Potty-Training the Child Who Won’t Poop on the Potty

My Child is trained for peeing but will only poop in the diaper (not on the potty)!

Dr. Susan Rutherford (MOM): It’s not unusual at all for children to train for peeing on the potty before they master pooping on the potty. Peeing seems to be easier to control than pooping.

We often hear of early pooping-on-the-potty success as  happening accidentally, almost as a byproduct from simply sitting down and peeing. The child may even be surprised: “Oh, what was that?” This is certainly cause for celebration, though it by no means indicates the child is fully potty-trained yet.

MOLLY: I’m trying to train my little guy now (he’s 2), and when he has to go poop, he runs and hides in the closet. When I ask if if he wants to go on the potty he shakes his head vigorously and says “NO!” Although he pees on the potty all the time, he’s adamant about not sitting on the potty when he has to poop.

MOM: I’ve seen that before many times, Molly. That he goes into the closet… he knows when he has to go. That’s actually a good sign because it shows he’s aware of what the feeling of needing to empty your bowels means and he will go somewhere to alleviate that sensation.

Here’s the idea about potty-training: In the beginning, infants and babies have no idea when they’re peeing or when they’re pooping. The next stage is that they become aware after they’ve pee’d or after they’ve pooped. The third stage of toileting development comes when a child masters an awareness before the evacuation occurs that allows him to act on the knowledge.

So for your little guy, he’s well on his way because he’s aware ahead of time that he’s going to poop and he goes someplace and does it. The trick is to get him on the potty at the point that he almost can’t hold it in and he experiences going on the potty. He’ll see the delight of his mother and father and he’ll want to perform again.

MOLLY: Then just keep trying it that way?

MOM: Right, so I wouldn’t be at all concerned about a child that only pees in the potty at first.

MOLLY: But, if the child is insisting on pooping in the diaper and not on the potty? He will even want to put on a diaper just before he’s going to poop..

MOM: Not unusual, either, in the process of things. It’s a process really.

It can be helpful if the kid has an older sibling or older friend they can watch use the toilet. Show the young child the older kid’s poop in the toilet and you might find that the concept finally clicks. In the toddler’s brain, he likely already wants to do everything the older child does. This kind of early peer pressure, or rather, peer example, can be much more helpful than seeing a parent use the toilet.

MOLLY: Is there anything you can do if the child insists on putting on a diaper to poop but is totally potty trained for peeing?

MOM: This is a mastery/ control issue and this is when it occurs – in the twos. Potty training is part of the control issue. I would let it go on for a while. But realize that it may take a while for boys who only stand up to pee. Encourage him to sit down to pee to begin with.

I would also use pull-ups and and an incentive, maybe a sticker chart or other small reward system.

MOLLY: What are the possible long-term consequences if the child doesn’t potty train by four?

MOM: If by 4-years old, the child is still not fully potty trained, consider seeing a pediatrician to be sure there are no medical issues. If there are no medical problems, there certainly will be psychological problems. What you see is an overt control fight between the child and the parent that gets played out not just in toilet training but in much of every day life. It also gets played out in school and in friendships where the kid needs to control the whole scene regardless of other people’s needs. It can become a very serious issue if the child is unable or unwilling to toilet train. I would suggest at that point (or even earlier) that the parents seek help from a child therapist.

Experience this? Comment below if you’ve had success with potty training. Or Contact US if you have other parenting questions you’d like to see addressed.

ding 94 comments on “Potty-Training the Child Who Won’t Poop on the Potty

  1. I was driving one day and the radio was taking comments from parents on this issue. One dad said he started talking to his son about the shape of his own poops and what they resembled – much like people do clouds. This inspired his son to take greater care preserving his. Dad said it worked brilliantly! I laughed so hard…

  2. my son is 32 months old, we started potty training 4 days ago. he started with screaming and crying no to sit on the potty. so after reading and searching, we realized that we should be patient and don’t give up. instead make it fun, sing a song or play games with him and also set a timer every 30 min to take him to the potty. to make the long story short, he always says “I don’t have pee right now or i don’t want to pee here” and we bring him out and set the timer again. but he does it in his pants. we tell him, it’s ok it was an accident. but not even once he did it in the potty. he is a very strong willed boy and we don’t know how to make him do things.

  3. Ateih,
    I can see you have a problem and have tried lots of things to get the potty training going with your son – things I would have suggested, too. If we step outside the box, so to speak, I would suggest you get reinforcements. Namely, if your son has a good friend who is potty trained, I would suggest that your son go with him and watch what he does. He’s not likely to get into a power struggle with his friend, and he’ll be more inclined to follow through. I have seen this work on a number of occasions. Good luck!

  4. We have been having our son sit during in the morning and before showers to potty successfully. But that’s it. He does not talk yet so we rely on gestures. Any advice. How will we know he’s ready? He will not tell us when he has to pee and we usually catch him before poop but he hasn’t gone successfully.

    • A lot depends on his age. Boys train later. I wouldn’t even begin before 23 months with a boy, and it probably will be later than that. Until then you can let him “practice” sitting on the potty, talking about what it all involves, etc. Keep it light and not too serious. Good luck!

