Potty Training Regression – My Child is Having Accidents

Just when you think you could put the diapers and wipes up for good, your child starts wetting the bed, or peeing in their pants all over again. As if potty training wasn’t hard enough on the parental nerve system, now you have to deal with potty training regression.

Essentially, when raising children it is completely normal to see regression from time to time. Just like your 5 year old who may be able to speak affluently for their age will suddenly start babbling like a baby your toddler a few months out of diapers, may start regressing back to having potty accidents. Regression, according to experts happens for a million and one reasons. Most often potty training regression happens when a toddler is face with a new situation in their life that may be causing them stress. Sometimes, it is completely unrelated to their ability to use the bathroom.

For instance, a 2 or 3-year-old starting pre-school, may suddenly start having accidents at school or during the night because the potty routine at school is completely different than it is at home. If this is the case with your child, ask your child about the bathroom at school, how many times they are allowed to use it, if they are afraid of the bathroom, if they can reach the toilet paper okay, or if they are comfortable asking the teacher to use the restroom. Your child could simply be holding their ‘business’ out of an insecurity about the new surroundings. There might be something happening at school that makes them feel nervous about using the bathroom. Talking to them can help a parent figure out what is bothering a child and can help the two of you come up with a viable solution to the problem.

Or, potty training regression could be caused by stress and anxiety about starting school and being away from mom and dad, i.e. separation anxiety. Some toddlers who might not be ready to leave mom and dad, may start regressing in the hopes that they will get to stay home. This is especially true if the child has heard a parent or adult say out loud that the school would only accept children who were potty trained.

Another obvious reason for regression in all forms, is a big change to the family dynamic. It is very common for a child to have potty training regression, weeks, months or even years after being fully trained when a new baby is introduced to the family. This is obviously, just a way for them to show mom and dad that they still need love and attention too. The same is true for any change to the family dynamic that may be occurring. The regression acts as way for children to feel as if they have some control over the situation, and the people involved.

Some children start regressing quite simply because they ‘ignore’ the signals that they need to use the bathroom. They might be so busy playing that they naturally forget until it’s too late to hold it any longer. This is extremely common with boys especially. No matter how long your child has been potty trained; you should still remind them often that they need to use the bathroom.

Medical problems can also be a reason for regression. However, most of the time this is not the case. If you suspect a medical concern such as a urinary tract infection then you should seek medical attention.

For parents, the regressions are often frustrating. There are a few simple rules that parents should follow when faced with potty training regression.

Chances are if you act calmly and follow these simple rules your child will be back to using the potty in no time.

  • No negative attention. Don’t talk about it. Don’t ask long and drawn out questions about why they peed their pants. And don’t punish your child. Simply take a matter of fact approach to the behavior without stressing upon it. Remember, to a child negative attention is just as good as positive attention.
  • Praise the ability to stay dry. If you see regression, then you need to start praising your child for the nights they stayed dry, or the days that they went to the potty on their own.
  • Empower your child with confidence! Yes, it’s easy to get upset or irritated as a parent. However, it is your job to keep reminding your child that they can master potty training on their own.
  • Begin giving frequent reminders to use the bathroom again.
  • Avoid getting diapers or pull-ups again. Some children are just plain lazy, and don’t care if they are in a wet or stinky diaper. Truth is, diapers absorb most of the discomfort from the situation and can make potty training regression worse.
  • If you have a new addition to the family, make sure your child is aware that you cannot wait until the baby is out of diapers. This way, your child wont feel inclined to ‘act like a baby’ in order to get attention.

Truth is, potty training regression is normal and is definitely NOT the end of the world. After a few weeks, you will be able to chalk regression up to experience and will be on to the next exciting phase of your child’s life. Remember when it comes to raising children the rule of thumb is ‘this phase too shall pass!



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