Incorrectly toilet training children can lead to problems ranging from
bed-wetting and daytime accidents to urinary tract infections, so it's important
to get it right, an expert says.
There are a number of common mistakes that parents make when toilet training
their children, said Dr Steve Hodges, a paediatric urology specialist at Wake
Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC.
Training too early is one mistake. Children younger than 3 don't have the
mental maturity to make good toileting decisions. "They don't understand how
essential it is to get themselves to a bathroom when nature calls," Hodges said
in a Wake Forest news release. "Instead, they hold their urine and faeces, which
can lead to numerous problems, including bed-wetting."
Holding urine also leads to a smaller bladder capacity, Hodges said.
Some parents potty-train their children but don't follow up with their
toileting habits. Parents should have children urinate on a schedule, about
every two hours, he suggested. To help make the bathroom trips successful, have
the child count to 10 while on the potty and have some favourite books and
puzzles nearby. Hodges also said that a high-fibre diet can make defecation less
painful, so children are less likely to try to avoid it.
Up to 30% of children aged 2 to 10 have chronic constipation, but some
parents miss the signs of constipation in their children. "Many parents
mistakenly believe that if their child has daily bowel movements, they are not
constipated," Hodges said. "But in kids, there's a different definition of
constipation known as 'poop burden'. It refers to poop backed up in their rectum
that can press on the bladder and cause bed-wetting and other problems."
Don't ignore accidents
Symptoms of constipation in children include having extra-large bowel
movements or bowel movements that are very firm, rather than mushy; poop
accidents; poop-stained underwear; and mild belly pain with no obvious cause,
He also said parents should never ignore signs of bladder trouble, which
include painful and frequent urination and blood in the urine. These symptoms
could be due to an infection or other problems that should be evaluated by a
Accidents of urine or stool should not be considered normal and ignored.
"Often, parents have the impression that wetting, like throwing temper
tantrums, is just something kids do," Hodges said. "But accidents aren't normal
and potty-trained kids shouldn't have accidents any more often than adults
The Nemours Foundation has more about toilet