  5. We started potty training when my daughter was 26 mths. She got the pee down in 6 days, and by 2-1/2 she was going thru the nights in panties. She’s gonna be 3 next week and refuses to poop on the potty. She asks for a pullup. I’ve tried all the strategies I could find – showing her when I go, and older cousin, candy rewards if she tries, – she won’t even sit on the potty with the pullup on. I’ve not been pushing her, just encouraging her. I don’t want to force her. Any suggestions?

    • Alisa -Wow – she’s determined! It sounds like a control issue to me. I would suggest this – even though you might think it’s weird – I would have her start making choices between 2 things. For instance, show her two outfits to wear for the day and have her choose. Have her choose between mac and cheese and a hotdog (just examples). You want her to practice making decisions – that she can control. These kinds of offers to her may then help her to decide to let the poop go into the potty.
      My second suggestions is to ask her how she feels about her poop. While we would not ask an adult this question, we would ask a kid who doesn’t want to give it up. I bet there will be some interesting answers!

      • Thanks Dr, Rutheford. We already do your first suggestion for clothes, foods, desserts, activities, I have begun to wonder if we give her too much choice because her strong will is more obvious now, But I will continue letting her make these decisions. I’m definitely going to try your second. Thanks again. Alisa

      • My daughter will be 4 next month. She has been peeing in the potty since she was 2.5, dry through the night since long before that and rarely has a pee accident. But oh the poop, she will not poop in the toilet. She hides and poops in her pants diaper, underwear, doesn’t matter. Does not care to get cleaned up. Has cleaned herself up for a month. Still doesn’t care. Didn’t care about stickers, other prizes, didn’t care when her toys were taken away. Doesn’t care that she is in preschool with 10 other children who are been pooping in the toilet for years. I give her choices, I give her encouragement I ask her if she is afraid or why she doesn’t ant to go on the toilet. She Denys fear and can’t explain why she won’t go on the pot. I know it’s a control issue, I feel like a complete failure as a mother I must have screwed her up badly for her to do this. We have been to the pediatrician, I guess the next step is the therapist and a mental hospital for me.

        • I feel your pain. Going through this *exactly* and have tried every suggestion on this page and in the comments. Sometimes I just want to lay down and cry. Did you get through this, and if so, did anything work?

  6. I’ve been training my son who is turning 4 and a half years-old next month..I started training him when he turned 4 a bit late because he’s hardly to talk. He’s ok with peeing but pooping is so difficult . He said no to nappies These day he poos in his pants I put him on the toilet many times a day but he can’t do it..but when i’m busy doing something he will poo in his pants ..so stressful..what else can i do?

    • I would set up a sticker chart for him; he should set this up with you. Tell him that every time he poops in the potty he’ll get a sticker. When he gets 5 stickers he gets to have a treat (a book or something he really wants). Remind him of the sticker chart whenever he poops – and where ever he poops. Show him the sticker book – children think concretely and it’s good for them to see it (he’ll want it more this way). Good luck!

      • My son is 3 and doesnt speak at all. He just learned how to pee on the potty but will not poop at all. He is susposed to go to pre k in September but if he’s not pooping how can he go to school? Im also concerned that being he can’t communicate how will he be able to tell the teacher h he has to use the potty. (Before you ask he has been evoluated by early intervention but im still waiting for the board of education to do an evolution

  7. My son is 3 1/2 years old and has been peeing on the potty for probably 9 months or so. He continues to poop in his Pull-up although he knows when he has to go as he goes and hides. He inconsistently will say “I pooped in my pants” but typically does not seem to have a care in the world. Unfortunately, he comes from a split home- his dad walked out on our family when he was 14 months old. Dad has moved every 6 months on average and now the girlfriend & her daughter moved in this summer. My son spends every other weekend and one night a week with them. Typically, he does not go #2 while with dad. That is reserved for at school or at our home. At my home, he has pooped on the potty several times and on our week vacation to Disney World he did not have one accident. During the day he goes to preschool which has stayed consistent. Unfortunately, yesterday for the 1st time he stuck his hand in his pants at school while they were poopy and made a mess. I am overwhelmed by the situation and feel like this has been going on for way to long! Help

    • Boy, his toilet behavior is inconsistent. The way you describe it, it sounds like switching homes is contributing to this problem. Are you able to talk with his Dad about providing a consistent plan for your son? If not, you’ll have to concentrate on his behavior at home. You might want to start a chart for him – design it together – where he gets a check mark for everytime he poops on the potty. When he gets 5 marks, he get something – a book, an ice cream cone, etc. I think that once he’s able to get 3 sets of 5 marks, he’ll probably be trained. Talking with him about it will help, too. The more control over the process he has, the better it will go.

      • Thank you…We will try the chart. I talked to his pediatricians office today as well and they suggested having my son be responsible for cleaning up the “accident”. Clean his underwear, clean the toilet up, etc. Explaining to him that it is a choice and that cleaning up is part of the choice. His dad is on board with trying this approach too. We will add the chart to the mix and see where it goes. The doctor said give it a month and see if there is any progress at all…if not we will bring him in for an assessment. Thank you for your advice. I agree- his potty training is all over the place and inconsistent. That is why I was so pleased after the week in Florida that he got it!!

