I wish I could attest to a potty training technique that effectively teaches children. I wish I could say that if you just follow the three-day, three-week, or three-step potty training program, your child will surely be trained because that’s what happened with us. I have no such affirmation to provide you with. I have no tales of expedient success.

Parenting is such a humbling process, isn’t it? And my kids like to make sure that I stay really nice and humble.

The only thing I’m proficient at when it comes to potty training toddlers is riding the waves of potty training regression. While it’s way less of a prestigious skill to put on my parenting resume, both of my children have taught me a lot in this domain.

My daughter was three months shy of her third birthday when we were fairly sure she was ready. The first week was almost seamless; her accidents, negligible. “When they’re ready, they’re ready,” I smugly said to my husband.

Then, we had a few unexpected life events come our way… and my daughter’s incredible start turned into a series of accidents and a need to regroup and start again (and again!).

Then came my son. We were home for the holidays when he suddenly refused to wear his diaper. Knowing that life should be pretty darn routine when trying to potty train, I was reluctant to say the least. But when a toddler is adamant to take on a new skill, it’s hard to say no.

Maybe this is a case of ‘when they’re ready, they’re ready,” I hopefully wondered. After two weeks of next-to-no-accidents, we flew back from our vacation. It is as if the landing of the airplane tipped the scales of potty training success against me and our life became filled with accidents from then on.

Sigh. Like I said, I’m very proficient at regressions. If you and your child find yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips to save your sanity.


First, when faced with a potty training regression, say these phrases to yourself:

“There’s no gold medal or place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest potty trained child.” If one of my kids potty trained really quickly, I absolutely would have been proud. I may have even bragged a little (to my parents). But there’s no way on God’s green earth, I would have a plaque made, write on their kindergarten enrollment form, or make a speech at their wedding about the speed at which they learned to use the bathroom. So in terms of regressing, it isn’t monumental.

“Accidents happen. It’s just laundry and a bit of cleaning.” Yes, the accidents can be gross. Really gross. But years from now, I doubt they will be remembered. At least, most of them won’t.

“Though potty training may seem to be taking an eternity, my child won’t go to high school in diapers.” It’s amazing how when you’re in the thick of it with parenting, whatever stage you’re going through seems to be unending. Though the end may not be in sight, this too shall pass.


Now for tips on how to help get past the regression(s):

  • Make sure your child is showing signs of readiness before deciding to proceed. For example, your child should be walking, have the ability to pull their pants up and down, tell you that they have soiled their diaper, and should be able to go roughly two hours without wetting their diaper.
  • Approach accidents as non-events. Children can develop incredible feelings of shame and embarrassment around potty training even if it doesn’t appear that way at first. Also, the entire process can be quite intimidating to a child without any reaction to their accidents. “It’s okay, accidents happen” has been a long-standing motto of ours. Stay positive and being matter of fact about staying clean is the best approach.
  • Be adaptable with your approach. Move the potty from the bathroom into the kitchen for easier access. Ditch the undies and try the pants-less approach or visa versa. Swap out a sticker chart for a small bite-sized candy as a reward.

At the end of it all, if it really isn’t working, there’s nothing wrong with taking a bit of time off. You and your child deserve as little stress as possible. Because remember, no matter what, this will come in time. Patience and perspective will be your best tools.

Parenting a Strong Willed Sensitive Child

When Alana Pace found out she was pregnant with her second child only six months after having her first, she knew she had to get creative fast. Fortunately, spending so much of her childhood outdoors with a mother who specialized in Early Childhood Education, learning through play is almost instinctive. Each morning with her kids marks a new opportunity to explore and seize the day! On her blog, she writes about her family’s experiences, positive parenting strategies, play-based learning ideas and more. Be sure to follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest to stay connected.