“My potty trained toddler is having accidents at school! I swear they go fine at home. What’s happening?”

Are you a parent faced with this situation? Potty training children is a roller-coaster ride, and potty training and accidents go hand in hand. One thing I’ve been noticing on my job as a teacher is that many toddlers have accidents at school when their parents say they’re fully potty trained. What’s going on? Could it be stress or environmental issues? Let’s break things down this Toddler Tuesday.

Reasons for Accidents: Stress and Embarrassment

You may have figured this out already, but toddlers face the stress of a new environment, they’re bound to show some signs of nervousness. Even if daycare isn’t a new experience for them, they still may face some separation anxiety in the morning and temporarily lose control. Keep in mind that your child may have no problem telling you when they need to pee or poop, but they could be embarrassed to tell their teacher.

Also, the stress of changes at home may cause potty training regressions. Have you recently moved, had a new baby, or experienced any other life changes that affected your child? They may seem fine, but having potty training accidents may be a sign that something is wrong.

Possible solution:

Make sure your child uses the potty before leaving the house in the morning. This way, if they have a separation anxiety meltdown, it could lessen the chance of any accidents. One great suggestion is to take a potty tour. Show your child the potty at daycare with their teacher. Have them try to use it while you’re there. They’ll see that it’s just like going at home and have thier teacher assure them that they’ll be ready to take them to the potty whenever they say they need to go.

Reasons for Accidents: Distraction

The ABC123 Potty Training Watch is a great tool for kids who are easily distracted.

They may also be excited by the days events and hold off on the potty until it’s too late. In a way you should be glad, because it means they’re enjoying themselves in daycare so much that they don’t want to use the potty in fear they’ll miss something. At this age, children haven’t quite learned to listen to the signs that it’s time to go to the bathroom.

Possible solution:

If you think this may be an issue, mention it to your child’s teacher. The teacher should remind them to try to use the potty and reassure them that whatever they’re working on will be there when they return.

Reasons for Accidents: Pressure

Sometimes, a child may feel stress from being pressured to use the potty when they don’t need to. Have you ever heard the phrase “a watched pot never boils”? They may sit on the potty and do nothing, but have an accident as soon as they leave.

Possible solution: 

Make sure the adults in your child’s life know that failure is part of the potty training process. If your child is vocal, make sure they feel comfortable expressing when they need to use the potty so they won’t feel so much pressure to go on demand. If your child can’t speak clearly, take them to the potty in intervals. They can probably try to go when they get to school, after they eat, and before and after nap. This way they’ll come to expect pottying as part of their routine.

Another Possibilty

In rare cases, it could be an underlying medical issue causing your child to have accidents. This may not be anything to worry about unless your child is having accidents at home as well.

What To Do When Your Child Regresses

1. Don’t Overreact

Yes, it can be very frustrating to have to bring a change of clothes or to hear that the child you believed to be potty trained…well, isn’t. Remember that this is all part of the learning process. Consider the reasons for the accident. What were the circumstances? In this case, you may be able to prevent it from happening again. Always provide an emergency  change of clothes and stash of extra underwear or pullups even if you believe your toddler is fully potty trained.

2. Avoid Restrictive Clothing

Those extra snaps may be all the difference in your child getting on the toilet in time. Choose clothes that are easy to put on and take off. This way your child won’t have to depend on their teacher for help and could minimize the stress on expressing when they need to use the potty. Not to mention, they’ll have further satisfaction of completing the process themselves.

3. Visit Your Doctor

Try this Potty Training Chart set to give your child a sense of achievement.

A visit to the pediatrician will keep you on the safe side and rule out any medical reasons for the accidents.

4. Give Them Incentives

Try some incentives to remind your toddler to use the potty. They’ll eagerly seek out the rewards and it will help them to be proud of themselves for using the potty all by themselves. Try something like the ABC123 Potty Training Watch which plays a tune to remind your child when they need to go to the bathroom. You can also try charts and reward kits like this one.

5. Avoid Pressure

Often, well-meaning adults will use phases like “big boys and girls use the potty” or something like that. Remember that your child is learning at his or her own pace. Don’t add unecessary pressure.

Final Thoughts

If your child has an accident, don’t take it personally. There are lots of reasons why toddlers may regress during potty training but rest assured that none of those reasons are to hurt you! They are learning about the potty and how to listen to their bodies, and they will be unavoidable accidents. Be patient. Enlist the help of your child’s teacher. If you work together, you can help your toddler to reach their potty training goal even faster.

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