16 answers

5 Year Old Refuses to Poop on Potty

My 5 year old refuses to poop on the potty. she is otherwise potty trained, but she says that she is scared that it will hurt. She will either go in her underpants, a pull-up or even tries to hold it so she won't have to go. She has been known to not go for as much as 3 weeks before we had to give her an enema. We have tried everything - rewards, punishment, understanding, shame, etc.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I appreciate everyone's input. We are currently seeing a psychologist as there are probably underlying issues. Some of your responses offered very harsh advice which i do not agree with. Tough love in this situation does not work and i believe, should not be used. It is not always a physical problem.

Featured Answers

Hi A.,

My sone went thru the same problem. It drove me nuts! His doctor recommended giving him a stool softner and that did the trick. You can buy it over the counter at any drug store. I just gave him about 1/2 a cap full every morning with his ovaltine. It may take awhile, but eventually she'll be fine.


More Answers

We had a similar issue with our son. We wound up cutting a hole in the pull up and having him sit on the potty with his pullup on. He thought he was pooping in his pull up but he actually pooped in the potty. He was then able to see that it was no different and it didn't hurt. We used lots of rewards to encourage his progress - treats, stickers... It helped that he was always well hydrated -- pooping was regular and there was not a lot of pushing involved.

Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I know you must be getting nervous because it is almost time for school. I think you should just let her wear a pull up every night and if she poops in the pull up, have her clean herself up in the morning, with your help. I think you should make sure everyone in the house knows that this is the routine and your daughter shouldn't be made fun of or shamed. Say how proud you are of her every time she uses the potty correctly, so she wants to please you instead of being afraid when she fails. I think since your daughter is 5 years old, it is either medical, emotional or developmental-which means it is not anyone's fault and she can't help it.

I read a lot of advice on web sites that talk about potty training autistic children. Now those are parents who have some patience.

I have heard that doctors have some tricks for children who are constipated or withholding their stools like mineral oil or something, but I would talk to the doctor before using anything.

Hang in there. When she gets it, you will look back and feel so good about yourself.

i am retired nurse, mother of three and grandmother of six.... Such a long time not going to the bathroom can lead to serious medical crisis...consult with a pediatrician and or child psycologist as soon as possible..

know her currency.....For us our son was almost 5...Thank God for Day out w/Thomas...he wanted to ride on Thomas....told him only "big boys" can ride on Thomas ans "big boys" go poopers on the potty. The NITE before he pooped on the poddy!!!! and at the event he had to poop and grabbed his butt and yelled DADDY POOPERS!!!!
It has to be something that she only gets or does if she poops on the poddy...never shame it makes it worse. and every teacher I have ever met has said the same....they have never seen a child start Kindergarten with a "diaper" on.

Early Potty Training Key to Success
John K. Rosemond

What's it going to take for American parents to realize that just as it's far easier to house train a 4-month-old puppy than a one-year-old dog, it's far easier to toilet train a 20-month-old child than a 3-year-old?

Fifty-four years ago, according to a study conducted at the time by Harvard University, nearly 90 percent of America's children had been successfully trained before they reached their second birthdays. Today, courtesy of several decades of toilet-babble issuing primarily from pediatrician/author T. Berry Brazelton, parents wrongly think training a child under age two is psychologically harmful, if not impossible.

So, they wait. And they wait. And they wait. They're waiting, they tell me, for their children to show some of Brazelton's "readiness signs," which he snatched out of the thinnest of air to make it appear that his "child-centered" (a euphemism for upside-down) recommendations were based on solid science.

As a consequence of this waiting for the Godot of potties, children become ever more accustomed to and oblivious of letting go in their diapers. When their parents finally make the attempt to entice them to use the potty, all manner of resistance develops, including a problem that was rare fifty-plus years ago but is ubiquitous today: refusing to use the toilet for bowel movements.

Several weeks ago, a mother asked me for advice concerning her 4-year-old who was "absolutely refusing to poop in the potty." The child's resistance had been ongoing for some time and was associated with late training. Mom was obviously ready to pack it in and run away from home, so I went into my top-secret phone booth, changed into my Parentman costume, and gave Mom a set of instructions that have proved helpful to lots of other parents in the same fix:

Stop talking to your son about using the potty. Don't even ask "Do you want to try and poop in the potty today?" or other equally counterproductive questions.

