th-8The 2-year check-up is the perfect time to bring up the subject of potty training.  If a child begins to hide behind a chair or go in another room when he is pooping, that is a good indication that it’s time to start the process.  Let your child know that the bathroom is the new hiding place.  He can even keep some magazines (like dad!) or toys in the bathroom. When he has to poop, the idea is for him to go to his hiding place (the bathroom) for the privacy he is seeking.  The door closing is an audible alarm to parents that their child is doing his business.  Parents can then intervene and suggest that he sit on the toilet to poop. Most kids will initially refuse.  That’s fine. Let him finish up, but then clean him up right there on the bathroom floor and then ask him to sit on the toilet while you get him a clean diaper or pull-up. Allow him a little more time each day to practice sitting on the toilet before you return with a clean diaper.  He may even pee in the potty before you return!  Once he gets the idea of going into the bathroom to poop, parents should be able to get him to sit on the toilet before he poops.  Once that happens, he’s almost there.

Unless he’s not.  Barbara J. Howard, M.D. has a wonderful article in Pediatric News on the reasons why potty training struggles between parent and child can lead to “stool refusal”:

While you might consider this a failure of “toilet learning,” these children understand completely what is expected of them in the area of using the potty. They show this knowledge and the presence of the neurological integrity needed to control voids by successfully urinating in the toilet.

How much easier it would be to just finish the job! What are they thinking?! Thinking is exactly part of the problem in stool refusal.


A toddler and young preschooler’s favorite word is “No!”  Dr. Howard reminds us:

[T]eaching this task should not be undertaken when the child is in a phase of resisting every other command the parent makes! This advice is often forgotten in the urgency of the mother’s desire to return to the workplace or enroll the child in a particularly desirable day care. As the famous Dr. Barry Zuckerman points out, the anus is one of the “five orifices only the child can control” (two eyes, one mouth, urethra, and anus). If there is to be a control battle between parent and child, going to sleep, eating, and voiding are likely to be the battlefields.


Dr. Howard wants us to identify some of the reasons why children resist potty training, including  pain (due to constipation or raging diaper rashes, both of which should be treated aggressively) and fear (of separation, or of slipping into the toilet and down the drain forever!).  Of the helpful advice she gives to young parents, this is the best of all:

As part of normal toilet learning, children should be taught to recognize the feelings they have when “their poop or pee wants to come out.” We do not need to teach a child to think of their feces as having feelings since animism comes naturally! The additional information I add is about the desire of their stools to attend the “Poop Party under the house! Poops can only get there when passed into the potty chair or toilet, though, not by being dumped in from the diaper as some clever children may assert. I then turn to the parent to ask, “Do your poops go the Poop Party?” providing a knowing wink if necessary. But sadly sympathize with the child that, “Too bad, your poops don’t get to go.” Suddenly, doubt has been generated in the child about their choice to withhold!


(Image:  Yahoo! Images)