My four year old is completely pee trained, no issues when dealing with that. But when it comes to using the toilet for poop, he refuses. I'm constantly catching him going in his pants, leaving streaks in his underwear three or four times a day until he finally gets it all out.

Driving me mad. I've tried to reward him with candy, but that didn't help. I tried to eat his candy when he went in his pants, that didn't help. I always give him massive praise when he goes in the toilet.

I've resorted to just putting him back in pull-ups and forgetting about it for a month or two. What worked for you and what do you suggest that I try?

  • We had similar problems, maybe my experience or the answer do also help you: see parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/2209/… Good Luck!
    – BBM
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 20:24
  • 4
    +1 for making me laugh by "I tried to eat his candy" (I fear that would not do any good to the problem. ;-))
    – BBM
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 20:25
  • I suspect that this is a patience problem .. it takes too long. Streaks are a symptom of inadequate cleaning, which is another example of impatience.
    – tomjedrz
    Commented Nov 12, 2011 at 2:43
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    When you ask your son why he does that, what does he say? What solutions does he, himself, suggests?
    – Speldosa
    Commented Nov 15, 2011 at 0:07

10 Answers 10


A possible less-than-orthodox answer, provided you did all the standard advice already (e.g. usual behavior modification tricks and avoid hard/constipated stools as another answer mentioned).

He may have a problem with the water splashing on him when the poop hits the water.

Ours had issues with pooping on the toilet, but once they were resolved he started doing it... and then stopped and hated it.

After a month of trying other things, I asked him if that was the problem. He said "yes".

I told him I can show him how to fix, put a piece of toilet paper on top of the water, demonstrated that a piece of bread would splash when dropped on water bbut not splash when falling on paper.

BINGO. He had no issues from that day. As an extra treat, when he was good he'd be permitted to tear off and put in the paper himself.

  • 6
    +1 for letting him put the paper himself - as a reward! Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 6:02
  • 7
    I think your explanation is spot on! I also hate it when the water splashes on me...
    – Treb
    Commented Sep 30, 2011 at 10:21
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    I with you, I fear this sometimes...
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 12:54
  • youtube.com/watch?v=-XNDM4eAn1U
    – bjb568
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 18:13

Potty training is one of the most difficult milestones for children and adults alike. For us, potty training was like a jail sentence; as soon as we realized that our child needed to go, we felt stuck, like we couldn't go out lest we risk an accident in the car seat while driving. For the child (and I am not a psychologist), I can imagine it can be equally challenging and frustrating. For starters, this is a new feeling and process for them. They are dealing with impulses beyond their physical control. They might clinch, become constipated, and then going to the bathroom will hurt. Add on top of that their desire to please their parents on some level, and you have a recipe for all sorts of anxiety.

For us what has made the most difference is the following:

  1. As Samuel L Jackson says, "be cool, man." No matter what happens, no matter what the accident is, no matter how big or small, and no matter how many times it happens praise your child for trying. Let them know you are proud of them.

  2. Privacy. My youngest daughter is learning to train right now, and one thing my wife and I have learned is that privacy makes all the difference. I ask her, "would you like some privacy." I then step out of the room and periodically checking in to make sure she hasn't fallen in :). I do this because the last thing anyone wants when going potty is for someone else to be hovering. Ug.

  3. Allow them to take their time. Another responder suggested books or some other form of distraction. I have been known to let my son play with my iPhone just so that he has time to relax and to let the process unfold. Books also work, naturally.

  4. Consider a reward. One trick several of our friends spoke very highly of was having a treat jar in the bathroom. They would get a small bucket and then go to Target's $1 bins and fill it up with a bunch of simple distractions. Then whenever their child had a successful excursion to the potty, they would get to pick something from the jar. You can imagine a number of forms of this, from envelopes with special activities written inside of them, like going to the Zoo, or playing a game with Mom, or body paint, or anything special and fun.

  5. Patience. Most of all, just be patient. It will happen, but it can only happen at the child's own pace.

One last piece of advice - when my son was learning to potty train, there were lots of accidents. To make the process easier on us, we just bought a lot of extra underwear. Rather than trying to save super soiled skivvies, we just tossed them. Yes, it was a little wasteful, but good Lord did it make the process easier!


Some children don't want to stop playing and sit on the toilet long enough to get all of the poop out. Also, being a new experience for them, they might not recognize the feeling of having some left inside.

Having some entertainment could do the trick. Some books or toys or music (a portable cassette player) could keep your son on the toilet long enough to get the job done.

