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10 Helpful Tips For Dealing With Potty Training Regression

You’ve watched carefully for the signs that your little one’s ready, then applied all the tips you could find to potty train them. They ditch the diapers for big kid undies, and it seems like your work is done. But is it? First one accident, then another, and then potty training regression.

In this article, we’ll discuss just what potty training regression is, why it happens, and when you should be concerned. We’ll also offer 10 simple tips for handling any backslides that may occur.

Let’s dive in.

Table Of Contents

Potty Training Regression — What’s Going On?

Mom holding child who is having potty training regression

The first step to handling when a potty-training accident or two slips into a full-blown regression: take a deep breath. Regression is natural.

Learning is rarely a strictly linear process. Even as adults, we often follow a “two steps forward, one backward” path until we master some new skill. But when your child is doing so well on the potty, it’s natural to wonder what happened.

Many things can spark a regression. A common one: the arrival of a new sibling. Other causes include a move to a new location, starting daycare, a change in babysitter, or some other routine shift that may not seem large to you but is to your little one.

While regression is common because of the way children learn and the life changes that can throw them for a bit, it is always good to check in with your toddler’s pediatrician to make sure there’s no medical reason for the backslide, like an infection.

It’s also possible your little one wasn’t really ready for potty training when it was introduced. It may be that you were ready, but your toddler, after a little progress, wasn’t developmentally prepared for the entire journey. Don’t sweat it. They will be.

In fact, even a full-blown regression rarely lasts that long (although it seems to drag on). Most often, children will resume their progress in a matter of days or weeks.

So while there may be very good reasons for your little one to regress, there are still things you can do to help them through this phase. Here are some tips to help your toddler get back on track to potty-training success.

10 Tips To Help Your Child Overcome Potty Training Regression

As you consider the following tips and how they might help, keep in mind one overarching principle: They all require your patience.

Potty training is not easy — for you or your little one. And, if your child feels pressure, they may have some performance anxiety.
 Mom holding child on toilet during potty training regression

1) Recognize Their Need For Support

One thing your little one is clearly telling you when they regress: I need your help and support. Potty training is a huge thing for a child. As automatic as it may seem to adults, it’s a major undertaking for your toddler.

They need your example, encouragement, and reassurance. Make sure you’re carving out enough time to spend with them throughout this process.

You may have tried the three-day method, which definitely has its advantages. But regression signals a need for more of your time and attention. It will be well worth it when you see your little one master this new skill!

2) Don’t Punish

Regression isn’t a case of failure to obey. It’s your little one grappling with a whole new world of self-awareness, bodily control, and other critical skills.

As we mentioned above, perceived pressure can be part of why your little one is regressing. So don’t add to it by showing your disappointment or frustration.

When an accident happens, try a simple, “Oh, you had an accident. Let’s go sit on the potty” or a kind reminder like, “Remember, pee goes in the potty.” Your body language and gentle assistance will reassure them while your direction will help them learn.

3) Ask Your Child How They’re Feeling

Talk frankly with your toddler about what’s changed.

They may not have enough vocabulary or be fully aware of what they’re feeling to give you a detailed and specific explanation. But you may find there’s a reason for their sudden potty training regression you hadn’t considered.

For example, some children become afraid of the potty itself. Do they not like a potty’s new location? Are they afraid of a new daycare setting, teacher, or babysitter? Sometimes, you can piece together a root cause for your toddler’s shift in behavior.

But even if they can’t tell you why or express themselves clearly, your kind, straightforward conversation about using the potty will help them feel supported. You’ll also be laying the foundation for future communication as they grow.

4) If There’s A Problem, Fix It

If you find there is an issue at the root of your child’s regression, do what you can to solve the problem.

If it’s a potty location, perhaps moving it to a less scary location might help. If a new sibling has sparked the change, spend more one-on-one time with your toddler. If it’s a new environment — new daycare, new home — see how you can make it more comfortable and familiar.

You may not always be able to entirely solve the problem, but you may be able to tweak a few things to help get your toddler back on track.

5) Sympathize

It’s easy to sympathize with someone going through an ordeal you’ve been through — except when that ordeal was decades ago and almost impossible for you to remember. So how can you sympathize with your little one facing the ordeal of the potty?

First, think through what your toddler is trying to accomplish and why it’s so daunting. Acknowledge that in simple terms they can understand, and let them know you understand how challenging it is.

Then, share an experience with them that you do remember from your childhood where you learned something, made progress, but then regressed. Let them know it wasn’t easy to recover, but it wasn’t impossible either.

You did it, and you know they can, too!

6) Remind Them — Gently

In some cases, it’s easy for a child to slip back into their familiar mindset around using the bathroom. After all, they’ve been in diapers up until this point. Keep reminding them how to use the potty and when and reinforce the steps.

Reminders and practice can make all the difference.

7) Keep Up A Good Potty Routine

Reminding your child is more than just verbal cues of what’s expected. It also includes maintaining an awareness of the potty and where it is.

But, most importantly, it requires you to help them stick to a regular potty routine: sitting on the potty after waking from sleep or a nap, after meals, and before bedtime.

Also, pay attention to your child’s “potty signals” and gently ask, “Do you need to use the potty?”

Mom potty training her child

8) Consider Rewards

Some parents avoid tying successful potty use to tangible rewards, preferring to rely on encouragement and praise. Others employ simple rewards for using the potty, such as stickers, a sweet treat, tickets good for a “prize” when they collect a set amount, etc.

Consider using rewards if your little one has regressed. Think about reserving play time with a special toy for when they succeed or reading them their favorite book.

No matter what you use, make them feel special and celebrate their success and growth.

9) Keep Being Positive

Whatever the reason, your little one’s regression is likely a symptom of the stress they are feeling. So do all you can to alleviate it by being positive. Lots of praise when they use the potty will go a long way.

And steady encouragement in the face of an accident — while not dismissing it as OK — will help keep your child’s stress at bay and pave the way for more progress.

10) Take A Break

One final thing to consider: Take a break from active potty training if you need to. That doesn’t mean you’re waving a surrender flag and giving up. But we all can use a break sometimes.

A break might be especially helpful if your child’s potty training regression has lingered on for over a month. Putting the potty away for a few weeks and then revisiting it may be just what your child needs to approach it refreshed and ready to succeed.

Is Bedwetting Potty Training Regression?

Child playing in his toddler bed

Another very important thing to remember about potty-training regression: Nighttime accidents are not necessarily signs of regression. In fact, it’s quite normal for children to have occasional bedwetting episodes up to the age of seven. So don’t panic, just prepare.

When your little one is transitioning from a crib to a big-kid bed, make sure you consider good quality mattress covers and washable mattresses, such as our 100% Washable Kids’ Mattress. If they’re still in a converted crib, our waterproof crib mattresses can do the trick!

You’ll Both Get There

Potty training regression can catch you off guard and cause you to worry. But don’t sweat it.

Stay patient and apply the tips from this article, especially the ones about remaining positive, praising your child, and taking the time to talk to, sympathize with, and understand them.

To lessen the pressure on yourself and your little one, be prepared for the longer path to a dry night’s sleep by getting a 100% Washable Kids’ Mattress or Waterproof Crib Mattress.

In the blink of an eye, this will all pass, and your toddler will be well on the way to being a big kid!