Major’s Potty Training Regression

Blogger Eva Amurri discusses potty training regression

A big frustration in the journey of parenthood for me has been dealing with age-related or transition-related regressive behaviors.  Every parent has experienced them at various stages…from the dreaded sleep-regressions during that first year in a baby’s life, to behavioral regressions and other bumps in the road related to emotional transitions in a child’s life.  But far and away my personal least favorite has got to be the potty training regressions.  I’ve experienced them with both kids so far (in very different ways), and I’m currently in the middle of one with Major.  Today I thought I would share in case anybody else is going through it also! Maybe we can give each other some ideas…

When we first potty trained Major, it went really well.  He was 2.5 years old (the same age we started with Marlowe).  He broke his leg on a trampoline a few weeks after potty training started, and he actually maintained the potty training throughout the cast process– which I was extremely surprised by.  We were on top of it, and by a month in, I pulled the night time pull up and he was fully night trained as well! Of course, accidents would happen from time to time, but they were pretty few and far between. 

I had experienced a potty training regression with Marlowe, wherein about 4-5 months into potty training (after being fully potty trained previously) she started having a lot of accidents.  It almost seemed as though she was testing her own body, waiting a bit too long to head to the potty if she needed to go, and ignoring her body’s signs. She even started having poop accidents, which was really alarming to me at first.  I started reminding her a lot more about using the bathroom, and we started to talk more about going pee and poop in the potty and not in her pants. The regression lasted about a month, and then luckily ended.

Towards the end of the Summer (yet again 4-5 months into Potty Training) Major started having a ton of accidents.  We had been through so much endless transition recently that I chalked it up to that (and maybe it still is!)– between moving into a new house, constant construction, Kyle and I transitioning into a new kind of relationship, and a baby on the way. There was PLENTY for him to feel emotional about, and with potty training, as a very real control trigger for kids, I wasn’t surprised that he was trying to take the power back.

He started having accidents, not telling us when he had to use the bathroom, and refusing to “try” the potty when it seemed he had to go.  The accidents were only during the day, though, and only pee.  As we headed into Fall, we all made sure to remind him to use the bathroom more, and even resorted to setting a timer every hour so that he would be used to trying the potty on a schedule to get back into the rhythm.  Things improved a bit, but not completely.  It started getting especially bad if he was engaged in an activity or playing.  He just wouldn’t break to go to the bathroom no matter what– and would pee in his pants.  The part that worried me the most was that having wet pants didn’t even bother him! Whereas before, in the early stages of potty training, he would feel uncomfortable If he was wet– now he didn’t care at all.  In fact, sometimes I would only notice he had wet his pants if I brought him to the bathroom to try the potty. 

At this point, I tried bribery. I got some dollar store little toys, and for every day that he did not have an accident, I would give him one of the toys. This actually worked extremely well. We went for two weeks with no accidents and one point. It was clear that living potty-accident-free was fully in his wheelhouse, but that he didn’t always “turn it on”.  Selectively Potty Trained! LOL. As soon as I phased out the toy bribe, the accidents continued.  I’m fully aware that the emotional transitions in Major’s life had not stopped, and still haven’t. Kyle and I have divorced, moved in to separate homes, and he still has a baby brother on the way. It’s a complicated time for him, and thus I’ve been doing my best to really be patient with the process and know that he will move out of this phase when the time fits for him.  But it’s been really intense to have to be prepared to fully change him multiple times whenever we go out or travel. Especially with a child who is otherwise very age-appropriate, if not even advanced emotionally.  It’s been the most confusing juxtaposition of personality and behavior. If I’m not completely on top of taking him to the bathroom, it almost always ends with pee in the pants. 

The latest phase is him telling us he has to use the bathroom, but then realizing once we get there that he has already peed in his pants but not told us.  If we ask him if he had an accident he doesn’t say yes or no.  He’ll just tell me “You’re the Best Mama. I love you.” Way to butter me up, kid! LOL. He knows that pee “belongs in the potty” and all of that, but he either doesn’t want to or can’t make it there. We’ve had endless conversations about it, and tried to understand (from him) what’s going on…but we really haven’t gotten anywhere. The other strange thing is that it almost never happens at school.  It seems like this is something he saves for his family life. As I get ready to have another little baby in just weeks, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by this very extended potty regression.  Some days are better than others with the regression, but it’s definitely a thing.  I’m assuming it’s developmental and situational and will correct itself (I mean, he’s only 3!) But I would be very interested to hear if anybody else has gone through this with potty training their child, particularly Boy Moms. 

Please share in the comments below!

Photographs by Julia Dags

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  1. Jamie says:

    When we had problem with potty training the dr suggested that I have zero reaction to the accident. Just change her and continue on with whatever we where do. I did this several times.. didn’t say a word.. didn’t question.. or make a face at all and about after a month it stopped.
    The dr explained to me that body fluids is something that kid feel great power with. So if they get a reaction good or bad they will use it..
    With this said every kid is different . Best of luck 🙂

    01.31.20 Reply
  2. Heather says:

    Try not to worry too much, it happens to a lot of children. You are doing all the right things, just carry on. Sometimes it just takes a bit of time and perseverance.

