My Son Won't Poop in Potty

Updated on March 16, 2008
M.M. asks from Richland, WA
24 answers

My son is 3 1/2 and is doing great as far as going potty in the potty chair. He is very consciencious about when he needs to go and very seldom has an accident. For this reason I let him wear his special underwear. But he won't go poop in the potty chair. He goes in his underwear almost every time! And he seems to be aware that he is doing it because my babysitter says that he goes and hides behind a tree and poops. The couple of times that he has gone in the potty we made a big deal out of it and gave him a prize and everything. But that hasn't seemed to motivate him to do it consistantly. What do I do?

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D.J.

answers from Seattle on

Don't worry, his poop need a special effort and it is more special for him. You hang his art projects on the wall but flush this down in the toilet. He can't understand that. You need a special ritual for this "project" too plus the treat. He needs to have his hard work evaluated and appreciated. My son did the same thing and we end up putting a diaper on him when he needed to go. He would asked for one and we sad that it is OK. Than we had a "good buy poo-poo song" and he was aloud to flush the toilet. After we invented the ritual he didn't even asked for a treat. It took about 3 months before he started using the potty for the "big job" too. So, a ritual and asking for a diper to go in helped a lot and there were no mess until he was ready to do both "jobs" in the potty. Good luck!

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S.S.

answers from Seattle on

This may sound a little strange but, .... Children feel a connection with their 'Poop' they see it as a 'Part of themsevels'. So, for a child to go poop in the toilet then flush it away can be very difficult to them because they may feel as though they are flushing a 'Part of Themselves' down the toilet.

Maybe if you can find a way to make a connection for him that his poop needs to be flushed away, you may just get him to poop in the potty.

I hope I have helped you in a small way

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L.O.

answers from Seattle on

I think going poop is very intimate for children and adults, so children and adults seek privacy to go number 2. It sounds like your son is just trying to have some control and privacy over a very intimate bodily function. I would allow him some control over this situation and let him wear a diaper when he needs to go, if he'll tell you (this is what my sister-in-law does with my 3 year old nephew). Also taking the pressure off and just letting him know that if he is not ready to go poop on the potty it's ok, but he'll need to wear a diaper so there are no messes to clean up. My niece liked wearing her big girl underpants over her diaper. Good luck.

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L.R.

answers from Seattle on

My guess is your son is trying to be in control of something and is looking for attention, even if it is negative attention. It's amazing sometimes how kids look for something even if it isn't the best.

Here are three things I would do--
1) When he does this, don't get super upset. That will give him negative attention. It's still attention. Have him clean up the mess himself. Guide him through it at first, but then let him do it by himself. Even let him put his clothes in the washing machine.

2) Talk about going poop in the potty at a non-threatening time, not right after he goes in his underware. Tell him why it's important to go in the potty--it keeps him healthy. Then set up a reward system with stickers or something like that. We had a special toy up for each of my twins for a long time. They knew once they did poop in the potty, they would get that toy. Boy were they excited when they got that toy and they kept up the potty routine.

3) If this is a control thing, your son might be looking for more choices. It could be as simple as letting him pick out his own clothes, picking a snack from two choices you've given him, or even letting him pick the place where he sits at the table. It's amazing how these choices can give the child the attention he needs in a positive way.

Hope this helps. Have a great day!!

L.

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T.W.

answers from Seattle on

At 3.5, your son should start understanding cause and effect. Since you are trying the "prizes" take it another step. What worked with my daughter who potty trained around the same age was to have a set system for the prize. She named her potty stuff "yellow" and "brown" (simple enough, until she goes to preschool and says "I need to make brown" and the teacher says "but we aren't painting today") - anyway, she was in love with Monsters Inc and there were these collector packs sold like baseball cards. There were 3 monsters inc characters in a pack. If she went "yellow" she would get one monster, "brown" was worth two. Here's the trick though - if she went yellow in her pants, I got to take one monster back, and two for brown. By the time she had the entire collection of 36, she was completely trained.

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L.S.

answers from Medford on

Hello. My son did the same thing. Actually he would potty, pee or poop, in his underwear when he was wearing them. But he wouldn't go on the floor if he wasn't wearing anything. So he basically walked around the house naked (otherwise in a Pull-up if we left the house) until he was able to wear underwear without going potty in them. It took about a week or two of working with him, but he never goes in his underwear anymore. So maybe try having him be naked for awhile. If he's in daycare then do it on the weekend or your day off so there are several hours so he doesn't just hold it in. Good luck

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D.S.

answers from Seattle on

This is pretty common and he will get over it. My son was almost five before he was fully trained. I think it is more common with boys. Good luck!

