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How do I Avoid Potty Training Regression?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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When a toddler first begins potty training, parents are often warned of something called potty training regression. In this situation, a child may be learning to use the toilet, then suddenly start backsliding, having more and more accidents. Two ways to help prevent potty training regression are to make sure that your child is actually ready to learn to use the toilet, and to avoid any major environmental changes around potty training time. Also, to achieve potty training success and avoid setbacks, do not punish your child if he has an accident or resists using the toilet, and make sure that your potty training technique is consistent.

Potty training timing can be a bit confusing at times, because some children are ready to begin potty training before two years old, while others may not be ready until they have almost reached their fourth birthdays. Recognizing the signs of potty training readiness can help reduce the odds that your child will regress when learning to use the toilet. Some studies show that children that begin to potty train before they are ready often take much longer to learn to use the toilet by themselves. Others may even completely learn this skill, only to revert back to needing diapers a few months down the road. If your child does not show an interest in the toilet, or isn't showing any other signs of being ready to potty train, chances are he isn't, and forcing the issue could lead to potty training regression.

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Most experts agree that a stable, structured, and calm environment is the ideal setting for a child who is potty training. Sometimes, a significant change in a child's environment, such as a new home, daycare, or sibling, can lead to potty training regression. If possible, when potty training a child, make sure that it doesn't happen either right after or during any major change.

Negative reactions or negative reinforcement often have an impact on potty training, which can also lead to potty training regression. If a child does not seem to show any interest in using the potty, or has numerous accidents, punishing him will usually not make the situation any better. Punishment may make your child have a negative association with the toilet, which is counterproductive to potty training. If an accident does happen, simply clean the child off and set him on the toilet until he can go, but don't force it if he puts up a fuss.

Pediatricians often advise parents to be consistent in their potty training techniques, whether at home or anywhere else the child may go. If a child stays with other relatives, or goes to a babysitter or daycare, inform the adults responsible for him that you have begun potty training. Explain your technique and ensure that they are willing to stick with it. Many times, if the potty training technique is changed or abandoned when you aren't around, it can confuse the child and, possibly, lead to potty training regression.

Illness can also lead to potty training regression sometimes. If a child has an illness that makes it difficult to urinate, defecate, or control either of these bodily functions, consulting a pediatrician is advised. A problem such as a urinary tract infection or constipation, for example, can make it hard or painful for a toddler to go to the bathroom. Clearing up these health problems will often help get him back on track.

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