Is your toddler afraid to poop in the potty? Discover how to get your child to poop in the potty, stop holding it in, and ease his potty training poop anxiety.
The clenched butt, the closed legs, the funny poses your toddler does… all of it would be a lot cuter if you knew he wasn’t doing it because he was trying not to poop.
Because for the last several days (days!) he won’t poop at all, whether in a potty or even in diapers.
It started when he was constipated, and passing stool became painful. The problem is, he has now burned this memory in his mind, so much so that he thinks any future poops will feel just as bad. And of course, the longer he holds the poop, the more constipated he does get… and the cycle continues.
Now, any time he feels the need to poop, he freaks out.
How to handle potty training poop anxiety
Every parent has felt that panic when she realizes that her child hasn’t pooped in days. In the newborn stage, perhaps this was a bit more normal, given that we were reassured babies wouldn’t always poop every day.
But once your child is older and has been pooping regularly, realizing that it’s been days since he has pooped can feel alarming.
You might even get into power struggles with him, whether because of his refusal to sit on the potty or because of the accidents and soiled undies that eventually happen.
How do you handle a toddler afraid to poop in the potty and resolve his anxiety? Take a look at these tips to help your toddler overcome his potty training poop anxiety and stop withholding his stool:
1. Put your toddler on the potty after a bath
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Typically, you reserve baths for the end of the day, so that your child can be fresh for pajamas and a long night of sleep. That said, a warm bath can help relax him, both emotionally as well as physically.
Once you’ve given him a bath, place a shirt over his top to keep him warm, then have him sit on the potty for a few minutes.
If anything, the newness of this activity can help keep the pressure off of needing to use the potty, and actually encourage him to pass bowel movements.
2. Combine sitting on the potty with a fun activity
Besides sitting your toddler on the potty after bath, you can also encourage her to sit on it as she does an activity.
Make it even more fun by keeping her company. Sitting alone in the bathroom doesn’t exactly help with potty training poop anxiety, but if you’re with her and doing something fun, she just might stay even longer.
Activities can include reading books or art (these Melissa & Doug Water Wow notepads are perfect—small to hold and only needs water). You can even set up your laptop or iPad and play a movie while she sits on the potty.
Doing fun activities while on the potty does two things. First, she’s relaxed and not thinking about pooping, which helps to actually pass stool. And second, she’s more likely to sit for a longer time if she’s doing something fun at the same time.
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3. Feed your toddler “P” foods
Many parents swear by certain foods to help soften stool and make it easier to pass. One of the most popular are the “P” foods, or fruits and vegetables that happen to start with P, including:
You also want to avoid giving her the “BRAT” diet, or the food people typically eat if they have diarrhea. These foods are said to make you even more constipated:
- Apples and applesauce
4. Make potty use part of your toddler’s routine
Is there a task in your toddler’s day that she does automatically and doesn’t fight at all? Maybe it’s putting her dish in the sink or placing dirty clothes in the hamper. She doesn’t fight these chores because they’ve become so ingrained in her routine.
The same can be done with sitting on the potty.
Make sitting on the potty part of her routine by doing it—regularly and consistently—before or after another task. Perhaps she can sit on the potty after having her afternoon snack, or right before you leave the house.
She might fight going to the potty the first few tries, but eventually she’ll catch on. And the best part? By making potty use part of her day, she’ll fight it less and simply accept it as a given.
5. Read children’s books about the potty
Books are a fantastic way to ease your child’s potty training poop anxiety, especially when she can see that this is normal.
Because nothing is worse than feeling like she’s alone, or that something is wrong with pooping. Reading about and seeing characters sitting on a potty and trying to poop reassures her that it’s okay to try it herself.
6. Consult with your toddler’s pediatrician
I’m a fan of giving our pediatrician a call whenever I’m not sure about an issue my kids are having. Better safe than sorry, right? Most of the time, the issues I called about weren’t anything serious, but I always feel better knowing I’ve double-checked.
If your toddler’s potty training poop anxiety persists, it’s worth a call to her pediatrician to rule out more serious problems. The doctor can also take x-rays or prescribe medicine, things you and I can’t exactly do on our own.
Because if it is a medical issue, then it’s likely her refusal to poop goes beyond stubbornness or defiance.
7. Don’t make a big deal about it
Kids pick up on our energy, including the times when we’re stressed and anxious. Sure, knowing your toddler hasn’t pooped in days doesn’t help the nerves, but the more you pile on your worries, the more stressed she feels, and the less likely she is to poop.
And so the cycle continues.
Put a stop to it by simply not making a big deal about it. Continue to sit her on the potty as part of your routine, but treat it as a normal thing, not a punishment or a thorn between the two of you. Watch your tone of voice and keep it casual and conversational, not the start of a power struggle.
I’m willing to bet the more you ease up on this issue, the more likely she’ll finally take to pooping in the potty.
Knowing how to respond to your toddler’s potty training poop anxiety is never easy. It’s tempting to lose your temper, use bribes, or threaten her with consequences, except none of these are effective (nor respectful) at getting the job done.
Instead, try other techniques like encouraging her to poop after a bath or doing fun activities while she sits on the potty. Sit her regularly on the potty as part of your routine, and feed her food conducive to passing bowel movements.
Give your pediatrician a call to rule out more serious causes. Make pooping normal by reading children’s books about it. And finally, don’t make a big deal about it, avoiding losing your temper or adding even more pressure—both will only worsen the situation, not improve it.
By easing her fears about pooping, you can eliminate the mental barriers that could be preventing her from using the potty. If anything, at least now she won’t resort to clenching her butt or squeezing her legs together.
Get more tips:
- How to Get Your Toddler to Poop in the Potty
- Potty Training Books for Toddlers to Ease Their Anxiety
- Secrets to Fix Potty Training Accidents
- What to Do when Your Child Is Scared of Restrooms
Tell me in the comments: What are your biggest struggles with your toddler’s potty training poop anxiety?
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