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A.T.

answers from Portland on

My son would not for anything go poop in the toilet until he was 4! He will go when he is ready- be patient.

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C.W.

answers from Portland on

My son had the same problem, even the hiding. We caught him hiding/pooping and forced him on the toilet. He became completely hysterical and it caused him many more problems for years. Don't force him. I don't know how to solve the problem, but I know what not to do. It turned out that he'd hold it in because he didn't want to go, it would get bigger and be painful to go which would make him hold it in even more. Is that what your son is doing? Would stool softeners help? They eventually did our boy, who in the end was ok, but it took forever because of us forcing him to begin with.

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D.H.

answers from Portland on

As most of the other responses have said, this is pretty common and don't force it or it'll become a battle you don't want to have. However, you are probably tired of the poop in the diapers every day. After he started wearing big boy undies, we told him that when he needs to go poop, we will put him in a diaper for the poop so that he doesn't have to get his undies dirty. And he did start asking us for a diaper when it was time. Now he actually goes and gets pull-ups and puts them on when he needs to poop. He hides, poops, and then asks us to change him. I don't remember how we got to this place, but it's awesome and he hardly ever has an accident. so maybe ask your son if he'd like to start wearing his diaper to poop, so that his big boy undies can stay clean.

Good luck.

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I.C.

answers from Portland on

Hi M......sounds very frustrating indeed. I hope my advice is helpful. A few ideas instantly came to mind after reading about your problem.
First....many children have a certain attachment to their poop, as if it is part of their bodies. As a result, they have trouble letting it go....as if they are loosing a part of themselves. I knew a little boy, the same age, who would poop in the potty, but refused to flush it away....He would completely freak out about it because he really thought he was flushing part of his own body that he would never see again. Perhaps explaining to your son that poop comes from food and not from his actual body would help him with his perspective and association with his poop and his body.

Second...When my daughter was potty training, I got a great idea from a friend that really worked. I took a plain piece of paper and wrote "Ayla used her potty today!" at the top...somewhat decoratively, but still very simple. Then i got two sets of stickers.....a set of colorful 'Stars', (the usual gold star type), and a book of 'special fancy stickers'. You might choose a boy's theme that he thinks is really cool. Whenever she tried to use her potty, but nothing really happened, I let her put a star on the paper/chart...and that gave her encouragement for trying. When she actually peed or pooped in the potty, she got to pick out a very fancy special sticker. And, I didn't let her play with any stickers otherwise, to keep them as very important rewards. I never used food, candy, or toys as incentive. Instead, she had a visual representation of her progress to look at, which was posted right on the bathroom wall for all to see....just out of her reach, of course. She was very proud of herself, and potty training happened faster than we could fill up that page with stickers! She loved to look at the page of ever growing stickers. Then she got a 'Certificate of Potty Training' when she had accomplished her goal. And, she did it for the right reasons...not just to get a treat. In fact, it worked so well, i am using a similar technique to encourage good behavior and teach her to take on responsibilites around the house. Kids love to get attention, and possitive reinforcement. With the two levels of stickers, they can't fail. They get encouraged for trying as well as succeeding.

Third.....Speaking of attention, kids will try to get it any way they can, even if it is negative. So, if he does poop in his underwear, I would not make a big deal about it, but simply take the underwear to the bathroom, put the poop in the toilet and flush it down....and definitely include him in this process. Then maybe even include him in cleaning his underwear, so he can be part of the whole picture. But don't make a big deal of it. Don't tell him he was bad or did something wrong....very important. Deal with it the same as if he spilled something, or had an accident. You could ask him what he thinks you should do with it...."Where is a better place for the poop to go?"..."Let's clean this up together."..."When Mommy and Daddy poop, we use the potty, and it doesn't stain our nice underwear.".... You get the idea.

Fourth....Children can feel empowered by having choices. Sometimes they are on top of their game, and sometimes they aren't. Try asking him each day when he is getting dressed if today is an 'underwear day', or a 'pull-up day'. That way he feels he has some control over the situation, and he won't feel as if he has failed when he doesn't make it to the potty.

