4 Preschool Regressions & How To Deal With Them

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Little girl in front of a multicolored background makes his first write exercises

With preschool winding down soon I’ve started reflecting on the last year with my daughter. She’s learned so much and it’s been exciting to watch her just soak it all up, but we’ve had some setbacks too in the form of preschool regressions.

4 preschool regressions mirror writing, potty training, sleep regression, baby talk

I may have mentioned that I’ve never read a parenting book. I started reading one when my daughter was born and began freaking out about flathead syndrome. My husband convinced me that we didn’t really need the book and could figure out how to raise tiny humans all on our own. However, there have been moments that I’ve needed to know more about what’s going on inside that little brain of her’s. Times where I didn’t know what to do and where my first instinct was wrong. All these times have had to do with normal, preschooler regression activities but I wasn’t even aware that they were “normal” when they started happening.

Preschool Regression 1: Mirror Writing

Mirror writing is basically writing backwards. If you view the word or the letter in the mirror, it would look correct, hence the name. With kids you often see this happen as they’re learning to write. Generally there are a few letters or numbers that they frequently write backwards. When I first saw my daughter writing like this she wasn’t writing one letter backwards, she wrote every letter and the whole word backwards. She even started on the right-hand side of the paper. When I asked her why she was writing like that she would look at her paper and say, “Oh, I just forgot.” It came on suddenly. I just happened one day out of the blue and I wasn’t prepared for it. Nor did I even have any knowledge of the concept of mirror writing.

Mirror writing, The Everyday Mom Life, preschool regression

Why does this happen?

First, you should know that mirror writing is extremely common in young kids. According to The British Psychology Society this appears in young children learning to write because the hemispheres of their brains haven’t establish which is dominant yet and they are still learning directionality. I didn’t know that until I started researching. I was worried she might be dyslexic. She’s not. She’s just doing normal, kid stuff.

What do you do about it?

I did the wrong thing. I, of course, got irritated and mad. She was doing it a lot on her homework and even when she was writing on her own drawings. Of course, getting angry was making it worse. Once I started reading about it I was able to find better ways to deal with it. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Do not stop a child from writing this way or make them correct it. (Hello there! My name is Rachel and I’m an awful parent.)
  • If they ask you if it’s right, point out the errors.
  • Don’t make a big deal out of it (Now you tell me.) because it could limit their creativity.
  • Children will usually stop mirror writing by the end of second grade.

Preschool Regression 2: Potty Training

My daughter has been potty trained for well over a year – at night and during the day. But one day this year she just started wetting the bed again. This happened for a few weeks on and off and was so frustrating for us. It didn’t help that the mattress protector on her bed wasn’t really water proof and that when she slept in our bed one night she peed all over me too. These situations are stressful for parents, but they’re also stressful for children too.

Why is this happening?

According to experts there may be multiple reasons why a child regresses on potty training. Healthychildren.org suggests you first take your child to the doctor to rule out any medical reasons for the regressions. (Think infections versus some sort of major medical issue.) However, at the pre-school age, the behavior is usually due to some change in their environment or their life.




What do you do about it?

Again, I was irritated when this happened, especially when it left me covered in pee in the middle of the night. Of course, that was the wrong reaction.

  • Don’t overreact. It can make it worse. (This should just be a general rule in life.)
  • Don’t give the problem extra attention either as it can reinforce behavior.
  • See if you can figure out the cause of the problem by talking with them. If you have an older preschooler, like me, ask them of something if bothering them. If you can figure out what’s triggering it, you might be able to help solve it.
  • Be clear about expectations for going potty.
  • Remind them more.
  • Make sure they go to the bathroom right before bed. We now take my daughter when she wakes up around 11 p.m., which is usually the cause of her waking up.

Preschool Regression 3: Sleep

My daughter has never been a great sleeper. She rarely sleeps through the night and in all honesty we probably need to get her tested for sleep apnea. Regardless, she has regressed a bit in this area at night. She is waking up more often and climbing into bed with us or wanting us to sleep in her bedroom the whole night.

Why is this happening?

