You worked hard to potty train your toddler. Things were progressing smoothly and you might have even had weeks or months of smooth sailing. Then it happened. Your toddler who has been the king or queen of the potty starts going in their pants again.
If your toddler starts suddenly regressing you might be asking yourself how long does a potty training regression last? It can depend on the reason they are regressing, however most will subside within a few days to a week.
My own toddler started regressing after just a few weeks into potty training. You can read about how I potty trained my 21 month old here: Potty Training Tips for Toddlers Under 2
I was pulling my hair out, all of our hard work was going down the drain and going back to diapers was just not an option. This lead me to search everywhere for a solution and it all came down to the reason why he was regressing in the first place.
Below are common reasons why toddlers regress and the timeframe for their regression to subside.
Too Much Prompting
After reconsidering our progress with potty training and reading about how others were doing a few weeks in, I realized we were likely over-prompting our toddler to use the potty.
The first few days of potty training we were prompting every 30 mins. We gradually backed off but were still prompting every hour or so even a few weeks in.
This likely was leading him to not fully empty his bladder and also wasn’t teaching him how to hold his bladder for extended periods of time. Additionally, he was probably very frustrated with us forcing him to go to the potty so much.
Once we backed off and started taking him to the potty once every two hours he actually started self initiating more and we got his regression turned around in just a few days!
Too Little Prompting
On the contrary, some toddlers aren’t ready for full self initiating quite yet and too little prompting or no prompting at all can cause them to regress and have more accidents.
Speaking from experience, some toddlers get too engrossed in playing and won’t stop to go to the bathroom. They will hold it until they just can’t hold it anymore and then have an accident.
When they were newly potty training there might have been a small potty out in their playroom or the reward (sticker, candy, ect) may have been enough for them to remember to use the potty. However, after the excitement wore off and the little potty was put away some toddlers might regress a bit.
By prompting more this type of regression can be fixed overnight! Just remember to prompt every 2-2.5 hours. Some toddlers might need prompting to continue for many months, but follow your toddlers lead on when to decrease prompting intervals.
Removing the Reward Too Soon
For some potty training toddlers, the novelty of the potty training reward will eventually wear off. But, for others removing the reward too soon can cause a potty training regression.
With my toddler we originally tried a sticker chart as a reward for going on the potty. After a week or so he was no longer interested in the sticker chart and so we let that reward naturally fizzle out.
After he started to regress we added back the sticker chart with new and different stickers and he seemed much more motivated to use the potty again!
Like all things, the novelty of the new stickers will probably wear off again in the future, but we will stick with it until he is extremely comfortable with the potty. In this case fixing the regression only took a few days and some new stickers!
Stress from a life event is another common factor that may cause a toddler to regress in their potty training.
This can be something like a big move, a new sibling, or starting daycare. They may be used to a certain routine or be thrown off by having to use a different potty. Or they may be too emotionally overwhelmed to remember to use the potty or they may be stressed out and acting up.
When potty training regression is caused by stress, the source of the stress often needs to be addressed before the potty training regression will subside. This likely means a few days to a week or two, but will be dependent on the stressor.
They Just Aren’t Ready
No parent wants to hear this after weeks or months of potty training investment, but some toddlers are just not ready for potty training. Like many milestones in your child’s life, it has to be done on their time when they are self-motivated to do it.
I was hoping and praying that reverting back to diapers would not be our fate, but there is no shame in taking a step back from potting training for a while and waiting for your toddler to be ready. Signs of rediness can include:
- Announcing when they go in their diaper
- Showing interest in using the potty
- Hiding or going to a corner of the room when they have to go in their diaper
- Being dry for long periods of time
- Being dry after a nap or overnight
We learned these methods from using the Oh Crap! Potty Training method – you can check out the book here if you are interested!
The good news is that if your toddler does show all of most of these signs it doesn’t have to be back to diapers exclusively.
Consider having an hour or two each day where they play naked and have access to their little training potty. Consider using pull ups and taking a slower approach to potty training. Or consider doing a week-long reset where your toddler spends the time naked and really learns about their bodily functions again.
These were all things I was ready to try if our regression did not resolve after 1-2 weeks!
Even if you have to put potty training on hold for a while, try again in a few months or when your toddler is showing more readiness signs or showing more maturity.
Now What? How to Handle A Potty Training Regression
Once you’ve identified the likely cause of your toddler’s potty training regression (or even if you aren’t entirely sure), the next step towards resolution is to have a game plan.
- Stay calm – from personal experience I can say that regression and accidents are STRESSFUL. Try and refrain from yelling, sounding disappointed, or punishing your toddler for having an accident. This can put a negative stigma around using the potty.
- Address the cause of their regression – even if you aren’t entirely sure, try to get into your toddler’s head and consider any possible reason for their regression. Address and resolve the issue that is causing their regression or change up your potty training method if needed.
- Go back to the basics – try leaving your toddler naked from the waist down for a day or two until accidents subside, bring back the little toddler potty (we have one like this) if you put it away, adjust the interval of prompting to something appropriate for their ability, or bring back the sticker chart (like this one on Amazon)!
- Be patient – by following the three steps above, most regressions will resolve within a week or two. Its important to be consistent and remain calm, toddlers can often sense our moods and if we are stressed out it might make their regression worse.
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