22 answers

5 Year Old Has Regressed with Potty Training

My daughter has recently turned 5 - she potty trained when she was 2 years old and went over two solid years with absolutely zero accidents, no problems. She does still wear a pull-up at night and is nowhere close to being able to stay dry at night, which doesn't bother me and I'm giving her more time. BUT, over the past few months she has been having daytime accidents, and if anything it seems like it's getting worse. I can't decide if she's distracted, or being lazy, or if it's a sign of something emotional going on. She was an only child until last summer, when my son was born. It would make sense to me if she regressed after the baby was born, but this didn't start until he was probably like 5 months old. So I'm wondering if anyone has experienced anything like this before, and what advice you have for me. DO you think this is an issue where she needs to be disciplined somehow? Or is this a sign that she needs more attention or one on one time? Seriously, it has become like all day long, several accidents a day, and it's driving me crazy. Oh, and she doesn't do it while she's at preschool. Thanks, any input would be great!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Dear E. J. I have found that little children often go through stages and its probably and up set from having a new baby in the house. Each of my children went through different reactions when a new baby came home some were quite oparent wright from the start and others came later. I think you need to give it some more time and lots of love . I dont think they need to be disaplined unless they are doing somthing that will heart the new child. lots of luck. C. J.

A friend of mine went through something similar with her oldest daughter and there was a medical issue. I would recommmend starting with talking to her peditrician and ruling out physical reasons first. good luck

More Answers

Definitely make sure it is not a bladder infection first! If she is healthy, I would really suggest evaluating how much time you and your husband spend with her. My three almost four year old will ALWAYS resort to messing her pants(#1 and #2) when she is not receiving enough attention from us. When I spend time with her, just with her or with the other kids too, it disappears almost instantly. This may or may not be the issue. It is serious enough though to check it out and check it off.

Don't sweat it, seriously! My daughter did the same thing... as soon as she got home from preschool the waterworks started. I took her to her doctor and the doctor had us get an x-ray of her stomach to see if there was any blockage and all was fine. The doc also asked if my daughter was stressed (which freaked me out) and she really wasn't. My daughter did this for about a year, yes, a YEAR. But during that whole time she just took care of it herself (put her clothes in the laundry and put on new ones) cause I was SOOO frustrated. I also polled my friends and a lot of them had the same problem with their girls. Another thing I noticed is that she really did have to pee a lot in the afternoon (it wasn't for attention). The best thing you can do is just keep on asking her to go to the bathroom so she can keep on emptying her TINY bladder (may be another reason, even though the doctor said that her bladder size shouldn't be the case). I forgot to ask my daughter to go potty many times and she indeed would have an accident! It has been 15 months and I can safely say -- all is under control. However if she is having fun or just forgets to go potty she will have an accident (not just 5 in a row)! I have faith that this will all be over by the time she starts kindergarten (She will be 5 on September 1). Just go with the flow... no pun intended.

I have a son who could not hold his blatter at night at all. At 13 years old, I finally had the answer to the problem. We took him to a Chiropractor. After the 2nd adjustment, he didn't have another accident at night ever. He is now 19. He still had to see the chiropractor for an entire month of treatments to make sure it stayed that way. The other problem with wetting during the day could be a number or things including jealousy. Are you having good one on one with her and help her feel valuable? She may be seeing that the baby is getting m ore attention than her. I wish you all the best.

Get your daughter checked for a bladder infection. My daughter has a long history of bladder infections and one of the most common symptoms is difficulty in controlling her bladder. In fact, it is the only symptom my daughter ever had. She never has pain or a fever; she just has accidents. The doctor will perform a urinalysis on her urine. These were always negative for my daughter. Make sure the doctor cultures the urine sample and when you get the results ask to make sure the sample was not contaminated. Sometimes they won't culture without the parent requesting it and sometimes they say they didn't find anything in the culture when in fact the culture was contaminated and no good.

This happened with my 5 year old a few months ago also. She just started having accidents and it got worse over time. I thought she was reacting to the birth of our twins and that it was emotional. But I took her to the doctor and she had a bladder infection. It's worth talking to your doctor to make sure it's not an infection. The day after I gave her the medicine, her accidents stopped. Hope this helps!

i've heard that for a lot of kids the issues with having a new baby don't start until the baby is more mobile and active. i know this was an issue for a friend of mine, not with potty training but just general sibling rivalry. she loved playing with her brother until the was big enough to try and take her toys and generally interfere with whatever she was doing. good luck!

