What should I do if my child has an accident or starts a potty training regression?

So, your little one had an accident. That’s ok! You might say, “You forgot this time. Next time you’ll get to the bathroom sooner. No worries!” or “Oops! Pee goes in the potty. Next time, tell me and I’ll help you get there faster. I know you can do it!” Make sure not to scold or shame your little one. Being prepared for accidents is important, too! Keep a change of underwear and clothing handy, especially at school or on the go. If you start to notice a potty training regression, here are some potty training tips to keep in mind:

  • Stay calm: Even though you’re frustrated, remind yourself that a period of potty training regression can be normal. It might be happening for a number of reasons, but there are ways to help get back on track.
  • Don’t punish: Experts say punishing your child for bedwetting or any accidents will only backfire. Bedwetting, in particular, isn’t within your child’s control, and punishing for accidents makes it more likely that your child will try to avoid punishment by hiding or trying to not poop or pee at all, which can lead to constipation and even more accidents.
  • Offer positive reinforcement: Clean up accidents without a fuss and move on. Invite your child to “help” you clean up the accident, but don’t force it if they don’t want to. Give your child the attention they want for other good habits they’re showing such as hand-washing, taking turns, or sharing. It feels good for any of us to hear that we’re doing the right thing. Give plenty of hugs, kisses, and cuddles. A reward chart or a special treat after a successful bathroom stop also works well for some kids.
  • See your doctor: If necessary, give your pediatrician details of the potty training regression. You want to eliminate the possibility of infection and make sure you’re on the right, healthy path.
  • Find out why: Accidents in older kids are often connected to the lack of control over a child’s environment. Try to get into their head by asking questions and find out what’s going on. Knowing the cause can help figure out the solution. Talk it through and get the issue out into the open.
  • Sympathize: You should acknowledge that you know big transitions like this are difficult. You can use a story from your childhood about a time when you regressed and tell them that it can be normal.
  • Reinforce training: Remember, what you did before initially worked. You can reinforce that with some set times to sit on the potty, making it part of the routine. Try not to make using the restroom a big deal — and definitely don’t force the issue — just incorporate it into your child’s day.
  • Make expectations clear: Tell your child you expect them to resume heading to the potty and having clean undies. Let them know you know they can do this!
  • Be consistent: If your child has been diaper-free during the day for a while, resist the urge to put them back in diapers. This back-and-forth can be very confusing for your child. Remember, accidents are normal - they do not mean your child can’t do it!


This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.