Potty Training Regression

How to fix Potty Training Regression

Potty Training Regression why and what can you do to fix it?

So you have cracked potty training… Your little one is consistently using the potty so you breathe a sigh of relief and then it comes; potty training regression. What can you do and how can you help solve potty training regression?  Read on to hear our experience and get all my top tips for dealing with potty training regression.


Potty Training Regression

How long does potty training regression last

Well that is one of those how long is a piece of string questions, but you will be relieved to hear that it is typically a short term issue and may only last a few days or weeks.  If you can pin point a reason or an event that has triggered the regression you may be able to solve it very quickly indeed. 

If the potty training regression has started because actually your little one wasn’t really ready then the process can be longer, but rest assured you will get there are our how to fix potty training regression top tips below will definitely help

What causes potty training regression?

As with most things where kids are concerned that can be many reasons for potty training regression.  You may need to be a bit of a detective when trying to work out what causes potty training regression.  However, here are some of the most frequently cited causes of potty training regression:

Over Prompting – to start with when you are potty training all the advice suggests reminder your toddler to go to the potty regularly, but if you do this too much it will start to annoy the child and more importantly can cause them to not empty their bladder properly which can lead to accidents.

Under Prompting – conversely if you remove the prompting too soon and your child hasn’t actually cracked taking cues from their own body or regular potty trips haven’t yet become habitual then you can end up with puddles!  If this is the issue you can fix it very quickly by just increasing the prompting.

Change or stress – this is a very common issue that causes potty training regression.  The types of things that can trigger stress for a young child are a house move, starting nursery, a new sibling or even just a change to their daily routine.   In this case they may either be too emotionally occupied with the issue of change to remember to use the potty or they could just be acting out.  Typically the ‘issue’ they are facing needs to be resolved in order to get potty training back on track

They are just not ready –  I won’t lie this is the most soul destroying of all the causes of potty training regression as it feels like admitting defeat and it feels like you got it wrong.   It also can take the longest time to fix as once you accept they are just not ready then you have to wait until they definitely are to try again.

My experience of Potty Training Regression

This post is well overdue as one of our twins had a complete potty training regression.  The post is overdue as honestly I was so upset and it was such a mission that I couldn’t even face writing about it. I don’t even think I could admit to myself what a problem we had on our hands at the time, but now that things have started to get much better I wanted to share what happened.  I didn’t want you all to think that I found potty training easy when I didn’t.  Remember this was my fourth time doing this so I thought it would be a breeze, but oh no! 

I assumed that my potty training of the other 3 would just work with my last little one too, but no.  The whole process has been going on for well over a year and we are not at the end yet.  I want to be honest with you all and share the things  that don’t go perfectly as well as the victories so here I am going to explain what happened and then give you the things I have learnt and my top tips for dealing with potty training regression.

It is so frustrating

One of the things that makes potty training regression such a nightmare as a parent is that it is virtually impossible not to be irritated by it.  When I first trained my daughter I was able to be super patient, but the second time round I found it really tough to remain calm when she started  having  accidents so frequently that it was as if she had never even seen a potty.  The question Why?  just kept coming up.   I mean I knew she could do it.  I knew she understood using the potty so why on earth was she just weeing absolutely everywhere?! 

If this is happening to you right now I completely get your frustration and I know actually how genuinely upsetting it can be.  I felt like I had failed her and then at other times felt like she was just being stubborn and almost doing it on purpose. I know that is irrational, but it is so irritating when you have gone through the potty training process and you know they can do it, but then all the learning just seems to disappear.  My biggest struggle was not letting her see and feel my frustration.  I wanted to always remain calm and understanding. Screaming in the loo when they can’t hear you must be allowed though right?

We also had the added pressure of her starting school in the not so distant future which made the whole thing more stressful for me.  Of course I didn’t convey  that  to her as I didn’t want to create any more of an issue than we already  had, but it was on my mind. She was already 3 and half when this huge regression happened, but she never found the whole potty training thing easy.  To start with she wasn’t ready, but her twin was (Potty Training Twins was all new to me) and she wanted to be part of it too.  We soon called it quits. 

I then waited several months before starting potty training with her again and all seemed to be going fairly well.  I mean she had accidents, but they weren’t so frequent that it was a problem – except when we went to playgroup that is as there she’d just wee like a fountain! 

