When Your Child Just Won’t Poop on the Potty

A photograph of a child's training toilet, children's books, a bottle of Miralax and two juice containers.

My daughter was nearly two-and-a-half years old when we began potty training. She is now three-and-a-half, and pooping on the potty has somehow morphed into my all-time most despised task of raising this child. Let me start out by saying that it didn’t begin this way. We did all the things you are supposed to do when potty training. We stayed home for a long weekend. We made sure she was naked the whole time {unless she was sleeping}. We took the little potty around with us all over the house so it was only a few steps away if she felt the urge to go. And you better believe we praised her every time she went.

The Crashing Halt

One day, when she was peeing in the potty, all of the sudden, poop came out too. I got so excited, and she was so surprised…neither of us expected that! I was naive to think we were good to go with the pooping from that point on. She might have pooped two or three more times on the potty, but not subsequently. It was very random when it happened. And then one awful day, she told me she needed to poop, and I got her on the potty in time. She proceeded to scream and cry because it was hurting her. She was constipated. I sat there and held her hands and told her it would be OK. She pushed it out, but she was traumatized – and that was the last time she pooped on the potty for what seemed like an eternity.

Somehow, my daughter became an expert at holding it in. Not the pee. She would let that out whenever we asked, or whenever she felt the need. But the poop. The poop would be saved for the nap or night diaper. She had figured out a way not to ever go poop on the potty again. I spoke to many people about my concern on this topic, and everyone said it was a phase and it would pass. They said not to push it {no pun intended} and that I should be glad she has the pee thing down.

So I waited, and sometimes encouraged her to try to poop on the potty when it was extremely obvious she needed to go. Otherwise, it was dirty diaper after dirty diaper – and many times to my dismay, it would wake her from some much needed sleep. It was a vicious cycle that I let go on for nearly seven months. I remember talking to my best friend about it, because for both of her kids, she just woke up one day and decided that was the day she was taking all the diapers away {we’re talking as young as two years old!}. Her kids both had one or two accidents, but that was it. And voila, they were potty-trained.

A Long, Hard Look

So what was it about me and my kid that perpetuated this cycle of only pooping in a diaper? When I’m being honest with myself, it was all on me. I didn’t have the faith that my child could get past this very quickly. I didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt that if diapers were no longer in the picture, maybe she would have to figure out a new solution. I truly believed that changing the status quo would only be more work for me, lots of messes to clean up, and no progress would be made in my child overcoming her fear.

And then there was this awful week that woke me up and caused me to get my act together. My daughter had been pooping over night in her diaper, and combined with her pee and lots of rolling around, it would result in a disgusting blowout all over her pajamas and crib linens. By the time the third subsequent morning of events rolled around, I decided it was time. If I was cleaning up messes WITH a diaper on, I might as well get rid of the diaper and at least feel more justified in cleaning up a mess WITHOUT a diaper. I declared to my daughter that we were done forever with diapers and that from now on, she would be pooping on the potty. Easier said than done, right?

The Culmination

In her mind, that meant that she would just never poop again…EVER. You gotta love how three-year-olds think they have that kind of control. But she really tried, and after nearly four days of no poop, I started to freak out. My husband was out of town for the weekend, and here I was, sitting near my daughter, who had been on her little potty for hours and hours. All she did was cry and scream, and tell me she didn’t want to poop on the potty. I did everything in my power to make it a positive, easy experience. I made her “magic poop juice” {apple or prune juice mixed with half an adult dose of Miralax}. I let her watch Peppa Pig while she sat on the potty. I gave her a tablet to play with. We read books. We sang songs. I tried giving her privacy, but she really hated that. Finally, I lost it. I called my mom crying while she was on vacation in Portugal. She encouraged me to call our pediatrician. My dad was listening in and he said to give her an enema or suppositories, which is what I really wanted to do!

I called the after-hours hotline of the pediatrician’s office, desperate for the end-all solution. While waiting for an on-call doctor to get back to me, I sat on the floor across from my daughter, who was sitting on my bathroom toilet {we tried moving locations too}, and I started researching on my laptop for children’s enemas. As I physically clicked on a link that seemed promising, she pooped. After FOUR. FREAKING. DAYS. She finally pooped. I couldn’t believe it. She was so proud of herself. I was happy, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy for her to do it again, and I really didn’t want to wait four more days to go through the same nightmare all over again.