I had the same problem with my 2nd born and the arrival of the 3rd. It wasn't until the youngest was more animated that the 2nd born felt the 'threat' of the new sib in the house. The 2nd born was doing well with the potty training for about a year when the youngest started sitting up and then later crawling. I think newborns don't seem 'real' to the older kids at first. With my boys there was an adjustment time and then the 2nd one started doing better with training. Preschool is a motivation. I'd just remember to do lots of praising and create opportunities to have quality time just with your daughter. Eventually she'll realize that 'it' ain't going away and you and your daughter will be strengthening your bond. Hang in there...

Hi E.,

As a mom of a 5yr old boy who I thought for certain was simply "untrainable", let me give you some hope that this is not a permanent situation. First off, it doesn't sound like your daughter has any kind of developmental delays that could lead to this (for example, my niece just turned 4 and is still in pullups all day - my sis in law was really frustrated until she learned that kids like her who have a significant speech delay are usually late potty trainers)

If she is still in pullups at night at 5, truthfully that is more concerning to me than having accidents during the day. My 5.5 yr old son's daytime accidents go in spurts (LOL no pun intended!) He gets really busy and doesnt want to stop what he is doing so he holds it until he just can't hold it anymore. He had a full blown accident a few months ago, just because he held it too long. About 30 min after drinking, I usually make a recommendation for him to use the potty -

It probably is time to have a conversation with your doc about your concerns and why your not potty training at night. I have a feeling that your doc has been strongly urging you to get rid of the nighttime pullups.

At my son's 4yr well check my doc said it was time to get rid of the nighttime pullups that day. I couldn't imagine it was possible because he woke up just soaked every morning. She said to give it a try and that we could always try "dry camp" (classes for kids of all ages with bed-wetting issues)

It took a week to try it mostly to get myself psyched up for the extra effort. I finally realized that he was peeing in his pullup just because he could! aaghh! For a week we got him up at night to go potty and then slowly tapered off. We limited his fluids after 7pm to help too. I was amazed at how quickly he learned. Af first we considered it a successful week when he was dry half the time. Then he was able to go a week and then two and more. He still has occasional accidents but that just happens sometimes.

Ruling out a physical or medical problem is probably the first step and then I urge you to just go for it and bite the bullet of having to be up with her (and your baby) at night to help her with going potty and with accidents. I've been where you are and I have confidence you can do it!! My 2nd was only 2-3 months old when we started the nighttime training. I was pretty tired but it was what needed to be done.

blessings for success to you and your family!


Don't discipline her. I doubt she is purposefully having accidents. It's too embarrassing. There is something else going on. Have dr. check for bladder infection. Give her positive reinforcement when she goes pee in the potty. Have her be your helper with the baby and give her positive reinforcement. Set aside time for just you and her to spend time together w/o baby. Talk to her to see how she is doing. At 5, she might be able to tell you if something is upsetting her. My 4-yr-old boy bedwets, so I know how you feel.

There is a book called Potty Training in a Day (Azrin). It has a great way to deal with accidents, and "practicing" potty training. It is time consuming (maybe 30 minutes of practice time after every accident), but my daughter doesn't even get a little pee on her panties... I can never tell by looking at them if they are clean or dirty.

This is the basic practice sequence:
1) Talk to her about how nice it is to be a big girl and be clean and use the potty... express disappointment that she didn't be a big girl and hurry to the potty when she needed to use it... express confidence that she will be a big girl next time and say, "We're going to practice to help you potty like a big girl."

2)Choose 10 different areas of the house where she might be playing and do the following in each area (I'll use her room as the example).

3) Say something like "Okay sweetie, pretend you are playing in your room with your dolly. You're having a really fun time and you don't want to stop what you are doing. You realize you need to go to the bathroom. What do you do when you need to go to the bathroom? You don't wait, you hurry to the bathroom as fast as you can... let's practice... Put the dolly down and let's hurry to the bathroom"

You then hurry with her to the bathroom, have her remove her pants and sit on the potty as if she is really going to go, then redress and wash hands. Repeat the sequence several times, 7-10. She will realize really fast that it's more fun to play than practice pottying for a long time after an accident. It reinforces how important it is to hurry to the potty when you need to go.

We did not use this method with my son (now 5 1/2) who is 18 months older than my daughter, and he still has a lot of near misses and lots of pee spots on his underwear... I need to do the practicing with him, but I haven't done it because I have a nursing infant and the 3 of them keep me Sooooo busy. : ) Good luck E.!

