Problems with poop

This post is a cry for help. A long, wailing, weepy cry. My daughter is terrified of pooping in the toilet, and I have no idea what to do about it.

Here’s the thing, we’re going on three weeks of total dryness. She never misses a tinkle, wakes up dry at 7 am, and is totally self-sufficient in the numero uno department.

And then she poops her pants. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve caught her a few time in the act and managed to get her onto the potty to finish, but she cries in fear the whole time and clings to me for all she’s worth. You’d think the Titanic was sinking out from under her, she’s so panicked.

I’ve tried putting her in time-out on the potty when I know she’s really gotta go, and an hour later she’ll still be sitting there bawling. She keeps telling me she’s scared, that it’s too hard, that she’s “just a little girl”. I then tell her that little girls poop too, so she’d better get on it.

Here’s what happened last week when I put her in time-out on the can. After about half an hour it got really quiet. I figured she’d unravelled another role of paper into the pot, but when I got close she was snoring like an elf, sound asleep on the pot–out cold.

We’ve tried bribery, sticker charts, candy, makeup, fingernail polish. Nothing positive works. For the past two weeks she has been grounded from any and all sippy cups, including her life juice (aka chocolate milk). She weeps for her sippy cups, but it’s not worth dropping some on the can

I just don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t see her changing her mind, so I finally told her to put on a pull-up when she need to go to the Big House. So far it’s working, she changes out of her undies, does her business, and then pretends like she’s a perfectly potty trained angel the rest of the time.

Any ideas?


  1. ::shrugs::
    i have no idea how to fix this….i know i was terrified on the toilet for a while when i was a kid, cause i was certain i was going to fall in & drown. but that was me.
    might be a control thing though. as in, it comes a-knockin’ and she’s not ready for it cause maybe she’s busy playing or doing something she enjoys and doesn’t want to be interrupted to go to the pot and wait it out. i don’t know just a stab in the dark.
    as for sippy cups while on the pot, my mom would give ’em to me but that had warm water…not super hot, but warmer than room temp. helped relax my bowels so the whole ordeal wrapped up faster. so i don’t know if that helps you at all, but it’s all i’ve got. happy friday!

  2. Okay, I’m being perfectly real here, based on the experience that I just had with my three year old.

    Let it go.

    I know! It’s poop and it’s awful and poop in underwear is totally disgusting. But… BUT. You just had a baby. And now, big sister knows that she isn’t technically your baby anymore. So what does she do? She clings to the last possible thing that tethers her unequivocally to you. She poops her pants. You must change her. And you probably put the baby down to do it.

    Just tell her as long as she goes in pull ups it’s absolutely fine. You’ll be proud of her when she’s ready to go on the pot, but you’re not worried. Become perfectly and completely indifferent to her poop. Wherever it may fall.

    My Henry did this very thing. Perfect at pee, but poop in the underwear every single day. I stressed, I whined, I whimpered. And then one day, he just stopped. He came and told me he pooped on the potty, I said, “WAHOO!” and he never looked back. She will too, eventually. I promise. I can’t be certain it was because Ivy was born, but babies do funny things to toddler brains. I’m at the very least, certain of that.

    (Please note: I’m perfectly willing to accept the possibility that I am completely off base and maybe your daughter just likes the feel of it squishing against her bum. But that seems a little hopeless so I”m trying to be optimistic.)

  3. My third child was the exact same way. She would hold it for days, begging me to let her do her business in a pull up– She even brought me a swim diaper once sobbing for me to let her poop in it.

    Her Pediatrician finally told me to just relax and let it be. “Stop trying to control the situation!” he said. Some kids are afraid of pooping in the toilet, and then it becomes a HUGE power struggle between the parent and child. Which is what it had become with me and my #3 and it sounds like that’s what it is with you and your #3.

    The child has control over this one little thing, and she’s not letting go of her control. As adults we know they’ll be happier if they’ll just do it our way, but it has to be their idea. Once I let go and just her do it her way, she was poop trained in under 3 months. It had to be her idea, done her way and she NEVER looked back once she made that decision.

    And really? My pediatrician was right– it’s not the end of the world if she is potty trained but not poop trained. Yeah, it’s a huge inconvenience, and major irritating that the child is in control of their life, and not doing what we want them to do (which just prepares you for when they are teenagers and flat out refuse to do the things you want them to do). And you still have to buy those stupid pull ups.

    She won’t go to Kindergarten carrying a pull up so she go into the corner and poop. That I CAN promise you. Pick your battles, darling, and this is one that you can let June-bug do her way.

