I have read all of the posted (related) questions and answers, and to be specific, I am having tremendous troubles just getting her to tell me (her father) what exactly she may be afraid of. Her response to my asking of "why won't you TRY to go on the potty?' is either met with an "I don't want to" or after trying to narrow it down, an "I am afraid"... At best, I was able to get her to speak to her fear of the sound, but this just doesn't seem to be the core of it.

For a little background, she is very capable of holding it (to a painful fault at times), and has NO issues of going pee on the potty at all. Pooping is by far the ONLY issue with the potty. She prefers to use diapers, but they eventually cause rashes, and prohibit the development of her learning to do her "business" as we all do.

Any suggestions would be appreciated, and if I need to provide any further details of things we may have tried, or issues that we run into when trying to help her, please let me know.

  • 3
    Does she use her own child-size potty or an adult toilet?
    – user11394
    Apr 22, 2015 at 7:00
  • We started her on the child-size potty, and she used that while learning to not pee in the diaper (she also pooped in that 2x, but I think those were by accident). Those were the days when she was running around naked all day (or at least without pants/diaper) while we taught her to go to potty (child-size one) when she had to go pee or poop.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:35
  • The transition was frustrating at first (as I am sure it is for most all parents - this learning phase) but I thought she actually transitioned well, and with VERY few accidents. Somewhere along the way, we allowed her to use her diaper for pooping (thinking we will take this "win" and try to move her to pooping on big potty in a few weeks or something - so as to not overburden the "change") because she started holding it and showing signs of hurting herself, and you KNOW no one can go a week w/o a BM and not suffer or do harm.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:36
  • We were getting really worried, and so we went to doctor to make sure she hasn't hurt herself, or advice so we know when she IS hurting herself, and what might be ok vs. not ok, etc. The doctor gave us medicine to help soften her stools and laxatives so that we could relieve her. While that helped her poop, she would NOT overcome the fear/reservations of using the big potty for BMs.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:38
  • This was all when she was 2 by the way, so it has been a LONG time (or what I believe to be) of her relying on using diapers for BMs, and I fear the transition will only get harder and harder, possibly developing even stronger anxieties as time passes without conquering this hurdle. We have tried being positive, awarding her with treats, explanations of WHY, HOW, WHEN, WHERE, WHO, WHAT FOR, etc. We tried sticking to a schedule, speaking about it with her when it is time to go and periodically, and so many variations of the like.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:38

4 Answers 4


Depending on the child and their ability to verbalize, she may very well know what she's afraid of but cannot put it into words. Instead of asking her why, give her scenarios. "Are you afraid the water will hit your bottom and get it wet? Are you worried about what happens to the poo/pee when you flush?" (That's what my daughter's issue was.) No matter how absurd the question, ask it: anything you can come up with might be the core issue, or might give her enough verbal clues to coax it out of her head herself.

If being scared of the sound is part of the problem, you can promise her that you will go and flush after she's done and out of the room, or show her how to cover her ears (both of mine are sensitive to sound as well, and these have been successful compromises for both). Also, the kid potty can be a great solution for those who are training and afraid of the noise of the 'real' one.

  • +1 for the scenarios. We had to do the same with our daughter and automatic flushes. Apr 22, 2015 at 13:31
  • This is good advice!! I did try scenarios, because I too thought that maybe she might not be able to explain to me herself, but I guess I ran out of reasons that I could think of. I will keep trying this!! The sound I thought she was afraid/stressed about was the "SPLASH", and not the flush. She has always taken pride in flushing the big toilet for her accomplishment when she pees. However, I will ask to clarify and try to pinpoint a more detailed reasoning for her reluctance. Thank you!
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:48
  • I'll be crossing my fingers for you! Remember, what seems nonsensical to us isn't necessarily nonsense to our kids. We spent a LONG time (months, at least) saying bye-bye to the pees and poos and talking about what they did and where they went to play when we flushed. So don't be afraid to get truly nuts in your questions; you never know what will be on target.
    – Valkyrie
    Apr 22, 2015 at 19:15

We had similar issues for a while with our daughter and eventually got past them with a few methods, which among other things involved talking about others using the toilet, praise for when she used it and creating a little reward system.

