Toddler potty help
March 13, 2012 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Potty training question for the more experience MeFi parents out there: We've been potty training out 33 month old for the past 2.5 months with some good success overall, but we're dealing with some poop problems.

She's pretty good at peeing in the potty, although we often have to nag her to go and she tries to hold it sometimes for hours and hours out of sheer stubbornness until the inevitable occurs. But things still seem to be moving in the right direction wrt to peeing with fewer accidents and more confidence, etc.

With pooping however, she's developing the unfortunate habit of going in her diaper at bedtime. She's only about 50/50 at staying dry overnight so she's still in a diaper then (but in undies during the day). What's been happening is this: lots of farting during the day making it clear that there's a poop literally brewing in her gut, but no matter how much we get her to sit on the potty before bed she won't poop there, then when the whole bedtime routine is over (ie, potty, pj's, story, last sip of water, etc) and she's mostly settled down, THEN she poops her diaper.

She seems genuinely upset about this happening but no matter how much we encourage her to sit on the potty and get her to agree to call us if she's about to poop so we can take her to the potty, it still happens. During the day she's on and off with poop successes, but she has shown herself to be capable of getting to the potty on time. The worry is that she's getting conditioned to poop under these specific circumstances, and that it will be even more difficult to break this habit and make the move to fully potty trained.

We're at a loss as to how to help her go in the potty, and we feel bad about how upset she is when it happens, even though we generally keep a pretty neutral tone to accidents (although I will admit we have scolded her lightly in the past out of frustration - spend 30 minutes trying to get your kid to poop on the potty only to have them go 2 minutes after the diaper goes on will break anyone's resolve to be even toned.) Any advice out there?
posted by thelaze to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried bribery ?
posted by iamabot at 6:24 PM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: Oh yes. Chocolates are the prize both for pooping in the potty and for staying dry overnight. She's very excited to get the reward and will talk it up, like, "I won't go in my diaper, I'll poop in the potty and then I get a chocolate!", but it doesn't seem to help that much.
posted by thelaze at 6:36 PM on March 13, 2012

I dunno. She's not even 3 yet. I'd chill out, take it easy, and encourage her to poop in the potty. When she goes in her diaper, say kindly, "Next time let's poop in the potty, okay?" Oh, and can you play up how much nicer it feels to poop in the potty? I would tell my kid (who hates being wiped): "It is so much easier when you go in the potty! No wiping."

My kid, 3 and change, took to potty training very quickly, but he did prefer pooping in his diaper... in the nighttime diaper in the morning... so I got really quick at taking it off right away in the morning.

Maybe add "pooping" to the pre-bath routine? "First we poop, then we get in the bath, then get get on jammies..."

Alternatively, is her diaper dry in the morning? Can you try to just not do a diaper at night?
posted by k8t at 6:42 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would back off. Take a break from the potty training. She'll get it when she's ready, and she won't get it before then.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:45 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, to be clear: I would take a break not just because I'm a lazy parent, but to avoid her getting used to this habit.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:47 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sitting on the potty for half an hour? No wonder she's having problems. I wouldn't sit her for more than five minutes at a time. Certainly not more than ten. Even ten is a lot. She's young and she's doing her best. Scolding will only make things worse.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:50 PM on March 13, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Back off and ignore it for six months. A friend just went through a similar issue with his almost-three year old, and ignoring it fixed the problem, because the kid learned when she was ready. For the next six months, no more "trying," no more "rewards," just don't talk about it. If she does use the toilet, you can praise her, but if she doesn't, change her diaper and say nothing, just as you would have a year ago. If she doesn't express interest in trying again herself, you can bring the topic up again in six months (when she'll presumably have forgotten whatever frustration or upset she's feeling now) and ask whether she'd like to try again. But for now, ignore it. She's still a baby, and she has plenty of time to learn this over the next several months or years, well within the range of normal development. It's clear that this has become really stressful for your whole family, so try not to let this early effort get the adults in the household upset either.
posted by decathecting at 6:59 PM on March 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

At the point you really want to push potty training, no more diapers. You'll have a brutal two weeks or so, but then it gets better. And oxiclean is fabulous at poop stains. Just soak the ( rinsed) underpants for a couple three days.