    • annie valentine says:

      I know. You’re right. This is me totally and willingly defeated. I’m on day three of “happy pull-up attitude” and today she told me she had to poop and maybe she’d do it in the potty. I just said whatever, smiled, and walked away. We. Shall. See…

  4. I have been following you for a few weeks now. I really love what you write.

    Now… about your post.
    I now have 3 teenagers. My middle child was also afraid to poop in the toilet. It really is a scary thing for some kids and I agree with what Elisa said. The worst thing you can do is negative reinforcement. It makes it worse. I had so many struggles with potty training, but then something “clicks” with them and they get over it. It is just a matter of finding the “click”. With my son – (1) we got a small potty chair that sits on the floor by the big toilet. I remember my SIL telling me one time that her daughter was afraid to poop in the big toilet because she was afraid she was going to go down the drain with it! (2) Find something they want so so bad! We were at the store one day and my son wanted a ball – you know the ones in the cages? – Anyway… I told him that if he would go poop in the potty we would go right back to the store and get one. That did it for him! He pooped in the potty that VERY day! And 5 minutes later we were in the car and on our way back to that store. (This also taught him that mommy keeps her promises!) I just had to find something he wanted that was worth MORE to him than his fear!
    Potty training such a hard struggle. Hang in there. She will figure it out. I remember people always telling me to relax and “have you ever seen a kid go off to college who wasn’t potty trained?” Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at the situation in a new perspective and “giving in”. Like Elisa said… don’t try to control the situation. It will makes things easier for you AND for her! Good luck!

  5. I had one like this as well. I couldn’t make her so she would just ask for a diaper when she needed to poop every day. Until one day she accidently pooped in the toilet while she was peeing. Then she was cured. It was like 6 months of pooping in the diaper. Totally worth it to stop a power struggle I could not win.
    Good Luck.

  6. Also, I LOVE the picture. 🙂

  7. Yep, totally normal struggle. My boys would come and ask for a diaper to poop too, and it exasperated me — Hello! If you can ask for it, you’re big enough to deal with it on the toilet– but they finally got over it. Another thing: Maybe her stools are a little hard and so it frightens her it might hurt. (The change in position from diaper to toilet feels different, too). If that’s the case, you might want to consider something like Miralax to keep her stools softer and she’ll have less anxiety. Check with your ped.

    Love the picture. Are you surprised how many of us have been there-done that? Isn’t it funny how we think our child is the one obstinate anamole that will probably wear diapers in high school? 🙂

  8. I gave a couple of mine half a dose of a child laxative. It only took one or two times of them not being able to stop it so they could realize it was okay. It’s not a bad idea to “let it go” as mentioned above… would be very difficult for me to do though. The worst part is knowing they understand but just won’t cooperate for some unknown reason. I”m sorry. This is one of the absolute worst parts of parenting!

  9. First of all, that picture? Best picture I’ve seen all year. I love it.

    Second of all, my eldest did this and it wasn’t until I gave up on fighting her that she finally did it right. and then she was terrified of ever flushing the toilet, but that I could handle as long as I remembered to check if people were coming over. Gross, I know.

    My middle daughter did it a little bit, too. And the cure for her was going to spend 2 weeks with grandma and grandma worked her own kind of potty training magic. So I learned that sometimes it takes a person that is a little further removed than mommy or daddy to work the magic. You might try something like that.

  10. That picture is completely awesome. Hahaha. Love it. The only thing that would be better would be you, telling this story very, very loudly, at Chilis, where the people in the booth next to us were judging you.

    Also, I agree with Jenny. As we already told you, she just turned 3!! She will come to it on her own.

  11. My son was potty trained number two before number one. We knew around the time he “needed” to go and then would give him a sippy cup of straight up orange juice and voila, within twenty minutes he would go. So my suggestion to you is give her her chocolate milk or juice in a sippy within the time frame of her needing to go, but only if she sits on the potty. If she finishes the cup then let her read a book for awhile. With that said we did have a few accidents for about a week but other than that it worked smashingly.

    • I totally read that as orange juice and vodka, had to give it a second/third glance! Lots of good ideas here, I know its hard.

  12. Such wonderful comments on this post! My youngest daughter went through the same thing at the same age and I wish I’d had the reassurance of all of the wise moms who’ve already commented. In the end, our solution was the same as those already mentioned. I let it go. I let her go in her pull up and when she was ready, only a few weeks after I let it go, she went on the toilet. And now I look back on that episode with the same amnesia reserved for morning sickness and labour; somehow I find myself thinking, “Hmm, that wasn’t so bad!”

