3 Year Old Won't Poop in the the Potty

Updated on May 25, 2011
K.K. asks from Houston, TX
10 answers

I have a little boy who turned 3 in March. He has been pee-pee potty trained since January. For a while he would tell us when he had to poop and would go in the potty. He's had constipation issues in the past so we give him a little bit of Miralax every morning so it won't hurt. He still tries to hold it in, but can't now because of the Miralax. We run him to the potty when we can tell he's trying to but are almost always too late because some has come out. Most of the time once a day, there's a big one. We're changing undies up to 5 times a day. It's very, very frustrating. (Not to mention yucky.) Neither my husbannd nor I want to put him back in pull-ups so he doesn't get confused with the pee-pee.

We tell him that we're angry with him becuase we know he knows what to do. We withhold fun things, but have just started doing that and it hasn't worked yet.

Does anyone have any idea what we can do to remedy this?

Thank you for input!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your input and suggestions!
I do feel like I should explain just a little bit more. My husband and I haven't shown anger, just told him. The fun thing we withheld was watching Mickey Mouse. We did that once and told him before hand.

Thank you Misty L. for the time in your response. We have been working on his diet.
I talked to him today about a toy he might want. We'll go to Target this weekend and pick something out as an incentive. I've also ordered the book "Where's the Poop." It looks good!

I appreciate your responses and suggestions. Keep your fingers crossed!

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answers from Houston on

Being mad isn't going to help. He's not trying to be difficult I don't think. My daughter is fully trained to pee in the toilet but has had issues with constipation as well. Sometimes when she tells me she has to poop I put a pull up on her so she can go but yesterday she had an accident in undies at school. Ultimately not holding it in is far more important than making it to the potty every time. I know what you are going through - just try not to be frustrated. Good luck to you.

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answers from Boston on

Telling him you're mad at him is certainly not going to help at all! Neither is taking things away. Buy doing this you're building his anxiety about going, therefore becoming constipated.You need to make it more fun & appealing, regardless of how frustrated you are. Is there a certain toy that he wants? He cant have that toy until he poops on the potty. Make a sticker chart. After so many times he goes reward him with something, sticker, candy,etc. Goto the $ store & get small toys to use as rewards, matchboxes, army men, whatever. Eventually you can phase it out as he gets accustomed to not being afraid to go.
There are childrens books out there you can either buy or borrow from the library." Wheres the Poop" was one of our favorites.
Going #2 is always the hardest for them. Don't forget that THEY can control this, NOT you. You cant make him go, so by makling it more fun - i think he'll do better. The less pressure he feels the better.
Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My son just turned 3 in the beginning of May. He's been peeing in the potty for over 6 months but we had the hardest time with the pooping part. We tried forcing him at first but he would only go in his pull up and he wouldn't listen. So we gave up. People told us..when he's ready...he'll go. My pediatrician said just to tal to him and get something he really wants. Put it somewhere where he can't reach it and tell him that he can have it once he poo poos in the potty. My son wanted a watch...so I told him everyday when he would pee, " remember..when you poo poo in the potty...mommy will buy you a watch.". I just non chalantly talked about the watch and correlated it with the potty. Sure enough... A few days after talking about... He came up to me and said he wants to poop in the potty so he can get a watch. On the first day..he tried... But nothing...so no watch. On the second day...he did it. So we went out immediately after and bought him his watch ( I didn't have it yet since this happened faster than i thought.). Along with the watch came a lot of praise and celebration. We've been doing good since then and this was just a few days ago. Ok..so he's pooping standing up...so next goal....to poop sitting down.

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

If he's messing his undies with poop 5 times a day and can't seem to make it to the potty on time, I wonder if you need to cut back on the Miralax a little. Any chance it's making his stools a little too soft and loose, and therefore they are more frequent and harder to control? What about reducing the amount you give him each day, or just giving it to him every other day, and seeing what happens? As well as making sure he's eating foods that can be naturally helpful too? (Peaches, plums, pears, raspberries, pumpkin, whole grain breads and cereals, etc.). Just a thought...

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answers from Boston on

A lot of my friends have had this problem with their boys.
It may sound strange but what my husband and I did was have our son in the room and show him after we go poop so he got use to the idea. He's been pooping on the toilet since the month he turned 2.
Then everytime he went we gave him 2 plumsweets (chocolate covered prunes pieces) as a reward. After a month or so he stopped asking for the 'reward'. He's always had constipation issues too so he give him Miralax every other day to help. It does work great but maybe your son needs a little smaller dose if he has to run to the bathroom or he won't make it.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

It sounds like he does know what to do but maybe can't hold it b/c of the Miralax. I don't think getting angry with him will help and I agree to NOT put him back in pull ups...you are right, that would be very confusing, and I'm betting he's already confused enough with the changes going on with his body. I recommend carefully considering anger and punishments by thinking of how they would make you respond - would someone being angry with you or taking things away make you want to do better? Most likely not. Would you do it anyway because of fear? Maybe. But do you really want your child to make decisions out of fear? Probably not.

