Imagine the situation…
Your previously potty trained child suddenly starts having toileting accidents and appears to be taking a backward step at toilet training.
It’s very frustrating and very common.
Three words; potty training regression
Regression simply means that potty training progress appears to come undone when a child begins having accidents, forgets to ask for help, or just doesn’t want to try anymore.
It’s not unusual for children to experience any or all of these things – especially when the focus comes off potty training and the excitement wanes.
A major cause of regression is distraction.
The child may be distracted by other excitement, and the grown-ups may be side tracked from the usual toileting routine.
It’s natural for accidents to start happen when attention is focused elsewhere.
For us parents though, it can feel like 2 steps forward, 2 steps back.
Learning to hold on causes accidents
When the child starts potty training they will tend to go to the toilet regularly and as soon as they first need a wee. As the bladder strengthens with practise, the child learns to hold on for longer but still needs to work out when it’s time to go to the toilet. This takes some practise and the fuller bladder means that when accidents happen they tend to be bigger. These bigger accidents don’t mean they are regressing, they just mean they are learning the next stage of potty training.
Major life events
Sometimes major life events can cause regression, such as starting nursery or the arrival of a sibling, divorce, or a house move. This is normal especially when it involves a change of routine, so try to ensure focus goes back onto making going to the toilet part of the new routine.
How to address potty training regression
It’s important to have reasonable expectations, and to remember that it takes weeks rather than days to fully potty train, especially for older children. Accidents are not always technically regression, they can instead just be on going potty training.
If accidents start to happen remind the child of the potty training routine and remind them to listen to their body’s cues for the loo.
Try to stay calm and avoid getting angry as this can put stress on the child. Instead take your frustration out on the mess of the accident rather than the child.
Always clean up the child in the bathroom, sit them on the potty to ensure they have fully emptied their bladder and encourage them to help with the clean up. The more of an inconvenience it is to clean up, the more they will be motivated to try to get to the toilet in time!
Take note of any patterns in accidents and introduce toilet time to try to prevent them. You may find they are happening when your child is tired or straight from nursery or being out, so try to encourage them to go straight to the toilet before starting their next activity.
Reintroducing rewards may help get the focus and motivation back on potty training, and if it gets really drastic sometimes it helps to explain that some things are only possible if the child is staying dry….you know your child and what works to motivate them!