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(Embarrassing) My 5 year old is having little “accidents”, HELP!

Dear Obsessive Mother’s Guide to Parenting, 

            I’m hoping you can help with this one.  First let me tell you, we’ve been to the pediatrician and everything is alright physically.  Our problem is that our daughter’s underwear always smells like pee.  It’s never soaked, like she’s fully wetting her pants, just a few drops.  My husband is getting really frustrated with her and wants me to put her back in a pull-up.  I’m worried about the emotional side.  I don’t want her picked on in school when she starts Kindergarten this Fall and I don’t want to make her feel bad about herself if she can’t help it.  I need a plan.  Can you help?


Shirley in The Woodlands


Dear Shirley,

Let’s tackle this problem one step at a time.  I’m glad you’ve been to the doctor already.  That is always the first step.  If you suspect the issue has changed and become more severe, take her back for another evaluation.

Since she’s 5 and not in school yet, I’m assuming every environment she’s in has a restroom that she’s allowed to go to at any point in time.  In case she’s in a daycare during the day, step 1 would be to communicate with the teacher that your daughter should be allowed and encouraged to go to the bathroom any time she needs to.   Step 1 if she’s home with you all day is to review basic potty techniques & be aware of times she is most likely going to need to pee (right when she wakes up, before she goes to bed, after meals, etc).

Under no circumstances should a reward be tied to whether or not she has clean underwear.  If you attempt this manipulation, you can end up with a child who lies to you and hides the problem or resents you for something she is not able to control yet.  Keep it calm, firm and positive.

This is the one rule for solving this problem: It IS okay that she is having accidents.  It IS NOT okay that she sits in dirty underwear.  You’re going to buy three things at the store: new underwear, flush-able wipes, and a box of small feminine pantyliners.  Teach your daughter how to put a pantyliner in her underwear.  If it’s just a few drops, the liner will absorb it and the odor will be masked by it.  You’ll also keep your furniture and floors cleaner without a wet bottom on them.  Then practice with her.  If her pad is wet, she peels it off and throws it in the bathroom trash can.  She wiped with a clean wipe and puts a new liner on.  She washes her hands before leaving the bathroom.  Check with her during the day.  Ask, “Do you have a clean pad on?”  If she doesn’t, go through the steps again until she gets it.

If you have been doing nightly bubble baths, stop.  Teach your daughter to shower and buy a hand held shower nozzle.  Teach your daughter how to soap up (with mild soap) and rinse off every night.  While the pads will help whisk any moisture away, we want to be diligent that she doesn’t develop a yeast infection or bladder/kidney infection from improper washing techniques.


She is most likely either: not getting to the bathroom in time and a few drops escape or not wiping properly.  She will grow out of this phase.  In the mean time, as I said, keep it calm, firm and positive.  If she has an accident, she changes the pad.  The only thing that gets her into trouble is to sit in dirty underwear (or with a wet pad).  By “trouble” I mean a stern reminder from you.  With this issue being with a daughter and not a son, make this a “secret plan” and pretend that Daddy doesn’t know.  Begin the conversation that women’s bodies are different and special and she can come to you with any questions she has.  

Plan on this issue taking 6 months to a year to clear up, maybe longer.  Just keep her bathroom well stocked and then focus on something fun.  If it is still an issue when school starts, teach her how to keep a stocked purse and carry it with her to the bathroom.

In the meantime, tell your husband this is woman’s territory and for him to let it go.

Please keep us posted on your daughter’s progress.  You are doing a great job as a mom.  Keep it up!


The Obsessive Mother’s Guide to Parenting

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