(if she's typically staying dry at night --- you didn't say --- then you could switch to underpants all the time. )
posted by leahwrenn at 7:05 PM on March 13, 2012

Yes, you absolutely need to be less worried about her pooping in her diaper and not on the toilet. The more anxious you make her the more she'll associate the toilet with stress. There was a thread about this recently. You don't want it to get that bad. Just relax and she'll follow your lead. No pressure, and no 30-minutes on the toilet! Five minutes is enough. Also, maybe try switching poopy time to after her bath? It might be more relaxing and more comfortable, even though it seems like the less hygienic thing to do!
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:09 PM on March 13, 2012

Best answer: Yep, take a nice long break and then try again. She's telling you -- albeit not with words -- that she's not ready yet.

What worked for us, when my son was ready: First poop in the potty = big prize (a Thomas train he'd really been wanting). And we talked about this a lot beforehand -- "When you're ready to put your poo-poo in the potty..." After that success, we made a chart for 5 poops in the potty and marked each one off with a sticker, then after five = another big present. Then we made a chart for 30 poops in the potty, which resulted in a much-desired trip to Legoland. And once he had made 30 poops in the potty he was totally done with his diaper.

The key throughout this whole process: No punishment or discussions or anything, when there was a poop in a diaper. No stickers were taken away, for example. Just positive reinforcement via rewards for success.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:29 PM on March 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I agree with backing off for now. Another thing that we did was to let him see me transfer the poo from the diaper into the potty (or toilet)and then flush it. Sometimes saying "bye-bye poo!" and making happy noises. He learned that was where poo goes.
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 7:41 PM on March 13, 2012

Chiming in to agree with everyone else suggesting to dial it back a bit. She's not ready, and that's okay. I understand how much *you* want this to happen, but patience is the better course here.

Anecdata: My son was compliant about sitting on the potty and wearing underwear at preschool for months and months before he was actually able to recognize the urge to pee or poop on his own. But once he got it, he got it. And your daughter will get it too- she's just not there yet.

As my pediatrician (and probably many others) said, "you can start potty training at two and have them potty trained at three, or you can start potty training at three and have them potty trained at three."
posted by ambrosia at 7:48 PM on March 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: For many, potty training actually turns into parent training to be crazy about pottying. She wants to be a big, grown-up girl. She will be when she's ready.
posted by Kronur at 8:01 PM on March 13, 2012

Nth the waiting. Nth ambrosia: "start at two, success at three. Start at three, success at three."

The advice we got was "wait until she's three." We followed that advice. Plus jr. Mints and she was potty trained about a month or so after her third birthday. It was a while after that we stopped having her wear her diaper at night.

Post potty training she still needed some reminding. She would get busy playing and then have an accident. We only had a couple of poopy underpants incidents.

Good luck. Be patient!

our first and only kid btw.
posted by hot_monster at 9:41 PM on March 13, 2012

I agree to give her some time. Keep having her go during the day but ease up on worrying about it.

Also, chocolate is not nearly great enough as far as bribery goes. You have to find out what she really loves and reward her with that.

With my daughter we got her a ring that looked just like the one I wear. At that age she wanted to be just like Mommy, so we ran with it. In the morning when she took off the pull-up and went potty she'd get the ring to wear. If she had an accident then she had to take the ring off. She'd get it back the next time she successfully went potty. (She was already 5 at that point, I was scared to death she wouldn't be ready for Kindergarten. With the ring she was out of pull-ups during the day in a week.)

We did something similar with my oldest son but for him it was a necklace he liked. He didn't really need it though, he just saw what big sister was doing and did it too. They were both potty trained about the same time. Since I was already running her to the bathroom I'd just ask him if he needed to go too. He was at the age where he idolized big sister. That was enough for him.

My youngest son didn't want jewelry. I don't like using food as a reward, so we didn't do candy. What worked for him was balloons. Our local Wal-Mart will sell a helium balloon for 50 cents and my son adores those balloons. We made him a deal that if he stayed clean and dry until it was time for Daddy to come home (5:30 PM) then Dad would stop and pick him up a balloon. Considering how many diapers we were going through in a day, a little balloon was worth the value.

The youngest went nuts. It took about two weeks of only getting balloons every other day before he just got it. After a week of him getting balloons every day we got him a huge bunch and declared him potty trained. (We still reward him with balloons, just not for going potty during the day. Now he gets one if he wakes himself up and goes at night.)


