I refuse to buy any more pull-ups
June 27, 2007 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Why is my son suddenly peeing everywhere BUT the toilet?

My 4 year old son has been potty trained for about a year and a half-no accidents either during the day or at night since he's been using the toilet and he was surprisingly easy to transition from diapers to underwear. Within the last month he's been peeing on the toilet seat (rather than lifting it up like he was taught), peeing on the cloth shower curtain (he totally is Picasso like in his aim) and over the weekend my husband caught him peeing in his trash can in his bedroom. WTF? We've asked him why he does this but he just hangs his head and doesn't answer. He says he doesn't have to suddenly go and it doesn't sting or hurt so I don't think he has a UTI.
posted by hollygoheavy to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAP, but my first thought was... attention? Has something else been going on in the kid's life?
posted by desjardins at 8:11 AM on June 27, 2007

When I was little, I went through a phase where the sound of the toilet flushing was scary. Is it possible that this is (part of) the problem?
posted by kitty teeth at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2007

To some extent that is normal male behavior; I live in the woods and both my father-in-law and myself eschew the indoor plumbing on a regular basis, and I vividly remember the time a friend's 4 year old sone came up to him in the garage and excitedly asked if they could go pee in the backyard. There may be something else going on, but try not to get too freaked out over it while you look into it.
posted by TedW at 8:29 AM on June 27, 2007

I think this is the kind of thing four year old boys do, no? I remember the boys in my kindergarten class getting in BIG trouble for having a pee fight in the bathroom and peeing all over the walls. So, maybe he saw someone else do it, or he did it himself at preschool and didn't get disciplined. Did you discipline him after you said no and he did it again?

His answer to your "why?" may be "why not?" He is old enough to have the sewer system explained to him, and why pee is not the same as water or garbage, why it has to go in the toilet. You could even take him to the sewage treatment center and show him how it works. There are TV shows that cover this, too. Also, if you have pets, this will have to be part of the explanation - why can Fido pee anywhere he wants outside but we can't?

Or, he could want attention. Or, he could be bored. Or, he could be lusting for a super soaker.
posted by Eringatang at 8:30 AM on June 27, 2007

IAAFOF (I am a father of four), and it sounds like there are a couple things going on to me. First, the not lifting the toilet seat sounds like laziness, or not really knowing the importance of raising the seat. Our son did similar things until he realized that it's bad to pee on the seat someone might later sit on. One thing you could do to show him the folly is get some icy cold water, and dribble it on the seat, then have him sit down on it. Show him it is uncomfortable to have to sit on that wet seat (with the coldness of the water enforcing that fact). Then explain to him that no one else wants to sit in it either, so to please lift up the seat.

The issue with peeing everywhere but the toilet I think boils down to him discovering it is really fun to pee - it's like a built in hose/squirt gun. Him seeing it make the curtain wet and being able to draw is probably pretty neat. So maybe if there were things you could do to make peeing in the toilet just as fun as peeing in the garbage, like putting cheerios in the water and having him shoot at them. There are also special products you can buy that are similar to those starch packing peanuts that are colored for this activity as well. Other thoughts are drip food coloring in the water, and have him mix it up with the pee, although my main aversion there is food coloring REALLY stains, so if he were to try and drip it in himself, he may get it all over.

But, I totally understand how frustrating this, and potty training in general, can be. It is the stage I dislike the most. Also, when it comes time to clean up the urine we use a product called Kids n Pets that works wonders. Sometimes it takes a couple applications, but it works great.
posted by JibberJabber at 8:38 AM on June 27, 2007

I heard that a ping-pong ball in the toilet can provide an interesting and entertaining target for small boys at this stage, and that they don't flush away.

