Do You Punish a Child for Potty Training Accidents?

The potty training process has its ups and downs 1. Children need to be physically ready to potty train, and once they are, they need to be aware of their body's need to go to the bathroom. On difficult days, your child may have trouble making it to the bathroom, even several times, which can cause frustration and angst for everyone. It’s important to keep the experience positive and avoid punishment because punishment for potty training is counterproductive, leading to extra tears and sometimes to problems like constipation, undermining the potty training process.

Professional Advice

Physicians generally warn parents against pushing a child to potty train too aggressively. In fact, punishing a child for having accidents or for resisting potty training can change the potty training process from a positive process to a negative one that takes longer and is more difficult, advises the University of Chicago Department of Pediatrics. If it becomes a power struggle, your child may end up withholding his bowel movements, which can lead to constipation or painful bowel movements that further delay the potty training process. If your child has an accident, keep calm and help him clean up the mess. Reassure him and let him know that it is okay and that he can try again.

Expect Accidents

If you anticipate and even expect accidents, you may be less likely to react negatively. The process of learning physical awareness of bodily functions takes time, the Boston Children’s Hospital points out. It’s essential that parents use patience and calm support to help children learn this skill. Your patience will help your child remain positive and comfortable with the process, which reduces the amount of frustration and temper tantrums that occur.

Natural Consequences

Instead of adopting punitive measures or pushing your child to potty train, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents apply natural consequences to accidents. For example, if your child has an accident, she will have to deal with the unpleasantness of the mess. While she’ll need some help to resolve this, step back slightly to let her experience some of the frustration associated with the accident. Another natural consequence can be the absence of the praise you give her for her potty training successes.

Keeping it Positive

Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author, recommends maintaining a positive approach to potty training to help your child feel encouraged and comfortable with this major milestone. Make the process exciting, spinning it as a transition from little person to big person for your little one. When you approach it as an opportunity to bond and connect with your little one as you help her learn this complex skill, your child can feel encouraged and you can feel empowered to assist without feeling the need to punish her for accidents along the way.