The Ultimate Guide to Handling Potty Training Accidents

While some toddlers pick up potty training right away, others struggle with transitioning from diapers to big kid underwear. And one of the biggest issues many kids face when they start potty training is accidents.

As you work with your toddler during this big stage in their life, it’s easy to become frustrated with accidents. With this guide to potty training accidents, you can learn everything you need to know to help you and your toddler handle this potty training setback and get back on track.

sad toddler girl sitting on a potty chair holding a roll of tissue

How Early Can You Potty Train?

Finding the right time to potty train your toddler can be a little tricky.

While most children begin to show signs of potty training readiness between the ages of 18 to 30 months, not all kids will be ready to start training during that age range. And starting too early could lead to accidents and potty training regression down the road.

Instead of thinking about potty training readiness in terms of age, it’s a better idea to consider other factors that go into knowing if your toddler is ready to start training.

These characteristics are all great indicators that your toddler may be ready to begin potty training:

  • Showing an interest in using the potty or watching other family members use the toilet
  • Demonstrating their independence in other areas of their daily life
  • Letting you know they’re going pee or poop in their diaper or telling you after they’re finished
  • Verbalizing the need to pee or poop
  • The ability to follow simple instructions
  • Keeping their diaper dry for extended periods of time (more than 2 hours)
  • Pulling their pants up and down

Once you’re certain your toddler is ready, you can start the potty training process.

What are Potty Training Accidents?

When you start potting training your toddler, you’re going to encounter a variety of issues and set-backs. One of the most common problems many parents face is accidents.

Potty training accidents are when your child pees or poops when they’re not sitting on the toilet or potty seat.

Potty training accidents occur for a variety of reasons, like:

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  • Lack of body control. Your toddler may not have the ability to fully control their bladder and bowel movements, leading them to have accidents.
  • Distraction. If your child is busy playing or reading, they may not recognize the signs that they need to go until it’s too late.
  • Excitement. Too much excitement may lead to an accident due to the excitement itself or the distraction it causes, leading them to ignore the urge to go.
  • Communication issues. Your toddler may be unable to express their fears and anxieties around potty training, causing them to avoid using the potty.
  • Tiredness. Children who are overtired or sluggish may not be able to get to the bathroom on time.

What’s the Difference Between Accidents and Regression?

While accidents are a common occurrence during the beginning stages of potty training, children who begin having accidents after they’ve been successfully trained may be facing a different problem – regression.

When a child who has seemingly mastered potty training suddenly begins having accidents again, potty training regression is often to blame.

Luckily, it’s fairly simple to tell whether your child is having accidents or has begun to regress. If your toddler is just beginning to train and is accidently peeing or pooping outside of the bathroom, you’re probably dealing with accidents.

But if your child has been using the toilet successfully for some time and then begins having accidents, they’re probably regressing.

Regression can happen for a number of reasons, so it’s a good idea to take a look at what led up to the accidents to determine their cause.

Potty training regression could be linked to:

  • Stress. Anything that is triggering stress in your child’s life may be linked to potty training regression. A big change in your child’s life, like the introduction of a new sibling or moving to a new house, could cause them to regress.
  • Lack of readiness. Starting potty training too early could also lead to regression down the road. Most toddlers show signs of readiness between 18 and 30 months, but some aren’t ready to potty train until later. And if your child isn’t ready to potty train, you could experience setbacks in their training.
  • Physical issues. Illness and other physical issues, like constipation or a urinary tract infection, could also be to blame for potty training regression. If you believe an illness is to blame, contact your pediatrician to help remedy the issue.

Are Accidents Normal While Potty Training?

While cleaning up pee and poop may not be the most fun part of your day, you’ll be happy to know that…

Accidents while potty training are normal.

During the beginning stages, it’s not uncommon for children to have many accidents before they fully conquer potty training.

This revelation may have you wondering, “How many accidents is normal during potty training?”

While the actual number of accidents considered normal will vary from child to child, it’s not uncommon for kids to have one or more accidents per day during the first few days of potty training.

And even during the first few months, it’s normal for toddlers to have at least one accident per week.

sad little girl sitting on a potty chair. Image says how to overcome potty training accidents.

How to Stop Potty Training Accidents

Although potty training accidents are normal in the beginning stages, it’s understandable to want your child to have as few of them as possible.

In addition to reducing the number of messes you have to clean up, helping your toddler stop having accidents will get them one step closer to being fully trained.

Try these tips to help your child move past the accident phase:

Don’t punish your child for accidents

Although cleaning up accidents is frustrating, it’s important not to punish your child when they have one.

Accidents are part of the training process, which means your toddler might not have complete control over them yet.

Instead of yelling, be comforting and sensitive by talking about the steps they can take to prevent another accident from happening in the future.

Try to determine the cause

If accidents keep happening, start thinking about what could be causing the accidents in the first place.

Does your child seem stressed or anxious about using the bathroom?

Are they physically unable to hold their pee or poop in?

Do they only have accidents in certain situations?

By getting to the root of the problem, you can come up with a solution to help combat the accidents before they happen again.

Set a bathroom schedule

Sometimes accidents happen because your child gets busy or distracted.

If you think this is the underlying cause of regular accidents, try setting a schedule. Use a potty watch or set a time on your phone to remind you and your child that it’s time to use the bathroom.

You can also take regular bathroom breaks throughout the day, like first thing in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed.

Offer rewards

Giving kids rewards for successfully using the potty is a great method for incentivizing potty training. But if your child is having accidents, it may be a better idea to reward them for each time they make it to the potty before making a mess.

Instead of praising the act of going potty itself, make an effort to show your kid how proud you are of them avoiding an accident.

Try training pants

Often times, the transition from diapers to big kid underwear leads to accidents in the beginning stages of potty training, which is why I highly recommend naked potty training to eliminate the confusion of switching from one form of undies to another.

However, it’s understandable that some parents are more comfortable with using some form of training pants in the beginning to help eliminate cleanups and messes.

For those who prefer training pants to ease the transition, cloth training pants are a great alternative to traditional underwear. Since training pants feature an extra layer of absorption, they can help soak up accidents before they make a mess.

But while the accidents get contained, your child can still feel the wetness, ensuring they’re aware of the accident.

Take a break

If all else fails and your child is still having issues with accidents, it may be time to take a break from potty training for a few days or weeks.

Taking time off from training will allow both of you to destress and regroup. When your child starts showing signs of readiness or interest, pick back up where you left off.

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