A mom’s story
about toilet training regression
and what she did to stop it

This story was shared by Thelma about the toilet training regression period she’s experienced with her daughter:

My daughter is the younger one of my two kids. She has an older brother. She’s an amazing girl who’s extremely strong-willed, independent and opinionated. She’s constantly testing the boundaries, both at home and in Daycare.

I potty trained her during the last summer (July 2011) and it went pretty well. She was two years and 6 months old at the time, and her behavior indicated she’d been ready for a while.

The only reason I had waited was that I myself wasn’t feeling “up to the task”. But I knew it wasn’t right to keep stalling, so we’d finally started.

We had a few successful weeks before Toilet Training Regression

Potty training itself was nice and short: I picked a certain weekend to start, and on that morning I told my daughter we were taking off the diaper, putting on new underpants (which I let her pick), and going Wee-wee in the toilet.

    We had a toilet training seat placed in our bathroom – the kind of seat that goes on top of the regular toilet seat, and has a step-stool attached to it.

In the first days of the potty training I would tell my daughter when to go pee in the toilet. We had some potty training accidents -- I’d say about 50% accidents and 50% success during the first couple of days. During the first week this ratio had improved, until the potty training accidents stopped completely after 2-3 weeks.

And there we were: proudly potty trained after 3 weeks -- for peeing AND for pooping. My girl still needed help taking off her pants and underpants, but it didn’t interfere with her training. She even got help from her big brother sometimes.

… And then came some serious Toilet Training Regression

I think it started some time after the opening of school year. Suddenly my daughter started peeing in her cloths. She would do that frequently: 2 or 3 times in one hour.

(It didn’t happen with pooping though. She’d still poop in the toilet.)

I was sure that it didn’t have anything to do with her ability to control peeing, because she’d already proven this ability. I assumed she was doing it to test boundaries, or that she was rebelling or whatever.

Her toilet training regression was happening both at home and in Daycare. Her behavior in Daycare was strange though, when the regression first started. She would try to hide her wet cloths and reach for her new cloths, without being noticed by the nannies.

How did I respond to her regression?

At home, I tried to make it clear to her that it wasn’t acceptable. I was sure she was controlling this behavior so I wanted her to know I wasn’t OK with it.

I spoke to the Daycare team about taking the same approach over there, but I guess we weren’t so consistent, and maybe I wasn’t always reacting the same way at home (except for the part of getting upset).

It was also hard for my husband to get on-board with this approach. He’s been much softer with her.

The toilet training regression went on and off for a while, with some good periods here and there. It usually would get worse in alignment with changes, like when the Daycare teacher went off sick for 3 weeks.

Finally: What really helped with our Toilet Training Regression

At some point I met with a children’s psychologist (more like a consultant), who confirmed my earlier intuition that this toilet training regression was probably about my daughter testing the boundaries and checking how far she could go with this behavior.

The consultant helped me form a consistent model for reacting to my daughter’s regression, which was:

  • Go sit on the toilet: Once she’s peed in her cloths, we stop whatever we were doing and go sit on the toilet. Not for a long time, just enough to make a point.

  • No discussions whatsoever: We go change immediately. We do it firmly, shortly and without discussing it or fussing about it. We simply don’t give it any “emotional attention”, because that’s what she’s after.

  • Revoke all rights: If she’s peed in her cloths, she doesn’t get to choose what new underpants and cloths she puts on (which is very important to her). She also doesn’t get to choose what game to play right after it happened, or what to watch on TV.

    (Losing the right to choose is not a long-term punishment, rather a short-term, direct consequence of this unwanted behavior.)

  • My tone: If she’s peed in her pants, I’m not going to be nice about it. I’ll be strict, in control, and I’ll make it clear to her that I’m NOT OK with it.

Happy to say, I was able to carry this on long enough to actually stop her regression.

She’ll still have the occasional relapses, but so far I’ve managed to stop them quickly by sticking with this “To do”, and I got the Daycare team to adopt these guidelines too.

It’s still hard for my husband though, so she’ll behave differently with him.

If I had to analyze it, I’d say that my daughter’s toilet training regression was a combination of two things mainly:

    (1) Her reaction to changes that affected her emotionally (not huge issues, just the stuff that goes around in our lives)

    -- AND --

    (2) Her strong-willed nature and tendency to test everything.

At times it would seem that she’d never give up… but all-in-all it looks like my consistency is now paying-off.

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