior.  Once he proves to himself that he can, he probably will respond to the signals of his own body.  The social feedback he already gets is attention from people for wetting himself.  This is just an attempt to take "attention" out of the equation and replace it with something that motivates appropriate behavior.  Again, thanks for pointing out that I wasn't clear.

  As I thought more about what you have said, I wondered if he really is over the abuse and abandonment that he suffered as a little boy.  Have you been to therapy over this and other issues?  I read "The boy who was raised as a dog."  It's a good book and really makes you think about how people overcome terrible circumstances.  Don't remember who wrote it, some psychiatrist.  Anyway, this might be some coping skill that he developed that is no longer useful for him.  What an amazing boy. 


We have already established that it is not a physical problem as his mother took him to the doctor.  I had a similar problem as a child.  I wanted roller skates ... there were certain circumstances that may have contributed to my problem same as your son, but when I was 11 I somehow overcame for the skates ... Of course some of the challenges I was facing also subsided but the skates motivated me ...


Having adopted kids from foster care I have learned that kids who feel all the control in their lives is from others often will seize control of the only thing they can - elimination. No one can control those muscles but them! We made no big deal of it with one of ours and it stopped. He didn't drink after dinner, but drank a lot in the early afternoon to make sure he was hydrated. He stripped his own bed and washed his sheets if he wet the bed. He only has one set of sheets - this helps greatly - and had to get them back on for when he went to bed. Took a lot of time out of his day - time when others were getting ATTENTION and he was not because he was showering himself, washing, drying, or remaking his bed. If a kid feels that they are controlling something by urinating or deficating, then they will. I don't think I would let him go to Florida because he might be embarassed. I would wait until he was "old enough" and actually let him miss out. Sometimes those natural consequences are just what a kid needs. And I agree with the other poster about removing your emotions. Kids love to make grown-ups mad - it's like a rush of power. Good luck!

I "know someone" who had the same problem and thought he would never conquer it. He actually imagined eventually getting married and still wetting the bed. My opinion, forget about it and it will go away one day. In the mean time get a plastic mattress cover and have lots of extra sheets available. Brett

For the wetting part, I wonder if DDAVP nasal spray, often given for short term treatment of bedwetting, would help here. Ask the doctor for a sample of that stuff.
OK, you said the doctor found nothing wrong, but was a blood test done for ADH levels ? ADH, or anti-diuretic hormone, keeps one from producing urine during sleep, which it is most prescribed for. If not, then that might be worth taking a look at. Sometimes doctors are only concerned about diabetes, and they don't do ADH. I've seen where doctors prescribe Imipramine, an antidepressant, which is thought to work, but I've seen that it doesn't.
For the "soiling" part, as long as he's not having a major BM, we can deal with the "skid marks" by assuring him that it's OK to wipe more than once.
I also sensed some imprint baggage, left over from earlier years from being beaten, which is extremely traumatic. Being 12 now, this needs to be addressed, top to bottom (no pun intended) to get to the root of the matter. There's a lot of stress and chaos in his life, and it won't get any better without some sort of intervention. I recommend seeing a child psychiatrist and pediatric endocrinologist, as opposed to just seeing a regular-ol' pediatrician.
I'd like to recommend a different approach to the underwear (not "underware") thing. Tell him no one else will notice if he washes his own undies, changes his own sheets, etc. Teach him how to run the washer/dryer. Tell him that this thing will ultimately get better with time, and not to give up, but that he needs to get involved, and help out.
I DON'T agree with making him wash his underwear in the toilet. I think that sends the wrong message here.
For those times when nature can't be avoided, there are always those Good Nights underwear diaper shorts that are made for older kids which look like boxers. I have both a niece and nephew who are special needs kids, and one other nephew who all use them. He can usually change them in private, and no one else has to know. All that aside, he's missing-out on sleepovers, camps and campouts, and other events.