Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Three-Year-Old Stopped Using Potty

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: My three-year-old daughter is potty-trained and has been successfully using the potty. Now, all of a sudden, she has begun to pee everywhere except the bathroom. Is this normal, or is this the sign of a problem?

A: It is not unusual for children to regress soon after becoming toilet-trained. Changes in the family or in living circumstances, illnesses and other stresses can all cause a child to fall back into "old" patterns.

It is important to make sure there are no physical concerns that could be contributing to her behavior. In girls especially, urinary tract (bladder and kidney) infections can cause children to have accidents. The typical symptoms of burning or pain with urination may not be present. Similarly, diabetes can cause a young child to have more frequent urination, and thus contribute to more accidents. You should talk with your doctor about whether your daughter needs to be evaluated further.

Remember also that two- and three-year-olds are struggling with the issues of control and independence, and toileting is one thing that they truly do have control over. If there are no signs of any sort of medical problem, you will have to be patient and help her to relearn her potty skills. I suggest giving her control of some other aspects of her life (what clothes to put on, which story to read, which sandwich to eat for lunch, etc.), and you may find that she has less of a need to demonstrate her control over where she pees.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


6 Tips to Help Your Marriage Survive a New Baby
When the going gets tough, follow these tips to help your marriage during the stressful newborn months.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

15 Not-So-Scary Halloween Movies for Kids
Halloween doesn’t always have to be a fright. Take the scare-factor down a notch by watching one of these not-too-scary Halloween movies for kids .

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks