The 2 Words You Should Never Say When Your Child Has a Potty Accident (And What to Say Instead)

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You've bought the potty, you canceled your diaper subscription and you’ve blocked out your entire weekend: you are ready to do this whole potty training thing. Your toddler, on the other hand, is less enthused. In fact, on the first day of your potty training adventure (and the second, and the third), she accidentally does her business on the living room carpet. Or in her pants. Oops. Here’s how Jamie Glowacki, potty training expert and author of Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right, recommends handling these inevitable mishaps.

What not to say

You may be temped to reassure your kid that accidents happen, and a little pee in his pants or a little poop on the floor is no big deal. And yes, it isn't a big deal (you can just wipe it up or change clothes, after all) and you certainly don’t want to make your child feel embarrassed, but be mindful of your language, says Glowacki. “Don’t use the words, ‘It's okay’ if poop ends up on the floor. For some kids, those specific words imply permission.”

Think about it: Yesterday at the playground another kid climbed onto the swings before yours did and you told your disappointed offspring, 'That’s okay!’ You can see how the phrase might imply approval.

And what to say instead

Instead Glowacki recommends saying something simple and to the point. Think: “You pooped on the floor. Poop goes in the potty. Sit on the potty to poop.”

Or here’s another version you could try: “You are learning. You peed in your pants. Next time, your pee goes in the potty.”

The important thing is not to scold your child (you don’t want to shame them), but still communicate what is expected of them simply and directly (i.e., pooping in the potty).

She also stresses that parents set the tone for potty training. In other words, if you freak out over every accident (and there will be accidents) then your kid will pick up on those vibes. The best course of action is to remain cool, calm and matter-of-fact (without giving them permission to take a crap on your carpet).

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