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Potty Training Regression


child refusing to potty train

My son will be three in June and has been potty trained for 5 months now with an occasional accident but for the most part was fully potty trained. Within the last few months he started showing some signs of discomfort when needing to go #2. He will freeze up his whole body stiff as a board and it prevents him from even walking to the bathroom.  Most times I would just carry him to the potty and he would then go #2 without a problem. Within the last few days when he starts showing these signs he refuses to go when I take him to the potty and will cry. Then usually about 15 minutes later he will have a small accident in his pants.. and I'll change him and encourage him to sit on potty but he refuses. Then a few minutes later another small accident...and so on.  Then he will eventually either have an accident in his pants or has been known to use the bathroom on the floor somewhere. I've done my best not to get upset with him and to use positive calm words but I'm starting to worry something has gone wrong.  I offer him his small potty or the big potty.  He doesn't seem scared of either. His stools aren't hard or I would be concerned about constipation.  I do wonder if maybe he had a hard stool once and is now afraid its going to hurt.  Any idea of what I should try next? 

This sounds very normal. Is there a stressor that triggered this regression? Did you have a new baby? Has he changed schools?

In our home, potty training goes though these tough stages where the correct parenting response seems uncertain. Your response needs to be calm, reassuring and persistent.

Start addressing these accidents by asking him to sit on the potty periodically. You can even read to him to help him sit for more than a few seconds. He will be more motivated to sit if you ask him before activities he enjoys. “Why don’t you try and go potty and then will have a snack.” We ask our potty training kids to sit and try before they swim in our pool. If they don’t sit and try they don’t get in the pool.

Encourage him when he keeps his pants dry. “Jimmy, you are being such a big boy today”. In our home, you cannot claim the title “Big Boy” until you are potty trained. Gordons that have accidents are still “toddlers”.

During these periods when he clearly needs to poop but seems unable offer to help him get to the potty and even offer a diaper if desired. When he has an accident, remain upbeat and say something like, “Its ok Jimmy. I’m sorry you had an accident. Soon you will learn to put all your pee pee and poo poo in the potty and then you will be a big boy.”

Potty training is hard. Hang in there, stay calm and give him time to work this out.

Follow up posted one month later

He has already overcome it :) Thanks for the response though :) He is doing excellent now. It was funny I went out and bought like 5 more books online to try and encourage him and I also stayed very positive.. he was already back on track before the books arrived :)



Written April 2012 by
Dr. Gordon, Orlando Pediatrician






gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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