Potty training poop anxiety is common with kids. Learn what to do when your toddler won’t poop on potty, even when he holds it or refuses to sit.
I didn’t know what I was more tired of: buying pull-ups or cleaning accidents.
You see, I couldn’t for the life of me get my toddler to poop on the potty. He’d go days without pooping. Or he’d poop in his pull-ups before naps or bedtime—and of course not tell anyone he was sleeping in poop.
The thing is, he was already peeing in the toilet for a year, all without accidents. He knew exactly what to do—he simply refused to poop in the potty.
I tried sitting him on the potty for a length of time, but he’d hold it in the whole time. I’d even find him clearly needing to poop, but no amount of encouraging helped. He’d instead hide from me and poop in his undies. And that’s on a good day—many times his refusal erupted in full out crying and yelling.
When your toddler won’t poop on potty
As frustrated as I was, I knew I couldn’t be the only one, either.
Maybe your toddler actually tells you when he needs to poop, but freaks out when it’s time to push and actually sit on the potty. Perhaps you’ve explained, bribed, even begged… but nothing. Instead, you’re left feeling unsure of everything.
Don’t worry, friend. I can reassure you that this too will pass. You can learn how to encourage your toddler without making the experience traumatic (for either of you!). We’ll go over what worked for me and many others, as well as a few shifts to make and behaviors to avoid.
In short, I promise that your child won’t wear diapers in college (or even in kindergarten, for that matter).
Why do toddlers not want to poop in the potty?
But first, let’s talk about a few key reasons many toddlers don’t want to poop in the potty. By keeping these reasons in mind, you’re more likely to be mindful, patient, and compassionate during this process:
- Your toddler would rather do something else. If you’ve got an active little one, he just may not be as interested in sitting on potty, waiting for poop to come out. He’d rather be on the go, which pull-ups and diapers make all the more convenient.
- Your toddler has had constipation and is afraid to poop. An initial fear of the potty may have made him hold his poop, which led to constipation. By the time he finally had to poop, the experience may have been painful, tainting the experience for him.
- Your toddler is adjusting to a new way to poop. Keep in mind that even the physical sensations—from an exposed bottom sitting in a hole to feeling poop come out—can feel overwhelming. After all, he’s had years of pooping in a diaper or pull-up.
As you can see, your toddler isn’t out to make your life miserable. He truly is struggling with pooping in the potty. Let’s take a look at a few ways to help him do just that:
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1. Don’t make a big deal out of it
Have you noticed that the minute you stop freaking out, getting upset, or making a big deal out of something, your child suddenly complies?
Kids sense our mood and energy. If we’re high-strung and stressed because they won’t poop in the potty, they’ll hear the message loud and clear: this poop thing is not a good thing.
But imagine instead responding casually (or at least neutrally). If he doesn’t want to poop in the potty, shrug your shoulders and say, “Okay.” If he has an accident in his undies, clean the mess without saying a word.
The less “pain” you associate with the experience, the more likely he’ll be to give it a try.
2. Ditch the diapers and pull-ups
Have you tried losing weight knowing you had ice cream in the freezer and cookies in the cupboard? As you can imagine, willpower can only get you so far before you cave into your cravings.
The same is true with diapers. The more you make them available, the more you enable the very behavior you’re trying to get rid of. Think of it as helping your child make the switch by ditching any temptations or fallback that could be keeping him stuck in his comfort zone.
Plus, alternating between using the potty and pooping in diapers sends mixed messages. He’s less likely to give the potty a chance when you continue to relent and hand him a diaper.
Of course, many toddlers still rely on pull-ups for sleep, especially at night, so you may not be able to ditch them completely.
But do as much as you can to encourage your child to use undies—yep, even for naps. In fact, expect accidents to happen by having extra sheets ready or clearing his bed. The more committed you are to undies, the more he’ll get the idea.
3. Make your toddler responsible for his choices
If your toddler simply insists on pull-ups, another strategy is to make him responsible for using it. Make it his issue to handle, not yours.
For instance, if he says he has to poop and asks for a pull-up, have him fetch his own pull-up, put it on, and let you know when he’s done. After he is, have him watch as you dump the poop in the toilet and get cleaned up. Make him responsible for fetching a new pair of undies.
In other words, allow him to experience the inconvenience of pooping in a pull-up. It will help him realize that the hassle of learning to poop in the potty isn’t as bad in comparison.
4. Praise your toddler for any progress he makes
Just because your toddler won’t poop on potty, doesn’t mean he hasn’t made progress thus far. Praise him for baby steps he takes, however small.
Maybe it’s when he actually sat on the potty (even if he didn’t poop in it). Perhaps he told you he needed to go, whereas in the past he’d sneak off without a word.
These are small but significant actions that deserve your attention. After all, the more positive reinforcement he ties to using the potty, the more likely he’ll be to keep going with his progress.
5. Help your toddler face his fears
Helping kids use the potty is a fine balance. On one hand, you don’t want to pressure him when he’s simply not ready. But on the other, you also want to encourage him to face his fears and do it anyway. By shielding him from anything new and potentially uncomfortable, you’re confirming his fears and suspicions.
One way to do this is to support him once he gives pooping in the potty a chance. Maybe you get children’s books about the potty and talk about his fears. Or you hug him while he sits on the potty and tries to poop.
With your support, he knows that however scary or uncomfortable pooping in the potty may be, you have confidence in his ability to do it.
Learning what to do when your toddler won’t poop on potty can leave any mom feeling frustrated and discouraged. But with these simple tweaks and changes, you can make a world of a difference, not only for your toddler pooping, but your interaction with him as well.
Respond calmly and matter-of-fact, remembering not to make a big deal out of pooping in the potty. Ditch the diapers so he has less to fall back on (not to mention sending a clear message). If diapers are a must, make him responsible for using them.
Praise your toddler for both big and small steps toward progress. And help him face his fears—having you by his side (sometimes literally) can be all it takes for him to gain the confidence to give it a try.
I’m more than happy to report that since those days, my son poops in the potty regularly—no more diapers or messy accidents to deal with.
Get more tips:
- The Real Reasons Your 4 Year Old Won’t Poop on the Potty
- How to Respond to Your Toddler’s Poop Anxiety
- How to Get Your Toddler to (Finally) Poop in the Potty
- Your Toddler Refuses to Sit on the Potty? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry
- Potty Trained Toddler Having Accidents on Purpose
Don’t forget: Join my FREE 5-day email mini course, Peaceful Potty Training and potty train without frustrating power struggles: