A question that I am asked on a regular basis is "Why won't my child poop on the potty?" Know that you are not alone if currently facing this common toilet training problem. As frustrating as it might be, steps can certainly be taken to overcome this stumbling block to diaper freedom.
More common in older potty training children (2.5 years and older), the "poop" issue can become a major power struggle between you and your toddler. The reasons for this apparent stubbornness can be caused by fear, medical problems, embarrassment, or standard toddler contrariness. Let's tackle each issue one by one.
Medical Problems: First, a disclaimer: If you believe your child's unwillingness to poop on the potty is truly a medical issue, please consult with your pediatrician. There is a condition called encopresis which is caused from chronic constipation. Children experiencing encopresis have a problem with the bowel that dulls the normal senses about the urge to go. A more benign medical condition is basic constipation, in which the child fails to have a bowel movement over a couple of days. Usually an increase in dietary fiber or a mild stool softener will help to relieve the situation.
Fear: Believe it or not, many children believe that poop is a part of their body. Imagine how reluctant you might be to use the toilet if you thought a body part might fall off each time! For other children, the fear comes from the actual sensation of air hitting their bottom, the "plop" that can be heard in the water below, or the sound of flushing. Other children have had a previous painful episode of constipation and they become afraid to experience it again.
Embarrassment: I think many of us can confess to occasionally "making a stink" about our child's poop. We joke or tease about the smell, or the size, or the consistency of the poop. Some children, especially the "sensitive" ones, can become self-conscious about this bodily function. If you think this might be the reason for your child's problem, try to discuss poop in a very matter-of-fact manner. Make it clear to your child that pooping is a very normal and natural part of life. It might be helpful to read books to your child such as "Everyone Poops" by Taro Gomi.
Stubbornness: For most parents reading this article, the "terrible twos (or threes, or fours)" might be the culprit in your potty problems. The key in convincing your child to use the toilet rather than their pants is to find a method to make the child finally decide that life is just easier and more sanitary if they use the toilet. Some parents are violently opposed to bribes or "punishment" but sometimes the basic concept of "you get as good as you give" is the magic answer. If your child cooperates, they get positive reinforcement. If they don't, negative reinforcement is dispensed. Allowing the child to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives will actually empower them and allow for increased independence. It's also temporary - believe me, you won't have to bribe your child to poop in the potty on the day of their high school graduation!
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