Almost 3 Year Old and Still Refusing to Poop in the Toilet!! Plzzz Heeeeeeelp!

Updated on October 05, 2010
N.W. asks from Des Plaines, IL
17 answers

Hi Moms,

My daughter was (pee) potty trained at 2! She's using the toilet by herself, stays dry during naps and through the night! No accident whatsoever! But since she was 2 she had shown resistance to pooping in the toilet! She had done few poops in the potty, but after that she just want to go in her pull ups! At that time we were still potty training so I thought I just let her do it! But now that she's potty trained (pee), we no longer use the Pull ups, so she will go in her underwear!

I have tried everything, rewards, stickers, buying her a whole set of her favorite Ponies! But nothing is working! She's now in Preschool for few hours in the morning and will not go there! She will hold it until she gets home, or just do it when they're playing outside 10 mn before I pick her up! Her teacher has told me that she tried to have her go, but my daughter just resisted that and it turned into a power struggle, so the teacher backed off!

I'm so lost, don't know what to do!! It's very frustrating, it's been almost a year that we're going through the same thing! I would appreciate any input! I have run out of any new ideas. All I do now is just wash the mess and tell her, it's OK just remember to use the bathroom next time! This is getting old now and and I'm tired and exhausted of washing poopy pants few times a day!! Help Pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase!

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answers from Harrisburg on

Common problem - my 3.5 year old twin boys are the same. I've tried everything and have come to the conclusion there really isn't anything I can do and they'll have to decide on their own when to do it. It drives me nuts but I try to stay calm and just treat it like a milestone they haven't reached yet. I try really hard to not get mad/frustrated because it truly makes things worse. I keep telling myself before long this will be a distant memory!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

I would think of the Beatles--"let it be, let it be..." My son potty trained easily at 18 months, but would have long periods where no amount of coaxing, pleading, bribing, etc would get him to poop in the potty. So we decided on a family policy of not caring any more and being grateful that we hadn't changed a wet diaper in years. It wasn't a huge deal because 90% of the time he would only poop at home so in public and at preschool he was completely potty trained. Anyway, he started preschool with older kids this year and they put themselves on the potty and all of a sudden he poops on the potty. He is a few months over 3. So, it's hard, but you can't control it so you might as well just let it go--it will happen when she's ready...

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answers from Portland on

Your daughter is still well within the "normal" age range for potty training. It's great that she is doing so well with the "pee" component. Plenty of kids have a harder time with pooping in the toilet, and it's helpful to treat it as an entirely different stage of training. I know a few young families whose kids continued to ask for a diaper for pooping for several months after pee training was successful. It did not appear to confuse the children, who can be pretty sensible about what will work for them.

The urges and sensations for pooping are different, and can be complicated by strain or pain, diarrhea or constipation, or swing from one to the other. It usually takes a lot longer to poop than to pee – my grandson gets pins and needles in his legs by the time he's done. Some kids are very regular, some never know what to expect. So it's often much harder to figure out the pooping, and this isn't your daughter's fault.

It's not unusual to develop fear of the potty, or the sensations, or feel scared when they see a "part of themselves" in the potty and see it flushed away. This fear is hard to reason away in a young child, but usually they outgrow it when their cognitive functions are better developed. Parents can sometimes help this by realizing that the fear is real, and perhaps cheerfully encouraging the child to flush when the parent has a bowel movement. And explanation of "when food goes in, poop must come out" can be useful.

Most developmental specialists suggest that children be allowed to approach this challenge at their own speed, with parents acting as coaches, personal assistants, and cheerleaders. If the whole activity has not deteriorated into a power struggle, kids do use the potty willingly when they are matured enough physically and emotionally. Then children are as proud as they are with any other new skill. Many parents report that any stage of training can take from one day to a couple of weeks when the child is confident he can do it.

You might try introducing a new support activity or game. If your daughter tends to poop at a regular time or you can tell by her body language that a bm is on the way, you might ask her to sit for a while and read to her, or line up a few of her toys to role-play successful pooping (my grandson still loves this if he's having an uncomfortable poop.) We actually started with the puppet games before he ever tried to poop on the toilet, so he was already connected with that. I also used to dramatically "clear all the dinosaurs out" so there would be room on the toilet seat for him, and he loved the imaginary competition, requiring me to keep the critters away until he was done.

If you do get your daughter to sit and try, don't expect immediate results. There's still a huge emotional component along with the physical sensations, and anxious or angry children are known to withhold poop, often not even intentionally. They are just too tense to poop. So, if she's successful, be pleased but not overexcited for her, and don't assume it is necessarily anything more than a happy accident yet. After a few repeats, she'll probably start to get the "sequence of events" figured out.

