How Do You Get a 3 Year Old Boy to POOP on the Potty?

Updated on June 18, 2008
J.K. asks from Saint Paul, MN
21 answers

We took away our 3 1/2 year old's diapers this Monday and he hasn't had them since! It seems like we tried everything for him to go on the potty for ANYTHING and that finally seemed to work. Well, he has mastered going potty...but not poopy. He's done awesome in underpants and goes potty whenever he needs to. BUT He WON"T go poopy! I need your help, Moms!! I've heard of this before. He's scared of pooping on the potty. He prefers to stand or squat to poo and is just freaking out about using both the potty chair and the toilet for pooping. It gets to the point that he is doubling over in pain. At that point, I've asked him if he would like to go in a diaper, but he won't. I think he's happy to not use them. Today he took off his pants and squated on the floor. I ran upstairs to grab a diaper or something to get under him if he went and when I got back down, he had pooed on the floor. I felt so bad for him. He kept on saying, "I'm sorry, Mama. I'm sorry, Mama." Before even cleaning it up, I hugged him and told him Daddy and I were so proud of him this week. I told him it was O.K. and we'll figure it out. So, what have you gals figured out? How do I get him comfortable to go poo on the potty? I've offered to read him books while he sat on it and he throws a fit. I've told him if he goes poopy on the potty he'll get special treats - like watching Alvin and the Chipmunks, but he says "not yet". Do we just clean up poopy underpants and floors for a while until he feels comfortable?? What do we do? Thanks!

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answers from Davenport on

Can he just squat OVER the potty? If you get one of the little Baby Bjorn ones that is basically a "bowl" on the floor, it should be low enough for him?



answers from Biloxi on

I have a five year old boy. He is going to the potty most of the times but sometimes he has accidents wearing underwear. It's frustrating because he knows when he needs to poop but he doesn't want to miss out on playing or watching a show even though we tell him that whatever it is he is doing will still be there when he is done. He doesn't poop in his underwear but he starts to then he sits on the potty. Let me know how things go. Good Luck!

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answers from Minneapolis on

You may just have to wait until he feels comfortable. A lot of kids feel like poop is a part of them and are scared to let it go. Teaching him that itshow your body works may help. I've heard of haveing a good-bye poop party.

I like that you don't punish him. He obviously feels bad about it.



answers from Minneapolis on

Here's another request for this issue.

We had the same problem and I wrote a really funny way that we got it resolved. I call it the Poop Party! You feel dumb talking about it, but it has worked with more children then my son.

Good luck!



answers from Fargo on

When I was potty training my boys I'd keep a jar of jelly beans or m&m's in the bathroom. Only when they did their "job" did they get to pick one out. After a couple of weeks all was good. I also used the smaller toilet seat inserts on our reg. toilet for the kids to sit on, I think they felt safer and didn't worry about falling in so much. Hope this helps, stick with it!



answers from Lincoln on

I had this same problem with my oldest child. I made him help me clean his own underwear and I'd call him a poop tale. It took about a week of being called a poop tale and he started using the toilet. HE wouldn't use his potty chair and he wouldn't use the toilet until I bought a smaller seat that goes on the toilet for little kids.
Boys are stubborn and for some reason VERY difficult to poop train. Potty trainin' was a breeze but poop trainin' is a nightmare and was w/ both my boys.

Good luck,



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi J.,

I have 2 thoughts. First, often kids need to have their feet supported when they poop, just like we do, so they can bear down to get it out. So you might want to try putting a stool under his feet so he can have good foot support. Or , you could use a potty chair (although they are icky to clean, so I'd go the stool route first).

Second, has he told you why he won't go? Oftent kids are scared to "lose" part of their bodies and watch it get flushed. I know it sounds weird to us, but it is totally legitimate in their world. There are some good potty books, Like Once Upon A Potty, Everybody Poops, and more that may help. Check out your local library or bookstore for these and see if they help.

I congratulate you for not calling him names or humiliating him. You are a good mom to recognize his feelings and to respectfully encourage him to grow. Good luck!



answers from Rapid City on

I heard once long ago when my kids were young that some children worry about their poop going down the toilet since they see it as part of themselves. Patience is needed. Once he finally does it then he will be so happy, you probably won't have much trouble. Try to catch it when he is ready to go and act excited telling him "come on, lets go in to go pooh!" My granddaughter, when a infant, use to make a sound when she would be going pooh. I thought it would be easy to catch her to potty train her. Wouldn't you know it though, she stopped doing it when she got old enough to potty train!