Firstly, we use a child toilet seat that slots on top of any toilet so we can take it anywhere. Something like this:

enter image description here

If you don't have one, or would consider buying something new, let her pick one. You can get them in lots of styles, possibly in her favourite colour and even with characters from tv shows she likes, which might be something that makes her more comfortable with sitting on it.

We spent about a week with no nappies on except for bedtime, and there were a few accidents along the way. She pretty much seemed to have her BM first thing in the morning or when she got in bed at night, so she had her nappy on. Whether she was holding it or not, it wasn't clear. She would also sometimes ask to have a pull up nappy so she could do it, and like you we took it one victory at a time as she was using the toilet and potty (we had both options) to pee.

Talking about it

We used to talk about using the toilet. So we would say things like:

"mummy and daddy sit on the toilet when they need a pooh"

We'd always try to tell her when we were going, so it seemed normal, and sometimes joke about using the potty.

Me: mummy, where are you going?

Wife: I'm going for a pooh.

Me: are you going on the potty?

Wife: no, I'm too big for the potty, mummies and daddies sit on the toilet.

We found that she'd start copying us with these questions and jokes, so it was mildly amusing for her.

We'd also ask about other children at nursery, as the best encouragement can often come with seeing that children her age are doing it. So we'd ask her which of her friends were using the toilet at nursery. We also used to ask the nursery staff so we could say:

Aimee told us today that Elouise did a pooh on the toilet today.


Our daughter loves stickers, so we got a reward chart sticker book with some of her favourite characters. Every time she used the toilet, she got a sticker. We also bought some more special stickers as further incentive for when she wasn't using the toilet for BM.

We used to get her some form of treat at the end of the week, or when each section of the chart was complete, with a promise of going toy shopping when it was fully filled.

Show how proud you are

When she first started using the toilet, we showed her we were very proud of her with overly enthusiastic praise and plenty of cuddles and generally verbalizing her achievement.

We used to ask her to tell people why she was wearing a sticker. We would drop her off at nursery and ask her to tell her key worker what she did last night too. More often than not she was shy about it initially, so we would tell them for her, but they were great and full of enthusiasm, which helped. Seeing positive reactions to the news encouraged her, and eventually she was happy and proud enough to tell people herself.

We did try not to push it on to her and if she refused to used the toilet, we didn't make a big deal of it as we didn't want to associate her getting upset with using the toilet.

There were a few periods when she hadn't been for a few days and when the time came it seemed to hurt. We found that it seemed to coincide with her possibly not drinking enough fluid on those days, so we tried to ensure that she drank more and also increased her fruit intake.

Good luck!


One likely issue: she's probably afraid of failure. Or, perhaps more accurately, she's not afraid but nervous or stressed. Pooping in the potty is a stressful experience at first - both because you and she have expectations of success and yet it doesn't come easily, and because undoubtedly it's stressful to you (as a parent) that it's still going on - whether you verbalize it or not - it's impossible to completely hide.

You haven't really listed what you've tried (perhaps because that would take all day and more characters than you can fit in a question - whatever that is), so here are some suggestions that you might've already tried - but maybe not.

First off, familiarization with the toilet presumably isn't an issue as you suggest she pees fine - but perhaps some positive identification reinforcement would be helpful. One thing that got our then-three year old over the 'hump' was "Poopy iPad time". Ten to twenty minutes with the ipad twice a day (use the built-in timer) sitting on the toilet the whole time, watching his videos or playing games - whatever he wanted - and then, after that time, if he'd pooped he got ten more minutes. No stress, no pushing, just a quick "did you poop" check under him. Initially it started out that way anyway - once he realized he did get extra time for it, and wanted the extra time, when I came to check, he would strain and strain to get the littlest poop you could imagine out - but he'd do it, and we'd say "yay" and add to his timer.

That both gave him positive vibes with the toilet and pooping, and encouraged him to figure out how the physical part worked (since it gave him an immediate reward). He still to this day (6 months later) has poopy iPad time because he likes it (and enjoys the solitude from his little brother). It didn't work immediately - still had lots of poopy accidents for several weeks - but it did eventually work.