Get rid of the diapers, pull-ups, and all associated things and resolve to never use them again.

Every day, right after your son eats a high fiber breakfast, gate him in the bathroom, naked from the waist down, and tell him his doctor said he has to stay there until he poops in the potty.

Don't stay in the bathroom with him. Don't offer incentives, or even encouragements. After putting him in the bathroom, make yourself scarce. Simply tell your son to call you when he poops or if he needs help.

Respond "coolly" to success, as if it's no big deal. Say no more than "That's good, you can come out now." Do not give a reward or even lots of praise.

Gate him in the bathroom every day until he's having regular bowel movements in the potty.

A week later, Mom wrote, "We have success." When she introduced the plan, the little guy cried and generally acted like he was being traumatized, but Mom stayed the course.

"You will poop in the potty," she told him, and he did; and he has been ever since.

Lesson: The mistake of late training is correctable, and my experience is that, as in this case, the correction usually takes less than a couple of weeks. But the wear and tear in the meantime!

Copyright 2009, John K. Rosemond

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.

Hi A.,

My sone went thru the same problem. It drove me nuts! His doctor recommended giving him a stool softner and that did the trick. You can buy it over the counter at any drug store. I just gave him about 1/2 a cap full every morning with his ovaltine. It may take awhile, but eventually she'll be fine.


Have you talked to your pediatrician about this?

Have you tried to explain to her that pooping in her pants is no different than pooping on the toilet. It doesn't feel any different to poop in the toilet than her pants and it doesn't hurt to pee on the toilet????

Honestly my brother would go in his pants from time to time at that age because he didn't want to go in the house to go....I mean stop playing to go to the bathroom. He hated pooping...it made him gag, so he would just go in his pants. My mom finally had to just get tough with him. Not only did he get a spanking if he pooped in his pants, but she would put a diaper on him for the afternoon.

He only pooped in his pants once after she told him what was going to happen...guess he didn't believe her.

I'm sure many will think that's mean and humiliating, but it worked and he's fine. He double majored in college in Computer Science and Math with a 3.8 GPA. He is married with three kids and he coaches baseball in his spare time. I think he's a pretty well adjusted guy with a great life. WOW!!! He wasn't traumatized.

Get tough with her and make her understand that is not acceptable. I had one that was three and wouldn't sit on the potty. She would make her mom give her a pull-up so she could go in another room and poop. I sat her on the potty and held her on it...I hugged her and kissed her face and told her it would be alright...nothing bad would happen... I made her sit until she went. All the kids cheared, I gave her a couple of chocolate chips and she went on the potty from then on out. She doesn't like to poop because it's gross to her so she will try to hold it.

Really, you will just have to get tough with her. After an enema I would think she would go...did you explain that you had to do the enema because she was holding it? That had to hurt????

Get a big diaper and show it to her...tell her that if she poops in her pants again, she will have to wear the diaper. Put it in plain view and remind her daily. Then if she poops in her pants, make her clean herself up...give her wipes, put her in the tub and make her clean up. Make her wash herself in the bath, then put the diaper on her. If she pitches a fit, then tell her that babies poop in their pants.

If she poops in the diaper, then make her clean that up too. Tell her that you love her and want her to be a big girl. Insist that she has to be a big girl or she will have to wear diapers...because pooping in her pants ruins her clothes, makes her stink, and creates all kinds of mess that has to be cleaned up.

Something has to sink in after all that.

If not, then I would take her to the doctor and see if there is not a medical condition that is causing her to go in her pants. There is such a thing though I don't know the name of it.

All 3 of my kids had issues with pooping. Not so much scared to go on the potty just hurt like heck so they would go maybe 1 a week. With my first, the dr told me to do mineral oil and it worked for her and the 2nd. Now the 3rd has had major issues with this and knock on wood, I think we may be at an end of it. With him he would take mineral oil but then would hold it in as long as possible, one night sitting for 2 1/2 hours before he went. He would always be happy once he went and said he felt better but then the next time would come and he would scream that it is gonna hurt. For about 2 weeks, I gave him Miralax again suggested by dr and I also backed off about it. I stopped pestering him and just told him to listen to his body and if his tummy was starting to hurt, then it was probably time to poop. He has gone by himself the last few times with no issues, no screams, nothing. I haven't given him Miralax for the last two weeks and he is now going maybe once every 3 days.

good luck

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