There could be several reasons why this is happening. In our case I’ve already mentioned sleep apnea, which is a medical issue, but we’ve also had issues with Night Terrors, bed wetting as I mentioned above, no more naps, big kid beds, etc. Similar to potty training regression, there could be many, many reasons why a child who is a relatively good sleeper suddenly backtracks. You can find message threads out on the internet asking if there is a regression at 3 or 4-years-old but usually some change in life seems to trigger this. The other main reason I’ve seen cited is similar to the same thing you might see if there is a sleep regression with your baby – some sort of leap in cognitive development.

What do you do about it?

We are dealing with several issues when it comes to this so we’ve tried several approaches to help remedy the situation. If you are dealing with this too the way to handle it might depend on what’s causing the problem. However there are a couple of key things you can do to see if you can alleviate some of your sleep deprivation.

  • Stay consistent.
    • Similar to sleep training a baby, you want to hold your ground. If your preschooler put themselves to bed at night but they suddenly want you ALL THE TIME make sure they are stil putting themselves to sleep. But, maybe reassure them you are waiting right outside the door.
    • If you are a stickler for making sure they stay in their bed all night, make sure you bring them back to their bed if they try to come in your’s suddenly.
    • If your child is still napping make sure that you are consistent with the time of the nap.
  • If your child is scared of their room, start playing with them in their room more during daylight hours.
  • If your child has started having issues falling asleep you can also use a technique called Bedtime Fading. This involves moving bedtime back. You can read more about it here.

Preschool Regression 4: Baby Talk or Acting Like a Baby

My daughter has always been a very independent, mature girl. She has always spent a lot of time with adults, listens well and is, in general, very well-behaved. All of these were frustrating, but when my daughter started suddenly baby talking one night a few weeks ago it was maddening. It was like it was happening without her even trying and she couldn’t really control it.

Why is this happening?

Again there may be a few reasons your child is suddenly feeling the need to talk or act like a baby. Have you recently had a new baby? This can be a trigger. Did they have a long day at school? Did they recently lose a pet or a loved one? Is there some reason they might need to be comforted or coddled?

All of these can be reasons, but sometimes, like us, you won’t really know the reason or be able to figure it out. I’ve also read that this can pop up when they are learning a new skill they’re not really read for, which may have been our issue.




What do you do?

Again, I did everything wrong here. Both my husband and I got mad, which of course made it worse. At the time, like literally as the words were coming out of my mouth, I thought this isn’t going to help. Since this was the latest thing we encountered I feel like I started learning a thing or two.

After one evening of this madness I started studying and rounded up a list of things that helped us. After doing some of these, the baby talking mainly stopped. Every now and then a word or sentence slips out, but we stick to these tips and haven’t seen a big resurgence in the issue.

  • Don’t get mad.
  • Instead say, “I can’t understand you when you talk like that. Can you talk to me in your big kid voice?” This worked really well for us and helped reinforce the correct way to ask for something.
  • Schedule baby time. If they are acting like a baby too, schedule time to indulge the need. They might be having a needy day.
  • Just give extra snuggles. My daughter now spends a little time at night with me curled up on the couch. My husband generally puts her to bed and I put her brother to bed, but getting some extra attention from me seemed to help.



25 COMMENTS

  1. I remember seeing this when my daughter was 3 and my youngest was born. Potty training and sleep was the toughest. This is a really great post Rachel!

  2. Great post here for parents! I think it can be so hard thinking that you are the only one – so such a comfort to hear others experiences too!

  3. This happens from time to time and it’s always better not to escalate the issue and just keep your calm. We have to make them feel that we’re always there and that we understand.

  4. Its really interesting how children (of any age) regress. I used to teach Pre-K and saw these behaviors, but I also see regression in middle school aged kids. Its the same idea/philosophy, just shown in different ways.

  5. I haven’t ever thought of these in the context of preschool regression, mainly because we homeschool. We definitely dealt with all of these things when we added subsequent babies – and you are right, not getting upset is key!

  6. Many kids write backwards at this age and it is not necessarily an indicator of any learning issues. It’s important that parents be aware of this if they have kids this age.

  7. Such a good read! We definitely experienced the baby talk regression with my oldest this past year. It is so frustrating, but so nice to know these are things that many parents deal with.

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