Toilet training dramas. Daughter hates potty.
October 31, 2012 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Daughter SCREAMS when I try to put her on the potty to pooh. She knows she is about to pooh, and I know it too, but when I try to put her on the potty she completely freaks out. Not sure what to do. Details within.

So, I read "oh crap potty training" by Jamie Glowacki. It had worked for a couple of friends, and I really liked the idea behind it. My daughter is 23 months and we started yesterday. I had been talking about it for a couple of weeks, how we were going to get rid of all her nappies, she was going to pee and pooh in the potty like a big girl etc etc. She seemed into it.

Yesterday was pretty rough, we stayed home, she was naked all day, I watched her and attempted to catch the pee, which I did successfully a couple of times. She didn't like being put on the potty but I managed to do it. after a few hours she was sitting on it willingly, and I thought, "Great, progress!" I managed to completely catch her first pooh, and she screamed while I was doing it, but then seemed pleased after it was done and talked about it later with what seemed like pride.

TODAY, she has simply refused to sit on the potty at all. By about 9.30 I could tell she needed to pooh, she was letting me know. But she would NOT sit on the potty. When I tried to put her there, she screamed and struggled and wouldn't sit down. Then she just kept moping around and crying because she knew she needed to pooh but refused to go on the potty. I told her we'd read her new book and that she could watch Charlie and Lola if she sat down. she wouldn't. Then she started really crying and I knew she was about to pooh. I tried to put her on the potty again but she just lost it, crying hysterically and struggling against me. She ended up poohing all over me. and then she seemed horrified at what she had done. it was awful. I had to go and clean myself off and couldn't comfort her straight away, and she was left in the lounge room screaming while I was in the bathroom taking my clothes off. It was awful!

I picked her up as soon as I could and held her and told her it was okay. she cried for quite a while and then fell asleep in my arms, she was so worn out from being so upset.

Anyway, I have no idea how to proceed. I don't want to go back to nappies because I know she's ready for toilet training, she CAN do it, she's just afraid, or something. in general she's a really smart kid, great language, good at expressing herself and knowing what she wants, etc. She is happy and well-adjusted, not in any way disturbed or strange, mostly loves life, gets along well with other kids, fairly independent, capable with lots of things, blah blah blah.

But where do I go from here? I feel she is just going to be more and more traumatised by the potty, but I know she can do it.

Any advice greatly appreciated.

(oh and I tried the Jamie Glowacki forum but it just didn't seem as helpful as mefi.)
posted by beccyjoe to Health & Fitness (40 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Turn this from a confrontation into a positive that she feels she has control over.

Right now she's fighting it. Instead of participating in that fight, by putting her on the potty, instead encourage her to use it but be OK if she does not. Make resistance boring, so you're not reinforcing it.

If she does use it, praise her!

Be OK with two steps back here, she'll come around in her time.
posted by zippy at 5:10 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you have an iPad or an iPhone? There's this app based on the book "Once Upon a Potty" and my coworkers have used it to help their children get over their fear of using the toilet. I think it's available on Android too. It could help your daughter with the transition, especially since it makes going potty less scary and more normal.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:10 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe the potty pinched her or something? Or maybe for whatever reason that first poo was painful and she associated it with the potty?

I wouldn't make her sit on it but I would tell her casually that if she poos or pees in the potty she will get a (bribe of choice.) (Other people use an m&m, or a penny, or whatever. You know your child, you'll know what would work.) Give it a couple of weeks.

But you know what? Even though she is ready, the world won't come to an end if you wait a couple of months or so.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:12 PM on October 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh, and can you have a friend with a toddler child come over? One that uses the potty? Nothing quite like seeing another child do the desired activity. In fact, that's what worked for mine.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:13 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, your baby doesn't sound ready. At 23 months, while it'd certainly be very nice if she were ready, it's not the end of the world if she needs more time. I would bring it up in conversation like you've been doing, maybe casually offer bribes (cute underwear when she's a big girl who doesn't poop in her pants anymore, if you want to avoid the candy = reward scenario) but this fight doesn't sound like something you are going to win if you press it now.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:20 PM on October 31, 2012 [10 favorites]