  • 1
    This would not work in my house, my wife is very anti-reading in the bathroom. I am not sure if it's an Asian or Taiwan or family thing but she yells at me if I bring something to read in there. Even pointing out in the bookstore the numerous bathroom readers hasn't worked.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 12:54
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    @MichaelF: but... but... but... what is the throne for if not for reading? I mean, yeah, you do other things there too, but the reading (or Sudoku) is the primary purpose, isn't it? :D
    – Martha
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 14:54
  • Yes but sadly this is a battle I won't win...so I just do it when my wife is not home or sneak in when she is not looking. Generally that works unless my oldest is in a mood then he tattles on me...
    – MichaelF
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 17:50
  • Sorry old thread, but @MichaelF...........what do you even do with your remaining 27 minutes in the bathroom? Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 23:00

My daughter was afraid of her bowel movements at first. It's odd that they notice a difference between going in a diaper and going on the toilet!

First of all, make sure he is comfortable. Does he have a special seat that you put on the toilet that fits his tiny bottom? Is he going in a different potty or using the big one?

If he is in a nice comfy seat, just tell him that it's ok to go potty. Have you noticed certain times of the day when he has his bowel movements or even certain faces or gestures he makes that suggests that he is about to go?

If you pay attention closely, you can pinpoint what happens to him right before he decides to go and whisk him away to the toilet before it's too late.

With my daughter, she would start crying and just needed to be consoled. I would rub her back to help her relax and tell her that it was going to be ok. To make it fun, and funny, I would tell her to talk to herself. She would tell her poop to come out of there and she went from crying about it, to laughing and having fun with it.

Stool softeners might help too. Some kids get scared simply because it is too hard for them to get out. My nephew actually held it in so much that he became constipated....all because he didn't want to sit on the toilet and go!

I hope your situation doesn't get to that point and that something I said can be of some help to you. Good luck!


A friend of mine went shopping with her son and let him pick out 10 matchbox cars. They then got taped to the wall and each time he went poop in the potty he got to choose one. By the time he got the last one they no longer had any issues.

You could use the same theory with whatever it is that interests your son.


Byrne Reese has a great answer, I just want to add a couple points to it:

On the privacy vs safety point: instead of leaving the room, we just sit on the edge of the bathtub about 4 or 5 feet away and read, do email on our phone, work on a crossword... anything but hover over them, watch them, etc. Several times when he refused to put the seat adapter on and subsequently fell in when he let go of the seat this has meant a fraction of a second stuck in the toilet seat instead of however long it takes to realize and rescue from outside the room.

On the reward/fun topic from a couple other answers: My son noticed the nifty "plop" sound it makes when he goes poop in the big potty (instead of his little kids potty/chamber pot). That in and of itself has become a great motivator, when he says he's all done (and hasn't done anything) I just ask "how many plops did you make?" and he hops back up and finishes the job. We've also been counting up twoard a big reward... a week without any accidents and he gets to goto chucky-cheese. (Kids themed pizza place with a bunch of games.)

  • +1 for safety vs. privacy. Decide what ratio you're comfortable with. Commented Sep 29, 2011 at 18:35
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    You must have an enormous bathroom if there's 4 feet between the bathtub and the toilet. Just sayin'.
    – Martha
    Commented Nov 9, 2011 at 14:59
  • haha, nope. I just said I was 4 or 5 feet away... not that the tub was. Sitting on that toilet an adult could easily kick the end of the tub. A standard tub is 5' long (as is ours), if the toilet is across from one end of it and you're sitting on the edge of the other end of it... then you're about 4-5 feet away.
    – cabbey
    Commented Nov 10, 2011 at 23:40

We just recently had exactly the same problem: getting our 2 year old daughter to transition from the potty to the toilet, especially for poos. What worked for us was going on holiday without the potty (on purpose, I hasten to add :-) ), so she had to use the toilet. I hid the potty at home and when she asked for it I simply said "potty is only for night-time, please use the toilet and then you can have a sweet!".

I know not every child is the same, but thought you might find that helpful. Good luck!


I would suggest the Baby Signs Potty Program. I have heard from many families that it works. Even though it says baby in the name it works for older children. It includes a train whistle and is based around a train theme, so it is a fun way to get kids excited. I am using it with my little one and she is doing great with the program. Good luck!


My boy was much like that. But NEVER move back steps as that is basically telling him it's okay to give up. As the "wait" can be a bit boring, give him a book or have a poster up in the toilet for him to stare at while he does his biz. Even a really cool printed toilet paper. Provide a reward. Not sure if you condone Chocolate, but if you don't then use cars or planes etc. Small things he is interested in. And put a chart up on the wall for his progress. Once he has done his first poo and gets a treat he will be think "poo = reward, Imma milk this for what it's worth." Hopefully that helps you.


For some, it's all about motivation. Give him a reason to want to poop in the potty.

We potty-trained our son, and he knew when he had to go, but could care less. We tried everything! We tried to reward him, bribe him, we tried putting him in big boy underwear, letting him sit in his mess, but despite all efforts, nothing worked. He just didn't want to be bothered with it.

There was a little girl at church around his age that he was 'in love' with. When she told him that he couldn't be her boyfriend as long as he wore pullups, he came home and announced he wanted underwear. In less than a week, he was potty trained.

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