My daughter is 2 years, 7 months old, and we started potty-training her two months ago. She's gotten to the point where she's great at peeing - not only no accidents, but all-around promptness, awareness and control - but has no control at all over bowel movements. This might actually be a full-blown regression, since she used to sometimes make them on the potty, but in the past couple of weeks she never does. Also, her BM timing is extremely unreliable - she seems to need to go at vastly different times from day to day.

I'm not seeing any obvious problem. She's generally cheerful and likes going to the potty; she doesn't seem anxious about it (though sometimes she is not shy about not wanting to go :P). We're always encouraging and we try to avoid any sense of pressure. A lot of the online advice I've found says the likeliest culprits are stool consistency, and discomfort on the potty, but I'm not seeing any signs of either of those. Possibly she isn't ready yet, and we've simply started too early. It's very hard to say.

This being the case, and assuming we don't see drastic improvement quite soon - how should we continue with her training? We've heard a lot of advice frowning on returning to diapers, and that seems like it would undermine all the progress we've made over the past couple of months. On the other hand, I don't know that it's good for her to be "missing" all the time - all the cleanups, "boring" time waiting on the potty, a sense of failure, getting asked if she needs to go... I'm worried that if this builds up over time, it might stress her out.

What options should we consider? Tough it out? Take a break? Or is there some middle-way compromise, something we can do to take the pressure off of pooping without going back to diapers?

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    I would actually need more info to properly answer this one. Does it bother her to be poopy? Does she notice? Does she go and squat in a corner or does she just poo where she is? The answers to these questions have to do with determining "readiness." Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 22:59
  • @balancedmama: Thanks! She'll sometimes she'll say something like "I want to be changed!". (Once or twice it's been "I don't want to be changed!") But often, nothing at all (at her daycare, she often doesn't tell when she poops). She doesn't squat or do much of anything different when she poos; I can hardly ever tell "during", only after. (OTOH, she will often give advance warnings of her own volition. They're just... not very precise... or maybe she warns because she feels, then doesn't make on the potty, then makes when she's more comfortable.)
    – Ziv
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 23:06
  • Try asking her "Do you want to poo in the potty?" Assuming she says "yes" then tell her "Great, so please tell me next time before you need to poo" and see how she reacts. I believe she is aware of her body enough to tell when she has a BM coming, she just doesn't have a good enough reason to handle it. Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 11:20

1 Answer 1


It sounds like she may be "in control" of knowing when something is coming, but is a little fearful of it. This can happens for lots of reasons that are impossible for me to know sitting on the other side of the computer screen, and may be difficult for you to figure out - including uncomfortably large or hard poops that have caused her to try to hold it to more psychological reasons that would require the help of a professional (and lots of things in-between).

Have you asked her about it when she is not headed for the potty (or messy)? Something like, "honey, is there a reason you know that makes you not put your poo poo in the potty?" You might have to try a few times, but, if asked in a calm, casual way and given time to think about and formulate an answer - she might surprise you with a clear answer.

If you think her poops might be uncomfortably large/hard for her and some constipation may be an issue - check with your pediatrician about dietary changes and stool softeners to help ease things along.

For some children, a fear of the toilet flushing what they see as a part of themselves away can become an issue. If you think this may be the case, it is healthy to talk about her poops as "presents for the potty." When she has accidents, make sure she sees you put the poop in the potty, say "bye bye poo poo" and "you're welcome potty" and make a game or ritual out of flushing the poop. After a little time has passed, you may find she might start a "more direct approach" to offering up her poop to the potty.

It is a different set of signals for the brain, and although there is more time between feeling the "need to go" and the actual "going" especially for a child that wants to be moving and playing sitting and waiting long enough is pretty hard. If you do decide to keep at it, I suggest sticking pretty close to home for awhile and spending every hour to hour and a half in the bathroom (with her on the potty) reading books and singing songs for ten to fifteen minutes. Try to make the bathroom a fun place to be so that "wait" doesn't seem like a loss in play time and a big old bore.

It is also possible that she isn't quite ready yet. For some reason, using the potty for poop is harder for some kids than using it for pee. You could take a break for awhile. Many people warn strongly against this. With kids that are completely ready and are in the middle of things but training just becomes inconvenient stopping in the middle can make things more complicated. However, you're already stalled and she may be mostly there, just not quite. It isn't likely to make things worse to take a little break - as long as she knows the break isn't happening because of her. I'd suggest asking her what she thinks to be sure you don't create the situation where in her mind, the break happened because she failed. "Hey, do you want to keep trying with putting your poo poo's in the potty for awhile, or would you like to take a little break and try again in a couple of months?" She may have an opinion on the matter.

Kids are training a little later than they used to these days, so You are probably fine, if by the time she is 3 yrs 2 months or so, she still isn't using the potty for both, definitely ask a pediatrician about it so that if it is one of those other more serious reasons you can get her the help she needs. In all likelihood things will work themselves out before then though. Good luck.

  • Our daughters both went through a phase of wanting to examine their 'productions', and being the ones to 'pull the chain'.
    – Benjol
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 7:08

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