My step son is turning 4 next month and has forgotten his potty training skills. My husband gets him for seven weeks during the summer. Within the first week, he had a potty accident. And now, in the sixth week, he's had at least one each week and then an awful #2 accident tonight. My husband is frustrated beyond consoling and I am just searching for answers. His mother lives out of state so this is not a typical every other weekend schedule. When we have him, he's here for long stretches of time. Also, she was in a very traumatic car accident in April, crushing both of her legs, leaving her very incapable of taking care of herself and son. I'm just wondering if you think these potty accidents are caused by the traumatic change in his mom's quality of life, or if it's simply because he's with us and his environment is different..? He's a very smart child and his explanation is simply, 'it was an accident.' He even smiles about it, which frustrates us more.
Any suggestions on the root of this problem may help us get through it.
Thank you for your input!
From: Miranda, Searcy, AR
First of all, a few questions: (1) How sure can you be that he's "forgotten" his potty-training skills? Maybe he's never really had them down. My guess is that mom (for what sound like pretty valid reasons) has been laissez-faire on the issue. In fact, I'd bet that his response, "It was just an accident," are words that come directly from her mouth and I don't find that a bad response at all. (2) Have you asked mom about these accidents? Do they only happen on your watch, or were they happening on hers as well? How does she handle them? Ask these questions in a non-judgmental way so that you get truthful answers.
Is it absolutely possible that accidents can be caused by stress and trauma.They can also be caused by change and transitions. It may not be possible for you to tease out which is the bigger issue for him, but, given your description, the mom's situation sounds pretty difficult. Since her condition sounds like it may be on-going, it might be worth your husband having a conversation with her about the possibility of professional counseling for their child.
Another common cause is constipation or medical issues. If possible, get him checked out by the pediatrician before he leaves your home. Keep in mind that boys are often late to train.
Here are some tips for coping with the accidents:
1. Be matter-of-fact, not angry or punitive.
2. Enlist his help in the clean-up: "Can you get the paper towels?" After you rinse out the underwear, ask him to put it in the washer.
3. Back off the training and give him control: "I know having an accident in the middle of the night isn't very pleasant for you. Should we buy some pull-ups? That would be OK. Then you can decide what you want to wear each night."
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