Toilet training is most successful when your child is in charge and when you stay non-judgmental and matter-of-fact during the process, so your child can feel pride in his achievement, not yours. Even so, it is common to have setbacks in both bladder and bowel training after control is learned. They are as upsetting to your child as they are to you. (For additional info, check out our other blog post about potty training!)
I ask three questions when a setback occurs:
1) Has there been a change?
2) Is there an illness?
3) Has the child experienced trauma?
Illness such as a bladder infection is easily ruled out with a simple urinalysis (not invasive procedures like catheterization, ultrasounds, etc).
Trauma is often accompanied by behavioral or emotional signs besides toileting accidents. These cases can be treated by your pediatric health care provider.
Change, however, can be enough to derail most children. “After any family stress, such as a move, a parent’s absence, or a new baby, expect your child to fall back a few steps. This often happens as a child faces a Touchpoint, a demanding new developmental advance or any new fear. You need not feel defeated when your toilet-trained child suddenly wets or soils again.” (Brazelton and Sparrow, Toilet Training the Brazelton Way, p.40)
What to do? Realize that, as distressing as setbacks are, they are the norm (just not a norm parents want to share much). Reassure your child that she will get herself back on track when she’s ready. Let her choose whether she needs diapers or training pants again for a short while. Help her change her sheets and put them in the washer, but don’t point out her failure. When she’s ready to try staying dry again start with daytime, then add nap time and finally nighttime. (Nighttime dryness takes the longest to achieve.)
Trust your child to be in charge of regaining control. He will do it for himself, not you, and will never forget his feeling of achievement. And you’ll be delighted at what he’s capable of on his own.
For other resources check out this great book by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.
Contributed by our Child Development Specialist, Robin Lindsay, MSN, FNP.