What to do when your potty-trained child has accidents again? (2023)

Potty training came easy for Donna Gleize's daughter, Agathe. The process was quick and smooth and Donna, a mother of four living in County Cork, Ireland, was relieved that her daughter was educated in time for preschool. But when Donna gave birth to another child, the accidents began. A lot of them.

Donna didn't know what to do at first. It seemed incomprehensible that her perfectly trained daughter, who trained well into the night, could suddenly no longer control her bladder.

After talking with other parents, Donna realized that thebirth of their second childit was probably the cause of Agathe's regression. Agathe had a hard time getting used to sharing her mother with someone else who always seemed to need her. "When she saw a baby getting all this attention, she wanted some of it herself," explains Donna. "She may have realized how changing a diaper is a great bonding moment between parent and baby."

Donna decided to get to the root of the problem and find a way to give Agathe personal attention every day. This was challenging with a newborn in her care, but it helped. "I made a conscious decision to spend more time with Agathe," she said. “After everyone went to bed, I read Agathe a book, just the two of us on the couch.” After about a week of consistently introducing overtime for just Donna and Agatha, the accidents completely stopped.

There are many possible reasons why a fully trained child might suddenly regress, and a new baby in the family is a common culprit. Many children go through a period where they seem to be decreasing bathroom independence. This is normal and you can help your child get back on track. "Potty training regression is a normal, transient part of potty training," says Norma Perez, MD, a pediatrician at AltaMed Health Services and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics."Parents can help their children navigate this challenging time by approaching the situation with positive parenting," she says.

How to deal with potty training regression

What is potty training regression?

when you completepractice potty trainingand then you see accidents or unwillingness to beindependent toilet, that's a step backwards. Along with accidents, you may see things like reluctance to use the bathroom or your child may even ask to go back in diapers.

What Causes Potty Training Regression?

Big changes in a child's life or routine are often the catalyst for potty training regressions. There are many possible interruptions in life that can affect a child's bathroom independence.

"Changes in a child's life can lead to regression, including events such as a new childcare routine, the birth of a new sibling, or moving to a new home," notes Dr. Perez. "Stressful situations such as a serious illness of the child or a family member, a conflict between parents,divorce, or the death of a family member can also lead to potty training regression.

Young children often deal with major life changes by testing boundaries. You can intentionally pee your pants to see if the housekeeping rules stick when everything seems to be changing.This is how they verify that they are still safe and secure.

Accidents can also be a way to get a parent's attention when something else, like a new baby or a stay-at-home dad returning to full-time work, seems to be taking up everything. Peeing your pants is a surefire way to interact with a busy adult.

"When I first started working part-time from home, [my daughter] Vera didn't like her having the babysitter while I was behind the closed office door," says Nikola Price, mom of one in San Francisco. "At this time she started asking for a diaper and refusing without pooping. She also had a lot of urinary accidents, although she worked out about six months ago."

Sometimes regressions can indicate a problem such as constipation or a urinary tract infection.Always consult your pediatrician if you are not sure what is causing your potty training regression or if you are concerned that something is wrong.

security notice

Toilet accidents after a child has been potty trained are considered a possible warning sign.sexual abuse. Other possible signs include trouble sleeping at night or new words for body parts.If you notice a significant change in your child's behavior, it may be worth seeing your doctor.

How to potty train your child

When do regressions occur and how long do they last?

Regressions occur during childhood or the preschool years. They are linked to life events rather than a specific age. They may also be related to cognitive leaps, as children gain the ability to wonder what would happen if they did.break a rule.

How long a regression takes can depend on how parents handle it, notes Andrea Olson, MA, author of four potty training books and director of theGo Diaper Free Certified Coach Training Program. For example, a baby who asks for and receives diapers may go back to wetting his diaper for an extended period of time. Also, a child who needs extra attention and has many accidents may still have his needs met in this way. This can also happen when the attention is negative, as B. by scolding.

On the other hand, if parents maintain their expectations of their child's hygiene habits while addressing root causes, a regression can resolve quickly.

Differences between potty training boys and girls

Should my child go back to diapers?

