When children are feeling stress (usually as a result of some type of change in routine), they may revert back to a previous stage of development where they remember feeling more safe and secure as a defense mechanism. For many kids, that means no longer using the potty and instead, being changed by Mom, Dad, Grandma, etc. They may be seeking that extra comfort and attention that they get in that intimate moment of being changed and having all your focus solely on them for a short period of time.
The likelihood of a regression happening is usually causally related to the amount of time that passes between potty training and the stressful event. Meaning, the longer your child has been potty trained, the less likely they are to regress.
Children are creatures of habit and when something is changed in even the smallest way in their daily routine, this can cause stress and anxiety to fill up inside of them causing a regression in some way. When the regression displays itself through potty accidents, it can be overwhelming and frustrating for parents! Especially if you all have recently finished the potty training process and put away the cleaning supplies!
So, how do you help your kiddo get back on track with their potty use after a regression?
Step 1: Identify the cause of their stress – Think about recent changes or disruptions in your lives. These could be major like welcoming a new sibling or moving to a new home or even minor things like getting a new teacher at school or a family member moving away.
If there are no obvious changes going on in their life, make sure there couldn’t be an underlying medical problem like constipation or UTI. Step 2: Remain consistent in your potty routine. Don't go back to diapers – Children gain comfort from predictability. You may need to take a step back and start offering gentle prompts again at certain times of the day, or even extra praise and rewards for their success.
Respond to all accidents in the same calm, matter-of-fact way.
Don’t switch back to diapers which will only add more uncertainty to the mix. Step 3: Be there for your child emotionally – Change can be really hard for young kids to deal with. Carve out at least a few minutes of each day to have some dedicated time to focus on your child. No phones, chores TV, or distractions, just you connecting with them. If the regression is attention-seeking this will help them fill their tank without resorting to potty accidents. Step 4: Stay positive – Instead of putting all your energy and focus into the accidents, catch your child doing GOOD potty behaviors and offer lots of praise or even a reward for their efforts.
Ultimately, a child’s main goal is to get our attention and they’ll keep repeating a behavior even if the attention they get is negative.
Show them that they get more attention from the good behaviors and the bad should fade away fairly quickly. So much of a child’s life is out of their control, that they often find little ways to hold control wherever they can, especially if they are feeling exceptionally out of control. It is our job as parents and guardians to create consistency, have patience, and stay positive throughout the entire process! Regressions shouldn’t last longer than 2 weeks, and if they DO, feel free to reach out to me! I offer fantastic potty training courses and consultation services that give heaps of guidance, support, and helpful information!