Let’s be honest — you probably never thought that you’d be researching this topic. We all know that raising children can be challenging and that kids do things that can seem crazy to us as adults, but “peeing in weird places” is a category unto itself and not exactly a fun one.
We all know that it takes children a while to learn how to gain control over their bladders and go to the bathroom. But what if your child is old enough to know better and they still wet themselves? What if they go one step further and “go” in the corner, or on certain objects? It may be awkward to think about, and the spots where your child is relieving themselves may appear random but, in fact, they could be a sign of greater psychological and behavioral issues.
Unsavory as it may seem, taking a closer look at the where, when, how, and why of your child’s urinary oddities can be the first step to helping them manage or overcome them.
Of Accidents and Enuresis
Elimination disorders are the proper names given to children having problems going to the bathroom properly. There are two main types of elimination disorders, encopresis and enuresis, both of which involve relieving oneself in places other than a toilet, the former referring to defecation and the latter urination. While we commonly call these “accidents,” this isn’t always accurate since sometimes it’s no accident. It is possible that your child may be relieving themself in this manner intentionally as an outgrowth of behavioral issues.
Bedwetting and Beyond
Of course, there is a more common name for enuresis: bedwetting. Whether this occurs in the bed or involves wetting one’s pants, the result is the same. What sets this condition apart from normal cases of children wetting the bed or their pants, however, is the fact that enuresis is sometimes linked with mental and emotional disorders, including those that increase anxiety. It can also run in families.
While the natural reaction to bedwetting may be to try to get the child toilet trained as quickly as possible, this can actually backfire if this is done at too young of an age. Toilet training in early stages is still being researched as far as its impact on enuresis is concerned, but some believe that it could result in conditions that may result in prolonged peeing in inappropriate places.
Enuresis, Autism, and Reasons for Awkward Peeing
While small bladders and stress can cause children to pee in odd places, sometimes it can be linked to behavior issues tied to autism. Similarly, children with Asperger’s, which lies on the autism spectrum, can also suffer from this condition and pee in awkward places, from room corners to furniture to personal possessions.
In addition to behavioral issues, autism-linked urination can stem from developmental problems caused by the condition. Children with autism can sometimes have their development stymied, which can lead to them acting in stages younger than their actual age. For example, it can cause 10-year olds to continue acting like two-year olds in some ways, including bladder control or how they view urination.
Then there is the possibility that your child may be urinating in places where they’re not supposed to as a form of defiance. This is potentially the most awkward reason for your child peeing where they’re not supposed to and it can definitely be the ugliest. Animals pee to mark their territory and while we’d like to think that humans wouldn’t do something such as that, the fact is children with certain behavioral or developmental disorders may resort to doing just that if they are sufficiently frustrated or otherwise “act out.”
This kind of behavior is obviously extreme, and needs to be addressed immediately, both for your sake and that of your child. You don’t want your children thinking it is acceptable to pee on your possessions, furnishings, or even other people, and you certainly don’t want to have to deal with the stains, smell, and trauma that can stem from such unsavory and unsanitary outcomes.
That being said, for as embarrassing and disgusting as such incidents may be, it is extremely important that you not scream at, hit, or otherwise react with over the top aggression when your child acts in such a manner. If such actions are outside their control, it isn’t fair to scream at them for something that isn’t their fault, and if they can control themselves, doing this may inadvertently cause further urination issues. Sometimes children prefer bad attention to no attention at all. Furthermore, if the root of their urinary issues is anxiety, yelling at them will only increase this.
Peeing in awkward places and child depression is another unlikely pairing which may help explain this phenomenon. Younger children cannot always articulate their feelings in the most eloquent fashion and don’t always have a full grip of social norms. To an adult, peeing in corners or on furniture or even peeing their pants can seem to be a pretty extreme response to something but to them, peeing is one of the few “natural” responses they understand. There are many things in our lives that are beyond our control, even more so when we’re children.
By contrast, when and where we pee is at least one thing over which a small child may have at least some control. A child peeing in corners as a coping mechanism is understandably a nightmare for any parent, but for a young child facing extreme mental and emotional upheaval, it may seem to be one of the few choices they have.
On the one hand, this diagnosis obviously spells trouble for any parent looking for a quick fix as not only do you now have pee everywhere, but you also have to deal with a young child’s depression. On the other hand, you can at least take heart from the fact that, far from being alone, children peeing in strange places as a manifestation of unarticulated depression is surprisingly common. That said, getting to the bottom of it is still going to require immediate attention. Depression bad enough to provoke peeing problems needs to be checked out by a child psychologist immediately.
