2.8 year old won’t poop in the potty!

Hello all - any advice (or just reassurance/validation) appreciated. We started potty training our 2.75 year old basically the first week of the shelter in place, 4-5 weeks ago (with a new 4 week old at home... figured maternity leave plus quarantine was a good time to be at home). We tried the “oh crap potty training” method kind of liberally, starting with no pants and following her around with the mini toilet. She got peeing in the potty pretty easily within 1 day and has accidents now only when she’s too excited and playing (once every few days). Unfortunately pooping has been harder for her to catch on. She did face some uphill battles initially - constipation that wasn’t immediately recognized (so her first poop was a little painful) and two weeks ago she developed a pilonidal (butt cleft cyst) that caused her some discomfort (that she conflated with pain associated with pooping). Since then she has had regular soft bowel movements but she nearly always has them directly into her underpants. She has successfully pooped 2-3 times in the potty max. She usually tells me “I have to poop!” And it’s already too late, with some poop in her pants. Once on the pot, she often is reluctant to push, which leads to multiple small bowel movements per day. Sometimes she will poop in her pull-ups or diaper (which we put on her just for naps and nighttime) but it doesn’t seem she waits to have a bowel movement into her diaper. Have read a ton of stuff on BPN and other internet resources and am at a loss. Have tried toys, books, songs on potty, bribes, rewards. Are we still battling the initial fear that might have been associated with her constipation? We offered a diaper and she doesn’t want that either. She is excited by underwear but doesn’t care to keep them clean. We don’t seem to be making any progress over the last 4 weeks. Is it too early to throw in the towel and back off? Should we just stop talking about pooping in the potty as we are putting too much pressure on? I read on BPN that sometimes a moratorium on talking about it helps to relieve anxiety and pressure. Should we wait a little longer to clean her up (bht I don’t want to make this seem punitive)? Sorry for the long post. Really appreciate any advice!!!! Stay safe everyone!

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I know this may not be the right approach for everyone but I read this article (and generally try to follow the principles of Janet Lansbury) and it might help take some pressure off for you. My child is younger, only about 20 months, and we just recently offered the potty but are trying to let her lead in when she wants to use it. So I'm certainly not speaking from any kind of real experience, just want to offer a resource I found helpful. We have friends whose daughter didn't poop in the toilet until she was almost 4.5, and I do remember them putting a lot of emphasis and even pressure on her, including bribes, prizes, etc, which all seemed to backfire!

Hi there! Been there...She’ll get it eventually. I tired many things as well for my child. Are there any physical cues for when she needs to poop, like hide, so you can sit her on the potty ASAP without waiting for her to tell you? Ultimately, we had to make him go commando for consistent results. Good luck!

No advice just empathy as we are going through the EXACT same challenge with our 2.5 year old. Pees fine in the potty most of the time. But earlier constipation issues makes her afraid to poop in the potty, and she just hops around nervously and before we get her to sit on the potty it's often too late. Just hoping pushing for it and talking about it repeatedly will help in the long run. I have accepted this won't be a short-term process but may take more time that we had hoped.


We had the issue that my son would pee in the potty but not poop. We had to completely back off and not mention it at all in front of him for a month and then he moved forward on his own. Your timing isn’t great bc of the new baby and disruption which causes your toddler anxiety. I would back off and let her take the lead. Give it 6 months without mentioning it and see where you are at. She absorbs you’re anxiousness about this issue. 

I had a similar experience as you with my younger child - pee training happened immediately but poop was a big problem. What worked for us was to go back to diapers full time for several months and then start potty training again at age 3. Second time was the charm and peeing and pooping happened very quickly and he has been fully trained for a few months now. 

Just a word about Oh Crap. I used it with no issues for my first child at age 2.25. She was trained in two days. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I was a total evangelist for the book and really believed the author’s mantra that you shouldn’t wait until past age 2.5 to potty train. Well, my second child proved that approach wrong. Now I tell people Oh Crap works great for some kids, but it’s not gospel. Your child might just not be ready yet. 

Our 3.5 yo has been potty trained for a year and still won’t poop in the potty. She goes at night in her pull up. Aside from the 2am diaper changes when she wakes up with a poopy diaper (sigh...big kid poops), we haven’t had any issues. Our pediatrician recommended not making too big an issue of it so it doesn’t introduce fear/constipation; she’ll get there when she’s ready and it’s common for pooping to take longer than peeing in the potty. 

In solidarity!

With my kid, she was doing same, so she and I made “magic poopie sprinkles,” pretending to add spices to an empty spice jar. Then before poop time, we “sprinkled” the magic sprinkles so her “poopy gate” would open and it wouldn’t be scary to poop in the potty. I’m not joking, this worked immediately. Helped her feel in control and acknowledge and resolve her fear around pooping maybe?

We had similar issues and unfortunately our son wasn't completely potty trained until he was 5! We seriously tried everything....We were so frustrated. I am not sure if you have the same issue, but for some reason our son was afraid to poop in the potty. We tried to talk to him about it, but he couldn't explain his anxiety. He would sit on the potty and nothing....but then he would put on his pull up and go. He wore underwear to bed and always kept dry and clean at night. We finally found an older book...and I can't find it on amazon now, but it was written by a doctor or psychologist. The plan was to let your child go poop in a pull-up...but you want them to sit on the potty when they go. Then you start cutting a small hole in the pull-up. Each day you make a bigger hole, until finally the hole is big enough where the poop goes into the potty and then once they are ready, you get rid of the pull-up. The reasoning is that the child will feel the security of having the pull-up on and relax.. We did bribe our child to sit on the potty for a certain amount of time each day. So, this did work for us...but it took time and I can honestly say there were days that I felt like crying because I was so frustrated.

I had a similar problem with my child when she was young.  A very wise pre-school teacher gave me the following advise ......and it worked for us.  Ask your child to blow up a balloon while sitting on the toilet.  Make sure the child’s feet are on a stool or the ground or raised higher.   If you test it out yourself, you’ll see that it causes the same muscles to relax and push that are necessary when having a bowel movement. It might take a couple of tries but it’s a fun game.  I think it works because it teaches children which muscles to use.   Good luck!

Going through this myself - 3-yr old boy won't poop in the potty. I am also afraid of constipation. He had slight constipation when we moved him cold-turkey to underwear (and didn't go an entire weekend), so we went to pull-ups. He is agreeable to peeing in the potty (though he often pees in his pull-ups anyway, which we don't reprimand but tell him he gets candy, as opposed to a sticker, if he can keep his pull-up dry). He poops in the pull-up, and most times (when I'm present), I change him in the bathroom where I dump his poop into the toilet and flush it. I heard that this helps children get over that weirdness of seeing their poop 'leave' them. He seems to like seeing the poop get flushed down and puts up with me wiping him with regular toilet paper instead of wipes. My logic is that I get him very used to the idea of everything surrounding pooping in the toilet, except for the actual pooping in the toilet, which I can't control. He is also aware that I have a huge gift waiting for him the first time he does the #2 in the toilet. I'm hoping at one point, it will just click that he wants to poop in the toilet... it also doesn't help that he is the oldest in his daycare, so he doesn't really have peers that are fully potty-trained, but so it goes.

My son was terrified to poop in the potty for ages. The only thing that eventually worked for us was backing off completely until we got lucky one day. He wore underwear most of the day b/c he was potty trained for pee, and asked for a diaper for pooping. One day, about a month before he turned 4, I was picking him up from preschool (half-day) and didn't have a diaper with me and he desperately had to go, so I sat him (crying) on the nearest toilet, he went, and from then on, he was over the fear. It seems like it will never happen when you're in it, but one day it will.