My oldest daughter is three and a half. She has been potty trained for over a year, but she is still having random accidents. Somedays I am patient about it and other days I am so appalled that we are still having them.
Potty training, in my mind, was a destination that you never stepped back from once you had reached it once. I guess for some people it is; it was for my niece! She peed on her Belle undies one time and couldn't stand to do it again so she never did! That was not the case in our household.
When it seemed to finally set in, and I stopped being afraid every second we were away from the house, it was so nice! But after a few months of not a single accident, suddenly they were happening all the time again. Sometimes it was just a little dribble in the undies and other times I was busting out the carpet cleaning foam. I was ticked and immediately started giving her negative consequences because "she hasn't had an accident for months so she knows better."
It only took me two days to realize I was being a crazy irrational person and that something else needed to happen. Isn't it so hard sometimes to not expect way more of your kids than they are capable of? They hit a new milestone and suddenly we expect them to behave like mature adults. Here are the few things that have worked the best for us.
After telling her a few times that I was sad when she peed in her pants, my daughter started asking me "Mom, are you happy at me?!" and I felt like the worst person in the world. So I switched my stance and started telling her how happy she made me when she peed on the potty and I realized that once she was "trained" all the way, I quit telling her good job when she did go to the bathroom without my prompt. I am 26 and I still like to be told "good job" when I do ordinary things, so DUH, a 3-year-old for sure needs that too! When she would have an accident, I would tell her to not worry and that we would make it to the potty next time. The more I told her that, the harder she tried to get there!
Explore Possible Causes
Once I really started to investigate what was happening, I was able to understand what was happening. Toddlers are busy. My toddler is busy, busy, busy. I realized that whenever she had an accident, something else (much more exciting than a trip to the toilet) was going on. She had a friend over, we were at the park, she was watching her favorite movie, and so on. She has a serious fear of missing out, so no wonder she didn't want to stop doing the fun thing to run to the bathroom. Being aware of when accidents were happening allowed me to trouble shoot. We started telling her we could pause the movie and she wouldn't miss a single second, or challenged her to a race to the bathroom while at the park, and other things like that.
Accept Parenting Truths
I was at my friends house one day while we were dealing with this and her sister dropped by with her kids for a minute. The kids came barreling in the door and we noticed that the 5-year-old's pants were soaking wet. Turns out, he had totally emptied his bladder completely while sitting in his car seat and didn't even say a word to his mom. Sooo inconvenient for his mom, but it was just what I needed to see. He had been potty trained for 2.5 years and still had an accident.
The truth is, if parenting never had any bumps in the road, then it just wouldn't be parenting! If there was never one step back after two steps forward, then we wouldn't be getting those humbling lessons that parenting so wonderfully teaches us. I mean, it would be nice to just learn those lessons without all the extra laundry and pee clean up, but that isn't often the case!
Once I figured these things out and started practicing a more loving and calm approach to the pants wetting, it quickly went away again! So, if you happen to be having the same problem, do some assessments. Did you add a baby to the family in the last year? What is happening around them when they have the accident? Are you acknowledging their success when they do make it to the toilet? That approach does the trick in our house when the accidents do start to happen!
Written by: Alyssa Liston