And definitely continue to make a big deal when he uses the toilet/potty chair. They really love to feel proud of themselves and to know their parents are also proud of them, as i'm sure you are, and that he knows it.

I'm sure you are great parents, but i know how frustrating it can be when you are trying so hard. I hope my advice is helpful to you.....and remember not to be hard on yourselves either.....

Good luck,
I.

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M.P.

answers from Yakima on

My son did the exact same thing (same age too). We tried the same by rewarding him and making a big deal when he did go in the potty... eventually I gave up, and no sooner had I given up, then he came to me one day and said he had to go (I thought "yeah, right" but didn't say anything - I had become quite discouraged.), so I said okay, and took him to the potty and he went on his own and never had another "accident." Sometimes letting them have the control works the best...hard to deal with w/messy pants, but that's what worked for us. Good luck...not a lot of help, but hopefully it'll be encouraging for you.

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C.S.

answers from Seattle on

After talking to a lot of moms it seems to me this is more common than you'd think. For my son it was the time it took to go poop - he didn't want to sit on the potty so long. My husbnd got him a race track that he could only play with while sitting on the potty for poop. It kept him there long enough and helped him to relax and let it go.

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M.S.

answers from Portland on

This is TOTALLY normal and very very common. For him, standing to poop is normal, and sitting to poop may not work well for him. He may also be afraid to let his poop be flushed. For whatever reason, he is not ready to do that, and the more you try to force him to, the more he will resist. Try to see if he will compromise with you. Have him ask for a pull up or diaper when he needs to go poop, and let him do it in the diaper without trying to convince him to do it in the toilet. Once he gets good at that, ask him to please poop in his diaper standing in the bathroom. He will transition it to the toilet when he feels safe, but I can tell you from experience with my nephew that if you push too hard, you may have a Kindergartener pooping in his pants.

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J.M.

answers from Seattle on

My son wouldn't use the potty either. (My son wouldn't even use it to pee in!) He would ONLY use the toilet. And he would only use that toilet to poop if he had privacy.

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C.A.

answers from Yakima on

My son went through the same thing, at about the same age. He had no problem going pee in the toilet, but was really nervous about going poop. What finally worked was putting him on the big potty (with a potty seat insert) and putting a stool under his feet so they were supported. Then, thinking I should treat him like a true male, I gave him a really interesting picture book to look at! It worked! Maybe the distraction of the book helped him relax enough to poop. He was also worried about the smell, so he used one hand to pinch his nose off with some toilet paper. He still does that...silly kid. Good luck!

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S.A.

answers from Anchorage on

Hey, M.! My son had the same problem when he was that age. We finally took him to the doctor because he would hide and either poop in his pants or hold it. So, when he did finally go, it hurt so bad he didn't want to go again. It was a vicious cycle and nothing we did would help. We tried rewards, praise, you name it and it just didn't work. The pediatrician said that this is very common but most parents don't bring their kids in and it gets worse causing more problems down the line. She said from holding it so much his intestines were stretched out and the nerve endings in his bottom were deadened. But, it wasn't irreversible. She gave us some liquid for him to drink that completely flushed him out so he couldn't hold it then had us on a weekly regimine of stool softner for a few weeks so he could get used to going in the potty. IT WORKED like magic!! He never held it again! My suggestion is to get your son looked at right away. I think part of the solution was just simply being in the dr. office. He was a bit embarrassed and sure didn't want to go again for this problem! Best of luck to you!

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G.H.

answers from Richland on

My son was a little older than yours when he finally did it. We took him to the beach all day and he held it, when we got back to the condo, his only choice was to go in the big boy toilet. He never did it in his pants again! The weeks leading up to it we also kept him naked in the back yard with his toys and sandbox(with lots of sunscreen), and his potty chair outside- he loved going au naturale!

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G.K.

answers from Seattle on

My son just turned 3 and he does the same thing. When I calmly approach him as he is "actively" pooping in his big boy underpants and encourage him to go to the toilet, he gets very defensive...says "no" very adamantly and gets upset. He did it once in the toilet and was so proud of himself. Pooping in the toilet takes a bit more time to "master" and it will come eventually. I've been doing my best to just encourage him and not push him. Don't make it into a battle. My son's preschool teacher mentioned to me that she had once heard of findings from a psychologist that since poop is visible (meaning the child can physically see it), the child thinks that it is a part of his body and therefore, feeling the "closeness" of it against his skin, is somewhat of a comfort.

