I don't know what to do. We have been trying to get our son to poop in the toilet since he was 3. He is now 5 and shows no signs of starting any time ever. He has done it once or twice but he poops in his underwear almost daily. I have tried asking him about it in every way that I can and i never seem to get anything more than "I don't know" as to why he didn't go to the toilet. (He can pee no problem)

We have tried rewards, sitting him there regularly etc nothing works.

Update a bunch of months later:

My wife and I are now at the end of our ropes. He still does not poop on the toilet. We have a rule that we give them a shower when they poop themselves (so we can get them clean) And when I just showered him I asked him why he can't poop on the toilet. He was unable to respond to me, its like he forgot how to talk.

We have tried bribing him with toys, making him sit on the toilet, they are working with him at school (or so I understand) and so far NOTHING works. He has pooped on the toilet twice in the last year.

And now his younger brother is doing the same. He actually was using the toilet for a while, but now is back to pooping his pants.

Update, Even more months later

It has now been something like 2 1/2 years and he is still not pooping on the toilet. Its not that he has accidents sometimes its that he poops his underpants EVERY day. As far as I can tell he makes no sign of having to go and has no clue that he is about too.

He goes to a special needs school (He is somewhat autistic) and they have been working with him but still nothing. We have tried offering him stickers or candy for pooping on the toilet.

Update: Dec 2012

At this point I am at a loss, we have taken him to the Doctor and as far as we can tell there is nothing physically wrong. And the doctor has no idea of what to do.

At this point he won't even sit on the toilet, if you try to get him to sit (never mind actually poop) he will scream bloody murder.

Update: Jan 2014, he finally is toilet trained, about 2 weeks ago. Much less stress on the part of the adults of the house

  • 1
    You asked this a while back: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/808/… Has it not improved at all?
    – mmr
    May 18, 2012 at 17:04
  • My aunt had the same problem with one of her daughters. Eventually, she wanted to go to school and was told that she couldn't because she wasn't potty trained. One day later she was trained. She was just lazy and needed the proper motivation. Oct 5, 2012 at 17:38
  • ... and don't worry about it too much. How many adults do you know that aren't potty trained? It'll happen eventually. Oct 5, 2012 at 17:41
  • 2
    Is the doctor who you have asked for help someone who knows about Encopresis etc.? We have had similar problems (see here: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/2209/…) and we have met a lot of people (kindergarten teachers, pediatricians and other doctors) who were quite clueless and even did not tell us that Encopresis exists ... (I'm afraid they did not know about that themselves...). So you need to find a doctor who really understands the problem (most of them don't, unfortunately)!!!
    – BBM
    Dec 30, 2012 at 16:57
  • Did you have any luck by now? It's 6 months since the last update and we would welcome such an update. Jun 20, 2013 at 11:06

9 Answers 9


A few ideas/suggestions/questions:

  1. Have you spoken to a pediatrician about a physical issue?
  2. Does he watch you poop and then help you flush?
  3. He may be afraid, many children are, of allowing 'part of him' to be flushed away. Flush his poop down the toilet even from his diaper/underpants.
  4. Does he make any sign he is making? React to it FAST!
  5. Does he poop at the same time of day? React to it.
  6. Does he wear diapers or underpants? Put him in underpants and when he has an accident have him go to the bathroom where you keep a basket of underpants and have him flush away the poop, wipe, and change by himself thereby taking away the attention entirely (yes you will have to teach him to do this first)
  • 1
    Warning: If you're constantly watching to "react fast", you're actually training yourself. Good to rule out any physical issue, though. Oct 5, 2012 at 17:39
  • We have seen the paediatrician, he has no idea what to do.
    – Zachary K
    Dec 30, 2012 at 16:22

My daughter has the same problem. She's four and didn't potty train until this year. I highly recommend Dr. Sears Baby Book for this kind of stuff. Love him or hate him on co-sleeping etc. on basic behavior stuff he has some great advice. We tried some of the things in the book. Here's what's working for us.

  1. Breathe! Forget that they're 'too old' for this, and have compassion on yourself and them. You have to take the shame out, if they can't control it bribing compounds the problem they lose the prize and make you disappointed which will only cause their body to tense up the next time. Encourage them that it's okay they'll be able to figure out, and you'll help them. This made a big difference for my daughter emotionally and helped with the psychological side.

