Why is My Potty Trained Child Regressing?

Wondering, 'Why is my potty trained child regressing after being on track with toilet training?' A southeast Michigan doctor weighs in.

Why is my potty trained child regressing? You might find yourself asking just that when your child – who seemed to be on track with toilet training – starts having accidents.

It’s a common issue and there are many factors that can cause a child to regress while toilet training, says Dr. Nakia Williams, a Henry Ford Health System pediatrician, based in Detroit.

Here, Williams offers some insight and advice for families who are struggling with this potty training setback.

Play over potty

A child finds it easier to just go potty where they are instead of getting up and going to the bathroom. Perhaps they’re playing with a toy and don’t want anyone else to get it if they get up and leave. Or maybe they’re at home watching a television show and don’t want to miss out on what happens next. Sometimes, children are so engrossed in what they’re doing that they actually forget to get up. These are common occurrences, Williams says.

Pay attention to any cues that your child may have to go potty, Williams says. These cues include jumping up and down in place, clutching their legs together and swaying from side to side. Look at your child’s facial expression. Are they concentrating too hard? If so, they are likely holding their pee.

“If they go a little bit and finish on the potty, that’s OK, she says. “Just explain to them afterwards that next time we have to make it to the potty a little sooner.”

Stress factors

If you’ve recently moved to a new home, had another child or if your child has started a new school or daycare, they could regress.

“If there is a new sibling, parents should anticipate it,” she says of this regression.

Many kids want to act like a baby because their new baby sister or brother is getting attention from their parents instead of them.

Negative experiences when potty training could also cause your child to regress, William says. For example, if child was constipated and it hurt last time they went, that can cause them to hesitate to use the potty.

“Kids are smart,” she says. “They don’t like things that hurt.”

How parents can help

Thanks to technology, parents can be a lot more distracted these days – and might miss what’s going on with their child. If your kid seems tired or off, it might affect his regression. He might be too tired to make it to the bathroom in time, which could be the root of the problem.

Be present with your child, Williams says, and keep off your phone so you can monitor this issue.

As a parent, you need to be patient and comforting if your child is having accidents. If you stress out about it, then your child is going to stress out, too. What to Expect suggests to, “Never scold, criticize or punish your child for having a setback.” If you are sensitive and talk to them after the accident, they’re less likely to get upset and regress.

Sometimes children need to start the training process over, and that’s OK. Sometimes the child may just not be ready. As their parent, you need to do what’s best for your child.


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