Regression is normal in toilet training.

Regression in Toilet Training

by Jonae Fredericks

Children usually begin to toilet train around 18 months of age, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. But as every parent knows, age doesn’t define readiness. Toilet training can be a frustrating time for parents and children alike, and just because one child expresses interest in the toilet at one age doesn’t mean the next child will show the same interest. If your child is showing signs of regression in toilet training, you may need to take a step back to reassess the situation.

Regression Defined

Not every accident during toilet training is a regression. In fact, an accident every now and then is to be expected when a child is just learning the ropes. In an article on the Huggies website, Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics for Mercy Family Care in Baltimore, Md., explains that regression is a series of accidents or the refusal to use the toilet after the successful completion of toilet training.

Starting Too Soon

Regression in toilet training often occurs when a child is pushed to take on the task before he is ready. Parents should always look for signs of readiness before the potty chair makes an appearance. According to the University of California, Los Angeles Medicine -- Pediatrics, signs of readiness include the ability to sit, stand, walk and pull clothes on and off. A child should also show interest in toilet training, be able to follow directions and have the ability to communicate his need to go.


Children who are emotionally overwhelmed sometimes express their feelings in ways that are difficult for parents to understand. Puddling, soiling his clothes or even wanting to wear diapers again may be the only way your child is capable of expressing himself. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics website, events such as the birth of a sibling, the death of a relative, change in childcare facilities or any change in daily routine, can start the cycle of regression. If nothing seems to be triggering the regression, check with your pediatrician. In some cases, painful bowel movements or a urinary tract infection may be the culprit.

Parent Reaction

The way a parent reacts to regression is an important part of the toilet training process. While regressions in toilet training can be disappointing, improper handling of the situation can make the problem worse. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a parent should never express anxiety or disappointment towards her child after a regression. Instead, taking a three-month break from toilet training can help to relieve some stress on the parent and child relationship.

About the Author

Jonae Fredericks started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jonae Fredericks is a certified paraeducator, presently working in the public education system.

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images