If your child is clearly regressing, you may be wondering if he should go back to diapers. While this is always an individual choice, remember that wearing diapers can send the message that bathroom independence is optional."If you go back to diapers, you have to start from scratch, and it gets even more difficult and confusing," warns Olson. "Pretend you'll never be able to afford a diaper again. What would you do? You'd find out. You'd work with your son.

When you find that you just can't handle house and car accidents, or when the babysitter insists on wearing diapers, you might be feeling trapped. "Instead of going back to diapers,Consider wearing washable sweatpants' suggests Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, pediatrician and health care consultantmom loves more.The training pants can be pulled up and down so kids can use the bathroom whenever they want, and the cloth feels like underwear while feeling it. But they also offer some protection if your child is involved in an accident.

How to teach your child to use the potty in 3 days

Tips for dealing with potty training regressions

Relapses can be frustrating for parents. It can be difficult to accept that a child who trained perfectly last week is now having accidents several times a day. Keep in mind that this kind of non-linear progression can be normal for young children - two steps forward, one step back.Try to be patient with your child and yourself.

Here are some ideas to help you get your child back on track to being bathroom independent.

Get to the bottom of the cause

Behavior is communication. When you see a connection between potty training regression and a life event that takes your time and attention away from your child, put yourself in his shoes. They may need your help to remind them that they are still a special part of your life.

Try to schedule non-negotiable one-on-one time with your child every day, just like Donna did. Try to be very consistent, even if it's just a few minutes a day. If you have other children, enlist your partner's help or do this after the baby is asleep. Alternatively, Olson suggests finding an age-appropriate way for your child to help with the baby.

use natural consequences

While punishment should be avoided during potty training, there are some natural consequences of an accident that you can use to your advantage.Price found that Vera's accidents and refusal to go to the bathroom stopped shortly after the mother and nanny made a plan to involve Vera in cleaning and changing pants. "We helped make sure she was really clean and we bathed her every night, so I wasn't worried about that part," notes Price. "Also, it paid off when the accidents stopped after a few days."

use positive reinforcement

Praise and positive reinforcement are encouraging for children (and adults). Keep calm andFocus on what your child is doing right.can gently guide you from a regression back to the right path. "Praising your child when he uses the potty will positively reinforce potty-training behaviors and get your child back on track," says Dr. Perez.

Taking care of expectations with love

It's easy to panic when your child who previously didn't need to go to the bathroom suddenly starts peeing his pants again. Instead, try to stay calm and keep your expectations high.

Threshold testing often plays a role in potty training regressions. It's important to understand that children test boundaries because they want to know if they can really count on you to keep them safe and secure.

If your child is clamoring for a diaper or absolutely refusing to go to the bathroom, you might be tempted to tell him it's okay or give him the diaper. But remember - your child is potty trained. They have the skills, they're just going through a setback. Gently guide them back to the right path by reminding them of the acceptable place to relieve themselves."Do you want your child to follow your lead as a parent or do you want him to take responsibility?" says Olson. "This is a serious issue that must be considered when considering regression."


Sometimes fixing a regression is as easy as going back and retraining. You may think that your child already knows what to do since he has been successfully trained, but development is not always linear. When you see your child take two steps forward and one step back, go ahead and pick them up where they are. "If you end up doing an entire potty training session again, it'll probably be pretty quick compared to the first time," notes Olson.

Don't assume that just because your child has been trained that he doesn't need reminders. "Gently remind your child to use the potty," says Dr. poinset. "This is especially true if your child gets distracted while playing and doesn't remember to use the potty. Make sure you put your child on the toilet or potty regularly during the day, upon awakening, after ingesting large amounts of fluids, after meals and before bed."

When things get back on track, keep the memories alive too, at least sometimes. "It's okay to ask," says Olson, "it doesn't mean your child isn't potty trained. You'll keep asking until your teens and you're about to travel, and everyone has to go potty before they can. go."

Differences between potty training boys and girls

A Word from Verywell

Potty training regressions are normal and will not last forever. If your child falls behind, you've done nothing wrong. Try to find the root cause of a regression so you can work to resolve it. In some cases, you just have to wait and see. Always consult your doctor if you cannot identify any reason for potty training regression or if you think something might be wrong.

When your toddler doesn't poop while potty training


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