Potty training regression: 9 tips you need to know

potty training regression

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Out of nowhere your toddler suddenly hits a potty training regression and you find yourself pulling your hair out cleaning up accidents, one after the other.

You thought you ditched the diapers once and for all and your little one was a potty trained Rockstar until suddenly and unexpectedly it seemed like all that hard work was for nothing.

Potty training is hard enough, so if your little one regresses you probably feel like just throwing in the towel. As frustrating as a potty setback is, hang in there and keep going.

The good thing about regressions is that they are usually short-lived and temporary.

What is a potty training regression?

Well first thing first, let’s just quickly go over what exactly is a potty training regression.

Basically, a regression of any kind is when your child experiences a setback or relapse in a skill or the ability to be able to do a certain thing.

When it comes to potty training a regression will usually look like accidents, the inability to tell you they need to go potty, refusing to go on the potty and so on.

How do I know if my child is experiencing a real regression rather than just having a few accidents?

Accidents can still be common here and there in the early life of your child, but a true potty training regression is where there is a more definite decline in the ability to go on the potty.

If you child has small accidents every once in a while, that isn’t necessarily a regression, that’s just called life! They are still learning and growing so accidents are inevitable for most children.

Having said that, if you are noticing that your child is having multiple accidents over subsequent days, refusing to go to the potty, failing to tell you they need to go, and so on you are probably dealing with a regression.

What causes a potty training regression?

There could be a number of reasons as to why your toddler may be experiencing some kind of a regression.

Any big life changes or things out of the ordinary could certainly be the culprit for a setback in potty training success.

Things that could result in a potty training regression:

  • A new sibling being born
  • Moving house
  • Going on vacation
  • Starting preschool
  • Celebrating a holiday

If your toddler is struggling with new teeth emerging, was recently sick, or is undergoing any kind of stress, all of these thing could be other culprits as well.

If your little one’s normal every schedule has been thrown off for whatever the reason, that could be resulting in current reversion with successful potty trips.

Having said that, sometimes reading a toddler is near impossible and regressions can just happen for whatever reason.

If that’s the case, just bite the bullet and keep consistent, patient and continue moving forward.

How to handle a potty training regression

When you quickly find yourself in the midst of a potty training emergency and all you seem to be doing is cleaning up pee and scraping poo out of underwear, there are some simple yet effective things you can do to help your child if they experience some sort of regression.

1. Stay calm, supportive, and patient

Those three things are probably at the bottom of the list of things you want to hear. But doing your best to keep calm and show your child support and patience is really one of the best things you can do.

Expressing anger and frustration to your child could only make them digress even more. And you definitely don’t want that!

2. Make potty expectations clear

It is important to make potty expectations clear to your child. Of course, accidents happen, but your toddler needs to understand where pee and poop go.

3. Involve your toddler in the cleanup process

As counterproductive as this may sound, (as you know a toddler’s help seems to always prolong the process), but if you can involve your toddler in the cleanup process the better.

Teach them that when they have accidents, they have to clean them up.

Hopefully they will begin to realize that cleaning up their pee and poop isn’t very fun.

4. Go back to the basics

I know you already covered the basics a million times, but sometimes revisiting them and simplifying things can actually be really helpful when it comes to troubleshooting potty problems.

However you initially taught them how to use the potty, go back to doing those things.

Here is some great info on how I potty trained my toddler before age 2.

A little revamp might help kickstart your child again. Keep things basic, simple, and consistent and success will always follow.

5. Make the potty exciting again

Whether it was the sticker charts, the songs, the funny dance or setting a timer, do whatever your child responded to well when you first started potty training.

Pull out all the stops and make the potty exciting again! If your toddler liked a certain potty that had a character on it, a special design or feature, pull that potty back out.

Something this simple can pull your little one right out of the regression once they realize all of the fun they could be missing out on.

6. Remember positive reinforcement

Instead of dwelling on the bad, praise your toddler when they do take a step in the right direction.

Little humans respond so much better to love rather than negativity so praise the times when your child when they do manage to go on the potty.

7. Help set them up for success

Help setting your child up for success can really help them get back on track.

Shorten the time in between potty breaks to try and avoid accidents. If you can get your child to have successes throughout the day with your help, this will instill their confidence and help them continue to succeed.

8. Give them more attention

Sometime kids can have regressions or act out when they are seeking more attention.

Try paying more attention to your toddler as extra attention can help them feel more validated and willing to cooperate.

9. Be consistent

Consistency is key. Don’t give up and stay consistent.

Even if you are going on vacation or have some plans that might change your normal everyday schedule up, stay consistent.

Don’t forget to take that portable potty with you to the store or the park to avoid any unwanted accidents.

Children feel safety and security in consistency so keep it up. Consistency with potty expectations will keep things easy to understand and not confusing for your child.

What NOT to do when your child regresses

I know you are probably thinking “my toddler had the whole potty thing down, what is going on?!” but don’t get too discouraged, this too shall pass.

While your child is dealing with a potty training regression there are some important things NOT to do.

I know it can be easy to be frustrated and show anger and be upset with your child, but those things won’t actually make the situation any better.

In all reality they can potentially make things even worse!

Reverting back to diapers also seems like an easy way out in the meantime but resist putting diapers back on, it will only make your nightmare worse.

Here are a few things to avoid while your child is struggling with the potty:

  • Don’t shout at them when they have an accident
  • Avoid shaming them
  • Try not to overreact
  • DON’T put diapers back on
upset toddler on the potty

Make sure your child isn’t dealing with any physical issues

There is one thing to be aware of when it comes to potty training regressions is that sometimes physical issues can be the cause of a regression.

If your child’s regression persists and you don’t see success with the above tips mentioned, it might be a good idea to have your doctor rule out any physical issues.

These medical problems could include:

  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pain during urination

Follow your mom gut and if you feel like your child is dealing with something physical, make sure to get those things checked out.

Remember this time of regression is usually short lived and your little one will be back to normal on no time. Try the different tips I offered and stay calm, consistent, and continue moving forward.

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