Question: My daughter is 2 1/2 and has been potty trained since her second birthday. My husband has recently taken a new job that requires him to be gone 3 weeks out of the month. Since he started this job she has started wetting her crib. We were pretty sure that she started regressing due to her daddy being gone but we recently went to visit him for a couple of weeks and she has continued to wet and poop in her panties in the morning and after nap time. We have tried talking to her, taking things away from her, such as, a favorite toy and fruit chews. I have now resorted to putting her back in diapers at bedtime and she doesn’t mind a bit. I am frustrated with her behavior and just don’t know how to handle it anymore. Please help. Staci
Answer: It is always discouraging for parents to live with these potty regressions. But as you said in your own words, your daughter “doesn’t mind a bit” being back in diapers. She may like the security and comfort of the diapers because daddy is traveling or for any number of other reasons. Two things are important here: 1. respond to her potty choices in clear, non-emotional terms, and 2. create new routines to connect with dad when he is away.
I believe that bribes and punishments are counter-productive in potty learning. Ask your daughter at bedtime and at naptime if she wants a diaper. This may be her way of exerting control over dad’s changing work-situation. Continue to encourage her during the day to go without the diaper. If she has an accident, clean her up with as little fanfare as possible – just a casual reminder will do. Frustration and anger just complicates the matter.
Keep her routines simple. This will also help her take control of her day and likewise her body. It’s not surprising that traveling threw things out of whack. Should you be traveling again, she may need helpful reminders and encouragement to refocus her on her potty needs. It’s always a good idea to anticipate her needs and steer her towards success. My favorite phrase is “you don’t HAVE to go potty, but make a toilet stop just in case”.
Always focus on the positive – tell you daughter (with heartfelt conviction) that you know she will use the potty again when she is ready. She will regain her physical and emotional equilibrium in no time.
You want to simultaneously find new ways to bond with a traveling daddy. And there are many!
- Try setting up a calendar with two kinds of stickers. Mark in advance the days that daddy will be away with one kind of sticker. Place the other kind of sticker on the calendar to mark “today”. You’re daughter will be able to see and count how many more days daddy will be gone and she has the “job” of putting the stickers on the calendar.
- Make a daddy box to collect everything she wants to show daddy when he comes home. Decorate it with pictures of your daughter and dad playing together.
- Include dad in the bedtime and morning rituals – a bedtime-phone-call-kiss, a daddy star outside, a morning rhyme “daddy, daddy, far away – have a great big awesome day today!”, and throw kisses to daddy wherever he is.
- Tape a 5 minutes of video everyday for daddy to watch when he gets home.
This will help your daughter to express her love for her daddy and share important parts of her day with him when he is away. With less potty pressure and a positive routine, I think the potty situation will improve in no time.
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.