Boy doesn’t want to poop in the toilet

Hello Dr. Ann,
I am attending your Toddler Talk class in Mission Viejo, and you mentioned that I could send you email with more detail about my son’s situation – I thank you for that offer.

My son does not want to poop in the toilet, he always asks for a pull-up. He is constipated and we give him stool softener. He says that if he goes in the toilet is going to hurt, and even with
the pull-up he tries to hold it in.

Is it a good idea to motivate him by telling him that we would give him a present if he goes? We have a present for Christmas that he really wants now, and we are thinking that we can show it to him but tell him that we will give it to him if he goes in the toilet 2 times.

Is this a good idea or will this set a precedent that we will regret in the future? Any other ideas?By the way, he does not have any issues peeing in the toilet.

Thank you very much.


Thanks for your thoughtful questions. This is so helpful because I can talk about this today without mentioning your son’s name and without you having to describe what is going on in front of him. I will address all your discipline questions first thing this a.m. in the group.

As far as poop in the toilet. Do not offer him anything. This process happens because he is ‘ready’ not by giving him anything. That will only shame him, if he cannot do it for the prize.

My guess is he probably has had some stools are are hard and it did hurt, so now he thinks that will happen each time. This is normal thought for this age and happens with lots of kids.

Be sure there is lots of fiber and water in his diet to help the natural flow of things. If you can get him to be responsible for getting his own pull-up and putting it on himself that would be best because you need to be as “little” involved with the pooping process as possible.

Do not talk to him about it anymore, but do talk to him on a daily basis about how he knows how to pee himself and he must be so proud of himself that he can do it “all by himself”! When you help him wipe himself up from poop, do it from behind, do not talk and be quick about it.

You can also try taping a diaper to the toilet and having him sit on there, so he feels the confidence of something underneath him and then just lower it gradually.

When kids are apprehensive about letting go of their poop because they think it might hurt, it helps to have something underneath them because then they can measure just how much to contract and release their rectal muscles to get it out. It is like a safety net, so to speak. Respect his need for this right now, but encourage the process to move along, so he can let go on his own.

When he does poop successfully in the toilet, that is when you talk about it and tell him how proud he must be in himself for doing it, NOT how proud you are of him. This process is for him to ‘own’ not his parents, because after all it is his body! Hope that helps?
See you at Toddler Talk, Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor