featuring James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Victoria is growing weary of her morning routine. She wakes up, starts a pot of coffee, lets the dog outside and checks on her 4-year-old daughter, Megan.
Victoria: Good morning.
Megan: Hi, Mommy.
Victoria: Are you dry this morning?
Megan (pausing): Uh … I don’t think so.
Victoria: Now Megan, why didn’t you just get up at night and go potty? You know this makes Mommy mad.
Megan: I’m sorry, Mommy.
Victoria: You’re a big girl, Sweetie. Not a little girl. You need to act big and stop wetting your bed.
Megan: I’ll try.
Victoria (starts stripping the bed and her daughter): Don’t just try. Do it. I’m not sure what to do with you. Next time this happens, I think I’ll have to give you a spanking.
Megan (starting to cry): I’ll try to be good.
While Dr. James Dobson understands Victoria’s frustration at having to constantly wash wet sheets and pajamas, he sees some flaws with how she’s handling the situation. He encourages parents to avoid expressing dissatisfaction, dismay or anger at a soaked bed in the morning.
“Almost all enuresis is an involuntary act for which your child is not responsible,” Dr. Dobson says. “Punishment under those circumstances is dangerous and unfair. The bed wetter needs reassurance and patience from parents.”
And while you’re reassuring your child, here’s some reassurance for you. There are about 7 million kids in the United States who wet the bed nightly. By the age of 5, as many as 10 to 15 percent of children are not consistently dry in the morning. Bedwetting is not a sign of disobedience or weakness of character. And almost all enuresis will eventually resolve itself as your child’s central nervous system matures. In fact, each year after age 6, 15 percent of children who suffer from enuresis suddenly stop wetting at night.
Until this problem remedies itself, Dr. Dobson says it’s a good idea to conceal this situation from people — including family members — who may possibly tease your child.
“Even good-natured humor within the family is often very painful,” Dr. Dobson says.
At the same time, there are some practical measures outlined in Focus on the Family’s Complete Book of Baby & Child Care that you can take as a parent to help your child:
- Encourage fluid intake during the day and discourage drinking liquids after supper or within two hours of bedtime.
- Have your child go to the bathroom just before bed.
- Leave a nightlight on in the bathroom to make getting up at night easier.
- Protect your child’s mattress with a plastic cover.
If your child has been dry through the night for more than six months and starts wetting the bed — called secondary enuresis — you may want to consult a doctor for an explanation. Sometimes secondary enuresis can develop from a stressful situation (such as a move or new sibling) or from a medical condition (such as a bladder infection). But it’s best to get a specific explanation.
“And until the problem is solved,” Dr. Dobson reiterates, “I hope you can keep your frustration to a minimum.”
Copyright Â© 2002 Focus on the Family. This article first appeared in the January 2002 Focus on the Family magazine.