Let’s Talk Dirty…Potty Training

Our youngest (born) three-year-old child has been potty trained for a good 4 months now and things were going GREAT! We were having ZERO accidents and only wearing pull-ups at night…and waking up dry 50% of the time. We felt that Delise was on her way to a pull-up free life in just a few short weeks.

Then something happened…the idea of being in underwear, stopping what she was doing to use the restroom, and the novelty of being a “big girl” wore off. Potty accidents started creeping into her day and she started wetting the bed during nap time. I found myself getting frustrated day by day at her lack of care for being “dry” anymore. Why was this “Potty Trained little 3 year old” going backwards with her milestones?

So I looked in Parent Magazine and found some truly interesting pointers I wanted to share with all of you on this topic called “Potty Training Regression.”

Don’t Overreact!

If your child has an accident, don’t show disappointment; doing so can make your little one more anxious and that, in turn, can lead to more potty problems. “Despite the frustration of having to head back into accidents and diapers because of toilet-training regression, do everything you can to stay positive,” says Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a Parents advisor and pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. When you check to see if your child is dry, clap and cheer if she is. If she’s not, just remain nonjudgmental and say, “Oops. You had an accident. Let’s go sit on the potty.” Remember to remain upbeat and never yell at or scold your child. “You want your children to feel empowered and not worry they’re going to be punished if they make a mistake,” explains Lisa Asta, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco.

Resolve the Root Causes

You’re not going to stop the setbacks if you don’t address the exact problem. “Try to identify the reasons for the regression, as addressing them will help the child return to where she was,” says Mark Wolraich, M.D., Chief of the Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Director of the Child Study Center. For instance, many children start having accidents during times of transition that might cause stress, such as starting a new school or welcoming a new sibling. Chances are, once your lives settle down, your child will master potty training once again. But even if your child makes it through the day without accidents, she still may have mishaps at night. “Many kids are not dry at night for years after they are dry during the day,” Dr. Goldstein says. “Nighttime and naptime control are very different than daytime control.” Medical issues can also cause potty training regression, and constipation is a common one. If a child has difficulty having a bowel movement, she might steer clear of the potty altogether to avoid having to push and strain. Make sure your child is getting enough fiber and plenty of water, but if she’s scared of pooping on the potty, play games or read books with her while she sits on the toilet to make it more fun.

Give Gentle Reminders to Go

Often, accidents happen because a child is having too much fun playing or doing an activity and just doesn’t want to stop to run to the bathroom. To resolve this situation, explain that it is normal to forget to use the potty sometimes and reassure your child that she’s still “a big girl,” Dr. Goldstein says. “Then take her to the potty every few hours at home and ask her teachers to make sure she gets to the potty frequently. Simple, gentle reassurance and reminders to use the potty will get a child back on track.” Encourage your child to at least try to use the potty when she first wakes up, before meals, before bedtime, and immediately before you leave the house.

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