Care and Feeding

My Kid Won’t Stop Peeing in the Bathtub

He sits on the potty forever, then cheerfully lets loose in the bath. What am I doing wrong?

Photo illustration of a sculpture of a boy peeing in a pool of water.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by pabloborca/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My son is 2 years and 5 months, which I know is on the early side for this, but he grasps the general concept of the potty and is intrigued by it. He’s also the youngest in his class, and he observes slightly older kids using the potty like champs and seeks to emulate them. Perhaps most importantly, he knows, as his sister did before him, that a gummy bear awaits him if he potties successfully. Here’s where we are: Night after night after night, he sits happily on the potty for a good long while, eventually climbs down, then gets into the bath and, standing up, calmly, and with a sense of great purpose, pees in his bath. I try to anticipate this by talking him through it, but it doesn’t matter. He seems generally happy with this state of affairs. What am I doing wrong?

I also just want to clarify that I’m not pushing the lad in any way—this is all very much led by him! Just wondering if there are fruitful ways I can guide him in this new hobby he is pursuing.

—Ew

Dear Ew,

My answer depends on a piece of information I do not possess: Does your son enjoy having baths, or not? If he loves the bath (super common, and it’s certainly apparent he feels quite at home and relaxed in the tub!), then when he pees, you say, “Oh, you know we don’t pee in the bath, so bath time is over, and we’ll try again tomorrow.” Fish him out, dry him off, don’t make it a big deal, but make it clear.

If he does not enjoy the bath, then put his pullups on, wait until he pees in them (or, God willing, the potty), and then put him in the bath so that his tank is as close to empty as you can manage.

Kids pee in the bath. It’s OK. It’s common. It’ll pass.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a 21-year-old woman who has always known that she wants to have kids one day. I grew up with a father who always said having kids was the best thing that ever happened to him (who tragically passed away from pancreatic cancer when I was 10), I was always very involved as a babysitter and volunteer in local children’s organizations, and I have taken multiple classes on child psychology and care. While I’m not planning on having kids until I am well established in my field and economically ready, I have expressed multiple times to close friends and family members that this is how I see my life playing out—I think having kids will be an incredibly fulfilling, if challenging, adventure. My girlfriend (I am a lesbian) is highly encouraging, as she also wants a big family, but my friends are not. When I’ve confided in them that I see a big family in my future, they’ve called me selfish and less of a feminist for planning on staying home while the theoretical kids are still little.

Their reasoning goes along the lines of it “being a waste” of my (hopeful) Ph.D., that having kids in an “overpopulated” world is selfish, and that kids are generally “messy and irritating.” They also raise my elevated chances of heart disease and cancer as reasons I shouldn’t have children, as I might pass away early on and leave my kids with only one parent. While I value these friendships, I have always wanted kids, and these comments have shaken me somewhat. I plan to have one, maybe two biological kids, then adopt teenagers who could use a supportive family dynamic.

My question is, how do I respond to these comments? Are their concerns legitimate? Should I reconsider having kids at all?

—Selfish(?) Future Parent

Dear Future Parent,

Get better friends. Have children. Practice saying, “Why would you think that’s an appropriate thing to say to me?”

Rude monsters, walking amongst us. Send me an email when you have a baby and I’ll buy something off your registry.

• If you missed Friday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I have a 9-year-old daughter, and we share custody with her mom, with whom we have an ideal and close relationship.

She is a very well-rounded child, but I am concerned about her thumb-sucking. She has always been a thumb-sucker, and as school years came around, we expected she would wean off it. She is now going into fourth grade next year and is still going strong.

At our house, we try to limit it to the times when she is tired, but I have noticed an increase in times that she is now claiming to be “tired.” She was even doing it in public yesterday and I reminded her several times to stop. At her mom’s home, she seems to be able to do it whenever she wants.

I have tried to do research but I cannot find any conclusive answers. Should we be working harder to get her to stop? Is it bad for her? She doesn’t do it at school, so she isn’t made fun of there (though sometimes by kids in the neighborhood or by her cousins); the dentist has only said that “it doesn’t help her teeth,” but he hasn’t made any suggestions about stopping either.

I understand this is a comfort-seeking response, but it seems very inappropriate for her age.

—Thumbs Down

Dear Thumbs Down,

Let’s start here: It’s not necessarily a comfort-seeking response. It can also be a garden-variety oral fixation (the pencil chewers and the cuticle chewers and the kids who suck their hair are all in the same boat), which will likely fade over time. I am just saying this because I get a slightly worried and defensive vibe that your co-parenting situation has stressed her out and resulted in this. There’s no reason to think that’s the case.

If she’s not doing it at school, which is the main thing, I would stick to your home rules, have a conversation with her mom about trying to back you up on those rules, and then just let it go.

Your dentist sees this all the time, and if he felt more strongly, he would have told you. It’s harmless. I free you from overthinking this.

Dear Care and Feeding,

We are in the “why” question stage. A stage I had expected to enjoy! My wife and I were extremely excited to raise inquisitive children and to introduce them to the world of knowledge and science.

Instead, two months in, we’re going completely crazy, and he does not accept “I don’t know.” In fact, he will stomp his feet and say, “DON’T SAY I DON’T KNOW.”

—Why?

Dear Why,

HahahahahahahahahahahaahhahhaAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, this is such a beautiful and universal thing that happens to parents. “Oh, what fun that will be!” turning into “I don’t KNOW, I am trying to COOK.”

The best and most successful advice I have is to say, “What do you think?”—which can result in some very funny, very beautiful moments. My other piece of advice is that if you have to say, “I don’t know,” add in “so let’s go find out.”

That one does not work when you are cooking, but it’s a great way to signal to your child the connectedness of human knowledge and the resources available for accessing it (Wikipedia).

Buckle down, and try to enjoy it.

—Nicole

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