  13. My kids did the same thing… their pediatrician said that it usually ends up being 3 things. 1) Their place in the family has changed. 2) They’re afraid that the toilet will suck THEM in too. And 3) it becomes a power struggle.

    Let it go. The sooner you just relax and just let her do her biz in the pull-up, the sooner she’ll see you’re not so frustrated with her.

    Btw – when it was time for my son to just not do that anymore, I made a big deal that it was his last pull-up and we just couldn’t get any more cuz they were out at the store. It worked for him. With my daughter? Not so much. So? Moral of the story – – just relax.

  14. I had pooping down to a fine science for our little guy. He struggled with constipation, which made him not want to go, which made things worse. Peaches and peas, if she’ll go for them, can be great at keeping her…going a little easier.

    Also, I’ve read that sometimes, kids are actually afraid they’re losing part of themselves when they poop. Some moms I know have had great luck with “poop parties.” They give their kids a favorite lunch, or dress up and have a movie party at home when there’s potty success. No pressure on the kids. It’s something to earn when they want it. They choose the reward.

    I think there’s a book out there called “Everybody Poops.” Maybe she’d get a kick out of it?

    (And this ordeal is totally worth it for the picture you got! Think of what her husband will say someday!)

  15. No ideas, because I haven’t reached that stage yet completely. Although the books I’ve gotten Scout regarding poop she absolutely loves and asks me to read over and over again.

    Mostly, I just had to tell you that the pic of your cute little Junebug MADE.MY.DAY. I’m laughing so hard, I may need to visit the potty.

  16. I just say, let her poop in the pull-up, then you don’t have to clean it up. And that’s a good use for backpacks if in fact she hits Kindergarten and still needs her pull-up for #2 duty.

  17. It’s normal. 🙂 They typically don’t go to kindergarten pooping in a pull-up. Your kid might be the first, but I doubt it. My kids were the same way and I am happy to report that I never know when they are pooping anymore unless they announce it in my 5 year old’s style “I’M GONNA GO POOP”.

    Good luck. 🙂 Ride it out. (I loved the picture too)

  18. My friend Alexis had this same issue with her daughter. After long agonizing frustration, she said she read somewhere to take their pull-up/diaper/whatever off *with the poop in it* and flush the poop down the toilet while the child watches. Then, she said, she finally found the reward that would work – a La-La-Loopsy Jewel Sparkles doll (I have no idea what those are other than what she posted on her blog). She bought the doll and put it on the fridge, telling her daughter it was hers as soon as she pooped in the pot. Two hours later, no joke, Alexis said her daughter did it. And continued to do it. That’s all I’ve got for you friend. I’m happy to connect you to Alexis, if you’d like. Let me know.

  19. Okay, within the last 6 weeks, my 3 1/2 year old son finally figured it out. After waiting forever until he was ready, I decided something more drastic was in order. I was talking to the grandmother of the girl that catches the bus with my 5 year old and she was telling me what finally worked with her son years ago. Hosing him off each time he pooped in his pants. I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go there, but he’s 3 1/2 for goodness sake. After three cold shower treatments (he hates showers anyway), he started pooping in the potty and hasn’t looked back. I do NOT miss cleaning out his underwear. (I will admit the first few times he pooped on the potty he would say “poop in potty, no shower, poop in underwear, have to take a shower). I will also admit that there was no doubt that he was able to do it, but just was playing stubborn about it all. Good luck.

  20. *I didn’t read through the comments, so hopefully my idea isn’t a duplicate*

    I had this exact problem with my youngest son. To cure him, we did two things…

    1. He was responsible for cleaning up his own #2 mess. Because it was a struggle, that meant he had to take a shower each and every time (which he doesn’t particularly care for).

    2. We began setting him on the toilet backwards, so he was facing the tank. It gave him something to hold onto, and because of the way most toilets are shaped, it eliminated the sensation that he was going to ‘fall in’.

    Between being tired of cleaning up his own mess and not feeling like he was going to fall in, we are mess free. It still took a few weeks and a worlds worth of patience, but it paid off. (Now if I could cure of him his fear of the automatic flushing toilets in public restrooms, it would all be a perfect success).

    Best of luck to you!

    • annie valentine says:

      Love it. Sitting backwards could be especially motivating. And June calls them Magic Toilets.

      • We start them out sitting backwards as well, especially as they are boys. They eventually stand that way so why not. After a month, my younger is turning around to do the doo.

