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Potty-training Setbacks: What To Do


You've made a lot of progress with your toddler and toilet training, then it happens: A night of bedwetting and another setback. Although some children are able to get a grasp of potty training from the get-go and never have accidents, a lot of parents experience setbacks.

It's natural to feel a little upset when setbacks occur, after all, you've invested a lot of time to ensure your child learns this important life lesson, so when your kid slips, it's tough. However, it's important to stay upbeat even when you're a tad frustrated. Stay the course so your son or daughter can sustain healthy potty-training habits for good.

"It's natural to feel a little upset when setbacks occur."

Is it an accident or regression?

Be sure you know whether your child is simply having a minor toilet-training setback or a more severe regression. While both are pretty normal for toddlers, there are differences between the two.

"It is very common for occasional setbacks in the early days, months, or even years of potty training," Scott J. Goldstein, M.D., a pediatrician at The Northwestern Children's Practice in Chicago, explained to Parents magazine. "But remember that a truly potty trained child should want to go on the potty. So a child who has several accidents every day and doesn't seem to care about [them] should not really be considered 'potty trained.'"

So, if your son or daughter has an accident, but still clearly shows that he or she wants to use the potty, then you're on the right track. However, if you notice that your child is indifferent about toilet-training setbacks, you might need to ask your pediatrician about regression and what you can do to stop it.

What you can do

First of all, staying positive is a must. Children who are trying to get the hang of potty training need encouragement and patience. Negative reinforcement only makes children more nervous about going to the toilet, according to Parents, which can make more setbacks occur. Instead, acknowledge the accident, do not punish your son or daughter and instead redirect him to the toilet and remind him that he needs to use the restroom. In the same vein, when your child is dry for a few days, reward him or her for the achievement. A trip to the ice-cream shop, a few shiny stickers or an extra weekly playdate is going to be a lot more encouraging than punishing him when accidents occur.

Parenting magazine also suggests reminding your daughter about trips to the toilet. If she has had a meal or snack and it's been a few hours since the last toilet session, ask your little one if she needs to go. Kids tend to get distracted easily during the toddler stage, so friendly reminders can be a big help. Training pants can also help bridge the gap between the diaper and potty-training stages, and there are plenty of options for all toddler ages and sizes.

Understand the why behind your child's setbacks

There are several root causes behind toilet-training setbacks, according to What to Expect. Some of these include pressure from parents, a lack of communication, distractions, tiredness, stress and simply not being ready for toilet training yet. Timing is important, but most toddlers will want to learn how to use the toilet between 20 to 30 months.

You should also look for signs of stress. For instance, your son or daughter might be having trouble at preschool or be anxious about a new brother or sister. Talking about these issues in the open will help him or her overcome the stress so you get him or her on the right track. Sometimes, a simple re-training session can do the trick as well. Walk your children through the potty training process in case they forgot, and keep asking throughout the day if your little ones needs to go to the restroom.

Toilet training can be tough on a toddler, and almost all parents endure a few setbacks along the way. The important thing is to stay positive and offer encouragement when accidents occur - these are the times when your little one needs mom or dad the most.

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