  8. Hi. My daughter is 3 years and 9 months. She has pooed on the potty when she first started potty training, but think it was more of an accident. She doesn’t seem to feel the sensation to let her know she needs to go & says she didn’t know beforehand. We’ve tried sticker charts, letting her see her best friend do it, the rest of the family doing it, talking to her – everything. She hates sitting on the toilet or potty (even try and read to her etc.) and will not sit there for more than a few seconds. She is also very stubborn in all aspects, and although we’ve found effective ways to deal with this, she still cannot do it on the toilet/ potty. I’m beginning to wonder if for some reason she is desensitised where she should be feeling the feeling beforehand.

    • I have heard of other kids having this kind of desensitization issue. It would be worth a trip to the pediatrician and see if you can get a handle on this. If this is the problem, you might want to pay attention to the times of the day she is likely to poop, and have her sit on the potty at those times. I would tell her that you understand that she’s in control of this process. I understand that she doesn’t want to do this, so some form of enticement may be necessary – putting a puzzle together, etc. Of course, the stubbornness probably contributes to the problem. Ah, control control control. Be persistent – you don’t actually have much choice! Good luck!

  9. hi my son is 31 months old and I’ve been having him sit on the potty for about 3 months now he pees but he will not poop I don’t know what watch more I can do once I get him in his pull up after he pees in the potty he hides and then poops in his pull up I’ve tried showing him movies and videos of other collards on the potty and giving him stickers or treats for sitting there and I just don’t know what more I can do HELP.

    • Kenyana,
      It may be that your son is a little young for complete potty training. Often boys take longer than girls. I would continue to put him on the potty, keeping it very casual (and positive) and hopefully he’ll have a “accident” and then he’ll know what’s what. In addition, if you have a little bit older boy available, I would have him show your son what to do. Often this type of modeling behavior works well.

      • Thanks I will try what you said Because I Do have a older son maybe he will help my son with pooping in the potty .

  10. My son is 3 1/2 years old. He has been peeing in the potty for a year now consistently with no accidents, but still will not poop in the potty. I have read through all of your responses and none of them help because I’ve tried them ALL! I tried a chart, but that doesn’t work if he doesn’t even do it ONCE. He just poops in his underwear. Afterwards he will occasionally tell me to wipe his bottom. I have made him wipe his own bottom, I’ve made him clean his own underwear, I’ve sat him on the potty and given him games and he will stay there forever and then as soon as I give up.. Let him go eat, etc, he will go in his underwear. I’ve bought presents for him and set them beside the potty and let him know he can have it as soon as he poops in the potty. He downright refuses every single thing. I’ve put pullups on him and told him he needed to poop in his pullup while sitting on the potty. No way. Absolutely nothing works… and this child is brilliant. He is way ahead academically, so it’s not like he just doesn’t “get it”. When I ask him why he won’t go, he just tells me he doesn’t want to. He had a few weeks where he was getting constipated and I had to give him an enema, and he would go in the potty then. I thought that would be a great help so at least he has gone then and knows it’s not scary. But nope right back to pooping in the underwear. I took him to his pediatrician and that was a joke, he just told me “sit him until he goes.” That just doesn’t work! He will NOT go! I am totally at my wits end and don’t know what else to do. We just had our second poop accident in the underwear today, and right now he is in his room with his little potty and I told him he can’t come out of his room until he poops in that potty. He can play, and do whatever he wants to do IN his room but can not leave until he poops in that potty. I feel mean but I am all out of ideas!

    • Krystal – Wow! He is really stubborn! Sounds like you’ve tried everything you can think of. It does sound like he’s in a big time control struggle with you. I can’t think of any other practical solution to offer you. The only thing I can think of (because this is a power struggle) is to say to him, “Look, you’re in control of pooping in the potty. I can’t make you do it – you have to make the decision for yourself. Here’s the deal: If you poop in your pants, you’ll have to clean it up. If you want help going to the potty instead, I’ll be glad to help you. But you have to make the decision yourself.” This is the way to get yourself out of the power struggle with him. Now he won’t have anyone to fight against. Keep calm while you’re dealing with him, and just keep reminding him that this is his decision.
      Good luck!

      • Oh my goodness I just left my on desperate question but I should have read this and just copy/pasted it!! This is my son to a T!! Are you having any luck at all?? This is single handedly the most frustrating experience.

        • I think the only thing you can do is be patient. We went through this with our son, too. He had major poop issues when he was younger, holding it in for days. We couldn’t push the potty training. He trained for pee first, and only at home home at first. Finally, one day he said he wanted to poop in the potty and he did. He was almost 4 when this happened. After that he always went in the potty. Not long after he trained at daycare, too.

          • Colleen – I so agree about the patience. The Twos are a time of “No!” and there’s plenty of that. Power struggles arise, and there you go. I often think that the Twos are not a particularly good time to train a child.

          • My 3 1/2 son did this too. One morning he just woke up and said “I’m going to poop in the potty” and went and did it all by himself and said he didn’t need diapers anymore. The next time he had to go he sat and tried but didn’t go. This went on a few days and he started to ask for the diaper again and became constipated. I didn’t make him sit or anything but reminded him what he had done and what he told me about diapers. We’re now back in diapers but I’m having him clean himself after which seems to gross him out and ask for help. His doctor didn’t have much advice otherwise than just continue letting him use diapers and me cleaning it up. He’s been pee trained for almost a year but mostly stands to pee. What else can i do it’s very frustrating.

        • I wonder if he will see his classmates pooping in the potty at school and get the message. It might be helpful to talk with his teachers so that they might be helpful in this process. Modeling by his friends can do wonders.

