This is a delicate time in your child’s development and a number of situations can cause a child to regress in toilet training. Often times, rebellion is what is causing your child to regress. Your child may have an accident as a reaction to being upset with you or upset with something in his life that he has no control over. Not being able to control the situation causes him to react in a way that he knows gets attention – by having an accident. Additionally, many children will often regress when there are changes occurring in the home. A new baby brother, a family move, a divorce; any change can cause stress and confusion in a child this young and can trigger a regression. Lastly, an accident could also be just that – an accident. Children at play will often hold it until it’s too late.
Regardless of the cause of the regression, it’s important that you not overreact. Provide reassurance by acknowledging his accident and telling him that next time he will do better and make it to the potty on time. Overreacting to a potty accident can crush a child’s confidence.
If your child suddenly begins to have more accidents than usual, take a step back and think about what has been going on in his world. Has there been a change recently that could be upsetting to him? If so, you must find a way to address the cause in order to get him back on track.
If you believe the cause of your child’s regression is stress, get to the bottom of it. If you believe there is nothing at home that is causing the stress, check with his preschool to see if he has experienced any problems related to using the potty. Perhaps he had an accident and received an overly negative reaction from a caregiver.
If the accidents are bowel movements, you should make sure that your child is not having problems with constipation. Talk to him about it. Ask him if it hurts when he goes potty. Often when constipation causes pain, a child will simply try to will the need to go potty away and will ultimately have an accident. If constipation is to blame, you may need to modify his diet or supplement his diet with foods that help.
After determining that neither stress nor a physical problem is to blame for his accidents, you may need to just be more diligent in offering reminders and taking him to the potty.
Lastly, a setback in toileting may require you to rely on your old tricks whether that means reinstating the reward system or reading children’s stories about potty training again.