Dealing With Potty Training Regression Without Shame

March 29, 2013  |  

Potty training is to date the most stressful parenting challenge I’ve experienced. I was fortunate in most respects. My son let me know when he was ready to use the potty and he meant it. After a few accidents and some material motivation in the form of an awesome new dump truck, he was good to go. Until we left town for the weekend and let him spend the weekend at Grandma’s house.

Our weekend away was stressful for everyone. I was in the process of weaning my daughter, the kids had never spent an entire weekend away from both of their parents, and my mother was overwhelmed which in turn stressed the kids out more. It wasn’t a good time. During our absence and the surrounding turmoil my son’s potty training progress fell off track and when we returned from our trip we were back to square one.

Scratch that. It was worse.

My son began having accidents and we couldn’t figure out way. It was frustrating for everyone. He was upset and disappointed. He’d become inconsolable at times. My husband and I were frustrated and felt hopeless. We’d invested plenty of time to ensure a smooth transition from diaper to potty and it seemed that one weekend away eliminated all the hard earned progress. Thankfully, we learned some lessons throughout the process for the next time around.


Once you’re sure you’re in the throes of regression and not just a rare accident, it’s time to get serious. There is no telling how long regression will last but there are steps you can take to minimize the associated inconveniences.

Try to stay home as much as possible until your child is back on track. Impractical? Absolutely. Try it if you can. If you think cleaning up a mess at home is bad imagine having to clean the floor in the middle of Target as your embarrassed child looks on. Heartbreaking and messy. Try to save any nonessential outings until you’re past the regression hump.

Prep your home as well. I have a white couch. My son was nowhere near it during this time period. I’d leave him in as little clothing as he was comfortable in, place the potty nearby, and cover any surfaces with an old towel. A little extra laundry beats having to replace a couch.

Plan for the worst in advance. Save your sanity.

Poker Face

Do not get visibly upset. This is hard. Close to impossible. Fight the urge.

If your child can detect any trace of anger or disappointment in your reaction its going to make the regression ordeal worse. I know it’s maddening. The cleaning, the crying, and the questions. Why is this happening? What did I do wrong?

Deal with it later. No matter how badly you feel about regression, your child feels worse. Put on your happy face, clean the mess, act like nothing happened, comfort your child if you have to, and go about your business.


Always easier said then done. I’m the most impatient person but not when it comes to my kids. Regression will push you to the outer limits of parenting sanity. I promise you that. No sugarcoating here. It is a tough time but dig deep from that parenting well of patience and support your child.

Show kindness, love, and pride to your child. Regression is a perfectly normal part of potty training. Your child isn’t making things difficult on purpose.

However, trust your instincts. Your child could be ill or not coping well with recent changes in his or her life. Talk to your pediatrician to rule out any health issues that could be affecting your child’s bathroom habits.

Did your child regress at any point during potty training?

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