  2. Realize that if he's been constipated for a long time it could take several WEEKS (according to Dr. Sears) for his colon to clear out and him to feel the urge to go in time, so try #3 for a long time and give him a pardon on the pants pooping. Also he could avoid the potty because his rectum hurts more when he sits, try to give him a stool to prop up his feet and take the tension of the sore area. Don't make him sit for hours if he's not feeling the urge he's not going to go. But when he's making that 'face' go immediately every time. You have to enforce the stop what you're doing habit. Using flaxseed oil has helped with the pain in general. The poops have been huge, but she's said they don't hurt, which is surprising.

  3. To help clean out the colon I give my daughter the following breakfast or meal once a day at first and three times a week now to help her get more regular:

    • 1 tablespoon -- of organic cold-pressed flaxeed oil (Barlean's Plain unfiltered)
    • 4-8ozs -- of whole milk 6 active cultures vanilla yogurt (Stonyfield) (you want the extra cultures to prevent adding to the problem)
    • 2 drops - of red food dye (I know, but it hides the yellow from the flaxseed and my girl is picky) we named it magenta after blues clues you can also use strawberries or other fruit to mask the taste (slightly oily)
  4. If you can find the episode of Daniel Tiger where Prince Wednesday goes to the potty it has a great song that helps my daughter stop playing and go potty. I also 'extend' her play time by 5min etc. if she stops so she knows she's not losing time.

She just went poop free on the panties this week!! Good luck! This too will pass! :)


One possible reason for such behaviour that wasn't mentioned here yet is that he might be enjoying this, while pooping in toilet might be "boring" to him.

He is probably well aware that he shouldn't be doing it and that it's "a bad thing" so that's why he keep silent when you ask him why he's doing this.

I would go and ask him "Do you enjoy doing this?" next time when it happens, then watch closely at his reaction. One good thing about children is they can't really lie.

Now if this is truly the case try explaining to him that even though he enjoys it he still should not do it, and pretty much repeat everything you tried so far; maybe after being "busted" he will give up. If he still doing it I would seek professional help, as it goes well beyond potty training.

Another possible reason that also wan't yet mentioned is Encopresis:

If your child who has bowel movements (BMs) in places other than the toilet, you know how frustrating it can be. Many parents assume that kids who soil their pants are simply misbehaving or that they're too lazy to use the bathroom when they have the urge to go.

The truth is that many kids beyond the age of toilet teaching (generally older than 4 years) who frequently soil their underwear have a condition known as encopresis. They have a problem with their bowels that dulls the normal urge to go to the bathroom — and they can't control the accidents that typically follow.

Reading your question again it's not so far fetched your son has this medical problem. Bottom line, you better consult a doctor about this.

  • 1
    +1 for mentioning Encopresis!! We also have a child with this problem and it took us years to find a doctor who really knows about Encopresis (all others did not know about it and did/could not tell us that it exists.... it's such a shame - so much time wasted and so much unnecessary suffering for the child!!) see here: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/2209/…
    – BBM
    Dec 30, 2012 at 16:59
  • Cheers @BBM must admit I stumbled upon it by chance as well, don't know anyone having that illness in person. By the way regarding your linked question, I think it would more correct if you post your last edit as additional self answer and accept it, this way it will be more simple to distinguish the problem and the "solution". :) Dec 30, 2012 at 20:20
  • thanks for your suggestion - I'll think over it, however IMHO for us this is not solved yet, it's just a shame that it took us so long to detect the "right" first step, but I'd say we are still at the beginning. :-( ...
    – BBM
    Dec 30, 2012 at 21:16
  • @BBM I surely feel your pain as a father myself.. maybe "solved" isn't the right word but you're now on the correct path and don't think there's any way to rush things any further. I really wish you this will go as smoothly and quickly as possible! Dec 30, 2012 at 21:43

I was like "what the heck could be going on!?" Until you said "autism".... Even if it's mild, this could be one of his antics, rituals etc... as odd as it may sound.

I would have said make him do all the cleaning up of the mess etc. but I bet that would be hard with him. Rewarding like you are doing is a good idea.

I've been working with Aspergers and autistic kids/adults and this works for them. This is a hard one, but it has to be broken or it will be a habit he carries into adulthood :(

Not to be cruel, but maybe bribe him with a place he likes to go... if he uses the toilet take him, if he has an accident take something that he loves away... (If he understands what he's doing is wrong) I don't really know... sorry and good luck.


Some of the suggestions here are great ideas for a new trainee. However, this questioner is asking about a five year old and has been at it for a few years now.

Take heart! Take a breath and realize it is unlikely your child is being purposefully difficult at this age and stage of the game.

