Oh, Behave: 4-year old son is urinating everywhere

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My four-year-old son has started urinating in and on the oddest things. He didn’t like a particular DVD we owned so he peed on it! Then we found that he was urinating in his closet whenever we were about to show our house (it’s for sale). I don’t know what to do. Help!  JANICE K, BURLINGTON, ON

The good news is that your son is letting you know how he feels when he doesn’t like something or when he is mad. The bad news is that in acting out, he’s also telling you that it’s time to start working on ‘use your words, not your actions’ to let you know how he feels.

For many children, the transition from ‘I act the way I feel’ to the use of language to express feelings takes a while and requires parents taking specific action. To start, I would suggest you focus less on the behaviour and more on the real task at hand – using language rather than behaviours to express likes and dislikes.

Saying things such as, “You didn’t like that DVD, but you can just tell me you’re mad instead of acting this way.” This can sometimes model the use of language for him as well as offer a solution to the problem. It also gets him out of trouble instead of in trouble as you help him on his way!

Phrases such as “What would you tell mommy if you were to use your words?” will go a long way in encouraging him to skip the behaviour and the punishment and learn to get his point across.

The earlier we introduce the language of feelings in everyday life, the better. Try to say how you’re feeling, and how you see others feeling in the day-to-day world. This will reinforce the notion of telling instead of acting out.

The introduction of feeling language should be a family activity, and as adults we need to be cautious of moments when we act the way we feel instead of using our words to say how we’re feeling. For most of us, practising while sitting in traffic is a good start!

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