The 5-Step Plan That Finally Got My 5-Year-Old To Poop On The Potty

by Alicia Stein
Originally Published: 
Child sitting on the toilet, potty-training
Shutterstock / By Saklakova

When my son was about 4-and-a-half, he was fully potty trained for pees and had virtually no accidents, even at night. Poops, however, were a whole different ballgame. This kid would. not. poop. on. the. potty. Now way, no how, not gonna happen.

He only would do it in a pull up, in his special corner of the house, behind the couch. Like, he would tell me it was time to poop and I’d have to get him a damn pull-up every time, or he wouldn’t do it at all.

Literally nothing worked – and believed me, I tried everything. I tried taking away all pull-ups, which only led to horrible constipation. I tried rewards and bribes. We read every kind of feel-good book from the library about potty training. I gave him extra fruit and vegetable roughage and gentle laxatives. We talked anatomy, stress, and “letting it go.”

When I took him to the pediatrician (who, by the way, said that late potty training is normal, and especially common in boys), she told him some long, animated story about this special space where all the happy little turds go and to rejoice and be merry – and my kid rolled his eyes at her when she turned her back.

Desperate to find a way to finally get my big kid out of diapers, I spent the night scouring the internet for a plan. And then I found it – this totally bonkers-sounding plan on some parenting message board that involved a slow progression toward letting the poop go into the potty, including cutting a hole in the pull-up as one of the stages.

It really truly sounded out of this world, but I decided to give it a go, and proposed it to my son. And – I couldn’t freaking believe it – he was willing to give it a try. This kid was pretty precocious, even then, and he wanted me to write each step out, and illustrate them to.

So that’s what we did. We sat down and made a detailed plan for how this kid was going to transition from pooping in his pull-up behind the cough to pooping on the potty in the bathroom like a big kid.

And guess what? It worked. IT WORKED.

The kid was totally out of diapers within a few weeks. Just like that. It was up there as one of the most amazing days of my life (because potty training is pure hell, isn’t it?).

I’m pretty sure I trashed our little “poop plan book” years ago, but recently, a friend of mine who was struggling with her own 4-year-old asked me for the dirty details of my plan. I told it to her as well as I could remember, emphasizing that she and her son could find their own version of it themselves, but that the main idea was to take the progression from diaper to potty SLOWLY, allowing your kid to help figure out what each step would be.

Lo and behold, it worked for her and her son too! She recommended I go ahead and share it with the world, so here I am doing my duty (pun!). Again, you can totally adopt this to your own situation, but I’m sharing the plan that worked for us.

The Bonkers 5 Step Plan To Transition From Pooping In Diapers To Pooping In The Potty

1. Let your kid poop in whatever pull up or diaper they like to, but bring the potty into the room where they are so that they have to poop next to the potty.

2. Next, have your kid sit on the potty with their diaper on. This doesn’t have to be during the pooping itself, just at some point during the poop event. Even a few seconds counts!

3. Have your kid actually let the poop out in the diaper/pull-up while sitting on the potty.

4. Cut a hole in the diaper or pull-up and have them wear that while sitting on the potty pooping.

5. Have them poop on the potty with no diaper. YAY!

See? I told you the whole thing is slow AF. You can go at your own pace, but the idea is to really get your kid to feel safe and comfortable with each phase. Also keep in mind that pooping sitting down as opposed to standing up takes some getting used to physically, so give your kid time to adjust.

Oh, and at least for us, there were prizes. My kid got to pick out a toy after he completed each step. And of course, there was a big celebratory prize at the end (though I honestly can’t even remember what that was).

The main thing is really to let your kid feel like they have some control over how this is unfolding, because in a way holding poops in or only pooping under certain circumstances, is all about control, isn’t it? If you can help your kid feel like this is their project that they are doing on their own terms, it really helps.

And let me tell you: they will be so proud when they get to the finish line. Because as normal as it is for big kids to potty train on the later side sometimes, they really do want to get the heck out of diapers … almost as much as you want them to.

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