Just an aside, I know alot of folks reward their children with treats (i.e. candy, stickers, toys, etc) when they make it successfully in the toilet. I wasn't keen on the idea of offering candy and my son really doesn't get too much satisfaction out of stickers, so I found a small piggy bank at Target and aptly named it "Potty Piggy", which sits on the bathroom counter. Everytime my son went to the toilet, he got a small coin (penny, dime, nickel) to put in his piggy bank. We haven't been doing that much lately as he is about 98% pee trained. However, when encouraging to go poop in the potty, I've been telling him that he would get a BIG coin (quarter). That hasn't happened yet but it's a work in progress.

Good luck!

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J.K.

answers from Seattle on

how about more privacy. Maybe he's decided he'd like to poop alone. He already knows what the pot is for. If the privacy doens't work out, try bribing him with something.

M.B.

answers from Seattle on

M.,

My son told me that there were monsters in the toilet. Once I figured that out (dinner conversation no less), we let him squat on the seat. Since then we've had no more poopy underwear.

Talk to him, see if there's anything that scares him about going potty. With the right questions all of you should be able to resolve this.

Good luck,
Hope this helps,
Melissa

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C.G.

answers from Seattle on

I used to run a daycare & this is what we found worked well. Some kids are terrified to poop in the toilet. Lay 2 or 3 square of paper on the water before they sit down - it stops the water from splashing up at them when they poop. You can also make it a game. Boys love to sink things, so make up a story that the poop is a rocket sinking the paper ship or somehting along those lines.....consistency is key too - every 1/2hr put him on the toilet, whether he says he has to poop or not - eventually you'll catch him at the right time. Good luck!

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A.L.

answers from Yakima on

I have a daughter who is almost three that didn't show any interest in using the potty whatsoever. My mom called me almost a month ago and read an interesting article to me over the phone. (I wish I knew details of the article like when and where it was published, but I can summarize it for you.)
Basically, the article was about kids that are three and older that refuse to poop in the potty. The article was written by a pediatrician, who says that at that age, it has basically become a control issue. The doctor recommended to his patients with this problem that they tell their son that they talked to his doctor and they said that he couldn't wear diapers anymore (or poop in his big-boy underwear, or whatever the case) and that he needs to use the toilet. It is very important to claim that this is the doctor's requirement, and not the parents' wish. This takes away the control issue. The pediatrician then recommended that they remove their son's clothing, or pants, at least, and put him in the bathroom and tell him to stay there until he goes poop in the potty. If your son won't stay in the bathroom, the doctor recommends putting up a baby gate or some other barrier so they can't get out. Then the parents tell the son to let them know when he has used the potty and leave the bathroom. I think the article mentioned that there may be some fussing, but just to make sure the kid stays in there until he goes. Of course, the boy in the article used the toilet within minutes. Once your child goes, the pediatrician recommends that you go in the bathroom and acknowledge the bowel movement, but not congratulate or reward the child, just say something like, "Oh, good. You went poop. You can go play now." I guess you're supposed to repeat the process until your child goes on the potty by themselves.
As a side note, I used this technique to potty train my daughter the day after my mom read me the article. It took her a little longer to go the first time than the boy in the article (over an hour), but it worked and she was fully potty trained with no accidents in less than a week. Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

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J.P.

answers from Seattle on

I just went through this same thing. My son is the same age, too! From what information I have found and heard, this is normal for a little boy to experience. They have a greater fear of going poop in the potty. The positive reinforcement is great, and I know how frustrating it is to have him seem to regress. Don't panic. Keep encouraging him. Following advice I found on the internet, I began to encourage him to go to into the bathroom to poop. I would still allow him to go in his "pull-ups", but I began to teach him that the bathroom was the place to do all his business. Every time I changed his dirty pull-up we would talk about how messy it was. I would say it was okay to go in his pants if he felt more comfortable (he would make himself constipated with fear of potty), but that ultimately our goal was to go poopoo on the potty. Slowly, with lots of patience he one day went all by himself on the potty and has been consistent ever since. His dad and I just made a point to talk about being a big boy and big boys don't go in their pants. Some little guys just take a bit more time, encouragement and love in this regard ... and rest assured that he will not be going to college wearing his pull-ups. Hang in there! "This too shall pass" :)

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