Parents case study…Should you continue with potty training even if there are lots of accidents?


We received the following question about what to do if your child continues to have lots of accidents, and how to decide if you should go back into nappies…


My daughter is 2yrs 2mths old and we started potty training 16 days ago on 4th July 2018. In that time we’ve had more accidents than successes but we have had successes. We tell Annabelle that if she wees on the potty she can have a chocolate button and a Night Garden sticker. She understands but we’re still having a lot of accidents. Today (20th July) she did two wees and one poo (rabbit droppings) on the potty but then two wees and a poo accident too. My question is should I continue with the potty training as the accidents don’t bother me, I just tell her that we need to do it on the potty next time, or do you think she’s not ready yet? I’ve spoken to several friends, all with differing opinions. Some say she’s not ready and to go back to nappies then try again in a month or so, others say to continue with what we’re doing as we don’t want to undo the progress we’ve made so far and Annabelle will get it soon, it’ll just click. Also I’ve noticed Annabelle’s behaviour has changed recently and can’t help but think it may be linked to the potty training, she’s being so naughty recently and I think she may be frustrated. There’s no change in her home life at all. Thanks in advance x


How to Potty Train’s response


Hi Jessica, thanks for contacting us the first thing we would recommend is that you check out our signs of readiness to see if other signs are present. Her age is a big clue that she is ready and the fact that she is happy to use the potty and understands what is expected suggests that she is able to potty train. The one piece of the jigsaw that she may not be getting is the signs from her body that she needs a wee. It’s very hard to teach this and she can only really learn through trial and error.


There are a couple of things you can do to help her. Firstly, ensure that she is well hydrated as that helps makes the signals stronger. A Dry Like Me pad in her pants may help as it will capture some of the mess and also helps strengthen the bladder and brain connection because it initially feels wet and also bulks up to send a clear sign to the child that they have had an accident.


Her behaviour may be due to the frustration and energy it is taking to learn this new skill, or it could just been her age. Some children get very stressed during potty training, so continue with your positive attitude and rewarding her for the parts of the process she is mastering. I’m sure she will get there, and putting her back in nappies for a while does not guarantee it will be any easier or quicker to potty train in future. Good luck. x



ERIC’s response


Accidents are all part of the potty training learning process – it’s a skill which can take children a while to achieve. Some pick up what they’re being asked to do faster than others. One of the keys to knowing if they are ready or not is whether than can hold their wee for between 1.5 and 2 hours and are doing a daily soft poo.


Lots of wee and poo accidents can also be a sign that a child has become constipated, as can passing ‘rabbit dropping’ poo or leaking runny poo.


If a child is struggling with a poo problem it can make potty training extra challenging for them as they might not be getting a reliable poo signal. Their bladder may also not be able to hold as much as it should because their full bowel is bumping into it and they get little warning a wee is coming.  It can also have a big effect on a child’s behaviour making them feel grumpy and out of sorts.


Take a look at ERIC’s Guide to Children’s Bowel Problems for more info on the signs of constipation and how it should be treated and ask your GP to check her for underlying constipation.


If constipation is an issue it may be easier for you and her to go back to nappies for a few weeks and have a break. Try to avoid chopping and changing between nappy and pants however as this can be confusing. You can still work together on positive things like making sure she is drinking well (6-8 cups of water based fluid is best each day) and getting her involved at nappy changing time with tipping poo in the loo for example. It’s more motivating for children to praise and reward the effort they are making and achievable tasks like these rather than just success.

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