You might want to get with her pediatrician to make sure she doesn't have any bladder issues such as an infection or reflux. My daughter had a condition called reflux at age 3, which she out grew by age 5, which caused her to urinate more frequently and be more susceptable to bladder infectiions. Good luck!

I can't tell you how much your request made me feel ok again! I am having the exact same problem with my 5 year old daughter! My daughter was also potty trained early, and still wears pill-ups at night, with not even being close to waking up dry!
I have gone through all the emotions of trying to figure her out and the problem. Unfortunately, I'm still clueless. My daughter will go for a couple of weeks, and I will think she is fine, then she starts having accidents again.
I am really looking forward to advice from your request. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone! Someone please help!

Several people have already mentioned bladder infections. I would also ask the Dr. to rule out 2 other things: kidney problems and diabetes. Increased urination, and lessened ability to control it, can be a symptom of either
The good news is that it is most likely not a huge medical problem. Sometimes kids just regress, from a variety of stressors. So for peace of mind, eliminate medical causes, then just be patient. As when first training, discipline will most likely backfire, especially if she is doing this on purpose (which I doubt).
Good luck!

You might take her to the doctor to see if she has a urinary tract infection. I had these constantly as a kid, and they keep you from having control. Also--you might just coach her to be sure to go when she needs to. She might be getting distracted with having fun and she doesn't want to stop playing. By the time she notices that she really has to go, it's too late. Good luck!

I agree with what everyone else has been saying, I would only add that you might want to keep a mental track of when she has these accidents, if it's an emotional issue then it will happen most often during a certain time, like if she is having a problem at school or daycare then she might do it most often just before time to leave. If it has to do with the baby then it will be after you've spent more time with him and left on her own a bit. It's just a good way to get an idea of what may be triggering it and then you can talk to her about it and figure out the best way to deal with it.

If it's an infection then she'll most likely be holding it as long as she can and then peeing a lot when she does because it hurts so much.

I hope that this helps and that you can resolve this quickly, it's never easy to deal with such embarrassing and frustrating situations like this.

Dear E. J. I have found that little children often go through stages and its probably and up set from having a new baby in the house. Each of my children went through different reactions when a new baby came home some were quite oparent wright from the start and others came later. I think you need to give it some more time and lots of love . I dont think they need to be disaplined unless they are doing somthing that will heart the new child. lots of luck. C. J.

A friend of mine went through something similar with her oldest daughter and there was a medical issue. I would recommmend starting with talking to her peditrician and ruling out physical reasons first. good luck

Just wondering if she could have a UTI? My niece regressed with potty training quite drastically as you describe and it ended up she had a bladder infection or a urinary tract infection (I forget which one).
It is worth consideration. Good luck.

The slightest change in a childs life can trigger regression. Also have her checked out by your Pediatrician to make sure it isn't a kidney issue or anything either. She may just be doing it to seek attention. Since she isn't having accidents at school I would lean more that way.
At her age, I would take away all big girl priviledges until she starts going without accidents, if she wants to be a five year old and have five year old priviledges then she needs to go to the bathroom. Also ask her to go on the potty every hour like you had to when you first started. That should irratate her enough to start going on her own. Just regress back to what process you had to use initially and then tell her when she is ready to act like a big girl that things can change. If she wants to be treated like a baby tell her that is fine and be matter of fact about it.

my 4 yr old is kind of in the same situation. She was potty trained at 2 and until recently was wearing pullups at night. She has had quite a few accidents during the day all of sudden. We have an 7 month old also. Maybe it does have something with the little sibling. The younger sibling is getting more attention because she is learning to crawl and requires so much of my attention. maybe this is the reason. Maybe she is having a growth spurt and just cant control it right now. I would think that there is no need for discipline but sometimes i get upset at her and it shows. i am so proud of her for getting out of the pullups at night but at the same time upset at her for having accidents during the day. What do we do????

Take her to the doctor and make sure she doesn't have a bladder infection or another underlying medical problem such as diabetes that would make it difficult for her to control her bladder urges.

I read in an online doctors forum that the ability for girls to control their bladders is dictated by hormonal levels, by 4 years old they should have enough of the required hormone to control. I would see if there is a physical cause for her inability to control accidents, if she is nowhere near being dry through the night she may have other reasons than behavioural ones. I know it must be really frustrating but my guess is she is really trying and just can't quite get it controlled. I think that disciplining with potty issues is a complicated proposal, there are so many layers to the whole process that it could do more harm than good.

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