How To Deal With Potty Training Regression

potty training regression tips

Potty training regression may appear when changes occur during a child’s life, often their way of dealing with it is to go back to a time when they were taken care of and didn’t have to take control of things like their bodily functions.  Life changes can be difficult for an adult, so they’re even more difficult for a toddler and may cause potty training regression.

Some of these events may include:

  • Starting school or day care
  • Moving to a new home
  • Divorce or separation
  • Birth of a new sibling
  • A parent going to work outside the home

Please realize that this is not unusual and many children experience this type of setback. However, the setback is usually temporary and can be rectified within a reasonable time frame and actually quite easily.

How To Take Care Of Potty Training Regression

At this point, if there are no other problems, you may just need to offer reminders to use the potty so that the bowel movement is done there instead of going on the floor. This is easy if he or she has BMs at about the same time each day, but even if he or she doesn’t, you might have him or her sit on the potty for 4-5 minutes right after waking up and after meals. Those are times when most children are likely to have a bowel movement. Even if he or she doesn’t go, you can offer praise and extra attention simply for the fact that they tried.

Treat accidents lightly and avoid negative reactions. That means cleaning them up matter-of-factly and reminding your child that they are supposed to go in the potty. This is not a situation that generally requires any kind of punishment.

potty training regressionBe sure that you “don’t overreact.” You want to be careful that you don’t reinforce the behavior, since any negative attention your child gets for doing this can reinforce it. And you don’t want to make it a power struggle. With strong-willed children, reinforcing unwanted behavior will make them want to continue doing it. Yelling or punishment is reinforcing. Even though it’s negative, it’s still attention, and that’s what they want.

Figure out why potty training regression started. Talk to your child in a matter-of-fact way and ask them why they don’t want to use the potty anymore. Children are very honest, and they will probably be “itching” to tell you!

If you feel you need to discipline, learn more about using effective discipline. Discipline isn’t to be confused with spanking or time outs. Discipline is when the parent does what they plan and have said they would do. They follow through and remain consistent in encouraging desired behaviors. Routines will help during regression as well. Go back to where you were when you first established your potty routine and put it into play again. Stay positive and re-introduce the motivations you did before regression in potty training started.

Talk to your child and listen to them even when you are not addressing them directly. Discuss their responsibilities for their waste and the consequences for not following through on those responsibilities. Be clear and matter-of-fact. Minimize your words during clean-up and stay calm. If you let this process become emotionally charged, that’s where the focus will be and that is ineffective and negative. Make it clear that this is their responsibility and simply instruct them about what needs to be done during clean-up and then when they have to go potty again.

Often, distractions are a big part of potty training regression. Some children get so involved in projects, books, TV shows, etc. that they “forget” to go and it just doesn’t make much difference to them if they are involved in these activities. For example, if they are watching “The Wiggles” and getting completely involved in dancing to “Do The Monkey” that they don’t go to the bathroom, make them go before the show is on and tell them that way they won’t have to worry about making an accident. If they have an accident after that, turn off the program until they can control their behavior.

Taking away something from a child when they have done something that is not a desired behavior can be a powerful motivator. Some parents think it’s mean and unfair, but we’re talking about a child here. They have to learn somehow, and this method works – mean or not.

Always follow up any discipline conversation with hugs and at least one “I love you”. Remember that your child wants to please you. If they think that you might withhold love, you could have the opposite effect of what you want. Your child needs to know that you love them but are not happy with their behavior. This happens throughout raising a child, so practice it often.

Learn Why Potty Training Resistance Occurred

potty training resistance

As I’ve said before, learn why your child has stopped using the potty. It is easier for a child to learn the mechanics of going to the bathroom, but not so easy for him to accept some of the emotional issues that may come along later. And not all children are capable or willing to discuss it.

If your child wants to talk, be there for him or her. It may help you decide how to proceed if the accidents continue. If he adamantly does not want to talk, respect his feelings.

Maybe he or she is afraid. It was fun during the early stages, but now that they are trained, their little brains could start to introduce unfounded fears in their psyche.

Common toilet fears include fear of seeing his poop go down the toilet and losing that part of him, fear of getting hands dirty when wiping, fear of seeing or hearing a toilet flush, fear of painful bowel movement. Other reasons may include lack of desire to stop playing to go, loss of the excitement of this new ‘game’, associating toileting with ‘growing up’ and deciding it is more comfortable to just stay little.

There are some cases where children use toilet issues to express anger and aggression. For this, seek professional help.

A reward chart or chart where you place stickers for the days when he doesn’t have an accident can also be helpful. As can reading some of the potty training books for children. Since he has been potty trained for so long, this is likely not a time to go back to diapers or pull-ups. You should also avoid anything else that makes him feel ashamed for having accidents. Remember that it is normal and common for children to have set backs with toilet training.

If you have come to the realization that the accidents are not stopping and you have given your child the chance to work through it by themselves, you need to take a step back and look at all the information you have compiled throughout this process. Return to the days when you were just beginning toilet training and start from square one.

You have choices. You need to decide how much you are willing to do in order to work this problem out. Do you want to obsess about it for weeks on end or just downplay it and let your child work his or her own way through the problem and get back to no-diapers or pull-ups?

regression in potty trainingEach child is different. What works for one may not be successful for another. That is why you need an arsenal of tools and tricks to get your youngster interested and keep him or her with the program until you have achieved that goal of independence.

Some children really want to continue toileting. Sometimes the parent is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the child with his toileting routine. If you decide it is best to try to keep your child on track, then gear up for retraining in a positive, loving and supportive way.

Prepare yourself for what can become a long, frustrating time. Your attitude is important – keep it fun and upbeat if you can. Never blame the child. Even the most even- tempered, devoted and selfless of parents have found their limits tested.

Frustrations can be minimized by planning to spend extra time with your child (preferably at home) observing when and why the accidents occur. Expect to deal with accidents and try to find a way to avert them. Could your child simply miss all that attention he used to get for toileting successes? If you find yourself becoming too frustrated with the situation to cope in a positive, loving and supportive way, consult your pediatrician, read and take parenting classes.

Do not allow a significant other, mother-in-law or neighbor (however well-intentioned) to interfere with your parenting choices. Pick your battles, and realize this one in particular can be a tough one.

If you decide to go for retraining you need to be prepared to follow through in a positive way. Read up, get support. If you decide this is not the best time to try to work through it that is OK. You and your child should decide together how to handle accidents. Whatever you decide, this is just one of many parenting decisions we must make with no clear-cut answer. It will work out no matter how you proceed, as long as you have the child’s best interests in mind.

Above all, just have fun with this process – both during training and during potty training regression. As you know, your child is growing rapidly before your very eyes. Focus on enjoying this age and stage with your child.

If you can keep a good attitude through all the trials, you will have given your child much more than basic toilet skills. Your child will learn he or she can trust you. They will know that they are important. They will learn how to communicate better. He will understand how you can help him when he is troubled. He will learn you will always love him, even when he messes up. That is what is really important.

If any concerns come up before, during, or after toilet training, talk with your pediatrician. Often the problem or problems are minor and can be resolved quickly, but sometimes physical or emotional causes will require treatment. Your pediatrician’s help, advice, and encouragement can help make training easier. Also, your pediatrician is trained to identify and manage problems that are more serious.

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3 Comments

  1. Thurman May 10, 2014
    • Chandra May 15, 2014
    • Martina May 18, 2014

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