Toddler toilet training – refusing to poo on the toilet

So, your child is using the toilet like a champ and proudly wearing her underwear. There’s only one problem: she refuses to have a poo on the potty or the toilet, so she holds it in and gets painfully constipated. This can often mean you find yourself involved in an epic power struggle, and you’re worried she’s in pain. Why won’t she just relax and go on the potty or toilet? What can you do to help her?

Getting comfortable

First of all, remember that this is a really common toilet training situation and although it seems insurmountable, it is totally normal, and just a Toilet training accident.

Your child’s reluctance may result from initial constipation, or the constipation may be a result of the reluctance. It can be difficult to tell what’s causing what. (Some small children withhold from having a poo for so long that they become impacted, which can cause involuntary leaking of feacal liquid; parents may misread this as diarrhoea or a child with anal incontinence, when really what’s happening is extreme constipation.)

Whether it’s a cause or an effect, constipation is something you can directly address. Try increasing the amount of fluid or fibre in your child’s diet. Talk to your GP about the situation; there maybe a stool softener they can recommend. The first step is making sure having a poo is not painful – that might be an easy way to solve her problem.

But it may also take a little more work on your part. Here a few other things to try:

  • Back off and offer her a nappy or a pull-up nappy when she needs a poo. Then, when she’s finished, empty the poo into the toilet and gently remind her that poo goes in the toilet.
  • If she does want a nappy, encourage her to do her poo in the bathroom. At first, let her choose whereabouts in the bathroom. Then gradually encourage her to sit on the toilet, even if she’s still using a nappy, she’s still associating the toilet with a poo. From there, you might be able to undo the nappy as she poos and then eventually remove it. Some parents have even cut a hole out of the bottom of the nappy, so the poo goes in the toilet, even though she still has the sensation of wearing it.
  • Don’t lose your cool when she asks for a nappy instead. Remember: she’s not doing this to make your life miserable. And she will get it eventually.
  • Take a break from potty training and let her go back to her nappy or pull-up for a while. Not all kids are toilet trained at the same time, and yours may just need a bit longer.



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