As a parent, it is such a proud moment when your toddler starts potty training and has success. With many children, it starts off well, but there is a potty training regression. Whether your child is a toddler, a three-year-old or four-year-old, there are practical strategies here to help through the most frustrating potty training issues.
Even though it would appear that my little girl is very much potty trained, I’m reluctant to shout it from a mountaintop.
Potty training our firstborn started off without a hitch.
We bought a potty. And, in about a month’s time, she started hiding when she used her diaper, would tell me she went pee or poo and was waking from her nap dry.
So we gave it a go.
I brushed up on the three-day potty training method and told myself, “If the internet says it’ll work – it will work.”
Turns out, my two-year-old wasn’t quite ready to be potty trained.
She would sit on the potty at preset intervals and sit and sit and sit and sit.
Nothing happened until she got off the pot. After a few days without getting her to successfully go, I decided to try again when she was a bit older.
No big deal.
After a few months off, we decided to try potty training again.
‘Take Two’ started off impeccably. More than once, I boasted to my husband, “This just shows, when they’re ready, they’re ready!” The first day she had one accident. Day two none. Day three one.
It was going really well. The next few weeks of potty training went off without a hitch. We stayed close to home so that when she needed to go potty, we could. She had the occasional accident, but overall she went in the potty regularly.
I was confident toilet training was done!
Related reading: The Best Books for Potty Training Toddlers
But that’s when my toddler’s regression hit.
About a month and a half after potty training began, I started back at work part-time.
My daughter is a sensitive soul and the change in her routine created stress. Then, my husband decided to take a job offer across the country. Soon my daughter’s life was turned upside down. Her toys were in boxes as our apartment emptied…
Related reading: 10+ Effective Strategies to Mitigate Difficult Toddler Behaviour
Why potty training regression happens
According to developmental experts, most children will experience some form of regression in their lives. When children experience stress and have to adapt is the time regressions are most likely to happen.
- Getting sick,
- The arrival of a new sibling,
- Starting daycare,
- A parent going back to work,
- Parental separation,
- An unexpected change in routine (i.e. not napping anymore, a family member coming to live with you), or
- The death of a loved one.
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8 Tips to Empower You and Your Child
Make sure there isn’t a medical reason for the potty training issues
For instance, when my daughter had a UTI after she had been fully potty trained for quite some time, she started having accidents again. Toilet training issues can also be the result of a developmental delay or issue. Be sure to ask your paediatrician first before attempting to resolve an issue that may need medical attention.
Adopt an “accidents happen” attitude.
Make the accident into a non-event in order to maintain motivation in going potty. In terms of the bigger picture, accidents will happen whenever a child is learning a new skill. Dr. Peter Stavinoha, author of Stress-Free Potty Training, warns against any form of chastisement. “
Read books on potty training.
TV shows and books that cover the subject are fascinating for little ones & help them conceptualize what they need to do. iTunes and Amazon are chalked full with such resources. When I was growing up and when my daughter was potty training we used, Once Upon A Potty.
Use social stories to teach overcoming the potty training regression.
Social stories are an invaluable tool for scaffolding a child’s learning. My rendition was “When Mama was your age, she was learning to use the potty too. Sometimes I had accidents. Nana and Grandpa would say, ‘That’s okay Mama. Everyone has accidents. It means you’re learning.’ And then Mama kept trying. Sometimes she still had accidents, other times she didn’t. Until one day, Mama didn’t have accidents anymore! Yay!”
Change the location of the potty to somewhere more convenient.
When my daughter no longer wanted to go potty, we would try putting the seat on the toilet, moving the potty out of the bathroom and closer to where she was playing.
Praise attempts and positively reinforce successes.
While officially many resources say it’s best not to use a little treat – just praise – unofficially, we had success using M&M’s as a reward for trying or going potty. Then we slowly weaned away from using them at all.
Waiting to go diaper-less at night time won’t hurt.
As far as bedtime went, we waited until our daughter asked to go without a diaper. It hasn’t gone off seamlessly, by any means, but she now is dry at night.
Remain adaptable & patient no matter what.
And know unequivocally, children without health issues will be potty trained. You won’t be potty training your child at his high school grad. You just won’t. And believe it or not, there isn’t an award for the fastest potty trained kid.
For more insights for toilet training, check out my Pinterest board.
For more insights into parenting toddlers, check these out:
- The Best Books for Potty Training Toddlers
- 10+ Tips for Mitigating Difficult Toddler Behaviour
- Here is How to Stop Your Toddler From Hitting
- Why You Shouldn’t Punish Tantrums and What you can do Instead
- Planning for and Parenting Two Under Two – including how to introduce the baby to your toddler
- When Your Toddler Should Stop Napping
- Paediatrician says this is how to promote healthy eating in your picky toddler
Potty training regression FAQ
- How long does it take for a child to be fully potty trained?
According to Romper.com, children, who are ready to be potty trained, take between three to six months to be fully potty trained.
- When are children ready to potty train?
Children tend to be ready to use the potty between the ages of 18 and three-years-old. Signs include interest in using the potty and/or wearing underwear, dry diapers after naps, looking for privacy when he urinates or defecates, and/ or she informs you she has used her diaper.
- What causes a potty training regression?
Regressions tend to happen when there are changes in the child's environment such as moving, starting or changing daycares, the arrival of a new sibling or the separation of parents.