Expert Advice

Three-Year-Old Wetting the Bed

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q
My three-year-old son lets you know when he is awake, that he has to use the potty. However, at nap time or during the night he never awakens to let myself or my wife know that he has to go. Is this a developmental problem or what can be done?
A
This is not a developmental problem. Your son has learned the first step in sleeping control which is to learn daytime control of tightening his sphincter muscles in response to tension in his bladder. The second step is to keep his sphincters closed without waking up. Clearly learning this step is going to make sleeping control more difficult and take longer than daytime control.

What do you do to help your son gain nighttime control? Not one thing! Don't bring attention to his wetting while sleeping, certainly don't respond by acting disappointed or blaming him for wetting the bed. As his bladder naturally matures, this maturation plus his present daytime control will result in sleeping control. Just let it happen, he's right on schedule.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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