Other potential causes of bedwetting and your child peeing where they’re not supposed to include:
- Constipation: Bowel and urinary issues are not always unconnected. If your child has an excessive amount of pressure built up within them from un-excreted stool, it can lead to accidental urination.
- Small Bladders: Children have smaller bladders than adults and some have much smaller bladders than others. A combination of an exceptionally small bladder and other stress factors could lead to them disregarding or not being able to comply with their toilet training.
- Hormones: Vasopressin is a hormone that limits the amount of urine the body produces at night, which is obviously crucial for making sure that you don’t wake up needing to pee or else accidentally wet the bed at night. Children who lack vasopressin are more likely to wet the bed.
- Various Urinary Issues: If your child has unusual-looking or smelling urinary discharge, is experiencing genital pain or itching, or displays signs of abuse, urinary infections, or an STD, they may have trouble controlling their urinary urges.
Steps to Stop This Behavior
Needless to say, you can’t let your child continue to pee in awkward places, be it their pants, bed, or any part of your home, let alone on possessions or on other people. Thankfully, depending on the particulars of your case, there are several steps for stopping awkward peeing that may prove helpful.
1. Identify the Trigger
First and foremost, you must identify which of the triggers mentioned above are to blame. It’s important to recognize that there may be more than one trigger and they may intertwine, making it that much more difficult to successfully diagnose the root causes.
Of course, identifying the trigger is just part of the task here. You also have to know what triggers that trigger and why, and this can be far more nuanced than you might imagine at first. For example if anxiety and stress are triggers for your child, there are obvious countless different iterations of each of those so identifying them as factors isn’t enough; you need to narrow things down further. What particular forms of anxiety and stress lead to these urinary issues, and how are they triggered?
2. Shadow Your Child
If you are still trying to figure out what triggers are causing your child’s urinary peculiarities, shadowing your child can give you valuable clues as to what’s causing these problems. If you already know what those problems are, following them around can allow you to try and implement solutions.
Either way, shadowing your child is an essential step to fixing their urinary problems. While you can try to ask your child, they may not always be honest or even able to fully articulate themselves clearly. That’s part of why they may be peeing in weird places, after all, to “express themselves” in ways they can’t yet with their words. There is no substitute for a first-hand account of how and why your child is triggered to urinate in these spots, and that means shadowing your child.
3. Give Them Support
Needless to say, if your child feels so overwhelmed that peeing everywhere seems like their only release, they probably need more emotional support than they’re getting. Following your child and identifying their triggers as they are triggered gives you a perfect opportunity to give some much-needed in-the-moment emotional support. As indicated above, if your child is peeing in strange places, chances are that they are under a great deal of medical, emotional, or psychological stress. Giving your child support is the first best step you can take to help combat this and turn things around.
4. Chart Their Progress
It is unrealistic to expect your child to change their toilet habits overnight. It takes children months to learn to be toilet-trained the first time, and that’s in scenarios where children don’t have emotional or behavioral and developmental factors slowing them down. You won’t be able to stop your child’s urinary habits quickly, but instead need to work towards gradual and sustainable change.
That means keeping a chart of their progress. Keep tabs on when, where, and how often your child goes to the bathroom, as all of this information may be helpful for any doctors or therapists you may be consulting over this issue. It can also help serve as a motivating factor for your child to help them “see” their progress as their habits begin to change.
5. Toilet-Training Games
One of the best ways to effect that change can be to turn toilet training into a game. Dealing with such a sensitive issue is bound to be uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing for a child if they are able to comprehend what is going on. If they are too young or too developmentally stunted to understand it in full, games can make the process easier to understand and achieve.
Part of the reason why games are played across the world by not just humans but many mammal species is that it helps teach and incentivize behavioral and physical skills which are preferable and necessary. Games distill complex concepts down into simple, easy to understand rules, which can be crucial in retraining your children to use the toilet rather than urinate in strange places.
6. Offer Your Child Rewards
Games can also help form the backbone of a rewards system that can further incentivize your children to change their course of action. Giving them encouragement when they use the toilet properly or small treats when they go a day or a few days without an accident or intentional urinary “incident” in a non-bathroom “place” can help encourage this behavior for the future.
Children peeing in strange places isn’t an easy topic for anyone. By identifying the root of the problem, showing your child added support, and incentivizing change, however, you’ll stand a better chance of sparing your carpeting and curing the anxieties that underpin your child’s pee problems.