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How to get a very stubborn 3.5 year old to poop in potty?

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BlueSky Posted: 02-10-2010 4:46 PM

My 3.5 DD has been peeing in the potty consistently for a year and a half.  She has not had a single pee accident in months and months.  She will NOT poop in the potty.  

She has had constipation issues in the past but those are resolved as long as she drinks enough liquids.  She poops in her pullups first thing in the morning or at naptime (the only times she wears pull ups).  We have tried doing naptimes without pullups or undies and she held her poop for 3 days till I gave in because she was in pain.  This girl is stubborn!

I feel we have tried everything - rewards, charts, stickers, candy, ignoring it and giving her time to figure it out herself, special fairy pooping wand, potty in her room, having her clean herself, telling her she can't start school until she poops in the potty, etc....  

I really frustrated and am out of ideas and I have given up all hope that one day it will just click.  We have been at this for a year and a half.  She is a very smart little girl who just won't poop in the potty.  I try my best to do gentle parenting but I am at my wits end here.

HELP!!!!  Any ideas/suggestions would be appreciated.

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AmyD. replied on 02-10-2010 11:30 PM

This probably won't be popular, but I'd just put her in underpants all the time, let her watch you throw away the pullups. Tell her she can either poop in her underwear, or in the potty chair, it's her choice. That's what we did with DS. We made him think we really didn't care. He went in his underpants, we cleaned him up like it was no big deal. When it was really gross we threw away his underwear, which he didn't like, but we acted like it was totally fine. Within a week or so he realized he didn't like pooping in his pants, and that we weren't putting him back in diapers. Once he decided he wanted to do it, he never looked back. We just had to trick him into thinking he was making the decision on his own.

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Karen Cohen replied on 02-11-2010 11:45 AM

For some kids they are just really frightened to poop in the potty.  Some want control.  Some don't get how to poop in a set place.  You just need to figure out what is keeping your DD from doing it.

For my DS he was really a bit scared to poop in the potty and we said something like "big boys poop in the potty and you will need your strong muscles to squeeze that poop out" and for some reason the idea that he had to use his muscles and he had control of that action and it was making him big, helped him.  It might not help your DD.

Does she tell you right away that she has pooped and to change her or does she hide it?  That could give you insight into why she is being stubborn.  Try to convince her to do her poops in the bathroom, even if it is in the pull up.  Reward her for going into the bathroom for poops.

I know it can be so frustrating.  I have strong willed children, too.  Try to step back a bit and "let go" of the issue, eventually she will let go, too.

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jak replied on 02-11-2010 2:33 PM

I would take the pull-ups away.  If she tries to hold it, give her a little prune juice or something to keep her bowels moving.  She'll figure it out within the week.

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BlueSky replied on 02-15-2010 10:11 AM

Okay we took away pullups and are day 4 of no poop.  I have been giving her massive quantities of blueberries, some prunes and miralax for the past 4 days.  How this child is still holding it in, I don't know.  She has been complaining that her bum hurts so something should happen today.

I have talked to her many times about why she won't go in the potty and she won't give me an answer.  I do like the idea of telling her to use her muscles that she has control.


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zora replied on 02-15-2010 11:48 AM

oh, my K is Cora's secret twin about this too.  And I have NO helpful advice.  Kate has been potty-trained (pee only) since September.  During all that time, she's had no accidents, and only 1 BM in the potty.  She tried it, it made her cry, she said she didn't like it, and she won't do it again. 

We tried the "take away the pull-ups" strategy without any success...  At first she held it, and after a couple of days she went on the floor (somewhere where no one is looking--it's a huge mess, and then she'll throw it around or rub it on the walls).  Once she went in her carseat.  After about a week of this, I gave up.  It was too stressful, and not worth the aggravation for me (given that I'm pregnant and was --and am--exhausted).

My pediatrician suggested waiting 6 months to a year before trying again--she said she's seen enough serious problems with impacted bowels from children who are REALLY GOOD at holding it, and that eventually all kids will decide--on their own, and maybe not until age 4 or 4.5--that they DO want to poop in the potty after all.  Sometimes, she said, preschool helps--that when a kid sees other kids peeing and pooping in the potty, it becomes more attractive.

(But my K is in preschool 4 hours a day, 5 days a week now, and not only will she not poop there, she has never peed in school--she just holds it until the end of the day, and refuses to drink water while in school.) 

I *totally* know what you're going through, though.


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Sparrow49 replied on 02-15-2010 9:44 PM

I really do think you need to let go and let her decide when she's ready. It's her body. Let her put on a pull-up to poop in. Then help her clean it up. No pressure. No guilt. Then one day, she will decide to do it in the toilet and be happy and proud of herself. Let her own that. It is too easy for parents to make such a big deal of potty training that the only success is in creating a huge power struggle with their kids and unhealthy bowel habits. Give her time.


ETA: It concerns me when you say she is smart and stubborn. It concerns me that you say you are at your wits end. She is surrounded by your stress and she feels you judging her, I am sure. Now, that is not meant to be harsh. It just makes me so sad to read these posts about potty training trauma. You need to really let go, and not just pretend as a way to coerce her. She'll see through that.

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BlueSky replied on 02-16-2010 11:32 AM

Sparrow - I actually completely agree with you and if I had read your and zora's post earlier I probably would have done different.  I was feeling completely frustrated.  I was not able to let go and so I felt I REALLY wasn't a good mom every time I had to change her poopy pullup (which usually happened when I finally got a chance to sit down and nurse my baby, adding to my frustration).

During nap time yesterday I gave up, she was upset and hurting.  I gave her a pull up and told her she could poop in, she wore the pull up during nap (didn't poop) and I offered her another one later and she wouldn't put it on.  She did end up pooping in the potty and was extremely proud of herself.  I am not sure if it will happen again, we will see.  During the course of yesterday afternoon I did realize that it may not be her time yet.  She was a TERRIBLE sleeper (really didn't sleep for the first two years of her life) and we were fine with that so I don't know why I am putting pressure on her to do this if she is not ready.

Thanks for your responses!

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Sparrow49 replied on 02-16-2010 6:31 PM

Yeah! So happy she had a positive experience. It will all work itself out in time. I didn't notice she was new to being a big sister, too. That's hard. I'm sure she will figure it all out soon!

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