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my 4 yr old son absolutely hates to poop in the toilet. He will pee no problem on his own, but he fights to avoid pooping even to the point of claiming it hurts to poop in the toilet.

When we ask him what hurts he comes up with many different excuses such as it hurts his pee pee all the way to begging for another chance and he acts as though the toilet is a punishment.

As a single 22 yr old mother going through this daily and still having to clean the poopy underwear each night, the only thing hurting in the end is my head, and my nerves are shot.

How can I help him learn to poop?

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Regarding cleaning his underwear - have you considered letting him wear pull-up diapers during the night? That could avoid some of the burden on you, and some of the humiliation on him. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 4 '13 at 11:49
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3 Answers

There is no easy answer or magical tricks that older/experienced parents are withholding from you. Its more of setting a positive and respectful environment for the trainee.

Several months ago my 2.5 yr old was home for 5 wks with out daycare so I jumped on the chance for some toilet training. Having messed up a bit on her older brother a few years before I equip myself with "Diaper-Free Before 3: The Healthier Way to Toilet Train and Help Your Child Out of Diapers Sooner" - awesome book that most of my toilet training specific opinions are based and very worth purchasing. Here a few things that can help set the stage for success:

Verify that his stool is soft and he isnt battling constipation too. Set up a routine and be consistent. With regular activities and regular meal times, more than likely your son will have a regular BMs. Have bm chart or whatever is needed for you to to know when he needs to go.

Going to the bathroom is a normal part of life - Just like drinking water. Stop all crazy incentives and when its time or when you see the cues, tell him its time rather than ask him if he wants to go.

Even though my daughter could use the big toilet she much rather enjoyed the little own that was a feat of climbing and that her feet could be firmly on the floor. Its not nice to clean out, but imagine yourself going a toilet that was big enough for you to fall into and that was as high as your tummy and you couldnt touch the floor. Also, you can model for him since each of you have your own toilet.

My older child had troubles defecating setting down. He had to start by sitting on the toilet, in his diaper, at anticipated times so he could get use to the position. Being physically comfortable is going to be very important.

Little kids have control over so little of their life. Something like defecating or eating a certain food can be something the a child has realized he has control of. Its in the context of the control that you need to get rid of the incentive programs, but also any negativity or punishment associated with going to the bathroom (including genuine disappointment from having to clean up an accident, shield your son from those emotions). Every kids seems to want to be "big" - just let using toilet be a something big kids do, something that mom does as a regular part of like. Get rid of all the angst and specialness and the whole big deal factor and your son may give up some of that control and move on to other things, like what pjs to wear.

Get your son in on it. Cant have a positive experience with out his co-operation. For example, my daughter and I pitched her remaining diapers together. We both were committed. I kept some night time pull ups and for the first few weeks she preferred wearing them at night. After a while, she wanted to wear undies, so the choice was hers, use the toilet before bed time or wear a pull up. She was invested in the training, not just me.

If the above attitudes jive with your parenting style, go buy that book and you will get more detailed explains of why each matters along with a brief history of life be fore disposable diapers.

Good luck and find the needed patience somewhere. Dont worry too much either (doesn't help you and your son will soak it up), the situation really is an individual experiences and is not going to be exactly the same as others.

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There are many possibilities why your child has the response to the toilet. Something about sitting on it scares the child, or at least makes the child feel uncomfortable. If you think about what images or stories the child may have seen or heard you may figure out the source (if there is one). We found that having age-appropriate books about other toddlers who are getting used to the potty helped. Having such a book read to the child, as well as seeing the pictures of another kid actually sitting on a toilet without stress helped ours tackle it themselves.

A long shot here, without knowing your circumstances, nor intending any judgement at all, I noticed you wrote you clean the poopy underwear every night. It might be possible there is something about this which makes it a routine that the child finds comforting in an unexpected way.

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Just a teensy addition of anecdata, but we went through something similiar with our daughter. Turns out she was both scared of pain (reading the books It Hurts When I Poop and Everyone Poops made a huge difference) and that not knowing what happens once the toilet is flushed scared her. We're in rural US on a septic system, so when we told her that her poop goes to play under the yard with Mommy and Daddy's poops, she was cool with it.

Ask him. See if you can figure out what his mental roadblock is, and then you guys can find a way past it.

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