After almost 3 months of being completely potty trained for peeing (self initiating, able to go to the potty all by himself), my almost-3-year-old son still refused to poop in the potty. Any potty. Not his potty chair, not a potty seat on the big potty, not even the kid-sized potty at his preschool.
Every single day, I used my diaper sprayer to spray poop out of his big boy underwear while we repeated the same conversation:
Me: “Where does the poop go?”
Him: “In the potty”
Me: “Where did you put it?”
Him: “In my underwear”
It got to the point where he was hiding to do his pooping. He would wait until I was distracted and run to a hiding spot. If I noticed he wasn’t in the room with us, I would look under the table or behind something and there he was, pooping in his underwear. Clearly, he was aware when he needed to poop and had the foresight to go somewhere special to do it. That “somewhere special” was not the potty.
Over the weeks as I grew increasingly tired of cleaning up the poop, and increasingly embarrassed when his preschool teachers had to do it too, I reached out to my fellow mom friends on Facebook and discussion groups for advice on what to do.
While none of these tactics seemed to work for me, I have a handy list of ideas to help your toddler learn to poop on the potty if he or she is having trouble:
- Books about the potty. There are a number of good books on Amazon and at your local library about kids learning to go to the potty. He loved these books, but unfortunately there are very few about pooping in particular. We tried “I Can’t, I Won’t, No Way!” by Tracey J Vessillo and Mike Motz. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was the only one that came close to addressing the issue.
- Going pantless. The idea behind this one is that they will be more aware of the poop happening if it isn’t caught by underwear or Pull-Ups.
- Watching a parent or caregiver on the potty, making a big deal about poop.
- A large toy or bag of rewards in plain site that the child gets to have or pick from if he or she poops.
- Along the same lines, a sticker each time he or she poops that leads to a bigger prize.
- Food/treat bribery. I think we all know that we don’t WANT to give M&M’s all day long, but honestly, if it works… (it didn’t for us).
- Tons of verbal praise for pooping.
- Having the child help clean up the poop. In the last few weeks when he pooped in his underwear, I had him pull down his own pants and do some wiping himself, then dump his underwear into the potty. I explained that if he had pooped directly into the potty, we wouldn’t have to wipe so much.
- Setting up a potty inside a tent or playhouse – a private place so the child has privacy.
- Elimination communication – watching to see the signs of poop and putting the child on the potty as soon as you see those signs.
- Offering a diaper or Pull-Up for poop. For example, when I saw him displaying signs that he had to poop but was holding it in, I would say “Do you want a Pull-Up to poop in?”. If this works, the idea is that eventually they will have enough control to go on the potty instead of in the diaper or Pull-Up.
- Take away the underwear. This goes against the potty training boot camp methodology, but it is what we finally did. I was tired of cleaning out underwear, it wasn’t working, so I told him that underwear is for big boys who poop in the potty and he would have to wear Pull-Ups (you could use training pants as well) until he could poop on the potty.