I know you're frustrated, and believe me, I know how that is - at your wits end with nothing left in your tool kit...we've all been there, so please know that you are not alone. Just remember that all children usually experience some potty training setbacks - and this sounds like one for sure. It's usually a stressful life adjustment that causes them (ask yourself if there have been any new stressors in the family). Something like this can do it too - especially if it is stressing you - and then that becomes a stressor for him and it ends up being counterproductive to stress about it at all. Distractions can cause children to not pay attention to their body's signals, but in this case, it sounds like his body's signals have changed due to the medication (it comes on much faster than before most likely) and this might be confusing to him. Imagine how confused and discouraged he might feel about losing control of his body...especially after he thought he had the potty thing down and was probably feeling really good about it. I know parents face anger and disappointment when setbacks happen as well, but before you started to get angry and impose punishments, did you notice how he seemed to feel about having an accident? Does he understand that the medicine you have given him is the cause of the change in his body (but that he needs to take it for his best health, which seems to be how you feel)? Anger and punishment for having an accident is, most likely, counterproductive.

So what can you do instead you're probably asking?

1. Diet. Is it possible to make dietary changes that can eliminate the need for the Miralax? Serve high fiber foods or juice (peach or apricot nectar are high in fiber, so if you have to go to a juice to accomplish this, these might be good choices). Kiwi is another good one that should get his natural bowel movements back on track quickly. Go to fewer dairy products and apple juice, which tend to be constipating. But remember not to force any new foods (creates a power struggle) - just make them available and offer them. If he won't take them, you will still have to use the Mirilax, so if he knows the Mirilax is causing the problem, he might be more likely to try a new food or drink if he knows they will help instead. You don't want to create the same problem with the food though - this might cause him to be scared of eating it or ever trying new things - so you have to be careful here. Make sure he knows it will help, but not just like the meds - they will help better than the meds, then just be sure to not give too much so as to cause more accidents - this might take some trial and error, so just be sure he knows that too...start slow and keep increasing until it's the right amount for him. Once this really helps, he will know you guys did it (celebrate the team effort!!) and he will feel empowered because he chose to eat the foods - he will feel great about his decisions and empowered to make more!
2. Stress. Some parents (I am not saying you, but I wanted to mention this, just in case) push children to master too many tasks at once or expect perfection, which cause them to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Of course, they believe they are doing what is right by their children (most parents like this worry that setting limits will be too restrictive to a child's spirit). They often put many decisions on children ("Where should we eat today?", "Do you think mommy and daddy should go out tonight?", "Do you want to go to school today?"), but even if a child shows interest in such tasks or decisions early on (like potty training), forcing it takes an emotional toll.
3. Control. Control issues can also manifest in the form of toilet training problems. Avoid power struggles and instead, empower your child in positive ways (just like with the food I mentioned above). Encourage cooperation just as you would with any other challenge. Remember that problems are ALWAYS opportunities to learn. Feel free to apologize to him (without guilt or tears) for the anger and punishment you have put forth so far - explain to him that you weren't sure how to help him but that you guys are going to face this as a team and you believe in him and know he can do it - mean it. Say this without expectations of perfection so he does not feel pressured. Show empathy for him (without coddling or babying - no boo hooing, just matter of fact). Remember that logic will not resolve this one - it ends up being an illogical power struggle; the more determined you are to make him to do it, most likely he is becoming more determined not to.
4. Environment. Be sure the environment is potty friendly for him and make sure he is wearing clothing that is easy to get off. Especially with this new challenge of getting there in time (even more than normal)!
5. Time. Be patient, just as you probably were when the potty training started originally, and know that time works wonders. He will figure it out when he's ready - and I know he was already doing it, but this is a change in his body he is adjusting to. Be careful though, not to make it seem okay that he had an accident...you don't want him to feel like it's acceptable, but at the same time, you don't want to make him feel badly for it. It is what it is - just clean him up and encourage him for next time.

I would love to know how it goes, and if you chose to implement any of these suggestions. I know you can do it….good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsfield on

Many kids have issues with pooping on the potty- some because they don't like the feeling of the poop falling from them into the potty. Let him poop in a pull-up until he's ready. I had to do that w/ my DD. When she was ready she started doing it in the potty.

I understand you are getting anxious because of wanting him to be ready for pre-school, but if you push before he's ready, and get upset with him for having accidents, it's just going to cause him anxiety and make the process take longer.

This article might answer your questions

Hang in there! He'll get there :)

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answers from Cumberland on

Get a diaper service to bring the training pants for a while. Check ou the Dr. Phil approach-and some day- he will ask to use the potty-you will be amazed!



answers from Austin on

Without looking at other answers first, please don't punish him for this or tell him you're angry. I know this is very frustrating, but it is awfully common at this age. The theory is that children develop the idea that their poop is part of them which they're afraid to give away in the potty. They'll hold as long as they can, but they don't want to see it flushed away as a part of themselves. Urine just doesn't have the same fear built in, so it isn't an issue. Just help him with the potty without comment and change the pants as needed. It helps some kids to not see you flushing it, which is a big part of the fear. You can talk about this with him at times when he's NOT needing to go. He will outgrow this, but it just isn't something discipline will help.
Good luck.



answers from Houston on

Give him baby food for a few days for all meals. It'll soften him up and make him regular. Put him on consistent potty schedule (some people do every 30 mins, or 30 mins after meals, or every hour, etc). Once he gets the hang of it, you can slowly add solids again.

gl. hth

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