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Anyway I digress….  the big regression actually started when we went on holiday that year so it was probably triggered by change.  It was so bad that summer that we actually went back to pull ups.  Well we were away for the whole summer so we used swim nappies each day so she didn’t think she was back in nappies as she was still using those for swimming anyway and of course on holiday we spent all day in and out of the water so it made sense and  stopped the stress of her having an accident literally every time she needed a wee.  The regression was so complete that I  even took her to the doctors to make sure that she didn’t have a medical issue causing it, but no there was  no infection. 

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So when we returned home in September and she started nursery we just had to send in huge volumes of spare clothes.  We were essentially starting potty training again, but this time with a 3 year old who sometimes just didn’t even bother to try to get to the toilet. I really haven’t ever gotten to the bottom of why this happened, but my assumption is that change was the culprit and have just tried to be as positive as possible about the fact that we would get there eventually. 

Starting School During Potty Training Regression

She has now been at school for a term and a half and still has accidents. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason in many ways as she can go for weeks without any issue and then might have a day where she has several  accidents. 

I have noticed that when she is very tired or getting a cold the accidents ramp up so there is some clue there, but other times it is a mystery. Sometimes it is still when she is doing something she is really into and other times she can be standing next to the toilet and just not get on it!!!! 

The school are great about it and have made her a special chart with reward stickers when she gets toileting right.  She is doing much better and is very proud of herself which is just adorable.  

Top tips for starting again after Potty Training Regression:

  • Stay Calm – I know this is easier said than done especially when you are heading backwards and you thought you had this potty training nailed.  Just try to remember it will get better again and take deep breaths
  • Visit the Doctor – It is worth visiting the doctor just to rule out any infections or other medical issues that could be causing the potty training regression
  • Don’t Punish or Scold – It won’t help in the long run and will just make the issue even bigger.  
  • Seek Help – I contacted the children’s continence charity ERIC and asked for some advice.   They gave me some great tips and it was just reassuring to hear that this was normal and talk to an expert.  They have a free helpline and honestly it was one of the best calls I made. Just feeling like I had support helped me to stay calm and support my little one more effectively.
  • Positive Reinforcement – celebrate the wins!  Every time your child has success then loads of cuddles and praise works brilliantly.  My little one loves a sticker so sticker charts have really helped her to feel achievement.  Let them know that you believe in them and that they can do this!!

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  • Be Sympathetic – Although you may feel like screaming offer understanding and sympathy. Reassure your little one that this can happen and it is nothing to be upset about
  • Clean up and move on – The less fuss about the accident the better in my opinion.  We all know that children like attention whether positive or negative so I clean up any messes quietly and quickly and just ask my little one to get and put on some clean clothes.
  • Step back in the process – we started the whole thing again really and had set times to  go to  the toilet. I started reminding her again and looking out for her physical clues that she needed the toilet so that I could ask: ‘do you need the toilet?’ 
  • Make it fun – well as fun as  going to the loo can be…. We had a toilet toy box in place that had some fun things like bubbles, a favourite book and balloons to blow up in it,  She only got to use the toilet toys when she was on the toilet (so unhygienic; make them wipe-able items)  and so it became a more interesting place to be. When she was engrossed in a game I could remind her of the the toilet toys in an attempt to get her to head that way.  Also having bubbles and balloons really helps as the action of blowing can trigger the wee and give them the right feeling if you know what I mean. This was a tip from the very helpful people at Eric.
  • Talk to any Education Providers – As my little one was at nursery and then at school with all this going on I thought it was important to speak with them.  I have told her teachers what the physical signs are that she needs a wee so that they can look out for them and then remind her and have also learnt the things they are doing to help her during the day so that I can  chat with her about it. For example I will ask how many stickers did you get on your chart today.  I definitely recommend getting on the same page with any education provider so that your efforts can support one another and your little one



2 thoughts on “How to fix Potty Training Regression”

  1. Great post Kirsty. I hadn’t realised that potty training regression could go all the way back to square 1. I love your idea of having potty toys, especially ones that could trigger wee on. So clever and brilliant for all potty training I’d say. #DreamTeamLinky xxx

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