What To Do When Your Toddler Won’t Poop On The Potty

When your toddler refuses to poop on the potty

So you’ve finally had success with the first step of toilet training. Your little one happily goes pee in the potty, wipes, pulls his/her pants back on and is accident from 90% of the time! You feel a huge sigh of relief as you begin to feel as though you’re crossing the finish line. BUT..But when it comes to poop, it’s an entirely different race. You’ve tried everything from bribery, rewards and persuasion, but Nothing works. “No poop on potty,” says your toddler as they refuse to go anywhere near the potty. At this point they’re probably demanding their pull up or diaper so they can let loose and have their poo. 

What should you do to stop this poopy mess?

This is a common toilet training problem, says Dr. Darcie Kiddoo, a pediatric urologist at Stollery Children’s Hospital at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. There can be a number of reasons why kids don’t want to poop in the potty. Often times it can stem from pure embarrassment, but the most common reason is fear. Kids can have fear about many aspects of going poop on the toilet. They can often fear the anticipation of waters splashing their bum, the sound of the poop dropping in the water below or of the toilet flushing. The biggest and most common fear is that the child has had a painful bowel movement in the past are fearing the pain that may come with their poop on the potty. The longer they hold it the bigger the fear grows. When they are wearing their diaper it brings gives them a level of security as this has been their way of life for as long as they can recall. 

“A lot of it comes down to constipation,” says Darcie. “If a child has had a large or painful bowel movement in the past, or if the first time they tried to go on the toilet it hurt, they associate pain with the toilet. That is probably the leading cause of bowel problems in kids.” Parents can increase dietary fiber and water, and even a gentle stool softener, can help ease the problem. I suggest to all of my clients to start with increased fiber before jumping to stool softeners and always check with your pediatrician before starting something new. 

Holding bowel movements will only make matters worse

What you don’t want is for the child to hold in their bowel movements. There is a medical condition known as encopresis, which occurs from chronic constipation and withholding. This is where the body eventually stops sending the signal that the child has to go. “What happens is the bowel movements get harder and harder, and there can be a lot of abdominal pain associated with severe constipation. A period of time between successful bladder toilet training and bowel toilet training is normal, but if it’s months and months, it is definitely something that should be checked out by a doctor.”

A positive approach will give you the fastest results

As frustrating as it can be for parents, a positive approach to toilet training really helps, says Darcie. “Cheer when they have success, but don’t get stressed out when they don’t. All healthy kids who are reaching all of their other milestones will eventually toilet train. If they have an accident, just say ‘too bad’ and move on. That is absolutely the best approach.”  

We have to remember that, kids do better when they feel better. Therefore getting angry, mad or frustrated with their accidents will only decrease their success and cause more anxiety and fear. Instead follow the list of Do’s and Don’t to help your toddler poop on the potty!

Do’s and Don’ts to help your toddler poop on the potty 

  • DON’T make jokes about poop being “stinky” this can make your little one even more self-conscious and cause more embarrassment. 
  • DO talk about going poop in a matter-of-fact way and how it’s a normal function for every living creature. Everyone poops! 
  • DO role model going to the bathroom and let your kids watch the process and develop a sense of ease and certainty.
  • DO look for books that handle this topic in a gentle and kid friendly way. “Everybody Poops” by Taro Gomi is a great one which can be found in the Children’s Book Corner, along with others. 
  • DO encourage your child to sit on the potty a couple of times a day. Don’t worry if nothing happens – just get him used to the feeling of sitting there.
  • DO Bring a book or toy into the bathroom to help him relax and feel more comfortable.
  • DO allow her to continue to poop in a pull-up, if that is what she is comfortable doing. But after she’s finished, have her empty the poop into the toilet and flush it down, so she knows that’s where it goes.
  • DO try to get her to poop in the bathroom, even if she is standing in the corner in her pull-up or sitting on the potty with her pull-up on
  • DON’T get visibly upset or angry when accidents happen, or punish your child in any way. “You don’t want any negative reinforcement around toileting,” says Dr. Kiddoo. “Getting upset never helps.”

Potty training success is on it’s way!

So you now know that not going poop on the potty and refusing to even try is very common. You’re not alone! Your toddler has deep rooted reasons why they refuse to cooperate. More times, than not it’s fear based, but with the right tools and strategies you can support your toddler over this hurdle. Breathe deep, relax and know that you and your child will overcome this obstacle. The more calm and patient you are, the more relaxed they will be. I absolutely love this POTTY and so did my two boys. It’s cozy, comfy, not scary and easy for them to use on their own! Check it out!

Support and guide

You are there to support, guide and role model for your child. Read those books, make it fun and keep the stress at the door! Stress free pooping will happen and with these tips you’re toddler’s poop success is just around the corner!

Leave me a comment and let me know if you’ve had trouble potty training- let’s chat! A simple action plan can be all you need to create ease around toilet training!


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    1. Thank Zoi! I’m so glad to hear it was helpful. Have you been struggling with potty training? If you want more parenting tips on the regular make sure to follow me on Instagram @tiaparentingcoach or join me free group on Facebook Simple Parenting Solutions😊

  1. My 3yo grandson (I'm raising 3 of them, ages 8, 6 and 3) refuses to go to the potty at all, unless he is naked. I can't let him run around naked because he slips outside with his brothers that way and we have close neighbors who have a daughter. Not to mention he shouldn't be outside naked. I am at my wit's end and don't know how to fix this. I've tried letting him wear underwear, but he just potties in them like pull-ups. What can I do?

    1. Hi there Debbie, Thanks for reading and reaching out. I would love to help you with your grandson’s potty training. Often times we need to look deeper than the potty training to solve the challenge; power, control, parenting approach, pressure, punishment vs discipline etc. I would love to help you create clear boundaries with an action plan. Please check my services on my website and lets get this solved for you!

  2. My daughter is 5 and still holds it. As soon as she feels like she has to go she sits on something until the urge passes. I know that's what she's doing so I try to encourage her to go potty. She insists that she doesn't have to go. She ends up having very irregular bowl movements and is often bloated. She has had a fecal impaction done at 3 years old. I need help!

    1. Hello Kelly,

      Thanks for hanging out with me here and reaching out! I would love to help and I know that we can. First thing we need to consider is the fact that many potty challenges are not related to potty issues, but rather power and control. We want to implement other tools to ensure we give her adequate control so she can avoid searching for it in harmful or negative ways. Do you feel like it's a constant power struggle? One simple trick is ensure her diet is full of fibre and water (smoothies with spinach, flax, etc), along with removing the pressure. I'd love to chat you with you further about your challenges and needs. Please feel free to book a discovery call so we can determine best next steps for you and your daughter! http://www.tiaslightham.com/discoverycall

  3. Hello good morning our 4yr old son is going to the bathroom all the time now. My question is can I get our 2y old daughter to go ok n her potty chair I just want to use diapers at night for the 4 and 2 yr old because we also have a 7mo old.

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