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Needs to Use the Toilet After Tuck-ins

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Child Has to go to the Bathroom After Bedtime

The Situation

I recently received an email from a distraught mother who complained that every night after tuck-in time, their 3 1/2-year-old daughter would call out, “Mooooomy, I have to go peeeeeeeee” even though she was put on the potty right before tuck-in every night.

The Way I See It

I suspect that this 3 1/2-year-old has discovered a behavior that mom can’t ignore.  She thinks, “If I’m thirsty or I’m hungry, mom might be able to disregard the complaint.” But what kind of parent wouldn’t respond to a toilet-training-tot when they cry out they need to pee?  After all, we don’t want to be inconsistent. We don’t want to take a step back in training. We don’t want them to be wet all night. So we go and put them on the potty again.  No doubt there is a small conversation, an additional tuck-in kiss, maybe even a song.  It’s really a very social experience for the child.

(Note: This late-night bonus socializing is the “usefulness” that sustains the nightly behavior that we need to address in finding our solution: undue attention-seeking.)

The Immediate Solution

Lose the “payoff” or social benefit of these extra night-time potty visits mom is making by teach the child self-sufficiency.

During the day, take time for training (T.T.F.T.).  Show your child how to pull their own pants up and down, and practice wiping themselves. You might find wet wipes are easier for kids than dry toilet paper.  They can wipe first and then you can be the “checker” until you are satisfied they have the manual dexterity to get the job done properly.

Once they have this skill, you can put night lights in the hall and explain that they don’t need to call you to go to the washroom: “You are so capable! You can go to the toilet and tuck right back in all by yourself!”

You may also also opt to simply leave a potty in their room with some wet wipes and hand sanitizer (again, after some T.T.F.T.).

Some children find this new limit exciting and want to test it out. However, after a night or two, most children prefer to void before bed since they no longer have a successful stalling/attention tactic, and they just get on with going to bed.

The Long-Term Strategy

As with all the behavior guidance tips, you’re not going to have long-term success unless we solve the unmet goal of feeling encouraged. Every child needs to feel secure about their worth and place of belonging in their social group (the family or classroom).  That means parents need to bring on the encouragement and connecting time with our children during those times when they are not demanding our undue attention.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

6 Responses to “Needs to Use the Toilet After Tuck-ins”

  1. Nadine

    Haha! This was so written for me. Thanks Alyson. Time to re-read your book methinks.

  2. Rebekah

    I gotta say, once you get past all the typos and poor grammar, some of your advice sounds logical, but I think it is pretty unrealistic for a parent to expect a toddler to do a 180 degree turn and suddenly be a dream sleeper just through a little “TTFT”. The implication that it’s a magical charm, is a little insulting.

  3. Alyson Schafer

    Hi Rebekah,
    Sorry about all the typos. Its hard to proof read your own work, especially in these tiny windows etc… But I hear ya. Typos screach out to me when I read other people’s too. It does impact the experience.
    As for the advice… I think some people have sleep issues there whole life. Its a shame. The trick is to not let is be an issue that impacts others. Over time ( not an immediate 180) children improve their self-sufficience in many areas, including sleep. But it also requires us to hand off the job to them.
    Thanks for posting!

  4. Chantel Preston

    I have to say that I agree with teaching your children to go to the toilet on their own. As a mom to 6 children (and the 7th on the way in Feb) I never made a big deal out of the whole toilet training so perhaps this is why I never had issues after tucking them into bed.

  5. Janet McDougall

    Hi Alyson
    My 4 year son has been potty trained since January. He did not have any night time accidents for the first couple of months but the last month he’s had about 4 or 5 and two in one night! I have a night light in the hall and the in the bathroom and just recently started putting a light on in the hall thinking the darkness is why he couldn’t get up to pee. Any advice? I’m getting tired of 4 am laundry and bed changing. Thanks


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