          • Leslie – Sounds like he hasn’t quite figured it all out yet and got worried when it didn’t work the second time. You might want to watch him carefully and when he looks like he has to poop, cheerfully suggest sitting on the potty and you two can talk during the process -not about pooping, just general talk. Once he actually goes again in the potty, it will encourage him to continue, and, of course, you’ll be complimenting him. Offer him a small reward if you are inclined to do so – it can help!

    • This is my son right now. He fights us about pooping on toilet non-stop. I will ask him if he has to go he will say no, and turn around and poop in his underwear 2 min. later. What ended up working for you? He is in preschool now and I pray he won’t have an accident because he is suppose to be potty trained. The only thing on my side is he only poops at home. My neice and nephew are the same age and they both poop in toilet. I am so frustrated I want to pull my hair out. I don’t want him to miss out on preschool because he won’t poop in potty.

  11. I have. 3.5 yr old twin boy who is on miralax because he was holding in his stool. He is not a super great eater so doesn’t get a lot of veggies. We started potty training June 2013. We are still going. Peepy is ok now but the poop is so hard! (No pun intended). I know he can tell when he has to go. He has told me he does and I see a change in his behavior when he has to go. He will sometimes tell me “mommy I have to go poopy” and then go. But most of the time he will deny it and hide and go in his underwear. He had a two week streak where he went almost every time on the potty and he earned a toy he hd picked out and I thought we were on the right path. But shortly after receiving the toy, he completely stopped going in the potty and went back to going in his underwear. It is pretty frustrating. He has a poop
    Chart, he gets a few treats when he “lets the poopy out” and we have stopped acting annoyed and just act matter if fact about accidents. Tonight I decided to let him clean up his own accident so we will see where that goes but I am so frustrated!!! Any advice is welcome!!! Advice/insight. Thanks, Jess (p.s the other twin isn’t totally trained either but doesn’t have the holding problems)

  12. Hi! I am so glad I found this page, what wonderful advice I have read so far! My problem is that I have tried ALL OF IT and then some and I can not get my almost 4yo to poop on the potty. My husband and I are at our wits end with this. He is very aware of needing to go and always insists on a pull-up. Between the ages of 2 and 3 he had several episodes of chronic constipation that were very traumatic. I am not sure if that has anything to do with his issues now psychologically. But honestly as a stay at home mom, I work with him constantly and my efforts are getting me nowhere.

  13. If the diaper has to bee changed after one or two hours as opposed to three
    to four hours, the child’s urinary and bowel functions may still be in the infantry level and so have to be given more time before potty training the child.
    These would be ideal for your daughter to apply with tape or glue to a potty
    chart. Helpful websites where you can learn more about cloth diapers include Green
    Mountain Diapers and Mothering magazine’s online forum.

  14. Hi! I want to share with you my experience with potty training. When my daughter was 15 months, we started the potty program. It was full of reward, because in a week she was doing no 2 only using the potty. But, after about 3 months, she had some nasty problems with diarrhea and she refused to use the potty. She would start crying only if I showed it to her. And this continued until I decided to stop and take a break. I read all that is available online about potty training, but I was desperate, I didn’t know what to do, until a came accross a guide that saved me. I followed the steps and in 5 days my daughter was fully potty trained, no1 and no2….This was 6 months ago and since then she had again diarrhea, but she never stopped using the potty. I truly recommend this guide. http://bit.ly/1i1deHG

  15. Can anyone help my son just turn 4 and he has been potty train since 1 in peeing but he will not poop in the toilet at all he comes up to me and says I have to poop put a diaper on me he poops then come right back for me to take it off I took all diapers away then he would not go at all 3 days was the longest

  16. Holly – I am struck by how common this problem is, judging by the number of questions we’ve received about this very issue. You might want to check out some of our responses to this question on the blog. You might want to think about getting rid of the diapers entirely. Tell your son that they are “all gone”. Try him on a small toilet first (no flushing). There is something he is afraid of; you should ask him what it is. Ask in a concerned way. Try not to be impatient with him (although I wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling impatient!

  17. I am at my wits end with my 4 1/2 year old daughter. She was finally pee trained at 3 1/2, but still will have an occasional accident. When she was a year old, she started having constipation issues, and we finally just got that sorted out a few months ago with the help of a gi doctor. Now that we have her regular (with the help of Miralx and ex lax daily), we were hoping that would help her to tell us when she needs to go. She would much rather poop in her pull up or underwear than bother with the toilet. We have tried every bribe in the book from stickers, to treats, special underpants, books, to special outings, etc. NOTHING WORKS. Its very difficult for me not to lose my cool with her about this when I am changing underwear or pull ups 7 times a day! She just plain doesn’t care. In fact, she almost seems amused by it sometimes (“I like pooping in my pants,” she will say just to get my goat). It doesn’t bother her at all when she soils herself and would have poopy pants for hours if she had it her way. We find that she mostly poops when it is naptime or bedtime. We always try to have her sit on the potty and go before these times, but usually without success and she just sits and fidgets and says she can’t do it. Then 10 minutes later she will do it in her bed. I don’t know what to do to get her to understand she needs to tell us BEFORE she goes. (She doesn’t do this with peeing either; I just have to get her in the bathroom every few hours). I don’t know what else to try, especially when she thinks its funny. I know its probably a “power” thing with her, I just don’t know how to remedy it anymore and fearful for her when she begins preschool this fall. Please help!

