Rewards and Punishment


Almost every kid will wet the bed at some stage. As a parent, the key to supporting your child through this sensitive time is to not make a big deal out of it.

Always try to keep positive and never punish your child for wetting the bed. It is a total myth that children wet the bed because they are naughty or lazy. Bedwetting is completely outside of their conscious control, so no amount of punishment is going to help them stop bedwetting and will only damage their confidence and self-esteem.

Equally, rewards need to be used wisely, if you decide to use them at all. Rewarding your child for staying dry at night will only set them up for disappointment if they fail to achieve something that they have no control over in the first place.

In most cases bedwetting is caused by a developmental delay that will naturally fix itself with the grace of time, so your consistent loving support will make for smooth sailing while this phase passes by.

What causes bedwetting?

If your child is going through a bedwetting phase, you’re probably wondering what’s causing it. The short answer is that it’s usually down to a minor developmental delay, which will straighten itself out over time. It’s quite rare for bedwetting to be caused by an underlying medical condition. The most common form of bedwetting is called primary nocturnal enuresis. This refers to when a child has never been dry at night. Common causes are things like genetics, a neurological development delay between the bladder and brain, or the underproduction of the antidiuretic hormone ADH that signals to the kidneys to produce less urine at night. The other type of bedwetting is secondary nocturnal enuresis. This refers to a child who has been dry for six months or more, and then starts to wet the bed. This is typical the result of underlying medical issues or by emotional factors. For children with primary nocturnal enuresis, it means your child’s bladder capacity has not developed to the point of being able to hold urine overnight. Children who wet the bed at night may have a nervous system that is slow to process the feeling of a full bladder. So your child does not wake up or respond to the messages sent from their bladder to their brain saying its full and needs emptying. As their body matures the messages sent from the bladder start to get through and your child learns to wake and go to the toilet. Most children who experience bedwetting haven’t reached this developmental stage yet. But don’t worry, they’ll get there soon. While deep sleeping certainly plays a role in bedwetting it is not the primary cause of why it happens in the first place. Deep sleeping just makes it even harder for children to response to the signal sent from their bladder telling them to ‘wake-up’. Secondary nocturnal enuresis is a little more complex. If your child has been dry at night for six months and they relapse back to bedwetting, it’s often a sign of emotional problems or stress. Common catalysts include big events, such as moving house, a new sibling, or starting school. Stressful situations, including tension in the home, death of a family member or pet, or being bullied at school can also cause your child to start wetting the bed again. Other causes of secondary bedwetting include minor medical conditions, such as constipation or a urinary tract infection. In very rare cases, bedwetting can be caused by diabetes. One thing to remember through all of this is that the cause is never laziness. It’s important to remain calm and not to take out any frustration on your child, even though it can be a real pain to change sheets every night. Provide some extra support to your child by using DryNites® Night Time Pants or BedMats. It gives them a little more independence and they’re an effective safety net at night.

Read transcript +

Do rewards systems help to stop bedwetting?

The short answer is no. While rewards systems can work well for day time toilet training, staying dry at night is a completely different ball game.

It is not unusual for children to continue to wet the bed at night after they have achieved day time dryness. This is because staying dry at night requires their body to have developed one or more of the following processes:

1. Bladder reflex development – which means that your child’s bladder is able to signal to the brain to tell it to wake up when their bladder is full.
2. The ability to produce enough anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which slows down urine production at night.
3. Their overall bladder capacity.
Without these natural physiological developments, no amount of rewards are going to help them to stop bedwetting, so rewarding dry nights will only set them up for disappointment and potentially impact on their self-esteem.

If rewards are something that you feel supports your child, we would encourage rewarding positive and responsible behaviours around their bedtime and early morning routine instead, like laying out their spare pair of pyjamas in the evening, setting their bedwetting alarm or disposing of their DryNites in the morning.

Your child might like to help design a reward chart, one where they accumulate points that they can cash-in for a bigger treat. Whether you choose to use a rewards system or not, keeping the subject of bedwetting light and not making a big deal out of it will support your child to remain happy and confident throughout this time.

Why punishment doesn’t work

A bedwetting phase is a normal, yet very delicate time for a child. Depending on their age they may experience a loss of confidence, anxiety, or feelings of shame, embarrassment and confusion.

Your love and reassurance is essential to ensuring their emotional wellbeing while their body naturally develops the ability to stay dry at night.

We understand that interrupted sleep for nights in a row can make it a challenging time for parents, but it is important to remember that bedwetting is completely out of your child’s control. Because of this, no amount of discipline or punishment is going to help your child stop bedwetting, and will only increase their stress and anxiety levels (which can contribute to the bedwetting continuing).

Depending on your child’s age, developing their own independence during their bedwetting phase can be very empowering. Giving your child the responsibility of changing their own wet pyjamas or stripping the sheets can be very supportive, so long as it isn’t treated as a punishment for wetting the bed.

What can you do to encourage nighttime bladder control?

  • Ensure that your child drinks water regularly throughout the day and limit sugary, fizzy or caffeinated drinks after 4pm.
  • Talk with your child about what they should do if they wake up in the night and need to go to the toilet – should they go to the toilet on their own or call out to you?
  • Create a clear and well-lit path between their bed and the toilet. A small night light and your loving care is the best support for a child who is scared of the dark.
  • Avoid waking or lifting your child throughout the night, as this will not give their bladder the opportunity to learn to store the amount of urine that their body produces.

Make sure your child isn’t over-tired when you put them to sleep, as this will make it harder for them to wake up in response to a full bladder.

DryNites® Night Time Pants

DryNites® Night Time Pants are a discreet, comfortable and absorbent form of bedtime protection.

DryNites® Request a sample

DryNites® Night Time Pants help kids stay dry. Request a free DryNites® Night Time Pants sample today.