I’m using Mondays to clean out my mailbox. This week’s question on avoiding potty-training accidents was written in response to my post, A Common-Sense Approach to Potty-Training. Read on for my best ideas for helping kids stay continent:
Question: How can I prevent toilet-training accidents?
My sons are 4 & 6. They can stay dry for days or can have 5 accidents in 3 hours. It can be hard to know how many extra sets of clothes to bring places.
Sometimes they go themselves and other times they have an accident if I don’t tell them to go.
My 6-year-old night-trained on his own soon after turning three and gets up at night to go potty. How can I encourage them to stay clean and dry during the day after they seem potty-trained?
Answer: Remind them, especially at key times
It sounds like your sons may be a lot like I was as a child. I remember having accidents long after I was toilet trained, simply because I would get so engrossed in whatever I was doing that I’d completely forget to go to the bathroom until it was too late.
The more distractions available…
- new toys at a playdate
- art supplies at a children’s museum
- frogs, lizards, and horned toads in a garden
…the less likely it would be that I’d remember on my own to take a bathroom break.
A couple of my children struggled early on with that same tendency, but I can assure you that eventually, we all outgrew it! 🙂 In the meantime, here are a few suggestions that may help:
Things to keep in mind, even after potty-training:
Provide frequent reminders.
This will be especially important when you are out and about, experiencing new things. If you tend to get distracted yourself (like I do), set a timer on your watch or phone to help you remember. Your child’s bladder is smaller than yours, so you can’t just wait until you need to go yourself before prompting your child to do so. He will likely need more potty breaks than you do.
Encourage them to try.
Whenever our family takes a road trip and somebody needs a bathroom break, we all take a bathroom break. Even the children who don’t particularly feel a need to go can usually squeeze a little out if they try. And trying is usually enough to keep us from having to stop again in 20 minutes for someone else.
Take the same approach with your newly-trained toddler and preschedule time to “try” and potty even if he doesn’t feel the urge. Namely, right before you go anywhere — to the park or zoo or church or library — as well as right before mealtimes and right before bed.
Always be prepared.
Make peace with the fact that accidents may still happen, even long after you thought you’d be done with all that. Keep at least 2 changes of clothes in your car at all times. If your children are close in size, you needn’t pack a whole closet — pack generic outfits that would work for either sex in large-enough size to fit the bigger child, and let those serve as backup for both.
Focus on successes.
Instead of zeroing in on the occasional accident, keep track of all the days your child stays dry. (Or if his accidents are happening daily, track all the hours he stays dry). Encourage the good as much or more than you correct the bad. I’ve designed a couple of potty-training charts that might help (scroll to the bottom of this post to download the free printables).
Understand medical issues.
If your child has started having frequent accidents after a long period of potty-training success, it could signal an underlying and even life-threatening health issue. Frequent urination is one of the tell-tale signs of Type One diabetes (other signs include excessive hunger, excessive thirst, nausea, and weight loss).
This is exactly what happened to us when our firstborn was almost two. He had been doing very well with daytime training, but then got sick and couldn’t stay dry to save his life. It took several trips to the doctor before an accurate diagnosis was made (it was much more unusual twenty-five years ago for such young children to contract Type One diabetes than it is today). So if there is any question that something of that nature might be going on, please have it checked out ASAP.