    • Melissa – I think there’s no question that this is a power thing with your daughter. And it sounds like you’ve tried everything you – and I – can think of to move this process along. I think it might be helpful to consult with a child psychologist to help you two get “unstuck.” She sounds quite determined and perhaps enjoying this battle too much. Good luck!

      • Is it acceptable to take away a toy or something that is really important to her (obviously not a cuddle toy or something like that) something that would get her attention with this, or is that just going down the wrong path? That’s the only last thing I can think of to do. We did take her to a child psychologist last fall, but found that to be useless. All she did was recommend sticker charts which I knew then wouldn’t work. =/

  18. My daughter is almost 4 and has been potty trained since she was 2 1/2. She has maybe pooped in the toilet twice. She usually asks for a diaper and has no trouble pooping in that. If we try to encourage her to sit on the potty, she screams and cries. Occasionally, she will actually sit on the toilet and if she feels like she has to go (gets a cramp or whatever) she will hold it. She literally will not push even the slightest bit. You can tell she has to go, but she starts screaming and clenching her butt. She will hold it for days. The longest we have gone though is three days because she becomes too miserable and it can’t be good for her. She says that she is scared of something but she doesn’t know what. (I think it is more of a control issue even though she gets to make a lot of decisions…picks out her own clothes, chooses lunch, etc. she really likes control) No amount of reassurance, bribes or rewards make a difference to her. I am having a hard time staying positive about the whole thing. Please help!

  19. Stephanie, I’m in the same boat. I posted on this forum on 12 Nov 2013, and I’ve had no success. My 3-yr old daughter will hold it in until she gets a pull-up. I haven’t been withholding pull-ups, but I take a few minutes to continually encourage her to try the potty – which she refuses. In those few minutes I talk to her, she’ll say “No, No! the poopy is coming mommy, I need a pull-up!”.
    She gets to make lots of decisions … picks her clothes, food, snacks, activities (painting, play doh, football, lego, hockey, etc), etc. I’ve asked her several times how she feels about her poop (as suggested by Dr. Rutherford), and all I’ve gotten is a shoulder shrug & a smile, or a simple “It’s poopy”.
    I’ve been monitoring this page since then. So I’m anxious for any more advice.

  20. Alisa, I feel your pain. It is so frustrating. It seems like such a control thing and she already has control over so many things in her life that I am not sure what to do. Hopefully we both get some advice! Sometimes it is just nice to know we aren’t alone…especially when everyone I know has younger children that are completely potty trained!

      • i am sorry i should have clarified. TBI=Traumatic Brain Injury
        just wondering the relevance (if any) with a child having a TBI at age 2 vs. genetic behavioral issues vs enviornmental factors?
        –on a side note, with mommy’s help, my son went poo poo on the toilet today! the first time poo poo in toilet so were all very proud!

  21. all your post focus on positive reinforcement or gentle encouragement. However, I’ve found that with the most stubborn kids who like control, negative reinforcement or punishment is the only way to “win” the war. Time-outs/ leaving a fun place and the loss of a favorite toy/privilege after a poop “accident” works well. For example, a stubborn 4 yr old boy who was refusing to use the potty even with all the sticker charts and peer examples and other things quickly became trained after using punishment. If he went in his pants while we were out at a fun place we had to leave because I refused to carry spare clothes. If he had an accident at home, whatever toy he was using at the time got taken away because the “Leggos, must be distracting him from knowing when he had to use the potty”…etc. It’s not my first choice but it works. I am surprise you don’t recommend this technique for particularly stubborn kids, as it’s quite common.

    • Sara – I’ve actually not seen negative reinforcement used for potty training, which is why I haven’t talked about it. I’m giving it some real thought. I think if the parents use this method and do it in a calm manner, I can see how it could work. Definitely worth trying – and your experience worked out well!

  22. My grandson is 2 1/2 and pees on the toilet just fine. He seems traumatized when it comes to pooping on the toilet. He goes in his pants. Today he was playing at an indoor playground and came off the slide crying. He said he had to go potty but he had already pooped in his pants. I took him into the bathroom and he was really crying and he finally let me take off his pants to flush the poop. I told him it was ok and he didn’t need to cry. I put his slacks back on w/o underwear and he went back to playing. He’s a happy well adjusted toddler who is loved very much by his family and extended family. I don’t know why he won’t poop on the potty and then gets so upset when he goes in his pants. I watch him 2-3 days per week and don’t want to put too much pressure on him. His mother has the same issues. What can I do?