answers from Lincoln on

We went through this same thing about 6 months ago. My son is 3 1/2 now and we got thru it and he poops on the toilet like a champ now. :-) He would hold it until he was in pain and would hide behind the couch and squat down so he knew when he had to go he just wouldn't go on the potty. He would go potty all the time but not poop. We tried not to get frustrated and he just slowly (on his time) decided to start going on the potty like big boys.
My son got to the point of freaking out if he tried to put him on the toilet but we caught him a few times right as he was squating in the corner and put him on the toilet and eventually going on there helped him cure whatever fear he had. We did sticker rewards and a whole lot of praise.
I guess I just wanted to let you know that this is just a phase and it will pass! Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

We did the whole making our little guy sit there, and actually tried holding him until we were exhausted. Then one day we were jumping to catch the balloons from his b-day party and he started to panic about poop coming out. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. For the next week, I would turn on some fun music and we would jump around the living room and I would even hold up his blanket or toy or something and had a contest to see how high he could jump. He would jump around until he stared to panic and then quickly sit down and let in come out. He would not sit for minutes on end though so it had to be coming out for him to do it at first. After that crazy week he started running to the bathroom on his own. It did not work every time, sometimes we would be trying really hard to get it out for hours and then finally gave up and put on pull up and pjs so he could settle down for bed and two minutes later would have to clean him up, but it worked enough to get him used to it and be ready to do it on his own. Now I just have to figure out what works for our daughter:) Good Luck!



answers from Grand Rapids on

you wait till hes four, thats when all three of my boys got it, D. s



answers from Minneapolis on

My son would only poop in his pull up. He would ask for one. Finally I just grabbed him on day when he was actually starting to poop, whipped the pull up off and put him on the potty.

It worked. When he was done he got to have one of the prizes he had picked for pooping on the potty. In all, he got three new toys for pooping, then he was trained.

Good luck!



answers from Milwaukee on

Make him clean it up. It worked with my oldest. he never pooped in his pants again after he had to help me clean his underwear and realized how gross it really was. Good luck



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi, J.! You sound just like me! Our almost 4 yr old JUST started going poop on the potty the first week in April. He would hide and poop in his pull-up and was very scared to go on the potty. And he would be kicking and screaming if we tried to suggest he go on the potty.

Here's what we did: we kept talking about going to Target and picking out ANY toy he wanted; he would get to play the Wii; and we would throw him a party. He still wasn't interested, and then one day, I decided to take him kicking and screaming to sit on the potty when I knew he had to go. I held him down to sit and spoke reassuringly to him and made him laugh and told him we would just try and then brought in 2 books to read to him while he tried. He sat there for 15 minutes, trying and pushing, no success. Then I rewarded him for trying. A few days later when he needed to go, we took him kicking and screaming again, brought in a book to read again, and he tried and he did it! We congratulated him and my husband immediately took him to Target to pick out his favorite toy.

After that first day, he pooped on the potty several times a day, because he would get a reward immediately AND he was SOOOO proud of himself. We did a specific reward for a couple of weeks (plastic eggs filled with coins and little tiny cars--his favorite things--which he picked out of a bag every time he went). And now he even goes on his own, with help for clean-up afterward. And we still reward him with playing on the Wii or chocolate M&Ms. :)

But it's just like everybody says--all of a sudden they start doing it in their own time. And it just clicks. I thought for sure our son would be 5 before he'd poop on the potty (he'd always tell me he'd do it when he was 11!). He was actually potty trained overnight before anything else, and was wearing training underwear to bed for a couple weeks before he started pooping on the potty. I think it also helped us for him to wear his big boy underwear, because he'd been wearing pull-ups for a long time. We'd tell him it's not fun to poop in your big boy underwear, because poopies go in the potty. And he really wanted to wear his new underwear more and more. So I guess he finally felt like he had enough incentive to start. :)

I think it's also really important to start feeding him foods that will soften his stools, giving him lots of fluids and take out things like cheese that will tend to constipate him more, and which could be causing his poops to be painful. I've learned that even though he started pooping on the potty, if I'm not careful about what he eats, and his poopies get too large and hard and painful, he starts withholding, which makes his poopies large and hard and painful.

I think you are doing a wonderful job, being so patient, encouraging him, not punishing or shaming him. I would try to encourage a pull-up until you can get him to try on the potty, just so you are not always having to clean it up from the floor or his underwear. And I would just try either the regular toilet or the potty chair consistently and not offer both. Our little guy is too big for a potty chair so we just put it away altogether.

My biggest advice, though--don't worry about it. Really. Just keep gently trying and suggesting. He will do it when he's ready!

God bless!



answers from Omaha on

I am having a slow time of it with my 2 1/2 year old too. but I have to tell you, be careful. Especially how you said he will hold it in and have some pain. My oldest was very difficult and I really did everything wrong with him, including trying too hard about the potty training. He would hold his pooh til it was coming out of his body, and then of course it would be in his pants. He had this going on for quite a while after he was otherwise potty trained and wearing underpants. The worst part is, he never did learn how to feel the need early on and to have to push it out. So now, even though he is able to control it enough to always get there on time, he never goes until he has to book it for the bathroom. There's no, "oh, I may have to go, I better go try". He only goes about once a week, and he's told me that sometimes it's been a couple weeks. He's 10. So basically, he never learned, and I worry that he is going to end up with medical problems from the constant constipation. So just be careful, and don't use shame. If he won't let it out in the potty, just make sure he lets it out! Hope this was helpful.



answers from Janesville-Beloit on

Does he have a regular time that he poops each day? If so, have him sit on the potty chair right before til he does. Not too long a time tho. Maybe put some music and books he likes while he's sitting there. Pop your head into bathroom every couple minutes just so he knows your still there.

If he doesn't have a "regular" time, maybe Dad could sit in there w/ him or have him sit on potty chair while Dad is in shower? It may be a "boy thing". And Moms are not boys. LOL.



answers from Minneapolis on

This may be a little graphic, but since we're all moms, we can probably all handle a little poop talk, right?!?! We had the same problem with my son from the start of potty training. It was mentioned to me that when kids poop in their diaper (standing on squatting) the child uses their legs to use as leverage to "push". There is a little bit of retraining involved when getting them to go on the potty--they just don't know how to "push" when sitting because they are used to using their legs. (Think of the leverage you need from your legs when pushing out a baby!!!) The suggestion I have is to prop up your son's legs on a wall or bathtub. I would push the potty close to the wall, put my son on it, prop his legs up against the wall, and use my foot to hold the potty in place. This way, he could still use his legs. Within a couple of days, it worked like a charm. Flash forward to a couple of weeks later, he doesn't need the propping anymore!

Another thing that I did (and I know some people don't agree with this) is that I would refuse to put a diaper on him when he asked for one. My son would do his "poop dance"--the little shake and wiggle he would always do before going--and then would say, "Diaper, please mama!" I would just put him on the potty. There was some crying for the first few times. I was VERY nervous that this would cause him constipation or resentment towards the potty, but after a couple of days he got the message. Every so often he would disappear for a couple of minutes then come back with underwear filled with poop. When this would happen, I would put him in the bathroom and make him sit with it in his pants for 2 minutes before I would change him. We would talk about how poopers went in the potty and how if he would go in the potty we could make the poop go SPLASH! in the big potty. (Gross, I know!) Because we stayed home so much when potty training, a reward for pooping on the potty was to go to the park or the zoo or the train yards or something fun like that!

Wow, this ended up being much longer than I intended it to be! Hope this helps--keep us posted!



answers from Green Bay on

Hang in there. I am in the process of training my three year old daughter and it's been a slow process. But, I have a 10 year old daughter and a 9 year old son and what worked for me was wrapping small gifts (bubbles, side walk chalk, match box cars, crayons, coloring book). Nothing expensive, but kids love gifts. I placed them in a basket and left it in the bathroom. Then I told them when they would poop on the potty they could choose a gift. That was all the motivation they needed. Once they started the gifts went quickly and before you know it they're trained. You're doing great by encouraging him and not scolding him for the accidents. Good luck!



answers from Cedar Rapids on

This is going to sound crazy but it works.

Week 1: Let him wear his diaper while sitting on the potty to poop. When he has gotten comfortable with this....

Week 2: Continue letting him wear his diaper on the potty, but cut a small hole in the back of the diaper.

Week 3: Cut a large enough hole in the diaper so that the poopy falls into the potty.

Week 4: Pooping in potty, no diaper!!!!


answers from Minneapolis on

He has been in diapers for 3 1/2yrs, that is a long time to expect him to just turn off that way of using the toilet. I think that is too long to wait, and now he has a fear of it.

At his age, he needs to help you clean it up, and there is no reason for him to be pooping on the floor. If he does, give him a paper towel and have him pick it up and take it to the toilet, drop it in, and flush it down.

I guess if I were in your situation I wouldn't give him a choice. IF he starts pooping, throwing a fit or not, I'd make him sit on the potty. I just don't see a reason for a 3 1/2yr old to be pooping on the floor!

Being gentle about it is a good aproach, but you still need to be firm and not give him a choice. Explain that there is no other option, he will use the toilet for pooping.



answers from La Crosse on

Get him a little ceramic-lined metal pot with a handle on the side from a junk or antique shop and let him poop in that. He can have a sense of accomplishment after pooping because he can see his accomplishment. That was the trick around our house. He can also be a big boy who takes it to the potty and dumps it out and rinses it out in the sink too.

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