How to Deal With Potty Training Regression


Potty training regression is not all that uncommon in toddlers. It can be rather frustrating for the parents who have ticked another milestone off the list and no longer purchasing diapers (Yippee), only to have “accidents” happening frequently.

It is important to remember that showing your frustration will do little to help your toddler overcome this setback.

Fortunately, these setbacks can be short-lived and resolved in a few days or weeks. Take a deep breath; you have this covered.

Potty Training Regression

What is Potty Training Regression?

Potty training regression typically takes place sometime after potty training has completed. Your child would have enjoyed a period of dryness before consistently reverting to not using the potty or toilet.

If you have just finished potty training your child, you can expect accidents to occur still, and these accidents do not indicate that your child is experiencing regression. This period should still be considered part of potty training.

What Causes Potty Training Regression?

Any form of potty training regression will likely fall into one of the following categories.

Distraction and Excitement:

Most often, potty training regression is linked to distraction or too much excitement.

Distraction – your toddler gets absorbed with an activity or TV program, and they do not recognize the toilet signals they are getting from their body.

Excitement – your toddler is having way too much fun doing something, and they do not want to interrupt what they are doing to go to the toilet. Add the giggles to this scenario, and your little one is even more likely to have an accident.

Environment and Routine:

A change in environment can bring on regression – starting at a new daycare, pre-school or moving to a new house.

A change in routine could also trigger the regression – a primary caregiver going back to work.

Social and Emotional Changes:

The arrival of a new sibling could also be disruptive for your potty-trained toddler, which possibly leads to them seeking additional attention from their primary caregiver.

The embarrassment caused due to a toileting mishap that may have taken place at pre-school may drive the potty's fear.

Parents going through a divorce could cause stress for their toddler resulting in mishaps.


If your child is suffering from constipation or a urinary tract infection (URI), it is better to seek medical advice and treat these causes before continuing with potty training. During this time, your little one will be experiencing discomfort and pain and less likely to want to go anywhere near the potty, which is understandable.

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How Long Does Potty Training Regression Last?

As mentioned earlier, this can be rectified in a few days or weeks, provided the cause of the regression is not medical.

You have successfully potty trained your toddler previously, so you know what was required to reach this milestone. Regression is just a bump in the road for your toddler and dealing with this should be straight forward.

Dealing With Potty Training Regression

It is essential to try identifying the cause of the regression and then work on rectifying the reason to get past this phase.

Tip 1: Staying Calm and Offering Encouragement

Staying calm and not displaying your frustration at the mishap is the first step in dealing with the regression. This tip alone can shorten this phase considerably.

Your toddler is going through a phase that will pass. They will need all the encouragement you provided during potty training to get them through this time too. Celebrate the wins and encourage through the mishaps.

Tip 2: Getting to the Root of the Problem

Identifying any of the possible causes listed above as to why your little one may be going through this setback is an excellent second step. Once you have a fair idea, then you can put a plan in motion to help them overcome their fear.

For example,

Distraction – encouraging regular visits to the toilet is a good starting place. Re-affirm if there is a time limit on the playtime that going to the toilet will not shorten this playtime, that they will still get their “allotted” time.

Change in routine – allow for extra time, if possible, to change the routine to what you require. Involve your little one in the decision making of the new routine. Give your child a few options (all that are acceptable to you) and let them pick how they want the new routine to run—all the while reassuring them during the change.

Tip 3: Requesting Help

Asking your toddler to help with the clean-up, maybe not with the actual cleaning. Requesting them to fetch the cloths used to clean up the mess, placing their soiled underwear and clothes in the laundry basket, getting dry underwear and clothes. This cleaning up time is a perfect opportunity to chat with your toddler to determine what is causing their accidents.

Tip 4: Encouraging Regular Visits to the Toilet

Encouraging your toddler to go to the toilet at regular intervals can help them get back on track. Usually, after mealtimes or before a nap is an excellent time to encourage them to go to the toilet. These times are when they are likely to need to go.

Providing your child with a potty training watch set at regular intervals will remind them of music and lights when they go to the potty. Be sure to read our review of the five best potty training watches. These watches can help take some pressure off a parent who might otherwise be busy with a sibling.

Tip 5: Watching For Signs They Need To Go

There are usually tell-tell signs that your toddler is desperate to go to the toilet. Some of these are:

  1. Dancing around
  2. Crossing their legs
  3. Clutching at their privates
  4. Retreating to a corner or quiet room

At any sign they need to go, it is an excellent time to encourage them to go to the potty. Do not forget to celebrate the success.

Tip 6: Introduce a Reward System

Introduce a reward chart to record and celebrate the successful potty events. The rewards may need to differ from what you used during the potty training phase – ensure that the rewards are relevant to what motivates your child. Make a fuss about the wins. Be sure to read our 5 Best Potty Training Charts review.

Tip 7: Be Consistent

When dealing with children, being consistent in your potty training regression is key to your success and moving past this phase quickly. Now is not the time to revert to diapers. Reverting to diapers will only add confusion for your child. As you select your strategy to help your child move beyond this phase, remain consistent and encouraging all the way through.

Tip 8: Seek Medical Advice

If your child displays any discomfort or pain when using the potty, either peeing or pooping, seek out medical advice as they may have constipation or urinary tract infection. Be sure to deal with these symptoms first before attempting any other strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Potty training regression in 3- and 4-year old’s

Potty training regression is not age-related but somewhat connected to stress and changes experienced by your toddler. However, around the age of 3, your toddler starts to develop the capacity to feel embarrassed. Should an accident occur at this age, they may feel embarrassed and subsequently start displaying regression signs.

When is my child ready to be potty trained?

Children between the ages of 18 months to 3 years are usually ready to start potty training. Remember there is no prize for the “youngest potty trained”, so do not place unnecessary pressure on yourself or your little one. You can read about the signs your child is ready for potty training here.

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