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Our daughter became potty trained almost two months ago. She was pretty good with very few accidents (maybe one every week or two). Two weeks ago she had some massive regression. She wets her pants now more times then not, probably about 85% of the time. She will now only go to the potty when we coax her to with candy as a reward. She will not go with candy as a reward of her own incentive, only with coaxing. When we ask her why she keeps doing this, she says she's having to much fun to go to the potty.

Is she ready? Anyone have similar experiences? What solutions are there to encourage her to go on her own?

  • My littlest had this issue and had accidents every time he became constipated. He would hold it because it would start to hurt, vicious cycle ensued. It was hard to tell when he was constipated otherwise, adding to the difficulty. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 26 '15 at 18:50
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Is she ready?

BabyCenter offers a checklist that you can go through to see if your child is ready to be potty-trained.

Considering you already potty trained her once, I would guess that she meets the physical and cognitive "requirements" of potty training. Since she was highly successful (an accident once every other week or so), I would also suppose that she met the behavioral requirements.

Without knowing all of the details, I would still be willing to assume that, yes, your daughter is ready.

Why is she having problems now?

Potty trained children regressing is a fairly common occurrence. Children will start wetting their pants again for a variety of reasons:

  • They're too engaged with their activities (which seems to be your case!)
  • Big changes in their life happen (such as a new daycare, preschool, or sibling)
  • Illness
  • Realizing their Pull Ups work just as well as diapers for pee
  • And more

Sometimes it can be hard to determine what the reason is, so you've got to try tackling all of your bases. However, it seems here that we have a pretty good idea as to why your daughter has stopped using the potty: It's boring, and she'd rather be doing her fun stuff.

So, now, you'll have to treat this as a behavioral problem. Your daughter now knows it's not okay to wet her pants anymore. She knows she needs to stop playing when she needs to go potty. Instead, she's refusing.

What can I do?

You're going to have to force some consistency on your daughter. Since she's refusing to go on her own schedule, I would start making her go on a schedule of your choosing.

Every [X] hours you can have her stop what she's doing and take a trip to the potty instead. She doesn't get to argue or keep playing (or doing whatever). She just has to go. If she refuses, you could use your existing discipline system. Typically, it's not recommended to discipline a child during potty training, but she's technically already potty trained and is now misbehaving.

This method is very controlling, however, and doesn't really set up your daughter to be independently successful. It may work, but it'd be better to instill motivation in your daughter to take care of herself without your control.

One way to do this would be using a simple sticker chart type of concept. If your daughter uses the potty without wetting her pants, she gets a sticker (and maybe some candy, too). If she has a sticker for the last time she went potty, then she can choose when to go to the potty the next time (which may be when she's not having as much fun). If she wets her pants (no sticker), then she has to go the next time whenever you tell her to.

Personally, I would choose the times that are most inconvenient for her, so that she learns it's better to do it herself! If your daughter is allowed to watch TV, for instance, the middle or end of an episode is prime time to send her to the potty. You may deal with more tantrum-like behavior or arguments during these times, but if you can calmly let her know that she could have waited if she'd earned her star, then I think the message will get across.

If she tries to go when you tell her to, but can't (because she doesn't need to), then I would still count it as successful (gets a sticker). Unless it becomes a problem where she's constantly wetting herself 10 minutes after you made her sit down, there's no reason not to count an attempt as a success.

Another trick that may help is getting an electric egg timer. You can get one pretty cheap (I recently bought one for $6 or $7 at Target), and they allow you to set timers for longer stretches than conventional egg timers. To use the timer, I would set it for 2-3 hours, and explain to your daughter that when the timer goes off she should go to the bathroom if she needs to. The alarm on the timer may be enough to snap her out of whatever else she's so focused on. This is a more passive trick, though, and may not be successful if your daughter is willfully choosing not to go, versus some kids who forgetfully don't go.

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Ultimately you're facing a very common issue that will recur many times throughout your daughter's life: convincing her she wants to do something instead of play. Potty, eat dinner, go to bed, brush teeth, whatever: playing is way more fun than any of these things, right?

With potty is the additional factor that you can't really tell her when it's time to potty. You can introduce artificial times, but ultimately you're in a better place when she realizes she needs to go and does. If she's clearly too young to realize this, then she's probably not truly ready to potty train, and you need to decide if it's time to go back to pull-ups for a while or stick with it through this.

I don't think external motivations are really likely to work here, unless you're effectively back in early potty training. We didn't find external motivations to be useful for choosing to go when our son needed to go, either: they were useful for getting him to be comfortable going, and realizing he could go, particularly with poop. Actually realizing he needed to go independently took him wanting to.

What did work when he occasionally had problems: expecting him to be responsible for helping to clean up when he had an accident. We treated this in exactly the way we treat him spilling - intentionally or accidentally - his drink or his cereal milk or what have you. We don't blame him, we don't shame him, we just ask him to go get a towel and clean it up; and if it's clearly too big to fix (like a whole gallon of milk or something like that), we help contain it, but we expect him to do a significant chunk of the work.

So, for potty accidents, it depended on the kind of accident. Pee accidents he goes into the bathroom, tries to go to make sure it's all gone, then changes his underwear and pants (and shirt or socks if needed) and puts them in the hamper (We kept one near the living room for this purpose). Then he gets a towel and cleans up anything on the floor. This didn't always work perfectly; he often was pretty upset at the accident, even though we were very careful never to blame him or shame him - we treated it just like I would treat my wife if she dropped a glass of water on the floor. We helped him if he needed help, but only enough to get him back on track. Poop accidents (which were a bigger problem for us as he had a hard time with poop for a few weeks) he got a bit more help as we wanted to wash out the underwear, but he still had to cooperate with helping and he had to get his replacement clothes.

This helped us both because it reduced the amount of work we needed to do - which reduced the stress on us - as well as making him responsible for his own actions. That led to him choosing to go to the bathroom more frequently, which at this point (4 months later) has meant we have nearly no accidents. And if he chooses to occasionally not pay attention to his bladder, well, he knows what to do to fix it - and usually doesn't even need to involve us.

  • I like the idea of the child helping to clean. For your son, was he "successfully" trained for a period of time and then had issues, like the OP? – user11394 Jan 26 '15 at 17:15
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    Yes, although never quite as much as OP is describing, but he did go through a very similar phase a month or two after training was complete that we pretty quickly eliminated this way. It was mostly #2s, though. – Joe Jan 26 '15 at 17:17

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