Potty Training your child is not easy. It is a lot of work and can even be stressful at times. The important thing to remember is that there will be ups and downs during the process, but it is our reaction to these victories and setbacks that can make or break this process. We all know that potty training needs to be done in a positive manner, but this approach can (and will) test your patience at times. During the process of potty training there will be times when you feel like your child is ‘completely’ potty trained or ‘almost completely’ potty trained and that this ordeal will soon be over and there will be other times when it feels like you are back to square one. Don’t let it get you down. It is normal and can easily be addressed. The key is to try to figure out why it is happening and then try to figure out a way to fix it.
What is Potty Training Regression?
Potty Training regression is the state in which a child that is believed to be potty trained (i.e. doing all of their business on the potty) at some point begins to have repeated accidents in their pants and even can end up back in diapers. The key word here is ‘repeated.’ It is completely normal for children to have little accidents now and then during the stages of potty training. These little accidents are not the end of the world and they most likely will stop as the child gets more and more confident and comfortable going to the potty. Also, these little accidents are not really considered true potty training regression. True potty training regression is a return to an earlier stage of potty training. It is also known as a parents’ worst nightmare. The first thing you need to do to help your child to get over their potty training regression is to try to determine why it is happening.
What causes Potty Training Regression?
The simple answer is anything that is major enough to affect a child. Okay, that is not a simple answer. Potty Training regression can be caused by a number of things. You will have to look at your child’s particular situation and try to do it from your child’s point of view to start to figure it out. Here are a few factors that have been commonly noted as causes of potty training regression. Your child may have experienced one or more of these or something different, but the point is to try to figure out what is triggering it.
Change in routine. Think back to when the accidents started and try to remember what was happening to your child at the time. Did you family take a vacation recently? Did your child start a new pre- school or daycare? Did your child get a new baby sitter? Did mom recently go back to work? Did the family just move into a new house? Are mom and dad having marital problems? Discovering the case of the change in routine is important to helping your child to get over it. That is why looking at each situation form your child’s perspective can be useful. Children worry about grown up things too sometimes. A little reassurance may be all that is necessary.
A medical issue. Absolutely, a medical issue can cause potty training regression. Infections and constipation are some of the most common issues that linked to potty training regression and are easily treated. If you suspect that your child might be having a medical issue that is causing it, a trip to your child’s pediatrician might be a good idea. A doctor will be able to run some tests and prescribe a treatment that should help.
Attention seeking. Does the child have a new sibling or has someone recently moved into your house (i.e. a step child)? If your child feels like they are suddenly competing for your attention they might simply be acting in a way that they know will get your attention. Acting more like a baby will take attention away from a new baby.
What can parents do?
The best thing that parents can do is to not make things worse by over reacting to the situation. Remember to always try to keep things as positive as possible. Instead of showing your disappointment by an accident, show them some encouragement. Yelling at them or shaming them will not help; in fact it will probably make it worse. Instead you can begin asking them if they need to go or reminding them to go to the potty more frequently like you did back when they were first potty training. And then praise them when they go a day with no accidents. As far as addressing the issue that is the cause of the potty training regression, try your best to set things back to a normal state as soon as possible. If your child is being affected by a change in their routine, do your best to get them back on a new routine that they are comfortable with. If the issue is something like a new sibling, a new house, mom going back to work, these things will settle down and will become part of a new normal routine for your child soon enough. One way to help with that is to give your child a special ‘place’ in the new routine. If the issue is a new baby, give your older child a task to do, such as helping you pick out the baby’s outfits each day or pajamas each night. Simply including them in simple tasks with the baby can help them to feel important and not ignored or left out. But the main thing that you can do is to do everything that you can to ease their anxiety or fears and be patient during this extra stage of potty training. This too shall pass.