• Mary Carlson Pap

Potty Training Regression

As a young mom, expecting a baby and having a 2-year-old at home, I was anxious to potty train my oldest daughter before my new baby was born. We potty trained together when my daughter was almost 2 years old.  She seemed ready and everything went smoothly until I brought home the new baby. It seemed almost instantly she was having accidents and my response at the time was to put her back into diapers.  At the time, I was so busy with the new baby, it was hard to also give attention to my daughter who was regressing in her potty training.

It was hard for me to understand why my daughter had regressed and what had happened. She seemed to be well on her way to successfully using the potty chair! Why did she suddenly reverse direction? I felt like a failure, but learned that all our efforts were not a failure, but that I needed to understand why regression happened. I had to get to the bottom of the problem and get back on track. Once things settled in with the new baby and we were able to get a reasonable schedule again, my oldest daughter returned to being potty trained. Although it did take a little effort and focus, we did not start back to the very beginning, which is what I feared.

I learned that there is not usually one reason why kids regress when it comes to potty training. Often times, during times of transition that may cause some stress at home, like welcoming a new sibling or starting a new school, regression can occur and a potty trained child returns to needing diapers. When this happens, try to address the problem that caused the regression to be able to move beyond the setback. Chances are, once the transition takes place and things settle down, your child will master potty training again and be back into underwear. Patience during this time will be critical in getting through the regression. I found this to be true and that my daughter actually enjoyed the attention to get back into underwear, using the potty chair and the benefits of being the "older" sister.

If your child is expressing fear of using the toilet, play games, read books and provide distractions to make using the toilet more fun. Placing a step stool by the toilet can give the kids extra support. The Potty Fairy book and doll can also be helpful in bringing imaginative fun.

Getting back on track with potty training will require some consistent reminders to use the potty. Make a commitment to bring your child to the potty chair frequently as a part of your routine. Your child should use the toilet at least every two hours to get them back on track. To help with the transition from regression to using the potty chair again begin to give gentle reminders and encouragement to use the potty chair.

Explain to your child they are a big boy or girl and that they need to use the bathroom rather than use a diaper. Remind them every hour or so, watch for wiggling and doing the 'potty dance,' and walk them to the bathroom before meals, before bedtime and before leaving home. Have them use the bathroom right away in the morning as well.

Your response to your child when they use the potty chair successfully or have an accident can have a strong impact on their progress. You will want to give lots of positive attention to success and calm attention to accidents. If an accident occurs, quickly and quietly assist your child to clean-up and don't make a big deal. Make big deals about success!

Incentives to stay dry are helpful. It is worth it to brainstorm rewards that will truly be a reward for your child. The Potty Fairies love leaving incentives or rewards for your child. Give rewards for staying dry- not using the potty chair. After a few successful days, provide a special treat to an ice cream store or toy store with just you. A special treat with their parent all to themselves. Praise can be a huge reward too that they are your special big boy or girl, not a baby that needs diapers can be the best reward.

If you can, keep your child in underwear, even if they are in a period of regression.  You want your child to feel discomfort when they have an accident. You don’t want revert to diapers so that your child regresses back into diapers when they have been successful at wearing underwear. Keep them moving forward as an independent potty user! Best wishes. 

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