This answer is pointing out the possibility of encopresis, one of a few physical ailments that can be causing the problem. A visit to the pediatrician is probably in order.

Another possibility is that it stems from a psychological/sometimes behavioral issue. In SOME circumstances, the more you bribe and cajole the more likely you are to DISCOURAGE a change in behavior if the problem stems from a behavioral issue. Often, potty problems arise in children as a statement of being able to control something (they are trying to control when they go). The more upset and flustered you are about him not using the potty the more control of you he is in. I also don't suggest punishment because even if it is behavioral, it is WAY more complicated than that, and well, I rarely think punishment helps in the long run any way. Almost never. If it is behavioral, it is hard to know the root causes and how to address them without knowing the child.

Especially if functional encopresis is found, adjust your son's diet so it is more conducive to softer stools. Hard stools can create a cycle of painful elimination, followed by "holding it" to avoid a painful stool, increasing the chances the next movement will also be painful) - Prunes and prune juice are known for having this softening effect. Speak with your pediatrician about the use of stool softeners and if he rules out physical reasons, have him/her refer to you to a good child psychologist in your area to help alleviate any fears or other issues your child may be facing that can be impacting his training success.

Update: Now that you have included the information that the child is autistic, there is a whole new level of understanding. My answer remains the same: get help from the professionals - I would just add speaking about the problem with a behavioral specialist that really knows autistic kids and their special needs. Even if your child isn't on the severe end of the spectrum, use the help you have access to because your child does have special needs.

  • concerning Encopresis our experience was, that unfortunately most doctors/teachers do not know about Encopresis... so you have to find the right doctor for that! and I absolutely agree: punishment is the wrong way.
    – BBM
    Dec 30, 2012 at 17:02

The best way to get a toddler toilet trained is to encourage. Allow him in the room while you go. Another good way is sticker charts, get him to sit on the loo with clothes on and make a big fuss of it and work down to no clothes. Each time make a fuss and give him a sticker. Then get him to actually try and poo. Make a big fuss of it. He will like to please and then try again. It takes time and some children can be 6/7 before full potty trained. The worst thing you can do is be annoyed or angry at him (don't show any emotion apart from happiness).

  • We ended up going mostly this route with our daughters, who really didn't want to go, and would run off and hide in corners of the garden etc - encouragement, stickers, etc. +1
    – Rory Alsop
    Oct 4, 2012 at 17:57
  • 1
    This question is asking about a five-year-old. A Very different developmental age than a one-two year old toddler. Dec 30, 2012 at 17:28

Let him run around the house naked. This was how we potty trained mine. Make sure he knows what's expected, and then see if he poops on the floor, or makes it to the toilet.

  • 1
    We tried that last summer, he tended to poop in a corner or the garden. Maybe we will try again this summer
    – Zachary K
    May 21, 2012 at 4:39

My son is 2 months from his 5th birthday and just now started pooping in the potty. We have been frustrated for years, since he was 2 1/2. He started doing it around 3 and got a stomach virus which put us back at square one. Everyday he would poop his pants, he did not care that he did it either. I started putting the poop in the toilet and showing him to flush it, nothing worked. Just a couple of weeks ago he got the rotacirus, which is really bad vomiting and diarrhea. He had pooped in the potty once that week before that, I was thinking this week will be awful with him having severe diarrhea in his pants. Surprising us he pooped everytime in the potty, I kept a pull-up on him the whole time and he actually got mad and wanted underwear. so we are going on week 3 of pooping in the potty. I really think its just a thing that will happen on its on, even though I have stressed over this for the pass few years. I told my Dr. about it about 6 months ago, and she said to give it a few more months and then they can check on some things, but I decided to wait till his 5 year check up and now we dont have to worry about that. Good luck with the training.

  • Also we have a 3 year old who was pooping way before our son was and that still did not make him want to. It just like one day he woke up and did it all by himself. He goes now without telling us until he is done and yells for us to wipe him.
    – Sheree
    Dec 11, 2012 at 22:58
  • Welcome to the site Sheree Dec 11, 2012 at 23:43

Does he go to daycare? Usually, seeing other kids use the toilet helps.

  • 9
    Yes, in his 2nd year. It seems to make no difference. I can only hope he is so resistant to peer pressure when he is 15 and someone tries to get him to smoke a joint
    – Zachary K
    May 18, 2012 at 15:35
  • Now in his 3rd year, still nothing
    – Zachary K
    Dec 7, 2012 at 11:59

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