  21. First of all, that picture is priceless. I’m still laughing (it will get funnier to you, too!) My oldest daughter was the same way. Funny thing, when we went on road trips, she would do her business on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere, NM desert.
    But. not. in. a.toilet.
    Preschool finally cured her. Her teacher told her that there, they had to use the toilet.
    So I can’t take any credit for it. But, I did see that there were 23 comments before mine, so there are some awesome moms out there who know what they’re doing, surely you’ll find something that works! Good luck!

  22. Can I recommend Everyone Poops?

    I’ve heard SO many customers say it works miracles… and it’s pretty hilarious. It might be the winner! BUT – if it doesn’t work for your daughter, give it at your next White Elephant party. It will be the hit of the party. Haha. 😉

  23. Denys Gallentine (Brumbaugh) says:

    my #1 son was constipated for a year before I got him on Miralax at 40 mths, having poo in every single diaper from the time he was 28 mths till52 mths, at which point he was potty trained! Believe me, I feel for you. He was dealing with constipation issues, of course, but also when he was ready to potty train, after he turned 4! pee was no biggie – but getting that #2 out was so scary b/c he was used to it hurting….What did the magic trick for us was giving him freshly ground golden flax seed(1tbs) 2x day in applesauce, and of course making sure he was very well hydrated. He was up to 4 tbsp of Miralax/day at that point as well, so even with his superman strength muscles, he was not able to hold it in and after just 3 days on flax seed, the poo came out, and came out and came out…for weeks. I just made sure I had him sitting on the potty about an hour after he ate, to get ready for it. We spent a 3 day weekend pretty much in the bathroom before it came out! but it was so worth it!!
    #2 son, it was definitely a control thing…he just didn’t want to let it out…I had something for him that he wanted, and I told him as soon as he did his poo he could have it – I think it was something like a week or less that he finally let it out – he couldn’t hold it any longer – fun part was, that it just happened to be at a pool party at our friends apt complex, in the bathroom cabana area – OMGosh! I was in there for a 1/2 cleaning the mess off the floor and showering him off. Maybe it was b/c he went swimming and all that pool water loosened it up? So really it wasn’t like he chose to do it, but he just couldn’t stop it and we happened to get him on the potty in time for most of it, and when he was done (during was scary) he was so proud and couldn’t wait to get him prize!

  24. Annie,
    My son was the same way and a babysitter finally figured it out. She placed him backwards on the toilet gave him something to occupy him while sitting that way and kept checking on him. It took persistance on all our part but it finally worked. The babysitter thought he might be afraid of falling in but I think it was more of just being stubborn. I tried everything under the sun and I did discover when I used it as a time out or punishment he was more defiant then ever with it. Give her time she will get it.
    Merry Christmas.

  25. I put up a mirror that she could only see when she sat on the poopy chair. (We actually bought a special potty chair and designated it the poopy chair.) As she loves to look at herself, she’d run in their every 5 minutes to sit on the poopy chair and fix her hair.

    For the poopy chair, we just went to IKEA and bought their 5.00 potty chair .


  26. My oldest had this problem. Lots of tears, lots of frustration. Here’s what helped. A toilet on the ground. The requirement that he had to give me 5 (and only 5) big pushes every time he went (just so he was “trying”). And then the kicker was, after several days, maybe weeks, when he finally did produce, we had a poop parade around the house. No joking. I got bowls and wooden spoons from the kitchen and we marched around the living room while I sang a totally made-up “hooray for AJ going poop in the potty” song for a good 5 minutes. My husband was home to witness once and almost declared me certifiably insane, but he couldn’t argue with the results. Good luck!

  27. I’m kind of late to the party, but we JUST dealt with this at our house. My son is 3 1/2 and I decided that he needed to be trained- but he did the same thing. We tried cold showers, we tried hosing him down and it didn’t work. So, last resort. We got out the little potty. You know. The disgusting ones that are horrible to clean. And then smell. He will poop in that. But not the big one. Totally gross, but worth it. It also motivated him that I took a toy away every time he pooped in his underwear. And gave one back every time he pooped in the potty.

  28. Crap… is that where poop is supposed to go?

    My youngest had the same problem. I think I have blocked those years of potty training out… because I cannot remember what we did. I am pretty sure it included yelling, screaming, pleading, begging, and sedatives.

  29. Oh. My. Gosh. That is the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. I showed that picture to Tavis And my kids. Hilarious!!! What a little sweetheart! I don’t have any words of advice that you haven’t already heard. Love you!! And little Junie!!