I wanted to quickly tell you about an email that I got from a mother (I’ll call her Mariam – not her real name). It is very similar to lots of email I get, outlining the same problem: a child with disrupted toilet patterns and a confused parent!
Have a look:
“Dear Alia. I am writing to ask you about my son. He is 4 years old and he has a problem. When he was about 3 , he would go to the bathroom alone, I mean he used to tell me that he needed to go to the bathroom BUT these days he does it in his clothes and this lets me wash his clothes several times and I feel bad about that. Sometimes his clothes cannot be cleaned and I have to throw them although they are expensive. My husband tells me that he is just a kid but I feel that he has a problem because he could do that before. The whole week, I have been encouraging him that he can go to the bathroom the next day, but he seems to be doing the opposite. I hit him the last time and I felt even worse. Please help me. Thank you and I am looking forward to receiving your advice”
“Dear Mariam. Of course I don’t know enough about him to answer your question, but from my experience and from talking to others, children sometimes go through a phase like that and then come out of it if the parents don’t make a big deal about it. It’s better not to pressure him to improve. And please don’t shout or hit him because of it, it will only delay the progress. You must be very calm and normal every time he does it, and tell him that you still love him even when he does that.
I would also look into possible stress factors for him that might have caused it (i.e. A scary incident, peer pressure, abuse, etc.).. Ask him to talk about what scares him or what bothers him, it might help.
Other children start doing that after experiencing constipation or any other condition where there is pain when they go to the toilet. This way they hold it until it’s too late and end up doing it in their pants. If that was the case, try to find the cause, address it, and explain to him that it will not hurt. Most importantly, just give him time. Make the toilet experience more positive by reading books on the toilet, etc. And let him drink lots of water to ease digestion.”
Mariam’s case is very typical. I totally understand her frustration. Parenting is tough and it can be very frustrating when you feel that you’re taking steps backward instead of forward. It’s better not to feel guilty about the things you think you did wrong (e.g. shouting), but also to make a conscious effort not to do them again. The child usually knows they’re doing something wrong but can’t help it. They need all your support and love.
I hope this can help other parents going through the same thing…
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