I've never been a parent or a small boy and have no idea where I heard this, but it might be worth a try!
posted by handee at 8:43 AM on June 27, 2007

Speaking as the father of two sons and a former 4 year old boy I'm with the "because he's four, he finds it entertaining and doesn't fully understand why he shouldn't" crowd. I like Eringatang's suggestion that you educate him on the "why not". Letting it sit long enough to get good and smelly and letting him get a wiff might be enough to convince him (or maybe not, he's four).
posted by Carbolic at 9:15 AM on June 27, 2007

My 3 year old recently started doing the same thing. He'd been using the toilet for months and the other day he just whipped it out and took a leak on the living room carpet. He ended up doing this a few times but after explaining repeatedly that he shouldn't do that, he's thankfully back to using the toilet.

Just focus on the positive reinforcement every time he uses the toilet and he should hopefully be back on track soon.
posted by gfrobe at 9:37 AM on June 27, 2007

Mom of a boy: I also suspect your son is doing it because he's a boy, he's four and it's insanely fun. I had my son go wild a few times inside the bathtub and then tamed him by offering heat-sensitive stickers which changed color in the toilet bowl.

It could be worse. My son briefly went through a stage where he was taking dumps under the dining room table. I thought it was the dog doing it, at first. In retrospect, the dog housebroke a whole lot faster than the boy did.
posted by jamaro at 9:50 AM on June 27, 2007

May I plead with you not to be too hard on him? Even though he knows it's wrong and that it really upsets you, he may not be able to stop himself from doing it for a while. I don't think that means he is a bad kid.

I think there are developmental stages in which the forbidden becomes compulsory for a brief period in perfectly normal children (and when that stage persists unduly, we call it Tourette's Syndrome). He may well be in such a stage, and will probably get it under control shortly.
posted by jamjam at 9:51 AM on June 27, 2007

I think it's because he's a boy, and he has this thing that lets him aim pee anywhere he wants. Which, rad! (Unless you're cleaning it up.)

Have you tried the "aiming at Cheerios" thing? Little boys seem sometimes willing to be redirected in their peeing if you can give them something interesting to aim at.

Overall, if you can, just relax. It's a phase, it'll pass, he won't be peeing all over the house when he's twelve, etc etc. If you can treat it matter-of-factly ("Boys pee in the potty. That's where Daddy pees.") but not like it's a huge deal, he's more likely to go with it, and less likely to think that he's stumbled on something amazing.

And, um, if you have a yard, you could possibly redirect his peeing-in-the-wild to areas where it's not bothersome?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:28 AM on June 27, 2007

A side tip - check the house, cabinets, etc. for recently-filled bottles and jars.
posted by amtho at 10:53 AM on June 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

How about using those paper targets to teach him to only pee in the toilet (vs. the seat.)
posted by filmgeek at 11:16 AM on June 27, 2007

Hell, I would if I could. Can you channel the activity? We have "pee on a plant" here, which means -- when nobody else is around -- the four-year-old is allowed to go pee in the garden. (He aims mostly for dandelions, yay.)

We also tell him "it doesn't count" if he doesn't put both the lid and the seat up. He loves competitions and races us to the bathroom, but only gets to feel like he won if he keeps the seat dry. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense, but it works for us.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:48 AM on June 27, 2007

Sounds like a discipline issue to me. This is a noxious behaviour. Peeing outside is one thing, but this other stuff? Just, NO.

Something can be a natural childish behavior and still be totally unacceptable. At his age he is quite old enough to be expected to put his pee where it belongs.
posted by konolia at 5:41 PM on June 27, 2007

very random thought here ... but some bars utilize stick-on flies in urinals and bowls to provide a "target" ... is there something you can do that is similar, that provides ... um ... redirection? make it a fun game, kids respond well to thing that are fun rather than shame/punishment
posted by kuppajava at 6:07 PM on June 27, 2007

I'm a mom of 3 boys and this is normal stuff. It's just fun to aim and squirt - they've mastered the art of using the toilet, now what else can they do with it? Our oldest peed in a lamp, the middle one peed across his bed in an arch, the youngest liked to aim for the dog bowl.

Discipline is all you need; however you do it just let him know what's okay and what's not.
posted by LadyBonita at 10:05 AM on June 28, 2007

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