To me, a random person on the internet, the fact that your daughter is screaming and you are having to force her to sit on the potty, means she is not, in fact, ready to be toilet trained. If it were my child, I would back way off, leave the potty as an option only if it were her idea, go back to using diapers and try again a little further down the road. My son was the last to be toilet trained of his peer group, trained for pee several months sooner than he trained for poo, and told me "I will poo in the potty when I am three." Sure enough, a week or two after he turned 3 he started peeing AND pooing in the toilet and it was pretty much a nonevent. As parents, we can get so wrapped up in the whole potty process it's easy to sort of lose perspective on the whole thing (I know, I was one of those parents). Fact is, barring developmental issues, no one graduates from elementary school without potty training and it will happen in time.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 5:22 PM on October 31, 2012 [21 favorites]

Has it been made clear to her that poop isn't part of her body?
posted by brujita at 5:22 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ours had a similar reaction. I think it has something to do with the loss of control. Keeping her in place until the "output" worked for lil' trotsky, but she was more alarmed than terrified.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:23 PM on October 31, 2012

I should have said "barring developmental OR PHYSICAL issues."
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 5:25 PM on October 31, 2012

You can't rush potty training.

This is a process that is going to take some time to acclimatize her to doing. I am a little concerned that you might be stigmatizing her a little bit, but that's more than likely me just overthinking this.

In my experience parents tell me that it takes a few months to go from 0 to 60. It would be nice if kids would wake up one day as fully functional mini adults but that just doesn't ever happen.

Bottom line I think you may have slightly unrealistic expectations for your kid's progress, however smart they are, you are talking about your one year old child. I mean, think about it. Some kids aren't fully potty trained until 5 or 6. Aggressively pushing the issue is just going to make things much more difficult in the long run.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 5:28 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think her screaming and fighting is a pretty clear sign she is not ready. I think interest in the potty does not equal readiness. My daughter and I talked about using the potty for quite a while before she really wanted to use it. But once she was ready, it was really no big deal. She was three and she made the decision herself and that was it, no accidents, no stress.
posted by upatree at 5:31 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh man. Potty training.

It sounds like you were using a full-sized toilet. You might invest in a toddler potty (with or without music) that your kid can sit on herself. And let her have access to it and sit on it by herself whenever she wants to. Don't push the big potty.

My daughter almost fell in the big toilet once, and then for months refused to sit on the big toilet. And she was almost potty trained st that point...

M&Ms are good. E.g., sit on the potty, get an M&m. Then ... pee on the potty, get an m&m. Then, after that's easy, reserve m&ms just for pooping.

And fundamentally, it will take no more diapers, being willing to do lots of laundry, and patience.

I wouldn't force the sitting on the potty, though. You don't want to associate upset-ness with the potty.

(In my AskMe history are a number of potty-related questions. I thought I was never going to be able to train my younger daughter. I'm happy to report that she now poops on the toilet like a pooping queen. )
posted by leahwrenn at 5:39 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

[caveat: this is advice from a non-parent.]

Have you thought about getting her familiar with the potty in a non-pooing scenario? Like sit on it, fully dressed, while you read a book? Take away the fear of it via familiarity? (Also, if that first potty usage included a painful bowel movement, using the potty as a chair might help separate a connection between the potty and pain.)
posted by Kololo at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2012

@leahwrenn Not using a big toilet, just a little potty. I would definitely not try the toilet yet.

@Kololo yes we did that for a while, and she was very happy to sit on it fully clothed, but then didn't want to when naked. The thing is, yesterday, by the afternoon she was HAPPY to sit on it, and voluntarily sat on it and got a whole pee in there without me.

I really think it's not so much the potty as the poohing. She has poohed in the bath before and she screams when she is poohing in the bath. I think it's just not having the comfort of a nappy on her that worries her.

@brujita - Has it been made clear to her that poop isn't part of her body? I think you might be onto something here... maybe we need to talk about that.

Also yes I think books are a good idea.

And I really do believe she is ready. In "the old days" (pre-80s) kids were nearly always potty trained before two... my mum had all 4 of us out of nappies before 2 and it was no big deal. I do think the modern paradigm of "wait until they're ready" is largely Huggies/Pampers propaganda... controversial, I know! and I really don't want to get into an argument about this... but I believe my daughter is ready, just that I am going about it the wrong way and need to find a less stressful way of getting her to pooh without her nappy on. I think she is just freaked out by the feeling of it leaving her body, and we have to figure out how to make her okay with that, whether it's now or in 6 months time.

Thanks for everyone's advice, keep it coming!
posted by beccyjoe at 6:18 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sesame Street/Elmo's Potty Time dvd.