    • Michele – this seems to be a relatively common issue for 2 1/2 year olds. A big part seems to be a control issue. And when they are playing, they are distracted by the play and then oops! an accident. I agree with you not to put pressure on him, just keep calm, ask if he wants to use the potty before he goes out to play. Having him watch someone his own age or near to it poop in the potty can be very helpful. We have written a number of posts on this very topic – you can find them here: http://conversationswithmymother.com/category/potty-training/

  23. we need help our son was born 2 and a half months early he is very sensitive and I had to do work with him every day to de sensitize him he is now 4 years old and cant use the toilet. he still in nappis he nows when he wants to wee and poop he hides to do this and when hes done he starts vomiting and flings it every were he did use the potty for a week and as soon as he saw or smelt it he was vomiting every were but he has no problem picking the dogs poo up with the poop scoop but if the dog poops in side he will vomit at the look of it also if some one parses gas and he smells it he vomits I have spoken to his pedetrician and she said its normal in boys I cant belive this he is at a speech therapist and a dietician we finely got him to put food int his mouth without vomiting and took him off the bottles this year in January when he was in for his operation he was born with hyperspadia and will got for his fourth op in July the speech therapist said we need to go occupationall therapist to desensatise him but we just don’t have the money to do that now I need to now how to do this my self he also hits us and has been doing this since he was 3 months old it now is a lot more aggressive we have done the time out hit him back spoken to him but nothing has stopped he will even try and head but me pleas help

    • Warren – I can see the family has some big issues to deal with, and my heart goes out to you all. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to help you with your son – sounds like a number of complicated issues. Do you think he would benefit from seeing a child therapist who is more oriented to psychological issues? I don’t know how to do desensitization, so you might look for someone who specializes in this kind of treatment.

  24. My son is fixing to turn 4 in Sept and he is still not potty trained he will pee only a fee times the nothing else he will just start peeing all in his underwear and not even try to go to the bath room I have tried every trick ppl have said to try. Pooping is a never in the toilet he was to start school this yr but can’t since he won’t get out of diapers. I am very concerned I went to the DRs they only adviced me to give him time but I have a two year old who needs to start potty training and he won’t try since his older brother won’t and I don’t know what to do at all.

    • I can see that you have a real problem here. I think I would take him out of diapers, give him “big-boy” pants. He will initially have accidents, but he should experience this – it will motivate him to use the potty. You should try to remain calm during this process, but don’t give in with any diapers. It sounds like he might be in competition with his younger brother for your attention; praise him for being more grownup and how much you admire this quality. Sounds like he’s running the show at home; I think you need to take more of a lead role.

  25. Please help! My son refuses 2 poop in the toilet. The only time he wears a diaper is when he has 2 poop. He refuses to poop in toilet & will hold it for days. He’ll even vomit while he’s pushing on the toilet but no poop comes out. He poops just fine when he has a diaper on.

  26. Okay.. I recently started potty training my little guy who just turned 4 last month… It has taken this long because he is non-verbal to an extent.. He pees on the potty no problem.. The first two days of potty training he went poop on the potty on his own, without me instructing him or even asking him.. But since then its been nothing but him pooping in his undies… He doesn’t like diapers anymore either, though he wears them at night with a struggle… He knows when he has to poop because he starts talking about it.. His behavior changes too, and after he produces it he wanders off almost to avoid me because he knows he did something he wasn’t supposed to do..

  27. My son just turned 4 and has been trained for urine since he was 2.5. He will only poop at night, in a pull up, usually after having sat on the potty and “trying” to poop for 20 minutes. He is completely controlling the situation and has alternately expressed fear and disinterest but totally grasps the situation. We have tried every method you have outlined above and then some. My current issue is that our pediatrician is not at all concerned. Everything I am reading is suggesting that at 4 in an otherwise healthy and typically developing child, this should be resolving. But worried because we are getting nowhere. Our doctor (who we typically have a great repor with) said that we are expecting kids to do too much too fast these days. Am I really expecting too much? I’d hope he’d have a few toilet BMs, obviously not completely nighttime continent yet. I just would like him to feel comfortable pooping on the potty sometimes! Help?

    • Jennifer – I think I would be concerned, too, primarily around such a strong control issue. I wonder – if you figuratively said “I give up” and threw your hands up in the air, and said it was now up to him to deal with this issue, what would happen. It takes two to have a control battle – when there is just one person left, the dynamics change. Good luck and let us know what happens.

    • Hi! No luck so far. We have “given up” the battle with him, telling him “you’re the boss of your body, let us know when you’re ready.” But he will allow himself to endure pain and cramping from holding the BM in, to the point of tears, but refuses to do sit on the potty. Instead he just waits until he is in bed, with a pull up on. I just don’t see how we are going to break this fear or control cycle, whichever it is.

      • Jennifer – there’s something about the potty that is scaring him. I assume you have the kiddie version for him. I would try having someone “model” for him – sitting on the potty, going, cleaning up, and waving bye bye as it goes down the toilet. Maybe a friend of his, you, an older sibling, or his Dad. I think it’s worth a try.

  28. hi do you think there is a medical problem? we are grandparents who have 6 living with is. we have two youger boys of 4 an half and 3 the boy of 3 is toilet trained but the four yr old will wee in toilet sometimes does poo but lately is doing it in pants and he has just gone into receptoin class came home today and he had marked 3 pairs of pants its like theres always marks whenever we change him. the teacher has told us to take him to doctors as it could be medical we was just two days training the 3 yr old. the four yr old did start but reversed

    • Elaine – I think it is a good idea to get him checked out medically to be sure there isn’t a problem. If he’s okay medically, then I’d bet he’s having some emotional issue, perhaps in competition with the younger child – some jealous issues. You might want to ask him directly what he thinks is going on – you’d be surprised what kids will tell you. Then start a chart with him – have him involved in setting it up. He gets a star for each time he uses the toilet properly. When he gets 5 stars, he gets rewarded with buying a small book, or something else he wants, but not expensive. Keep this up for 3 or 4 weeks – I’m hoping he’ll be properly trained by then.

