When Your Toddler Is Potty Trained but Poops in Their Pants

Even after successfully potty training, some children can still have poop accidents. Learn why your toddler (who is potty trained) still poops in their pants—and how to handle it.

Toddler Potty Trained but Poops in Pants

My toddler, who had been potty trained for months, would still disappear into his “poop corner” and go in his undies. It didn’t seem to matter that we had talked about where he should really go, or that he could pee just fine in the potty. Nope—pooping became an all-out battle and a source of power struggles.

This made me wonder how many potty training accidents are normal considering that it had been months since we started. After all, dealing with poop is no easy (or clean!) task.

Thankfully, I found a few tricks that helped our toddler finally to poop on the potty just as well as he peed in one. I didn’t rely on rewards, unreasonable schedules, or worse, yelling to get it done. Take a look at these tips and I hope they can work for you, too:

Observe your toddler

Sometimes, it feels like your potty trained toddler is having accidents on purpose, considering how often these mishaps happen. But see if you can spot a few signs that a bowel movement is about to pass so you can make sure it happens in the toilet.

You see, kids can display signs of having to poop, from standing in a weird, strained position to looking like they’re clenching their butts. Some might run off for privacy or walk in a funny way. Other times, you just know that your toddler tends to go at certain times, like after school or before breakfast.

Observe and be mindful of these signs throughout the day. Then, when you catch one of them, lead her to the bathroom to try and poop in the toilet. This can prevent her from going in her undies in the first place.

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Have your toddler help clean the mess

One way to get your toddler to start being mindful of her accidents is to have her help you clean the mess. Holding her accountable helps her understand the consequences of pooping in her undies.

Guide her throughout the cleaning process with compassion, not anger or frustration. For instance, show her how you drop the poop from her undies into the toilet. Have run the water and add the laundry detergent. Perhaps she can spray and sanitize the bathroom (or any areas that got dirty).

If you don’t feel comfortable having her clean accidents, then at least let her know that you now have to clean it up—and what happens because you do. You could say, “We have to pause playing the game until after I wash your undies.”

Keep your toddler bare-bottomed

Who says you can’t re-train your potty-trained toddler? If you find that he’s been having more accidents than normal, try keeping him bare-bottom and potty training in three days. He won’t wear pull-ups, undies, or even shorts or pants for that matter. Instead, he’ll be completely bare on the bottom half of his body.

Then, follow this schedule:

  • Day 1: Stay home the whole day. He won’t have the crutch of undies or diapers to poop into and can be more likely to poop in the toilet when he feels the sensation of his bowel movements.
  • Day 2: Repeat Day 1, but take an hour-long outing—with only pants or shorts, no undies or pull-ups.
  • Day 3: Take two hour-long outings, also with only pants or shorts and no undies.

The more directly he feels the sensation of pooping, the more he can head to the toilet at the first sign he feels he has to poop.

Create the right environment

Does your toddler refuse to sit on the potty to poop?

Pooping in the toilet can feel awkward, especially if she had been used to going in her diapers or pull-ups. By creating the right environment, she’s more likely to poop in the toilet and feel comfortable doing so.

For instance, give her privacy by keeping the door mostly closed. Turn on the vent in the bathroom so she doesn’t feel self-conscious of the sounds in the other rooms. Offer a book to read and prop her feet on a step so that her knees stay above hip level.

All these changes can help her feel more comfortable and at ease while she tries to poop.

Offer fiber, water, and exercise

Part of what could be making pooping in the toilet uncomfortable is the difficulty in passing bowel movements. It doesn’t help that the more your toddler holds his poop, the harder his stools become, setting off a cycle of constipation.

To break the cycle, include fibrous food like plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in his diet and reduce carbs like pasta, bread, and rice. I found that my kids had an easier time pooping when we switched to eating differently, even temporarily.

Then, make sure he’s drinking enough water throughout the day. Aim for 2-3 cups (8 oz) of water a day for kids this age. And lastly, keep him active as well, as staying sedentary for long periods isn’t good for many reasons, including staying constipated.


In the grand scheme of things, your potty trained toddler pooping in her pants isn’t worth getting upset or stressed about. But I understand how easy it is to feel frustrated with each accident, especially when she has made progress in other areas except this one.

Thankfully, now you have a few tips to get her back on track. No more hiding in the “poop corner,” friend! Now she can use the toilet to poop—instead of her pants.

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  1. My little boy of 2 1/2 is potty trained and has been for a few weeks now. His major struggle is with doing poo in the potty. It’s like he has a mental block about it. I am at a loss as to how to get him over the line with it. I don’t make a fuss when his accident happens but I would love for him to be not having accidents as he gets quite upset when it happens. He’s embarrassed or hates what has happened even though he gets plenty of reassurance that it’s ok. Any help or advice would be so appreciated.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Carrie! It can be tough when our kids are potty trained for peeing but still have trouble with pooping. Our pediatrician told us that kids can often take up to a year before they master pooping in the potty, and for my three kids, I’ve found that to be more or less true. That doesn’t mean that there’ll be accidents galore for 12 months and suddenly they’ll disappear. Knowing this helped me not stress so much when accidents happened, knowing that they were normal and that they would eventually disappear. So, rest assured that these accidents, however frequently they might feel right now, will eventually go away.