My pediatrician called just moments after she pooped {Murphy’s Law?} and I told him that she had just pooped, but I still wanted to know what he recommended since I had been through the gamut. He said all I could really do was maybe increase her intake of Miralax to maybe half a dose twice per day rather than once. He said the trick is to keep her stools at a soft-serve-like consistency to avoid feeling too much pressure. Hopefully after pooping several times on the potty and dis-associating it with pain, the issue would resolve itself. When I asked about enemas or suppositories, he said they might be good to have around in case things get dire again. So I immediately went to the drugstore and bought whatever I could find.

Baby Steps

Since that day, It’s been a slow progression for us. She continued to cry each time she needed to poop. But I continued to talk about it positively, and help her understand that we simply cannot keep it inside us, no matter how much she wants to. I tried giving her the suppositories on two different occasions. She broke into a cold sweat and cried, but it worked. I told her if she doesn’t want the “water” to go up her tushy, she needs to try harder to get it out herself. And so, she worked harder. With each instance I found her crying less and becoming more comfortable with the situation.

And here we are, nearly a month from the time I decided I no longer wanted my life to revolve around my child pooping on the potty. We’ve come a long way, and I’m proud to say we are still diaper and accident free. I stuck to my plan, I chose to have a little faith in my child, and Miralax is my number one ally – which I continue to mix in her drinks to this day. I know soon enough, I will phase that out of our routine. But for now, I’m not messing with this thing we’ve got going.

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When Your Child Just WON'T Poop on the Potty. Logo: Houston moms blog. houston.citymomsblog.com/. A photograph of a child's training toilet, children's books, a bottle of Miralax and two juice containers.

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Originally from Denver, Colorado, Emily moved to Sugar Land, Texas as a young girl. She studied journalism and psychology at UT Austin, and has experience in newspaper reporting, technical writing, and freelance writing. When she can, she works on writing her first-ever book. Somehow, Emily randomly ends up living abroad for short stints of time. In 2007, while attempting to heal a broken heart, she moved to Bilbao, Spain, and completed a six-month work-study program. Despite swearing off serious relationships, her husband, Oren, swooped in shortly after her return. They struggled with infertility, but were ultimately rewarded with their two precious children, Mayer {June 2013} and Juliet {April 2015}. In 2019, Emily’s family relocated to Montpellier, France, for Oren’s job. They managed to learn the language, forever spoiled their taste buds, and saw some really beautiful things. Now back in Houston, they are eating all the Tex-Mex and enjoying family.


  1. Ok, my son has a very similar scenario… he’s almost 4 and will NOT poop in the potty. What suggestions might you have for talking to him? I try to be nice, easy going but when he can go pee no problem it’s frustrating to put him in a diaper just to poop.
    We go thru so many diapers in attempts for him to poop “regularly”. His stool is already like a soft serve consistency, so I don’t think softeners/laxatives are the answer.
    I am at my wits end and would like some advice.

    • Hi Michelle!

      I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a hard time, and I totally feel you!! I think for the fear part of it, we did a whole lot of talking about the poop! We talked about how big girls and big boys poop on the potty, how diapers are for babies, and how much nicer and cleaner it is to just get it out of in the potty. Less mess and stinky!! I had to go further with my daughter with the talk because she wouldn’t do it in the diaper OR the potty…so we talked a lot about how it can’t stay in her tummy, that it is going to hurt if she tries to keep it in, and that the poop wants to go in the potty. I sang “Let it Go” from Frozen a lot and made up my own lyrics to coincide with pooping. Haha. I also would make excuses to leave the bathroom, always saying I would be right back, and the moment she had a little privacy (even though she didn’t realize that’s what she was getting) she would finally let it out. If those things don’t work for you, then you just might need more time. I have many friends who have bribed their kids with sweets, or things that you know they really want to motivate them to poop on the potty. But I’m guessing you’ve tried that already. 😉 Good luck!


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