Toileting Regression – What’s Up with That?

By  Sue Rouillard, M.Ed

Perhaps one of the more frustrating parts of potty training is regression. You think your child has this whole potty training thing worked out and then one day it is back to accidents or diapers. In this article we address some of the reasons behind potty training regression and give you some strategies for managing it.

Have you ever made a mistake when driving? You’ve been driving for years and each mistake you make brings you one step closer to going back to being that kid in the driver’s ed car with the signs all over it going 20 mph at rush hour. If you don’t already know, once you think your child is potty trained, she could regress weeks or even months later.  So, take a big, deep, slow breath and cut the little one some slack. She’ll soon make less mistakes toileting than you do driving. In the meantime, let’s take a look at regression, why it happens, and what to do about it.

Uh oh!

Regression is a common occurrence. Your child hasn’t peed in his new Superman undies for 6 months now, but last night he wet the bed. Then for the next three days the same thing happens! Did you buy the wrong super hero undies? This is not the problem. Do not tear out any more of your hair or you’ll be bald. Think about what else has changed in his life. Does he have a new sibling (who’s stealing all of his limelight), or did he just start daycare or preschool? Has Dad been gone for a week at a conference or been sent to Afghanistan for the next year?

We all express stress differently, and a child of two or three will forget to go to the bathroom once in a while. Do not get upset. The child just made an “oopsie”. Calmly change the wet clothes without making a big deal out of it.  Remind your child that they are supposed to pee in the potty and the character on his underwear doesn’t like to get wet. Let the child take some of the responsibility and have him help get out some clean clothes/pajama’s or a new sheet to help with the cleanup. Praise, praise, praise earlier successes. Do not scold. Toileting is just another skill he needs to learn, and skills take time to perfect.

If your child complains that it hurts to pee, makes motions that make you think it hurts, or if they are going frequently, give your doctor a call. He may have a urinary tract infection that needs medical attention, which is an easy thing to take care of. Talk to your child to see if you can find out if he’s stressing over anything. Take careful stock of family routine and environment, as you may need to play detective to root out the cause. And sometimes, there just won’t be a cause!

Potty Time Watch So, how do you get him back on track? By going back to a very consistent schedule. Bring your child to the bathroom every hour to check. Remind him to stop what he is doing; he can come back to it, but he needs to come into the bathroom and check. How are you going to remember to bring a child to the potty every hour? Easy. Set an alarm on your watch or phone for every hour (or try the Potty Watch!). Now you don’t have to watch the clock, the clock will watch time for you!  Bonus: your child will most likely become used to hearing the alarm and just hop up and head for the bathroom. Nice, thank you Pavlov!

Be careful and attentive to how your child is reacting to your methods so you don’t add more stress to an already stressful situation.  Above all, anytime there is a chance to praise for good behavior, do it!

Bottom line is to be patient, caring, and consistent. Every child has to learn to understand the signals that the body is giving before they are going to be completely successful. If you can remain calm, cool, and collected, you will both come through this with flying colors! Good luck!

3 thoughts on “Toileting Regression – What’s Up with That?

  1. Pingback: Sometimes Regression is a Part of Moving Forward | Potty Time Blog

  2. I know alot of pelpoe put fruit loops in the toilet bowl and tell the kid to aim for them! or try to sink them. its like a game and it helps them aim..haha that rhymed!good luck!References :

  3. baby steps are inomrtapt when teaching anyone anything they don’t know anything about. Try and speak his language if you haven’t done that already.Or you could just make your guy perform an example XDReferences :