Is your toddler afraid to poop in the potty, or will sit but still not poop? These tricks will get him to stop holding it in and finally poop.
My son had been potty trained for months, with hardly any pee accidents. But, despite his strides, he wouldn’t use the potty to poop, and instead would simply go in his undies and pants.
“I don’t want to,” he’d respond when I asked about using the potty.
He didn’t have constipation, nor did he have a bad experience in the toilet. And it’s not like he liked feeling poop in his underwear, either. Instead, he felt afraid to poop in the potty, even though he’d been peeing like a champ in one.
So, how do you get your toddler to poop in the potty, especially after months of having been potty-trained? I wanted to be empathetic toward his feelings, but also encourage him to stop having accidents once and for all. Washing poop-smudged undies every day was no easy task.
When your toddler afraid to poop in the potty
You’re likely here because you’re out of ideas. Your toddler simply refuses to poop in the potty, asking for a diaper instead. Even if he sits on the potty, he still won’t poop in it. He won’t tell you when he needs to go, even if he clearly knows.
And without a diaper, he’ll either hold his poop the whole day and get constipated, or have an accident in his undies.
The thing is, this behavior isn’t mere stubbornness—your toddler is afraid to poop in the potty. He says he’s scared of going and doesn’t like “the hole.” Seeing and feeling poo coming out of him can feel overwhelming. He may even be too young to communicate why he won’t poop.
So, you find yourself in a conundrum: How can you address his feelings while helping him poop in the potty? Thankfully, there is a way to be gentle with his fears while also reassuring him about the potty.
The first place to get answers is with your pediatrician, of course.Then, these tricks can also help him feel relaxed and safe, while respecting his own timeline and readiness. Take a look at these tips to handling a toddler afraid to poop in the potty:
1. Blow bubbles
A fellow mom suggested this fantastic trick to help your toddler ease his fears, especially if he tends to hold his poop. You see, he’s less likely to squeeze his muscles when he’s blowing bubbles at the same time. Blowing bubbles in general also relaxes his body and makes him feel less anxious.
If he’s too young to manage bubbles on his own, hold the bottle and wand for him as he blows. It helps that you’re already in the bathroom, making clean up even easier.
Free email course: Want to potty train without the power struggles? Join my free 5-day email mini course, Peaceful Potty Training! No more putting unrealistic deadlines on your kid or using rewards and stickers that fizzle. Join the mini-course now and potty train without frustrating power struggles.
You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
“You do a wonderful job teaching us new ways to parent and deal with the craziness that having kiddos is! Keep up the great work!” -Natalie Cacciola
2. Come up with a plan together
Coming up with a plan can be an effective way to ease your toddler’s fears and anxieties. The trick is to come up with it together, putting the two of you on the same side.
Before coming up with a plan, acknowledge how she feels. You might say, “It can feel scary to try different things, especially if you’re not used to it. I know I would be scared, too.”
Then, come up with a “plan” and brainstorm a few ideas she can try. Gather a sheet of paper and pens to make it “official.” Write them down, even if she can’t read them just yet.
For instance, one idea could be that she wears diapers until the last second before she sits on the potty. Maybe she brings books to read in the bathroom, or drinks prune juice or plenty of water in the morning. Or you plan to eat lots of fruits and vegetables to increase her fiber.
And be open to her ideas, no matter how farfetched or silly they might be.
Learn what to do when your toddler is potty trained but poops in pants.
3. Avoid dangling legs
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.
Pooping in a toilet seat attachment makes clean up much easier than a floor potty, but it does make for a few hassles as well. For instance, you likely have to carry your toddler onto the potty seat because he can’t reach it on its own.
But a bigger downside is that the toilet doesn’t make for a good pooping position, especially when his legs are dangling.
After all, can you imagine pooping in a tall toilet with your legs dangling below? Doesn’t exactly make for an effective way to pass bowel movements.
Instead, make sure to prop a step stool in front of the toilet so his feet are planted firmly on them. His knees should also be above hip level, which will help him bear down easier.
4. Help your toddler relax
Like many adults, your toddler can feel apprehensive about new experiences, especially with pooping in the potty. Understandably so, considering that she’d spent years pooping in diapers, anywhere and anytime.
Address her fears by helping her relax on the potty. Show her videos about using the potty, sing favorite songs, and read potty training books. Make the environment calm and relaxing so that she doesn’t associate it with fear and trepidation.
And be mindful of your own body language and tone of voice, as well. Stay calm and patient, even as she throws a fit or refuses to sit on the potty. The more relaxed you can be, the more she’ll follow suit.
5. Dump poop in the toilet
One of the benefits of wearing diapers is the ease of tossing a soiled one into the trash. No need to wash undies or wince too much at the mess.
But instead of simply tossing the diaper, try this trick: dump the poop in the toilet.
Letting your toddler see you dump poop in the toilet shows him where poop belongs. After all, up until now, he’d only known that poop goes into diapers. Now he can see that poop actually gets discarded in the toilet. Even better: let him flush the toilet so he can see the poop disappear.
Get tips on how to potty train a toddler.
5. Move in phases
Some toddlers need a more gradual approach to overcoming their fears about pooping in the potty. Rather than doing it all at once, see if you can move in phases:
- The first phase could mean pooping in her diaper, but to do so in the bathroom. This gives her the familiarity of the diaper while reinforcing the idea that the bathroom is the place to poop.
- The second phase could be for her to sit on the potty with her diaper to poop. She’s still pooping in the diaper, but will now become familiar with a new sitting position.
- The third phase could then be to wear diapers, but to remove them to poop in the potty. The diapers can still catch any accidents throughout the day, with the expectation that she should try to poop in the potty.
- And finally, the fourth phase is to do away with diapers completely and wear undies. Having had practice with diapers and pull-ups, she can now advance to wearing undies during the day.
Learn more about gradual potty training.
6. Call a relative after each successful poop
Reinforcing positive behavior starts with praising the behavior you want to see, than admonishing the ones you don’t. Encourage your toddler to keep pooping in the potty by allowing him to call a relative after each milestone he reaches.
Let’s say he finally pooped in the potty. Use that as an opportunity to call grandma and have him tell her what he had just done. Not only is he able to share the good news, he’s also allowed to use your phone, which he may not always be allowed to do.
Celebrate smaller steps, too. Success isn’t only the final outcome, but the progress to get there. Let’s say he agreed to even sit on the potty in the first place instead of fighting it. Give grandma or another relative a call so he can relay his progress.
7. Let it go (even for a long time)
At the end of the day, potty training should be easy. It really should. Any time you’re faced with a power struggle is a clear signal to take a break and try again later. Either your toddler isn’t physically or mentally ready, or power struggles are getting in the way.
Needless to say, fighting with her about pooping in the potty only leads to more unnecessary stress on everyone.
Instead, “give up” and let it go. Don’t say a word about pooping in the potty, and revert to old methods if need be.
Because more than likely, even months down the line, she’ll simply take off her diaper and poop in the potty. All the other times she resisted was her way of saying she wasn’t ready or willing.
Any parent would lose her patience when her toddler is afraid to poop in the potty. What do you when your child holds his poop until bedtime, or is too afraid to even sit down?
Thankfully, you now have a few tricks to help with this common problem and get him to poop in the potty.
Start by blowing bubbles in the potty, not only to help him relax but to make potty use fun. Create a plan together on what he can do to overcome his fears. Make sure he’s sitting correctly on the potty, and help him relax through songs, videos, and books.
Dump his poop into the toilet so he knows where it should go, and move in phases to ease him into potty use. Allow him to use your phone to call a relative after hitting milestones, and finally, let it go if it means avoiding power struggles and frustration.
Rest assured, he will poop in the potty at some point, even if right now, he says he “doesn’t want to.”
Get more tips:
- The Real Reasons Your 4 Year Old Won’t Poop on the Potty
- Secrets to Fixing Your Toddler’s Potty Training Accidents
- What to Do When Your 3 Year Old Won’t Poop on the Potty
- How to Get Your Toddler to (Finally) Poop in the Potty
- What to Do When Your Toddler Won’t Poop on the Potty
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and sign up for the free 5-day email mini course, Peaceful Potty Training:
Often kids are reluctant to use the toilet because they aren't big enough to sit comfortably and bear down effectively; they're too busy holding themselves up to be able to move their bowels, or their feet are dangling in mid-air. “You have to retrofit your toilet for your child,” says Gorodzinsky.
Take a break.
Tell your child that when she's ready, she can try pooping in the potty again and that you'll be there to help. Then lay off the topic, and let her feel like she's in the driver's seat. Above all, never force a toddler who has trouble pooping on the potty to sit there when she doesn't want to.
Make your child sit on the potty until she poops.
Does she pause during an activity, make a funny face, walk over to a different part of the room? If you notice these pre-pooping signals, you can rush your child to the toilet (or at least to the bathroom) before the bowel movement occurs.
When Your Child Is Scared of the Toilet | Potty Training - YouTube
Stool withholding behavior is more common in boys, but any child may start withholding poop at any time during the potty training process, Dr. Goldman says. “The most common reason is that they passed a very hard or large stool that was painful for the child,” she says.
According to American Family Physician, 40 to 60 percent of children are completely potty trained by 36 months of age. However, some children won't be trained until after they are 3 and a half years old. In general, girls tend to complete potty training about three months earlier than boys.
- What to do when your 3 year old won't poop on the potty.
- Manage your emotions.
- Address your child's anxieties and fears.
- Help your child relax and feel comfortable.
- Make potty time a regular part of your routine.
- Ease your child's constipation.
- Stop using diapers and pull-ups completely.
- Give your child a pep talk.
Learning to use the toilet is an important milestone. Most children start working on this skill between 18 months and 3 years of age. The average age of potty training falls somewhere around 27 months.