Potty Accidents- Why they happen, and what to do.

It is hard to remember what it is like to be 2, 3 or 4 years old. And sometimes we forget to put ourselves in their shoes.

They have come so far in the first 2 or 3 years of their lives, and we therefore overset our expectations of them - we expect them to focus, prioritize and remember way more than they are really capable of.

Reasons toddler have accidents:

  • changes in their lives
  • stress
  • playing
  • not able to tell you

Think about the stress you feel when there is a change in your life. It could be as small as changing your morning routine to changing departments at work or changing jobs. Young children experience the world intensely and therefore even a small change that we would not even consider a change could throw a toddler off - if s/he perceives it as a change in his or her routine.

Also, research has shown that children at that age cannot select and prioritize information from the flood of sensations that reach them. Parents find toddlers will have potty accidents while doing something that they enjoy and are focused on such as watching TV or playing outside - so that they fail to notice and or remember their physical needs.

Children's memories are also a lot more situation specific than we realize. Toddlers are not capable of thinking ahead about their potty training needs. A small change such as slightly different clothing or being away from home can result in an accident because they wait too long before deciding to go and then the change has thrown them off and it is too late.

Even though children are learning to speak at that age, they still cannot always verbalize what they are feeling i.e. it hurts to urinate because their skin maybe irritated or it hurts to poop because they are constipated. Unable to articulate the problem, the toddler ignores the feeling until an accident occurs.

Since your toddler also does not know your expectation around this situation, s/he is actually looking for information to correct the problem and may in fact cause accidents on purpose to see your reaction and hope to find a solution and figure out the rules and expectations for the situation.

So just keep in mind and put yourself in your toddler's shoes - you are asking them to learn a lot and then consistently follow through each time. So, like all the skills such as walking, eating, and talking that you have taught, encouraged and nurtured so far, potty training is also a skill that requires you to teach your toddler to pay attention to his/her physical needs, think ahead, focus and plan their use of the potty or toilet.

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Frequent accidents all of a sudden (5/23/2012) Reviewer: Michelle (Union, MO) My 3 1/2 year old has been potty trained for well over a year. He hardly ever had accidents until a few months ago. All of a sudden a few days a week he is at daycare and wets his pants while playing.

We have a baby coming in August that he has known about for a while, but he hasn't acted like he is bothered by it. I don't know what is causing him to do this, its usually 2-3 days a week and usually only once a day after nap time. I have tried taking a favorite toy away or things like that, but its not stopping it.

I need some guidance on how to get past this and get him accident free again. Please HELP!!!!!
Reverse for the worse (6/30/2011) Reviewer: Alexandra My son who just turned 2 a bit over a month ago is experiencing the same thing. He was doing WONDERFUL with the whole going to the potty routine and was about to put him into boy's underwear when suddenly he refuses to go and is peeing and pooping every where on purpose. He knows he needs to go potty for that but now does it every where BUT the potty. I too have a 2 month old as well and I'm wondering if that has something to do with it. Whether he's craving attention or not, I need to figure out how to nip this. I don't want to go backwards and put him back in diapers after all the progress we've made till now...
Preschool Teacher (6/20/2011) Reviewer: Dee (Glendale, Az) Help! I have a 3 1/2 year old student still having accidents 3 and 4 times a day. Will not even say she is wet at all. Please note . her mom states she has taken her to the doctor and there is no problem. This same child has anger issues, speech delay. Did notice that her urine is not clear or yellow, it appears to be a very light green. Could this be a mental delay ? Have suggested mom see's doctor again or seek profession help in this area. Would appreciate any suggestions or advice.

Potty Training Concepts:

I am thinking that she needs some visual help for example like pictures to help her understand. She just needs a consistent routine going. I know she is having behavior problems, but she might need to be tested and the doctors haven't detected anything yet since she is so young. Just give it a little time and she will catch on.

messy poopoo (4/21/2011) Reviewer: Grandma G (Eugene, OR) i"m a grandma with a beautiful, loving grandson who is really smart super smart, just one big messy problem. He's doing poo in the morning before anyone else gets up and hes getting it everywhere. His mother is waking up to poo on his hands and smells all over the house. And my daughter has a new born also. She's 2 months old. My grandson also shares homes with mom and dad, every other week they switch off with him. He started off great with potty training and now its taken a turn for the worst. When I found out about this today, I just told her not to punish him, just to get things cleaned up real good. This is going to be really out of control if the men in the family find out. We really don't want him to be in trouble, but I'm asking from my heart he is already in trouble with his problem? Someone PLEASE help us, we just need to know where not alone,, with this messy, unclean, little boy. We want to use a gentle hand. Hurry I need help fast . Thanks for letting me share.

Potty Training Concepts:

Maybe he just needs a little guidance when he does go potty. Go to the potty with him when he goes and make sure he washes his hands. Just lead by example and he will want to mimic your actions.