When Your Kid Refuses To Poop On The Potty

by Wendy Wisner
refuses to poop
Federico Rostagno / Shutterstock

The day has finally come. After a weekend of intensive training, your little one has mastered the art of using the potty, and you are getting ready to throw away the last diaper. You feel proud, and your child feels proud. You may have even celebrated with a little gift for your cherub and a giant bottle of wine for yourself.

Except, no — because even though your kid happily pees on the potty with nary an accident in sight, poops don’t come as easily. Maybe they don’t come at all.

Shit! (Pun very much intended.)

When this very thing happened to me, I swore I was the only one whose kid flat out refused to poop on the potty. The whole thing totally blindsided me because he had taken to peeing on the potty and wearing underwear a whole lot easier than I expected him to. He was even dry at night within a week of training.

Poops, on the other hand, were a completely different story. I’m not sure what the reason was, but he just wouldn’t do it. Thankfully, he was blessed with stellar tushie muscles, so rather than having poop accidents, he basically just held them in. Not good.

Eventually, with the guidance of my pediatrician (who reassured me that he would eventually give it up), I had to resurrect the diapers for him to poop in. This went on much longer than I thought it would, but he did eventually give up those damn diapers. It was a long, involved process of letting go, and it may or may not have involved cutting a hole in the bottom of his diaper so that he could sit on the potty and poop with a diaper on.

Whew. If I made it through that, I’m pretty sure I could make it through anything. And so, I offer you some words of wisdom I learned along the way in my toddler poop journey:

1. You’ve got to get the pooping to happen, even if it entails a potty training regression.

There is this vicious cycle that happens with kids who withhold poop. They hold in their poops, which creates tummy aches as well as pain when they finally do poop. They remember that pain, and it makes them not want to poop, and so the cycle begins again. You’ve got to get them to poop — any way that’s going to work, and even if it means reintroducing the dreaded diaper.

2. Gentle laxatives are your friend.

I’ll repeat it again: You’ve got to get them to poop. So do what you need to do to make those poops come out often and easily. You can get a children’s laxative that your doctor recommends, or you can go the dietary route. We did prunes and flaxseed oil added to fruit smoothies.

3. Seek expert advice if you feel lost.

I brought my son to the pediatrician when I found blood in his poop (yikes!). The blood was from fissures caused by withholding, and our pediatrician reassured me that all I needed to do was to make pooping more comfortable for him, by any means. She said this sort of thing was really common, especially in boys, and reassured me that my son would get out of diapers in his own time.

4. You are not the only one whose kid won’t poop.

I thought my son was the only one who held on to his poops for so long. That made me feel embarrassed and like a true parenting failure. As it turns out, it’s a lot more common than I realized, thank the good Lord (and sincere apologies to any other parent who has to deal with this).

5. It will pass. Literally.

Diapers are a thing of the past now, and my son’s poops are normal and pass easily. It was very much an adjustment thing. He needed more time than I realized to get used to the idea of pooping in a different place than in his diapers. Toddlers are creatures of habit, and some have an easier time dealing with changes than others.

So give your kid the extra time, the extra diapers, and the extra prunes. Try not to compare your kid to other kids who seem to get the potty training thing down right away. Chances are, there are more kids than you realize who struggle with the poop thing too. Honestly, I wish more parents would talk about this sort of thing to make it normal for the rest of us.

And finally, let me assure you that there is absolutely no way your child will be going to college in diapers. Pinkie promise.