Is it just me or do the words "predictability" and "toddler" seem like an odd couple? Between meltdowns that happen in a matter of seconds and new favorite foods on the daily, toddlers kind of live their lives on the fly. It’s part of the beauty of toddlerhood, but it can also make planning a laughable idea, especially when it comes to potty training. So when you wake up to a wet bed or accidents happening in the middle of aisle 10, you might wonder: Why isn't my toddler consistent with potty training? But experts say it’s to be expected.
"Consistency is not a concept that toddlers yet understand," says Trinity Jensen, a certified leadership parent coach at Pax Parenting Solutions, in an email interview with Romper. "It's simply not in their wheelhouse. At 2 and 3, the world is a fascinating place to be explored and their attention span is still limited to the immediate task at hand."
In addition to the fact that toddlers are, well, toddlers, Texas-based Dr. Eboni Hollier, who is board-certified in both general and developmental and behavioral pediatrics, says there are a few specific reasons that a child might not be consistent with his bathroom habits.
"If there are significant changes in a toddler's life, such as moving to a new home, starting school, or the birth of a new sibling, this can lead to inconsistency or regression in toilet training," she tells Romper in an email.
Hollier says developmental disabilities and behavioral issues may also play a role in potty training inconsistencies. "For example, a toddler may be struggling to show independence and may not necessarily want to do what is expected of him, even if he knows how for a period of time."
Before beginning potty training, she suggests parents look for signs of toilet readiness skills. This includes a child’s ability to pull his pants up and down independently, stay dry or clean for several hours, and remove a soiled diaper on his own.
"Before you actually start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that eventually everyone learns to use the potty," she says. "When beginning the process, or even before starting, show your toddler the steps involved, including pants down, sit on potty, wipe bottom with tissue, flush toilet, pull pants up, and wash and dry hands. Repeat the steps in the same manner each time to provide consistency."
She also reminds parents that when a toddler does have an accident — because he will — stay chill. "A child should never be scolded or punished for having an accident," Hollier insists. "A child should assist in clean-up of the accident to a level appropriate for his level of development."
And if your toddler does show signs of resistance, then it’s time to back burner potty training and try again, Hollier says, because "potty training happens more quickly and easily when the child is ready."
Hey, no one said toddlers gave a crap about your agenda.