8 Tips for Moving Past Potty Training Regression

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Even though it would appear that my sweet girl is very much potty trained, I’m reluctant to shout it from a mountain top. I’m so incredibly proud of how she’s done, but in the course of potty training, I’m fairly convinced we’ve faced every form of regression known to man. Last Summer, she was showing some signs of readiness, so we gave it a go. Turns out, she wasn’t quite ready. No big deal. ‘Take Two’ started off impeccably. More than once, I boasted to my husband, “This just shows, when they’re ready, they’re ready!”

If Things Were Going So Well, What Suddenly Changed?

In the case of my daughter’s little world, A LOT. Potty training started about a month after I started back to work part-time. My daughter is a sensitive soul and the combination of changes in our routine at home (I went back to work), then some unexpected stress, then us moving created uncertainty when she was trying to master something hard. The reason I persisted, when outsiders may assume regressions were a sign of a lack of readiness, is because I could really tell she was ready. Intellectually, she more or less had it. In fact, she could hold her pee longer than I could, would remove herself from the room to get privacy when going number two in her diaper; and, would tell me she needed a diaper changed. Also, when she regressed, I could pinpoint why it happened. So, we soldiered on. As a result, I’m the furthest thing from a potty training expert. I can’t provide testimonials on the one-day, three-day, one-week, or any other method of training. However, I can offer several tips on moving through potty training regressions.

Here are some things that helped us when regressions hit.


8 Tips For Moving Past Potty Training Regressions



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 (disclosure: if you purchase it through Amazon, I will receive a small commission, but you will pay the same price).

Create stories where either your child or someone your child knows struggles with and eventually succeeds at potty training. 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.

Use a sticker chart. There can be a prize for completion. Just bare in mind, a prize at the end of the week for a toddler is too remote or abstract for them to understand. If stickers in and of themselves are enticing, then delaying the prize may be fine.

Keep the time until the prize is collected short. Frequent, simple rewards keep motivation high. For a toddler, use end-of-the-hour rewards; for the preschooler, end-of-the-day rewards; for the school-age child, end-of-the- week rewards. A month is an unreachable eternity for any child. For the preschool child, rather than set a calendar time, refer to an event such as “dinner time” or “after Sunday school.” Novelty wears off quickly for children. Change charts frequently.

Read more here.

Use a small treat. The government resources I read urged against this, but it actually yielded my best results. I read an article that suggested one M&M for trying, two for pee, three for poo. I will admit, we were a bit more generous than that (but don’t tell the experts on me 🙂 ). We nevertheless started with M&Ms for tries, pees, and poos. Then, only treated her when she went. Then, after some time, I explained that she was a big girl and doing so well, so she would only get treats for pooing (the aspect of potty training she struggled with the most). Once in a while, she has asked for them for peeing, and I’ve had to re-explain myself.

  • 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 doesn’t work. And know unequivocally, your child 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 a Pinterest award for the fastest potty trained kid. So be okay with it all.

Potty training is no easy feet, especially when your child regresses (and then maybe regresses again). See tips and resources on potty training regressions.


Do you have any tips I missed? Please share! Also, check out my Pinterest board with different articles on Potty Training!

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16 thoughts on “8 Tips for Moving Past Potty Training Regression

  1. Ah, yes! We’ve had regressions, struggles, and happily, successes. My daughter is the most stubborn person I know (no clue where she got that! ?) She finally pooed on the potty for the first time maybe two months ago. It was a very long two-year struggle. The potty charts worked for us the best, especially in the beginning to get her to pee. Now when she fills an entire chart up (includes pee and poo), she gets to pick a princess movie.

    1. My cousin said with his twins, they just waited until they knew without a doubt they were ready. Again, there’s no award for being the fastest. So waiting forever won’t actually be forever 🙂

  2. I would caution parents not to push it if there child isn’t ready. We actually made going potty adversive to my eldest because we just decided he was going to be potty trained one summer.

  3. Great tips here! The boys are potty trained except when sleeping. We also use a mini M&M as a reward and it really does the trick. One thing I just can’t get them to do regularly are the #2’s though! All in good time!

  4. I’m going to be honest: after potty training two, I am DREADING doing it for the third. It’s so stress inducing. Now that I’m on the other side with the 6 and 5 year olds, I’m not going to push it. He’ll do it when he’s ready (he’s 18 months). M& M’s might make an appearance, but I don’t want to make it a big deal like I did with his older siblings

  5. I am going to start trying (seriously) with my daughter soon. They say at daycare she pees and poops on the potty all the time, but its different at home. I just need to focus on it more I guess. I am lazy! ha!

    1. How old is she? I’m thinking of training my son too… But am scared. My daughter was great when she went to drop in daycare but well you can see how it went…

  6. We adopted our daughter when she was 13,just 5 months before her 14th birthday and she was having accidents during the daytime and wetting the bed at night from the very first day we got her.We had her checked out by our doctor and he found nothing wrong with her and said the wetting was due to her feeling like an outsider and that she would get over it fairly soon.We had her in cotton training pants with rubberpants over them during the day time and at bedtime we put her into a thick cloth diaper and the rubberpants.This went on for aver 6 months and then we decided it was time to try and toilet train her.We sat her down and told her that is was time to start using the potty and that we would reward her every time she used it.As a further incentive,we took her to the store and let her pick out some panties and she started wearing them with the rubberpants over them and after about 5 months she finially got the hang of it and stayed dry during the day time.Unfortunately,she continued to wet the bed and wore the cloth diaper and rubberpants every night untill past her 15th birthday when she finially stopped.

  7. My daughter is soon to be in kindergarten and she absolutely refuses to use the toilet. She’s been wearing pull-ups seems like forever. I am at wits end. She poops and pees on herself daily and when it is time to go wash it off she acts as if the toilet is not there, she puts the lid down to sit on it to pull on yet another diaper. This is fixing to get really bad when she starts class in a day or two. I can’t send her off to school wearing pullup diapers. How would I explain the situation to the school. Beats me

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