There are many approaches to potty training, and many different views on the subject.
I once visited an intentional community in which a very young child (about one year old) was not diapered. Her parents simply anticipated her bathroom needs. Often. There are whole books on diaper-free little ones. But this was long after my time raising little ones, so you’ll have to look into this on your own, if you are interested.
My thinking on potty training is fairly traditional: Start potty training at age two. Trying to potty train before that age simply leads to frustration. Keep the child diapered at night until they are dry at night.
Some authorities will tell you there is no need for concern about “accidents” unless the child is still having problems by age six. I think this is a little over the top, but school nurses and people who have done before-and-after-school care will tell you that they need to keep spare changes of clothes around for the many children who are troubled by “accidents” well into elementary school.
My theory on “accidents,” if they continue after a child is pretty well potty trained (barring some more serious physiological or neurological problem), is that they proceed from two causes: irritation or other problem with the urinary tract, and/or a tendency for the child to be nervous and high-strung.
Perhaps we are talking about immaturity of the nervous system, or perhaps the child is stressed, debilitated, or over-stimulated. Children are easily over-excited. Most likely there is some slight physiological problem with the kidneys and urinary tract, such as irritation or inadequate fluid intake.
INCREASE FLUID INTAKE; STOP GIVING CARBONATED BEVERAGES
To clear up any possible problem with the kidneys and urinary tract, the first line of defense is to make sure the child drinks lots of water (NOT soda-pop, which may be the very culprit irritating the kidneys and urinary tract). Put a little lemon juice in all water, to help purify the kidneys and urinary tract.
This is a little counter-intuitive, in a way, but limiting liquids is perhaps the worst possible approach to any problem with the kidneys and urinary tract—and in fact is the cause of many such problems.
If there is a problem with the kidneys and urinary tract—and it seems likely to me that there is at least a slight problem—drinking lots of water is essential. In fact, the whole problem may simply be irritation of the kidneys and urinary tract caused by inadequate fluid intake.
Be sure to add a little lemon juice to the child’s water.
HERBAL REMEDIES FOR BEDWETTING AND “ACCIDENTS”
To treat children’s bedwetting and “accidents,” take a twofold approach: Give herbs that are soothing, healing, and toning to the bladder and urinary tract, along with herbs that are calming, toning, and soothing to the nervous system.
The mildest and gentlest of both kinds of herbs will likely be effective for leaky children, and these are the ones I’ve suggested below.
Corn silk is available in tea, tincture, and capsule form, and is used to treat bedwetting, as well as painful and/or frequent urination, prostatitis, and any inflammation of the bladder or urinary tract. It is sometimes used in combination with other herbs for cystitis, urethritis, and kidney stones. Corn silk is a mild and safe remedy suitable for children.
Another good kidney remedy is shepherd’s purse, perhaps most easily given to children as a tincture or fluid extract. Shepherd’s purse has several medicinal uses, and is something of a “go to” for bedwetting and children’s “accidents.”
Shepherd’s purse is a common yard weed, also found in fields and along roadsides, but it can also purchased from herb dealers. The plant takes its name from the seed pods’ resemblance to an antique shepherd’s purse.
The whole plant is edible and when I was a child, children were encouraged to eat the tasty flowers. Children in Japan were encouraged to eat this herb in olden times, because it was believed to make them sweet tempered.
Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One-Straw Revolution, tells us that shepherd’s purse (“nazuna” in Japanese) is the ancestor of the modern daikon radish. He adds that daikon is the “herb that softens ones disposition.”
Shepherd’s purse has a long history of use for toning the urinary tract, indications being incontinence, dribbling, or enuresis (bedwetting). Maude Grieve, in A Modern Herbal, says, “It is a remedy of the first importance in catarrhal conditions of the bladder and ureters, also in ulcerated conditions and abscess of the bladder….Its use is specially indicated when there is white mucous matter voided with the urine; relief in these cases following at once.”
Alfalfa is an excellent general tonic that relieves tension and stress, Improves sleep, and relives fatigue. It is often included in herbal combinations for bedwetting children.
Oat straw is thought to relieve bedwetting by toning the nervous system. It is also used to help relieve insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Chamomile and Catnip
While you’re working on cleaning up the child’s kidneys and urinary tract, it would be a good idea to give attention to the child’s nerves. Like oat straw, chamomile and catnip are good tonics for the nervous system. I tend to think of chamomile and catnip as specific “children’s herbs” that should be included in herbal teas for many children’s illnesses. They are both relaxing and soothing to the digestion.
One of my daughters continued to have daytime accidents long after she was potty trained and always dry at night. She was still having occasional accidents when she was four, and these were as regular as clockwork: Every evening when she was called to the dinner table, she would cut loose as soon as she got into her chair.
This was because she had been called to the table from playtime, and she was too overexcited to think to use the bathroom—and maybe too hungry and eager to get to the table.
I gave my daughter a daily tea of chamomile, catnip, and alfalfa. This solved the problem permanently—and after only a few days.
This combination focuses completely on relaxing the child and toning the nervous system, and does include any of the herbs that heal and soothe the bladder and urinary tract.
A child with a more severe or longstanding problems with bedwetting and “accidents” would almost certainly need oat straw, corn silk, and/or shepherd’s purse added to this formula.
I would suggest adding lemon balm to this combination because is has a delicious flavor that children love, and is a relaxing herb often suggested for bedwetting problems.
Here is a good herbal tea combination for toning the nerves, bladder, and urinary tract:
Tea for Leaky Children
1 pint water
1 tsp. chamomile
1 tsp. catnip
1 tsp. alfalfa
1 tsp. oat straw
1 tsp. corn silk
1 tsp. lemon balm
1 tsp. shepherd’s purse
Pour one pint of boiling water over herbs, cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain, add honey, and give the child a cup of this twice a day. The first dose can be given warm and the rest refrigerated for the second dose.
You may not really need all these herbs. It would be reasonable to begin with, say, alfalfa, corn silk, and lemon balm. Alfalfa would act as a general tonic, corn silk as an ingredient to soothe and heal the urinary tract, and lemon balm as a good-tasting ingredient to help tone the nerves. Another good approach would be alfalfa and corn silk, with chamomile and catnip substituted for lemon balm as the nerve-tonic portion of the tea. Or you could use my formula of chamomile, catnip, and alfalfa, with the addition of corn silk.
Shepherd’s purse is not a good-tasting herb, and you may not need it. Though shepherd’s purse is mild and gentle, I tend to think of it as the “industrial strength” approach. It will likely work when nothing else will. Not saying it should be used only as a last resort. Like the daikon radish, it is a harmless food. It's just that it's not so great in the flavor department, and children will appreciate a tea with a delightful taste.
In most cases, the more mild commonplace herbs should be very effective.
DO NOT SCOLD OR STRESS THE CHILD
Since I believe this problem is nervous, you will obviously want to avoid scolding or punishing or otherwise stressing the child.