Second, you can try to reduce the stress. Stop talking about it for a month or two. Don't mention pooping in the potty once. If she brings it up, talk to her about it of course, but don't put any pressure or expectations. Then after a few months, gently let her know it's time to discard the diapers and go over to pooping in the toilet.

Finally, when you do go all in on this, definitely discard diapers - that has to be a one-way thing or it's too easy for her to go back. Maybe buy a last box of diapers, and when you're on the last week or two, tell her that, and you're off them for good never to buy them again. And then, of course, don't buy them ever again - no matter what, no matter how hard it is to clean up after her in underwear.

  • Joe, I explained in some more detail in the first response above in several comments/replies (as you thought, it took a while, and cutting/pasting to get all of my words in with characters allowed per post - at least for me). You have some great ideas, and they match up with our methods almost as we have attempted EXACTLY, so allow me to give you a little more info and perhaps you can advise further?.. I believe you are right-on with your assumption of her fears (maybe it is not the process/toilet/etc, but the fear of failing or not doing it correctly or us not approving in some way).
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 18:32
  • This would make a lot of sense to me - based on my experiences with my daughter and her mentality/behavior. We certainly don't intentionally say/do anything that would support this anxiety, but it may be there nonetheless. I would REALLY appreciate some insight on how to overcome this (beyond the typical wording of a "anything you do is fine, sweetie, we just need to make sure it gets done here" kind of thing). We have tried timing her on the potty twice a day, and I believe we did 15 minutes each during that trial, and we attempted that for a month or so with no results.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 18:33
  • We tried to implement stories and electronic games (tablets, tv, etc.) to help entice her efforts also, and while it DID help to keep her there without complaining so much, it did not help to motivate her efforts, unfortunately. After our attempts during that time (and it seemed like a VERY long time without a single positive experience), we followed the strategy that you stated of taking a strict break of just not speaking of it AT ALL unless she questioned it for quite a while, 2-3 months sounds about right.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 18:33
  • It then dawned on us that it HAS been a while, and long enough for her to have maybe matured a bit in that regard, so we began to mention it here and there, and that the time would be coming because it is a process that we all go through and a duty that we all must learn. She surprisingly seemed very open and comfortable discussing it in great detail, UNTIL the time comes for the attempt. This is kind of where we stand now, STILL, and we have probably been her close to 6-10 months or so with no forward progress. My wife and I keep trying, but my daughter just gets more and more resistant.
    – Siggy
    Apr 22, 2015 at 18:34
  • 1
    @Siggy Can you edit this into the question? It's too complicated to read in comments, and probably better for everyone to see easily in the question.
    – Joe
    Apr 22, 2015 at 20:57

Okay, it's time to turn down the emotional volume on this -- way down. Also, if there are any remaining skin problems, let's resolve those ASAP. (Zinc ointment, Aveeno baths, lots of naked bottom time -- with perhaps a dress on.)

When she wants to have a sleepover, she will figure out that she needs to find a way to leave the diaper at home.

Basically, your daughter should be allowed to put on a pull-up whenever she feels the urge to poop, but she has to put it on herself. Give her plenty of roughage (raw carrots, etc.), and maybe a bit of cooked prunes every day, so she doesn't go longer than 48 hours without pooping.

Try going "camping" -- you don't have to sleep outside overnight -- and you can all have fun squatting and peeing and pooping for a couple of days, to free her up.

I didn't quite catch whether you own a portable potty. If you don't, buy one. You can take it everywhere you go, you know. You can let her use it in a stall if you're at a department store and she feels an urge. Let her put a decorative sticker on it each time she produces a poop in the potty. For now, she gets to decide where in the house she wants to sit on it.

You can certainly consult a professional -- there's nothing to be afraid of. You may even find that one visit is all you need!

If you get frustrated with the character limit on the comments, you can edit your original question, with a separating line, and the name of the person you're responding to, and even a handwritten time stamp if you like. Clearly, you have a found a place where people empathize and want to help.

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