What to do When Your Child Won’t Poop on the Potty

Posted by in No-Cry Potty Training

It can be frustrating when your child happily pees on the potty but refuses to use it for bowel movements. Your child might demand a diaper, go in his pants, or hold his bowel movements and cause complications such as severe constipation. This is a fairly typical setback in potty training so this post will cover some ways that you can help.

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There are some common reasons that children resist having a bowel movement on the toilet:

  • A child is used to moving around during BMs and sitting still on the potty is hard to adjust to.
  • A child is very active and having to sit and be patient for a BM is not fun.
  • A child may think that her stool is a part of her and doesn’t understand why she should flush it away.
  • A child is used to his stool coming out into a diaper, but the feeling of having to go into the air is odd.
  • A child had an unpleasant experience and wants to avoid a similar experience. She may have been splashed on the bottom with toilet water or had a messy accident.
  • A child may be dealing with some constipation that makes it painful to have a BM.
  • A child may have had a painful experience previously that he is worried will occur again.

As with most parenting dilemmas, don’t try to solve the problem without understanding why it exists. Once you understand why your child is avoiding having a BM in the toilet, you will be better able to create a plan for her to have regular and natural elimination.


Basic Dos and Don’ts

What Not to Do

  • Don’t make your child sit on the toilet and “try” or push. Forcing BMs can create small tears (fissures) or hemorrhoids, which cause all-day pain in the rectum. This will cause the child to avoid pooping even more, which leads to constipation, which creates hard stool, which causes more hemorrhoids, and on and on. If your child is grunting, straining and forcing, it’s a sign that he’s not quite ready to go, or he’s constipated. Have him drink a glass of water, eat a piece of fruit, or a small serving of prune juice, and then sit on the potty again in twenty or thirty minutes.
  • Don’t ever make your child “hold it.” When she announces the need to go, or if you notice that her body signals are indicating a need to go, find a toilet immediately. Delaying and holding contributes to constipation and other bowel problems.
  • Don’t scold your child or make her feel ashamed. Your little one isn’t doing this on purpose, isn’t trying to make you mad, and doesn’t understand how to solve this any more than you do.

What to Do

  • If your child has food allergies or lactose intolerance (milk products) these can cause constipation for him. If you suspect this may be true talk to your doctor.
  • Limit foods that constipate such as bananas, rice, applesauce, cheese, citrus juice, and carbonated sodas.
  • Be sure your child eats plenty of fiber-rich foods every day: vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans. Avoid giving your child junk food, refined sugar, soda pop, candy and chocolate.
  • Make certain that your child is drinking plenty of fluids all day long. Stick to breastmilk, water and a bit of juice (apple, pear, cranberry and prune juice, but not orange or other citrus juices.)
  • Make sure your child has plenty of daily exercise, which stimulates digestion, prevents constipation, and is necessary for proper elimination.
  • Teach your child to go when the urge hits.
  • If you find your child has had a bowel movement in her pants, calmly take her to the bathroom. Flush it down the toilet and explain that’s where it goes. Have her sit on the potty while you wipe her bottom.
  • Help your child relax on the potty by reading books, telling a story, singing a song or chatting.
  • Make sure that your child’s legs are comfortable and that feet are firmly planted on the floor or a sturdy stool.
  • Purchase a soft, padded child’s adapter seat for the toilet, or a potty chair with a soft seat.


Need more tips about potty training setbacks? Check out The No-Cry Potty Training Solution.

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