Potty training throws parents plenty of curve balls — from fears of loud flushes in public restroom to night-time hold-outs. But one of the most frustrating hurdles of all is when a child will happily pee in the potty but refuses to poop there. If you're looking for advice on this issue, here are 7 strategies that have worked for other moms.
1. Soothe Common Fears
A child's refusal to poop on the toilet is often a result of fear. In addition to being afraid of falling in or being eaten by monsters in the toilet, many children are scared that their bodies are actually falling apart when they poop. Amy R. recalls: “My son thought that his ‘guts’ were going to fall out.” Since children often think of poop as an actual part of their body, it’s important to both explain that pooping doesn’t hurt them, and allow them to say goodbye. Deborah M. explains: “Whether she poops in pull ups or in her underwear make sure to discard the poop in the toilet. Wave to it say 'Goodbye Poop! We'll see you next time!!!'”
2. Rule Out Constipation
Children may also be reluctant to poop on the toilet because it's physically painful. As Kim advises: “If she is chronically constipated and has trouble or pain when pooping, be sure to address that first by changing her diet (i.e. more fiber, eliminating allergens, enough water to drink, etc.)."
3. Ooooh, Distractions!
Young children are often just too afraid and fidgety to relax enough to go to the bathroom. As a result, several Circle of Moms members suggest distracting your kiddo with songs, books or games. Tiffany B. finally got her son to do his business by letting him "brush" his teeth (toothbrush, no paste) on the potty: “It gave him enough of a distraction that he was able to relax and go. And so that I didn't stress him out more I would clean off the bathroom counter or straighten up or brush my own teeth.”
4. Try a Potty Chair
As moms like Jacki H. share, sometimes a potty chair is easier than the grown-up toilet: “Try buying him a ‘cool’ kid's potty. I bought my son a frog one. He loved it!” Gail M. agrees: “If you are using a ring on a big potty, she may feel more comfortable on a potty chair on the floor. That worked for my son. He said it hurt to poop on the ring on the big potty."
5. Extra Motivation
“She knows how — and is proud once she does — but she needs motivation,” shares mom-of-two Sheri P. Her winning strategy with her daughter? “We bribe her. Cookies or a gummy bear if she goes on the potty. It was our doctor’s suggestion. Some kids are scared and need that little bit of motivation to keep them interested until they are ready to do it on their own. We give her lots praise and do the happy dance in the bathroom EVERY time.” Many moms, including Lisa D., agree: “We did stickers as motivators…We are so happy and excited when it happens and we clap and say "yay! SOMEBODY pooped in the toilet!"
6. Imitating Mama
Showing your child how you use the toilet can reassure her that it’s safe. Shelly S. shares: “What I did with my daughter was take her in with me when I had to go and clapped and praised myself and that seemed to help her.” Similarly, Yun C. found her son was encouraged by seeing other children use the toilet: “I invited two other toddler friends of his over when we started. (One of) the other toddler(s) used the potty in front of him, so he wanted to show that he could use it as well. It ended up being a potty party!”
7. Start a Countdown
Setting a timetable may also work, shares Lori S.: “I took the stance of letting him do it when he was ready (much to the chagrin of my mother-in-law) but as we approached the 4th birthday, I had to set a time table. We kept telling him that when he turned four, there would be no more pooping in a diaper…I think the count down helped not only to prepare him, but gave him the time he needed to get used to the idea. On his fourth birthday, that was it. He started pooping on the toilet. Problem solved.”