Wait a few months and then try better bribery with something your kid is obsessed with.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:44 PM on March 13, 2012

At about that age, I made little fuss other than 'Dipes are a drag.' My son got a few M&Ms for sitting on the potty, with or without success, and a successful potty visit got a Matchbox car. Took about a dozen Matchbox cars.
posted by theora55 at 9:53 PM on March 13, 2012

Nothing backing off. Likely these issues are happening because you guys are pushing. Stop nagging.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:44 PM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice.

A couple of clarifications:

-We never force her to stay on the potty for 30 minutes or anything like that. She always determines when she is done. The longest she has ever stayed on is probably 15 or 20 minutes, and the remainder of the '30 minutes' from above is us talking to her about going when she feels farts, etc as she gets in to her pjs. In all cases (nagging, otherwise) all we do is get her on the potty - she decides when to get up (successful or not).

-We originally did the 'put your turd in the potty, flush it' routine after accidents, but once she started doing it in the potty (during the day) we eliminated that part. She obviously understands where it is supposed to go (talks about it, etc.).

-She isn't reliably dry at night, but about 50%. We have considered dropping the nighttime diaper and just dealing with the mess but it seems like that might stress her out more.

-We have no problem with waiting it out for another couple of months. The problem is that we're concerned she is developing conditioning to do it in a certain way at a certain time. She is definitely holding it and waiting until she is in bed. This seems like something that we will have to work harder to unwind if it continues. Even that would be OK but in the utter absence of scolding (except maybe one or two times) she is extremely upset when it happens. How do we 'back off' from here, outside of putting her back in a diaper during the day (even though she is 90% accident free during the day)?

Thanks again for the comments and anecdotes.
posted by thelaze at 6:37 AM on March 14, 2012

If you can tell when she needs to poop, can you ask her "Do you need to poop?" and give her the choice or a potty or a diaper perhaps?
posted by k8t at 6:51 AM on March 14, 2012

She is definitely holding it and waiting until she is in bed. This seems like something that we will have to work harder to unwind if it continues.

It's not uncommon for kids to hold their poop and create problems doing so. Talk to your pediatrician! It may be that she's had a few painful poops in the past, and she's now a little anxious about pooping (totally common, btw) and a stool softener can help a lot in this regard.
posted by ambrosia at 7:54 AM on March 14, 2012

How do we 'back off' from here, outside of putting her back in a diaper during the day (even though she is 90% accident free during the day)?

posted by The corpse in the library at 10:19 AM on March 14, 2012

If you shorten up the first (doomed) try earlier in the routine, can you add in one more stop on the potty just before climbing into bed?

And yeah, maybe let it go for now, especially since she's still weaing a diaper at night.

Fourth child potty-trained last year.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:48 AM on March 14, 2012

It seems like she's going after she's full relaxed. Could you make it so the bedtime ritual starts earlier and just before she lays down, *then* she's invited to the potty?

on preview: what wenestvedt said.
posted by batmonkey at 2:17 PM on March 14, 2012

Stop buying diapers and count them down until they are gone. There were some turds here and there and some 3 am emergency baths, but the kids don't like turds sliding down their leg. It took about a month.

Now it's on to self-wiping and "Why do you hold it all day?"
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:08 PM on March 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks very much for all the advice. We went with the widely recommended "back-off" approach and it worked! We basically stopped talking about pooping at all unless she brought it up, changed her diaper with minimal commentary and neutral disposition and just waited. A few weeks went by and lo and behold, she started going all by herself to the potty to poop. I think the combination of us taking the pressure off, plus a few random successes here and there and she built up her confidence. For the last couple of weeks she has gone nearly every day all by herself!

We don't even have to nag her to go for a pee anymore - she just up and goes when she feels the need. We still have the odd accident (usually if she's distracted or playing, etc) and we still ask her if she needs to go just as a reminder but we pretty much leave the rest up to her. Lots of praise for going, etc., and "it's no big deal" for accidents. She still gets treats for success, so we'll have to think of a way to dial that back eventually.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by thelaze at 5:33 PM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wonderful! Congrats to all of you!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:48 PM on April 19, 2012

That's awesome!! Hooray!

(we had 9 months of trying to figure out potty training (and several askme questions) that seems to have recently straightened out, so I really understand how great it is!)
posted by leahwrenn at 9:09 AM on April 23, 2012

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