Potty Regression: When Potty Training Goes Wrong
Potty regressions are very normal — and frustrating. One parent’s toddler explains it best: “It happens”
By Shannon Gallagher
Last week I found myself staring down my two-year-old as I pushed up my sleeves and prepared to clean up pee from her bedroom floor for the second time that day. “Coraline,” I said, totally exasperated, “What is going on? You peed in Mama’s car three times. You peed on my bed. On your bed. On the couch. On the floor. You’re peeing everywhere and Mama can’t take it anymore.” She looked back at me sweetly. “It happens,” she said with a shrug and a nod. Then she walked across the room and picked up her baby, still shaking her head. Her response made me laugh out loud. Though it didn't clean up the day’s umpteenth mess for me, it did offer some much needed levity, and a shot of perspective. It does happen. She’s two, and I’m the mama — cleaning up pee is in my job description.
Potty regressions are very normal, and very frustrating. Something as simple as a change in routine can cause a regression, as can a new baby, divorce, illness, or a move. Sometimes it happens just because. I couldn’t figure out why Coraline was having so much trouble all of a sudden — the accidents started as soon as we got home from vacation, which seemed backwards to me — so I turned to the ever-helpful Internet for information on how to deal with it. I found the most useful set of tips at Child Perspective. Their recommendations include consistency; lots of positive reinforcement for staying dry and going potty (and no negative attention for accidents); and being directive, not suggestive. (For example, say: “It’s time to sit on the potty,” not “Do you have to sit on the potty?”) While I was on the brink of putting Coraline back in diapers, these suggestions really worked for us and we’re already back on track.
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