The other day, the kids and I organized some things in the garage. We found some old tote bags in a box, and there were unused diapers in them. Quite a few of them, actually, so I called up some of my friends who I thought might be able to use this bounty.
When my friend Liz answered the phone, she immediately told me she was so happy I called because she had a question for me. “Why is my child purposely urinating on the floor?!?”
I was floored, pardon the pun, because it has been such a while since I’ve been through the potty training portion of parenting. And while I didn’t have first-hand experience with a potty-trained toddler having accidents on purpose, I thankfully knew how to help her through that mess.
Now, I’m not talking about in the midst of potty training when your toddler has an accident while trying to get to the toilet on time or anything like that. In this post, I’m specifically addressing what’s happening when a child is wetting their pants for attention or purposefully peeing where they shouldn’t be.
Let’s discover what’s going on here and, even more importantly, what you can do about it.
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Why is My Child Deliberately Peeing on the Floor?
If your child has been using the potty without incident and seems to be intentionally urinating on your floors and carpets, there are a few reasons why this is happening.
It’s all for attention
I’ll start with the biggest reason your child is purposefully peeing on your floors or wetting their pants…ATTENTION!
That’s right. They’re doing it to get your attention. Because they know you will respond to that. But why in the devil would someone do such a thing?
Well, you’re dealing with a toddler here, and even though they are potty trained, they do not have the brain development quite yet to see this is a rather strange way of getting your attention. It’s almost like a punishment for you because they know YOU will be the one to clean it up.
Why do they want more attention?
Well, you must look at what’s going on in your child’s life. Are you newly pregnant again, or did you just have a new baby? Have you just moved to a new home or a new city or state altogether? How about preschools or caretakers?
When things change around you, they’re hard enough to adjust to for adults. This is even harder for our little ones.
So, to stop this intentional peeing, you must first find WHY they are seeking more attention. And then you’ve got to give more positive attention in those areas. For example, if it’s a new baby in the house, your toddler might be old enough to use the potty just fine. But they are not old enough to understand why that baby requires more of your attention.
Trying to explain that will fall on deaf ears, but as you explain it, you can balance things out by spending more time with your toddler. Have your spouse or another relative step in for a little bit and take your kiddo to do something just the two of you. Carve out more time together, and this peeing problem should stop.
These activities don’t need to be expensive or take all day. Do more reading together. Take them to the playground. Take them for ice cream or, to save money, go to the store and pick out all the ice cream and toppings, then make giant sundaes together.
One last thing on this attention-seeking behavior – whatever you do, do NOT make a big thing of it if they pee on the floor. Kids only see they’re getting a reaction; even if it’s a negative one, they’ll keep doing it. Just clean it up and start finding ways to make more time, so your child knows they are loved.
Check for a medical problem
Now, if there are none of those big changes like a new sibling, a new location, or anything like that, you may be looking at a medical condition. This wouldn’t be intentional on your child’s part, but it is worth checking into, especially if you think your child is deliberately peeing on the floor.
Sometimes, it may be a bladder or urinary tract infection that makes it hard for them to get to the toilet quickly. Constipation may also be to blame, so think about when your child had their last bowel movement. There may even be trouble with the bladder’s development itself.
If you think the reason your child is urinating in their pants or on the floor suddenly when they could go to the potty before, and nothing new has changed in your home, schedule an appointment with the pediatrician to rule out anything medically-related.
Watch for signs of stress
If your child is a little older than toddler age and in preschool or kindergarten, something else may be going on with school, or the state of the world may be weighing in on them. We can shut off the news all we like, but kids pick up on this.
Money may have suddenly grown tight in your home. Kids at school may be picking on your child, or they may have a new teacher. Anything outside the home that may have changed could be the culprit causing stress.
Stress can come in good and bad forms, and we need to help our kids work through these things. Perhaps your child’s teacher left because they needed to move, and while there’s nothing wrong with the new teacher, it can be upsetting to your child.
If you’ve determined nothing in your home like a new baby or change in your family has occurred, then look to the school. Call the teacher and principal and set up a meeting. You need to find out what, if anything, is happening there that could be causing this problem to arise.
Once you identify the problem, you can start to fix things, whether it’s bullying (which requires getting involved with the teacher and principal as well as the other parents) or the schoolwork or workload. If there’s a problem with schoolwork stressing out your child, get resources to help them and spend more time going over homework together.
The biggest point here, though, is making sure your child feels comfortable with you. When they can come to you about anything, you have created a safe space where they will share their worries, and you can help them figure out how to solve their own problems or step in if needed.
Get a mental health evaluation
What happens if you get through this whole list to this point and nothing is the culprit? There may be something more in-depth going on in your child’s mind. If your child underwent something traumatic, you could be dealing with PTSD. And if so, you’ll want to talk to a doctor about this.
For example, my friend Eve’s son spent years freaking out in the car because a drunk driver smashed into them. Thank goodness they were both fine, but he remembered everything as young as he was at the time. He never freaked out riding in the car with his dad, only with his mom.
Her son would urinate on the floor often, and the pediatrician suggested they visit a child psychologist. Once they dug into the problem, they could help him cope with this trauma, and he no longer peed on the floor.
One last thing about intentional urination on the floor…
Younger kids tend to have more trouble coping with changes, the most common cause of intentional urination. By looking at what’s going on in your life, you may easily spot what’s causing your little one to do this.
But if nothing jumps out at you, you’ll have to do some more digging. It may even help to call your pediatrician, especially if there are any known physical problems with your child, like a small bladder. That can lead to peeing in the wrong places, though it is usually not with intent.
Hopefully, this has helped you figure out the root cause of the pee on your floor. May you have cleaner hardwood, tiles, and carpets from here on out!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.