Potty Training: When a Child Has a Setback in Toilet Training

Potty Training: Parenting Q & A

My three year old has been potty trained now for a little over a year. She turns four in December. My husband and I had recently had a new baby. My three year old seemed fine with it the first two months. We also had just recently moved to a new place farther away from family. Now every morning and throughout the day she is wetting herself and pooping her pants. It seems like we have tried every method there is out there to fix it. But nothing seems to work. We've tried talking to her, timeout, giving her time alone with each of us away from the baby. But nothing works. Please give us some advice on how to fix this problem. Thank you.



Potty Training Q & A

Laura's answer:

First, I'd like to give you an understanding of potty training and why regression can occur, then I will give you tips on how to help your daughter overcome her issues.

Understand that potty training has a psychological as well as a physiological component. Just as your child needs to develop the fine muscular control that is necessary for holding versus letting go, she must develop an emotional understanding of why it is better for her to go in the toilet like a big girl, rather than wetting or pooping her pants.

Unless your child has sustained some kind of injury, physiological development is permanent, however, emotional stress can trigger a setback in her toilet training which can lead to regression. This affects your child's willingness to act on the physical cues that tell her when she needs to go the bathroom.

In the adult world, psychologists use a scale of psychological stressors (death of a child, birth of a child, moving, divorce, etc) to assess the level of stress a person has suffered within a certain time period. (I've often thought there should be a similar scale for children). In terms of stressors, your child has experienced two of the top five: a move and the birth of a child and while she obviously did not give birth, the new baby has radically altered her relationship with you, the time you have to spend with her and her position within the family.

Stress can trigger a setback in potty training by affecting a child's willingness to act on the physical cues that tell her she has to go the bathroom.

Your child has reacted to these big changes in her life by regressing in her potty training. These changes have overwhelmed and frightened her, making her feel as helpless as a baby, thus a return to baby behavior.

Before I suggest what to do in terms of your daughter's toilet training, let me tell you what not to do. Do not, under any circumstances, punish her for going the bathroom in her pants. Your daughter's potty training regression is a cry for help and she needs your time, creativity, love and understanding. If she is to progress from where she is right now, you must not punish her for her mistakes or subject her to timeout. In fact, I see this as an opportunity for you to reconnect with your child after the birth of your second child and help her transition to her new role within the family.

Next, I'd like you to take time out for yourself. Like your daughter, you have been through a lot in the last year—the birth of a child, the stress of a move and whatever else you might not have mentioned. Acknowledge how overwhelming these changes have been and give yourself time to relax and focus on the emotional well-being of your family. Know that it takes time for everyone to adjust to such big changes.

Read the rest of the article by clicking on potty training tips to see what Laura has to say about helping a child regain toilet training skills.

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About the author:

Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting It is the only book that combines ancient native ideas with heart-centered psychology to show parents how to raise children to develop their innate strengths and grow up lead uniquely purposeful and fulfilling lives. It is Laura's belief and experience (as the mother of two boys) that as you take the time to see into the heart of your child, you'll see more clearly into your own.

Potty Training


Copyright © 2006 by Laura Ramirez. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied in full or in part without the express written consent of the author, but you may link to it from your web site, blog or forum.

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