T.S. writes to ask about using an alarm clock to wake his 9 year old son to urinate. He’s been setting an alarm clock for 2 am for the last month. Sometimes his son does hear it and gets up to go to the bathroom. Sometimes it’s too late and he has already wet. He doesn’t seem to be making progress. Why?
When you set an alarm clock, you are picking an arbitrary time to alert your son. His body doesn’t necessarily work on this schedule. Some nights he may not need to urinate at all, some nights it might be midnight and sometimes it may be 3:30. There is no way for you to predict precisely when his bladder needs to empty.
A bedwetting alarm, which senses moisture, is able to pinpoint when the wetting is occurring. It will alert your son exactly when his bladder needs to empty. Behavioral conditioning works to help him learn to wake up to the sound that occurs when the wetting happens. Over time, his body will be able to make the connection that a full bladder means get up and go to the bathroom.
Parents often ask, “Isn’t it too late to be alerted if the urine is already coming out?” In the beginning, the bladder may completely empty before the child or parent can respond. Over the first few weeks, however, the usual response is that the urine flow stops at the sound of the alarm. Instead of a large wet spot on the bed, the spot is reduced to a quarter sized spot on the underwear. Urine remains in the bladder and can be emptied in the toilet. Ultimately, the brain alerts the child to wake up before urination happens.