  29. Hi All- Just an update to all the moms following this site. I posted back in November 2013. I had a then 3 year old (she’ll be 4 years in 3 mths) who always asked for a pull-up to do a poop; but was in panties otherwise even thru the night. I tried every strategy I read to incentivize and encourage, but to no avail; Note: I never withheld the pull-up, or forced anything and engaged in showdowns, screaming, etc. I’m not a supporter of those tactics.
    In January 2014 – Her paediatrician told me (somewhat firmly) to just wait … “your daughter will decide in her own time”. I did keep the reminders of the special toy she wanted that she would get when she finally went in to toilet, but nothing else. No other tactics. When she asked for the special toy, I would just respond with a simple “You’ll get it when you do a poopy in the toilet” and move onto the next topic. I didn’t dwell on the matter. Three weeks ago she had her first case of diarrhea ever (after a long day of travel and airports) and she couldn’t wait for the pull-up, and just dashed in the toilet. After that, she continued pooping on the toilet with some major MAJOR encouragement to use the toilet and a desired new toy after every poopy for a week. I suspected the latter has more to do with her efforts to continue to use the toilet.
    (PS: the toys she wanted so much were the mini Lalaloopsy dolls, not expensive. I bought a box of 8 and kept them hidden)

    Another win – A close friend has a 5 year old who started primary school and would still hold it until he got home. We chat to bolster and commiserate with each other thru this refusal by both our kids to poop in the toilet; having both exhausted strategies and were both playing “the waiting game”. Her son also decided to use the toilet 1 week ago all on his own. No reward, no toy involved. She was super frustrated internally, but never said anything to her son or let it show, I can say she is super happy now. We both are!

    I’m not suggesting you give your child a case of diarrhea or anything like that (heaven, no!) but to wait and let them to decide. And also know that this is not an uncommon problem, there’s alot of parents in the same boat with kids as old as 6 & 7 years from what I’ve read. Keep at it!

  30. My son turns 3 in December and I thought it take till after he was three to be potty trained, but I was wrong. He is fully trained and no wet spills during the night. Has been this way for almost two months now. I just let him run around the house naked for awhile (about 3 months while still using diapers when going out but making sure to stop and show him the bathrooms or take him with us if we end up going) and kept asking if he has to go potty. Got the peeing down, but to go number 2 he wanted his diaper. I stopped using them after we ran out, told him no more and that he has to use the potty to go. Stubborn as he is, he held it but when he did have to go, we used the toilet. He fought me, screamed and cried saying he didn’t have to go. But I sat in front of him, talked to him, held him on the potty and told him if he has to go he has to in the potty, no more diapers. After doing that a few times he stop crying and went on this own. Had a few messes in between but no more. Tells us all the time when he has to go and is even able to hold it for awhile if we end up not being near a bathroom.

  31. My son was 32 months old when we started potty training him. He is a quick learner with pretty much everything. He was fully potty trained for pee and poop after about 2 months. He is now 3 years and 2 months old and for the past 2 months he has not been pooping in the potty. He started holding it in so whenever it did come out it would be hard. His doctor suggested I give him Miralax to help soften it. It works for that but he still does not go poop on the potty. Over the past two months I have tried everything I can think of to get him to poop on the potty. He has only pooped on the potty a handful of times the past couple months. What do you suggest we try? I am at my whits end.

  32. Hey!
    My son is 2 and 8 months, he had a allergic reaction to a different brand of nappy I tried so I decided to have a go at potty training him. He is very very stubborn, knows what he wants and that’s all he have, so was very surprised that he took so well to the potty. However he won’t poop. In fact it makes him heave/retch. He has been like that even when he was in nappies and poop isn’t the only thing. He has to be clean, doesn’t like his spills on him clothes and doesn’t like having unclean hands. He did do on poop on the potty, by accident really and he nearly bought up his dinner he was heaving that much!! I really don’t know if there an underlining issue I need to resolve or if it is just something he’ll grow out of. He is also petrified of the toilet, but so was his sister at his age so I’m not concerned about that, however if doesn’t leave with much of an alternative to the potty. Any advice??

  33. My son has been peepee trained for about 2 months,he pooped a few times in the potty only because he was caught getting ready to go.. he poops up to 4 times a day at times. Weve tried sitting him often, rewards , praise nothing works…when were out and about he asks to go peee.. The Dr also said have him clean his own underwear ect he does, it doesnt gross him ..At age 4 months he had surgery for acid reflux and for emptying of his bowels.. fundel plication.. he had an ng tube then a gtube was inserted at the time of surgery ,could that be a reason?

    • Jennie – That’s a lot of pooping. I wonder if you should get him tested for food sensitivities and stop giving him those foods he is sensitive to. Especially with a history of acid reflux. If this is something you are interested in, let us know and we can help you find someone who does this kind of testing.

  34. My son is 4 years 9 months. He was born w hydranephrosis which affects his kidneys, bladder and ureter. He has had surgery and is doing well however he still is not fully potty trained. He will pee on the potty but does fight us. He has many, many accidents and is extremely stubborn at times. He asks for a pull up when he has to go #2 and will go in another room and doesn’t want to be watched. When he is done he let’s us know and then is changed right away and put back in his big boy underwear. I have tried to get him to just stand in the bathroom and he will not even go in to stand near the toilet for #2 He told me that he is afraid to go on the potty. Please any suggestions are welcome!!!! Also my son was a premie.

