Becoming Big Brother or Sister...and Pottytraining Regression

Potty training our second child was a long, drawn-out process. The struggle was all in him, and yet had nothing to do with him at all. I saw signs of readiness and he was doing well...and then we spent 6 weeks at grandma’s across the country. After a couple of weeks he was doing well again…and we took the one-week road-trip back home. Interest waned. Then, a month or so later he was at the potty again. SUCCESS! Day-after-day success!

And then two months later baby sister arrived. Not only was there another little body in the house taking so much of our attention but I was slow-moving and healing from a c-section, not able to cuddle and snuggle in all the ways I used to. Then the pooping in the pants started again.

I’m sure there is someone somewhere who might tell us our 2-and-a-half year-old was just not ready for the potty yet. I’m fairly certain he was just dealt 6 months with a LOT of transitions, culminating in a baby sister. I think it was safe to say he was coping with this drastic change in his life in a very regular way.

Regression commonly occurs in toddlers and preschoolers (and everyone of all ages?) when major life transitions occur. A birth, death, move, divorce, child-care shift, and other significant changes can rock a child’s world. Routines are big for all of us, especially little ones who have little control of the world around them.

The first time he soiled his pants we took it in stride. The second, third, and fourth time I had to take a deep breath because...hello three children four and under. I did not have time for this additional difficulty. But we stayed the course.

We stayed consistent. Just because it was a time of transition did not mean we needed to actually transition back. We kept the expectation of big boy undies but did so calmly, graciously, and patiently (for the most part).

I didn’t ignore the behavior. We spoke in short while in the midst of changing undies about expectations but we also sat and talked about the changes happening in our home. And by “we” talked, I mostly listened. We explored his feelings. I re-read him several books we checked out at the library pre-baby. Turns out those “expecting a little sibling” books are even more useful after baby arrives. The ideas on those pages hold new meaning, make sense in new ways. We also utilized tv shows, like Daniel Tiger’s episodes where his family grows with the birth of Baby Margaret.

We tried to ease the transition. When possible, we made the major life-altering changes less stinging. We spent time with our son both alone and with his brother and new sister. We provided him new opportunities to build on his roles in the home. He could help me by grabbing the wipes; he could ease sister’s discomfort by patting her back. These roles allowed him to move forward into a new routine instead of only grieving the routines we left behind.

And before we knew it, he was back at the potty like a pro.

Lynette is a mom of three children from 20 months to age five. She has cloth diapered all three since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Leave a comment