How to Handle a Potty Training Accident

One of the main questions that parents have when beginning the process of potty training is concerning how to handle a potty training accident. It is good that those questions come up because those who haven’t yet considered what they’ll do when a potty training accident occurs are often caught off guard and unprepared. That predicament can lead to anger, and that is the worst way to respond. Some common questions that parents should consider before even starting potty training include:

  • How should I respond?
  • Should I respond at all?
  • Should I scold the child?
  • If I don’t respond, will they ever learn?

How to React to a Potty Training Accident

According to potty training expert Elizabeth Pantley, it is completely normal for a child who is newly potty trained to have one or more accidents per day. One of the main factors of successful potty training is the way you react to a potty training accident. Here are a few tips from those who have been there before:

  • Be prepared. Always carry a spare change of clothes with you, as well as a plastic bag for the soiled clothes and wipes.
  • Do not revert to diapers. Putting a diaper on your child after he or she has a potty training accident sends the message that if they have an accident, they can go back to the comfortable safety of diapers. Instead, calmly get them back into a clean pair of underwear and clothes.
  • Consider your reaction. Do you give your child more attention when he or she has a potty training accident than when he or she is successful? If so, try turning the tables.
  • Clean up a potty training accidents without showing emotion, as if it is a normal part of potty training (because it is!).

How to Prevent a Potty Training Accident

While parents need to accept that a potty training accidents will happen, there are a few methods of prevention that could help, including the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with your child’s signals that they have to go. When you notice that he or she is doing the potty dance, looks uncomfortable, or retreats to a certain area, quickly intervene. Say, “Hey, let’s go potty!” Feign excitement about it, and act like it is the most fun thing you’ll do all day.
  • Don’t ask if they have to go. Instead, tell them to try. If you ask children if they have to go potty, they’ll probably say no, even if they have to. Try offering a choice like if they’d like to use the potty chair or big toilet. That gives them some control over the situation.
  • Be prepared for public outings. If you know you’re going to be out and about, make sure your child tries to go potty before you leave the house. When you arrive at your destination, pay a quick visit to the bathroom as soon as you get there. Say something like, “Hey, here’s the bathroom. Just let me know if you have to go, and we can come back and use it. Want to give it a try now?” That eliminates some of the fear of public restrooms at least, since you’re showing your child what the foreign bathroom looks and sounds like without making them use it.

It can’t be overstated that your demeanor drives your child’s success.  So, when a potty training accident happens but you have difficulty reacting calmly, take a few moments to compose yourself, and remind yourself that potty training is only temporary. This too shall pass!

Additional Potty Training Resources:

What To Do When Potty Training Accidents Occur

Potty Accidents 


Angie Long

Angie is an experienced freelance writer and mother of two. She has extensive experience working in professional training, including the development and evaluation of training and exam material. She has a background in elementary education. Angie has a 4-year-old who still struggles with potty training, yet her 8-year-old nailed it by two years of age.

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