    • Tami – Have you tried a child-size potty? I believe him when he says he’s afraid of the potty. You might ask him what about the potty is scary. Is it a fear of being pulled under himself? Is he afraid of losing part of himself(his wastes)? I once knew a kid who was afraid to sneeze because his brains might fall out through his nose. Kids can have funny ideas. Worth exploring with your son.

  35. Hi Dr. Susan Rutherford,

    I hope all is well. My wife and I are struggling with getting our daughter to go#2 in the potty. She will pee all by herself. I mean turn the light on, go pee, wipe her self, flush the toilet, and wash her hands with no help at all. She will sit on the toilet when she has to go #2 and will fake push, but she will not poop on the toilet, only in a pullup. We ask where poopy goes and she says in the potty. We tried to put a pullup on her and kept her in the bathroom while pooping, and still no change. We are hoping you can help.


  36. My daughter is 4 years 7 months. She is extremely sensitive emotionally and still very dependent. She is constantly seeking attention. She will not do most things for herself which she is supposed to be able to do. I am trying to be extremely patient with her, but it gets difficult sometimes. She was ahead of her age-group when she was two years old. Her father and I went through a rough patch when she was just over two. We didn’t disagree in front of her, but I am sure she picked up on the tension, because she completely regressed in her development to the point where she tested to be two years behind in her development and a speech therapist suggested she might have asperger’s syndrome. She has also regressed several times with peeing on the toilet. The first time she was 2 1/2, it was because her brother was born, the second was when I took in another baby to care for during the day for extra income ( I am a stay at home mom). The third time she wanted to visit her grandma on her own for 4 days. That was about 4 months ago. The fifth time was when I tried to teach her to be more independent on the toilet (I had to take her there, pull down her pants, place her on the toilet, wait for her to pee, wipe her, and pull her pants back on) the only things she did herself was flushing and washing her hands. The last time, her dad wrongfully accused her of wetting herself about a month ago. Since then I have successfully taught her to be a little more independent. She can dress herself now and go pee on the toilet on her own, but still won’t pull up her own pants afterwards. The real reason I am writing this, however, is because she cannot or will not go no.2 on the toilet. She refused to use a potty to train right from the start, I since figured out that she was scared of the potty, so I put her on the big toilet with a seat. That helped with the pee, but not the poo. She has been struggling with chronic constipation since she was 3 months old. She went through a stage where she had to be held down for me to clean her, saying that her poo were her babies. She would actually cry and try to stop me when I flushed it down the toilet. We took her to a psychologist in November and he said that she is an extremely anxious child with beginning signs of ADHD and some markers of asperger’s which she seems to be outgrowing. He said that there is medication available for the anxiousness, but he would not recommend it. He also suggested she would be greatly advantaged by a pre-school. I have since enrolled her in the only one in our neighborhood, but now I have to get her ready by teaching her more independence and pooing on the toilet. Do you have any advice or suggestions? Anything at all would be greatly appreciated.

  37. i have a 4 year old grand daughter that has bowel problems shes on generic mirlax . she will go hide in the closet or under a blanket she wont go in the potty she has done it a couple times. but when i try making her sit on the toilet she tells me i cant do it she refuses to sit on the toilet we put big girl underwear on her but when i run out i use pull ups for a back up

  38. Here i have shared some tips on potty training and this are – 1.let your child take the lead – never pressure your child if he/she doesn’t want to sit on the toilet 2. many children are ready by the age of two or two and a half. Some kids aren’t ready until the age of three but remember – you child will get there! 3.let your child go with you to the bathroom. I really think this put Kayla at ease because she saw that I was doing the same thing that she was 4.ensure that you work with your care provider during potty training so that a consistent message is communicated to your child 5.make potty training fun and exciting! let your child pick out the toilet seat or potty, underwear and even pull-up design. Make if fun so that it won’t seem as intimidating 6.never force your child to sit on the toilet until he goes. That will only increase the pressure and may cause your child to regress or even resent/fear the toilet. ” Here your will get more unique solution pottytrainingapp

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  40. My son will be 4 in November. He pees just fine on the potty. He has pooped successfully several times ( and I rewarded him and celebrated) but still would rather poop in a pull up or his undies. He says, “I need to go hide in the darkness.” I have tried letting him hide under a blanket with games on my phone and I’ve tried everything in your post and in the comments. He loses interest in the charts too quickly. He wants to go to school and i tell him he can’t until he poops in the potty every time. HELP!!!!

    • Stephanie – You certainly have tried lots of interventions – all good ones. There is a book out – “Let’s Get This Potty Started” that’s well worth a read. One other thing that might prove helpful is to tell him with a sad face that it’s too bad he can’t start school until he goes on the potty. As soon as he can do that, he can start school – what fun it will be! Another suggestion that might help is to pair him up with one of his guy friends and go into the bathroom with him and see what his friend is able to do. It might impress him.
      Good luck!
      Dr. Rutherford

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  42. I feel your pain. Going through this *exactly* and have tried every suggestion on this page and in the comments. Sometimes I just want to lay down and cry. Did you get through this, and if so, did anything work?

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