Child Wets Pants When Angry

What can we do about a child who urinates on herself when something upsets her? She's well past the age of potty training, but she wets her pants every time she gets angry. We've been making her hand-wash her clothes when this happens, but so far the behavior hasn't stopped. What can we do?

It’s impossible to say for sure without knowing a great deal more about your home life and the details of your situation, but it’s likely that your daughter is reacting to stress. Under certain circumstances, children will regress when experiencing a high degree of anxiety or challenging adjustment in life. Parental separation or divorce is a good example of the kind of stress we have in mind.

You may be able to get a better sense of what’s going through her mind if you take the opportunity to talk to her immediately after she’s wet her pants. Does it seem to bother her? Does she regret it and wish that this wasn’t happening? Get her to voice her feelings – that’s extremely important. Ask what it is that makes her angry enough to where she wets herself. Find out if there’s something going on at school or in some other area of her life that is causing her to feel sad or worried or afraid. If you need help with this part of the process, don’t hesitate to contact our Counseling department. They can also provide you with referrals to licensed Christian family therapists in your local area.

Meanwhile, we think you’re right on target in requiring her to wash her own clothes when one of these incidents takes place. The key to effective discipline is the implementation of meaningful consequences, and the need to engage in the clean-up process is a perfectly natural, non-shaming, non-punitive consequence of the behavior in question.

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of her inward struggles, you’ll want to help your child find more acceptable ways of dealing with them. How can she get her anger out constructively? Drawing pictures or scribbling on large sheets of newsprint taped to a wall can be a great way for kids to let out their frustrations. Talking about those things that make a child sad, angry, or afraid while engaged in some side-by-side physical activity, like hiking or biking, can also be a useful and meaningful way to help her open up. Wetting her pants may or may not have anything to do with what is going on within the family, but processing emotions is always helpful in the long run.

One last practical consideration in closing: look for patterns in the timing of these pants-wetting incidents. If you can discern one, it might be a good idea to head off further problems by encouraging her to go to the bathroom at certain fixed times of the day.


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Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership


Stress in Children

Potty Training

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