Accidents after toilet training

What to do if your preschooler has a potty training relapse

Q: My four-year-old son pooped in his pants about five times in the last week, and to avoid having to tell me about it, he even tried cleaning up himself. Is it normal to have a relapse? He has been potty trained since he was 2½ and hasn’t experienced any real problems until now.

A: Many toilet-trained children will have accidents when they’re suffering from diarrhea, and a few will soil in a new, possibly stressful situation, or if they are afraid of using the toilet. These accidents don’t usually involve full bowel movements.

You haven’t mentioned whether he is having any bowel movements on the toilet. If he is, yet continues to soil himself between bathroom visits, that could be an indication of severe constipation, so check to see whether this is the case. In addition, loss of muscle tone around the anus might cause your son not to feel when he should go. Your son’s doctor should look into this possibility.

Whatever the cause, your son needs to know you are not angry with him, that he mustn’t hide these accidents and that you will work with the doctor to help him stop having them.