If she's not successful, just cheerfully appreciate her trying, and express your calm confidence that she'll be able to do this pretty soon. She will. It just takes some kids more time, and the more pressure she feels to succeed, the less likely she is to get in touch with her actual bodily sensations. I've also personally been reluctant to use rewards for a natural function, but some parents find they help, perhaps more so in the case of emotional resistance.

A couple of moms I've known used diaper liners in the underpants, and found they reduced the cleanup tremendously.

Please be as patient as you are able with your daughter. She's not going to train any faster if you seem tense, angry or disappointed in her.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Too young! And badgering her will not help. This is one of the few things SHE has control of. I am really shocked you have kept at it a year. It is obviously not working. Give her a break. Most kids resist the poop part of potty training. Maybe try some books about the potty would help her. The Potty Train, Everybody Poops, Potty by Milo Freeman, Once Upon A Potty...
And I totally agree with SH

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answers from Honolulu on

She will get it, on her own.
Don't force it.
Pooping IN a toilet, is the later stage of toileting....

My daughter, even though we didn't force her, got anxiety and stress just from pooping and thinking of going in a toilet. She got constipated. We then had to take her to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. HE said, this is COMMON and sees kids like this everyday. IF a child fears popping in a toilet... they get constipated, then 'withhold' their poop on purpose... thus getting constipated. THEN it is a medical problem and then an emotion-based problem... because constipation causes PAIN in the child from holding it in and then if/when it comes out, it is painful. So then the child withholds their poop even more, NOT wanting to poop. At all.
It took my girl THREE months, to get her constipation better.
A child, if having poop problems/constipation... it can also lead to other medical problems such as "Encopresis" and bulging/blocked bowels etc.
So, you do not want this to happen.

For my son, who is now 4, he actually thought his poop was a part of him and it scared him, that it went in a toilet and got flushed. He just got so scared, to poop, unless in his diaper.

Just let her poop. Even if for now, in a diaper.
But encourage her.... calmly and nicely.
And mostly, don't 'scold' for it.... it will make them MORE resistant. And it will then not be a good.... thing for them.

My son, would even tell me loudly "IT'S MY BODY!!!!!!" and yes, it is.
I personally, cannot do number two, on command, either.

all the best,

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answers from Minneapolis on

This might not be a popular approach, but it worked for one of my kids at this age. Every time she poops in her underwear, take her to the bathroom, and have her remove her underwear and shake the poop into the toilet and flush. Don't use a disgusted, or angry tone, like it is a punishment. Just use a matter of fact tone, this is where the poop goes. Even if she fights it (because they will a little as it is not the most pleasant of tasks) stay calm and have her do it, and also bring the dirty underwear to the laundry room and dress herself in clean clothes before she can return to whatever she was playing. Just say, when you are ready, you may sit on the toilet yourself, that is an easier way to put the poop where it belongs. It's too easy to keep pooping in her underwear if you're doing all the running, cleaning, and changing for her. No more punishments or rewards or discussions. I think my daughter only did this twice before deciding it was NOT worth it. Also, the little glycerin suppositories called pedialax work like a charm if you notice it has been more than a few days with no poop. Good luck!

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answers from Boise on

I didn't read all of the responses but I will tell you I could have written your post just a couple months ago. I am generally very patient but potty training almost put me over the edge! :) Our dtr just turned 3.5 and something just clicked for her...she goes on her own without reminders. I will say after trying EVERYTHING I finally decided to back off and just let her do her thing. I didn't make a big deal if she had an "accident" just quietly cleaned up so I'm not sure if it was becoming a power struggle but I just wanted to let you know you will make it the "other side".....good luck.

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answers from Portland on

I completely feel your pain. My oldest daughter who is now 12 did the same thing. Although I home schooled her for preschool because since she wasn't potty trained they wouldn't let her enroll. She got the peeing in the potty down just fine, but also refused to poop in the potty. I was very young at the time and had no idea how to handle it. I tried everything from rewarding and bribing to scolding and punishing. It eventually turned into a huge power struggle where she would become angry at me and make a big mess with her dirty diapers and I was consistantly cleaning up poo pants, and poo disasters. I eventually gave up. I just let her have her way. I stopped saying anything at all about where poo goes, when I came across her in dirty pants or came across a huge mess I would take a deep breath push away my frustration and disgust and calmly say "ok, lets get this cleaned up" she eventually tried pooping in the potty when she felt ready, there wasn't any pressure on her, no fear of dissapointing anyone, and she was in control.

I do also like Annettes idea of having them help you clean up the mess, but had I tried that with my little one that would have been a power struggle too.

Good luck to you, I hope she gives in soon. Just keep positive and think to yourself that it couldn't possibly last forever ;)

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answers from Dallas on

I don't want to discourage you. I just want to say that my oldest wasn't even interested in the potty until after his 3rd birthday. Also a boy. They may move more slowly........LOL!

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answers from Missoula on

I feel your pain. My son (also almost 3) is the exact same way; pees in the potty without issue, but refuses to poop there. The conclusion I've come to is that there just isn't a darned thing I can do about this. He has to make the decision on his own. I offer him plenty of chances to go, but I try not to push the issue, and when he has an accident, at least 5 times per week, we just clean him up and move on. Eventually he will get it, but the power struggle wasn't helping us at all, so I'm trying not to engage. Frustrating, I know, but you just can't make them do it without their cooperation.
I think this is very common for kids, and this stage of potty training often takes much longer than mastering peeing in the potty.
Hang in there, this won't last forever.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Not sure i this is a good idea, but it's not like she's waaaaaaay past potty training age or anything--just put her back in Pull Ups for "out of the house" times til she gets it. It will click. She'll get it. Try to lessen your focus on the poop-in-the-potty issue and follow her lead.

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answers from Houston on

My kids didn't poop in the toilet until they were about 3 1/2, but once they were ready, they had few accidents. If they do now, they have to help cleaning the poop out of the underwear. If you have tried everything, including positive reinforcement, then it sounds to me like she isn't ready yet.

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answers from Chicago on

I know exactly how you feel - we just got over this 'poop hump' 3 weeks ago with our 3 1/2 year old son!

We tried everything, begging, pleading, bribing, stickers, candy, blah blah blah and none of it worked and all of us were frustrated.

We just backed off and literally 5 days later he came to us and said "I'm not going to poop in my pants anymore", and that was it. He's in underwear now.

It'll click for her eventually - just hang in there (even though I get you - it's sooooooooo frustrating!).

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answers from Chicago on

My son did the exact same thing. I truly beleive it was a control issue. The whole potty training thing was a power struggle. The last phase was pee in the potty pooping in the pants and holding it. The horrors of baseball size poops. The hardest thing to do is let it go, but that is what worked. I just realized the other day that he is not holding it any more and there is no pile of dirty underware. It seemed as soon as we stopped focusing on it, it changed. Maybe once there was no negative attention either there was no point in him trying to power struggle the issues.

And really there is nothing you can do. You just have to let it be and it will resolve it self. A lesson in letting go...we all need that...LOL.

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answers from Chicago on

Wow! Great question and responses. I'm in the same boat with one of my twin boys. He is very afraid of having a BM on the toilet. He used to soil his undies, and I was so tired of having to clean them. Eventually, he had to help me clean up his messy underwear. He didn't like that at all. I finally taught him to ask for a pull-up to wear whenever he had a BM. We did this for a while. Now I put the pull-ups in the bathroom. He has to tell me when he has to go "poopy." He puts on the pull-up by himself. When he's finished, he lets me know. I help clean him up and that's it. I'm not so stressed anymore. (maybe just a little) If he wants to take off his underwear and put on his pull-up on his own, that's fine. I know this won't last forever. Probably not much help, but hopefully you'll find some comfort knowing that you/your daughter are not alone.

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answers from Chicago on

Does your daughter like her big girl underwear? Are there pretty prints or characters on them? This idea might be a little expensive, but here it is... Get a supply of plain white underwear. Next time she poops in her pretty underwear throw them away. Tell her that every time she poops in the pretty underwear they will be thrown away and she'll have to use the plain underwear.
I have no idea if this would work, but good luck!!


answers from Chicago on

I honestly don't have an answer for you I just thought it might help you to know that my friend's daughter just turned 4 and she is just now starting to poop in the toilet. She was a similar story--potty trained early and for some reason just stopped wanting to poop. She'd hold it in all day and then it would come out at night in her sleep and they'd have to change her in the middle of the night as she slept! (I don't mean to imply that you will have to wait until she's 4 before she goes in the toilet!) My daughter is almost 3 and completely doesn't get either one. We've been potty training for a week and a half now and she will not tell me if she has pee or poop--if I don't catch it on the potty coincidentally she goes in her underwear and ALWAYS poops her pants at the park! Hope this at least helps you not be so frustrated with your little girl and lets you know you're not alone. Blessings!

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