    01.31.20 Reply
  3. Christine says:

    My 3 year old won’t poop in the potty . He has been pee trained , night trained for over a year . I had his sister 7 months ago…. so that’s new . But he just won’t poop in the potty . So everytime he has to , he asks me for a pull up. I try and do the toy method… he told me once “ not THAT toy “ . I felt defeated . I still feel defeated . But i know when he’s ready he will learn b I’m stuck changing two diapers still

    02.01.20 Reply
  4. Camilla says:

    My twin godsons, Carson & Matteo (will turn 3 in April) had some regression with potty training after their parents recent divorce and the death of their dog.

    Their mom bought them a toddler projection training device that lights up a target 🎯 for boys to practice aiming, and also a potty timer watch that lights up and makes noise at different intervals you can select, every 30 min, 60 min etc.

    The boys like the target so much they were fighting over using the potty, so their mom had to purchase a second one for another bathroom in their house!

    The boys stopped having accidents immediately after using these products. Both can be found on Amazon for a really cheap price. They also use a potty training sticker chart and get a sticker each time they use the potty. After a certain amount of stickers they can earn a trip out for ice cream, pick out a new book, or ride the little carousel at the mall. They get to practice their counting and are so proud to tell everyone how many stickers they have.

    Good luck to Major! I bet he will be back on track not having accidents before you know it! You could also talk with his pediatrician for idea. Hope this helps!

    02.01.20 Reply
    • 4resh_AIR says:

      The bullseye toilet toy, YES! Rave reviews. Good suggestion.

      02.02.20 Reply
  5. Mary says:

    My boy was completely done with night diapers, pull ups, accidents and potty training regressions at the age of 3 years and 8 months! Yeap, it might sound too late but as far as I understand from my interaction with other parents, most boys who are supposedly potty trained much earlier are not consistent and usually have many accidents until three and a half.I happened to have a very resistant kid who faced difficulties with delayed speech and perhaps that was a reason why he was attached to diapers (until three he hated underwear).Fortunately speech therapy and school did wonders, he is at a very good level and suddenly after a long period of resistance he realized that he was on top of his own body and was able to control his pee and poop.So, now we work on the next level of wiping himself after poop (it never ends, does it???😣)
    But, oh my god, I thought that it would never happen for him to be the one to tell me that he needs to visit the toilet.I dreaded that I would continue to drag him to the toilet way past any acceptable age and that there would be awful consequences to his life and development.I mean I have tried everything and explained every possible reasoning to my sweet soul so that I persuade him to inform me ,or any other adult that would supervise him, that he wanted to visit the toilet for “tseesa” (pee) or “kaka” (poop).Of course I used to repeat to him constantly that all these belong to the toilet and that it is dirty and discusting to leave it on his diaper or underwear (without scolding him).That his diaper and underwear could not hold the quantity of his pee and poop because he was big already and if he failed to inform me he would be probably left for hours with wet clothes and his skin would get red and irritated and that would be uncomfortable, that his classmates would think he was a baby, that he was a big boy almost a man and that super markets wouldn’t sell so big diapers to fit him any more, that when he got wet on his panties and I changed his clothes he was simply loosing fun time of playing with his peers and away from his toys so it would be more clever of him to come and tell that he is going to the toilet in order to skip all that annoying change of clothes.I even resorted to his then beloved baby mickey and babyvdonald and pretended that these dolls were talking to him urging him to keep his pee and call them when he visited the toilet and on and on….anything real mixed with imagination and little horror LOL!The truth is that most of the time I HAD NO IDEA what I was doing I felt like a looser when I was changing him clothes repeatedly and I had it with cleaning floors and surfaces ..(how did you deal with cleaning pee from all over the place, especially when your house is NEW ?.Suddenly as I was
    felling stuck and helpless my kid “decided” that he would not have any accidents any more…So I believe that early potty training is not the best thing for some kids and that feelling anxious doesnt help because as you also said in most cases it will be redolved on its own.I would not stand to change him soooo many times and clean my place constantly from pee and poop 😝😲.I actually used pull ups when accidents were many and daily and I only remooved them when I was confident that he could always hold his pee and poop and visit the toilet without my urging.

    02.03.20 Reply
  6. Caitie says:

    I have a suggestion for helping him to learn to wipe better!! Either toddler wipes or baby wipes! I’m 33 years old and I still remember my mom teaching me that I had to wipe til the wipe was clean. Turns out, she’d noticed that I got frustrated with the TP and gave up lol. When my brother came along, she did wipes with him from the start and he learned a lot faster than me!

    02.05.20 Reply
  7. Areth Tsouprake says:

    I was thinking, is there a way to give Major some new things he can have control over. Then maybe some of the focus can be on those new things and a bit less on the potty. I like the other suggestion someone had of not reacting to the accidents.
    I can relate to having parents divorce at a young age and wish your kids well. You are doing great!

    02.21.20 Reply