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Nighttime Potty-training for a 6-Year-Old

by Sharon Perkins , studioD

Most kids stay dry at night by age 5. However, about 13 percent of children -- three times as many boys as girls -- still wet the bed at age 6, according to KidsHealth from Nemours. Staying dry at night is generally an issue of development and rarely indicates a health problem. You can take steps to help your child stay dry. Avoiding shame and blame are two of the most important steps when working with a 6-year-old on staying dry all night.

No Blame, No Shame

Rarely is a 6-year-old willfully wetting the bed. The experience is as unpleasant, in most cases, for him as it is for you. Scolding a child for wetting the bed or making fun of him won't help him stay dry and could make matters worse. Because bed-wetting often runs in families, you might know how your child feels. Praise or use of a sticker or award system might help motivate him to respond more quickly to his bladder signals in the night.

Restricting Liquids

Drinking too much before bed can lead to bed-wetting, especially if your child has a small bladder or is an especially deep sleeper. Have him drink most of his fluid during the morning and afternoon. Limit fluid intake to no more than 8 ounces at dinner and avoid drinks containing caffeine, which can stimulate bladder contractions and increase urine production.

Scheduling a Nighttime Bathroom Break

Waking your child to hit the bathroom one more time before you go to bed or right before he normally wets the bed can help him make it through the night. Don't wake him more than necessary; keep the lights off and keep talking to a minimum. This won't really teach him to stay dry, according to the University of Michigan Health System, but it will help keep him from waking up in a wet bed.

Using Alarms

Sensor alarms detect a small amount of wetness and can wake your child up so he can get to the bathroom. Alarms are most likely to be effective with a child who rarely has dry nights and who probably has a bladder that, while normal-sized, might empty itself at a lower volume, said Dr. Catherine Thiedke, professor of family medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston in the April 2003 "American Family Physician."


Consider medication as a last resort if bed-wetting is having a significant negative effect on your child or on you. Prescription medications can decrease the amount of urine your child produces at night, which decreases the likelihood of bed-wetting. Unfortunately, once your child stops taking the medication, the problem recurs in 60 percent to 70 percent of kids, according to Wolters Kluwer Health. Medications have the highest rate of effectiveness in children who void larger amounts of urine at night, Thiedke explains.

Bladder Training

If your child has a slightly smaller-then-normal bladder, you can teach him to hold a little more urine by encouraging him to wait just a bit longer before urinating during the day. See whether he can wait 15 minutes after he'd normally urinate at first, then gradually increase the time. This might help his bladder enlarge enough to make it through the night without urinating.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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