Pictures of kids sitting on the potty (maybe from the potty packaging, if you still have that), taped to the wall by the potty.
posted by carter at 6:24 PM on October 31, 2012

Oh, and fwiw, it isn't uncommon to be toilet trained for peeing and NOT trained just yet for pooping. If she is willing to use the potty for peeing let her.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:25 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Non-parent advice forthcoming.

Yeah, it does sound like it's the poo that's freaking her out. You're going to have to have an in-depth conversation with her about poo. :o)

The 'wait until they're ready' thing is, yes, corporate propaganda - but it's also about not forcing children to meet arbitrary benchmarks - it's about listening to the child, not to the number. It goes for everything, not just toilet training.

But, with your daughter, it sounds like it's about poo. The only other similar type of expulsion is blood/bleeding, which is of course a very negative thing for a child (pain, hurt). Poo is both positive (health, expulsion) and negative (smell, hygiene) and that's a difficult concept for a little kid who probably doesn't see a lot of pooing going on around her.
posted by heyjude at 6:57 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter was potty trained for peeing a good 4 or 5 months before she would poop in the toilet. It was all completely psychological, too: she'd come up, say she needed to poop and could we please put a diaper on her.

It took her that long to get over her fear of putting the poop in the potty. We still don't know what pushed her over. One day she just said she would and there were no problems from then on.

So it's not uncommon. Don't stress too much.
posted by gaspode at 7:11 PM on October 31, 2012

So, let me get this straight?

Monday you broached the subject of Potty.

Yesterday was the first day sans diapers, and you physically moved her onto the potty when you could tell she needed to go.

Today she is freaked out at the prospect of being physically placed onto the potty.

I would be freaked out, too, if some bigger person picked my nekkid ass up and moved me to another room/piece of furniture at arbitrary times for no apparent reason, and it was all centered around bodily functions that are normally something private that I prefer to maintain full control over without involving others.

Give it time. Let her tell you verbally when she has to go. Let it be somewhat in her control. Besides all of that, give her time to get used to all this. If tomorrow, someone told me I needed to poop in a totally different way, Friday would be pretty intense. You know?

(I would cry if I pooped in the tub, too.)
posted by Sara C. at 7:39 PM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yes, this all sounds really fast to me. Can you give her some more control over the situation? Praise her for the time she spends on the potty in any form at all, clothed, naked and peeing, just being near it. Then as she gets more and more comfortable with it you can let her help you figure out how to make pooping less scary. It seems like avoiding a negative association with the potty is a top priority.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:13 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Poop can be scary, and if she is used to going at her own pace, not comfortable to do in a strange place.

My kid did not respond to treats or stickers but did like permission to watch execrable Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs for an hour while sitting naked on his potty. When he produced something he was delighted by praise. But he was still three before he was fully trained.

This was Not An Approved Method in any books but by golly it was what worked for him. Something will work for your daughter, just give her time to figure it out with you. Be ok with staying in diapers most of the time for awhile. Avoid and ignore anyone who gives you shit ( ha!) about going slow and letting her lead.
posted by emjaybee at 8:17 PM on October 31, 2012

What worked for us was to do a week at home with no pants on. Little potties everywhere. There were accidents.
Then we did a week with yoga pants, no diaper, no undies.
Then a few weeks of yoga pants and undies.

But your child isn't even 2 yet. Don't worry about what your mom did or the conspiracy. She isn't ready.

Get some potty books and try again in a few weeks.
posted by k8t at 8:35 PM on October 31, 2012

The way it was explained to me, by an early childhood educator with four kids of her own, is that you can start potty training them at 2, and work on it for 6 months to a year, or you can start closer to 3 and be done in a month. I totally disregarded this advice, and started working on it just after she turned 2. Then gave up, and went back to it 2-3 months before her third birthday, successfully.

Let her lead. If she's willing to pee in the potty but not poo, no big deal. Praise her for the pee. Having to be aware of what is going on in your digestive tract, get to a potty on time, get undressed, sit, redressed, etc. is a lot to learn, and a really huge step. Can she undress and dress herself, by herself? That's an important skill to have before successful toileting.

You really, really, really don't want to turn this into a power struggle, especially about bowel movements. The last thing you want is for her to start holding it. Sounds like she already tried that today and failed, but with practice and enough motivation, fear or stubbornness, she will get the hang of it. And that can start a terrible cycle of hard, painful bowel movements, which lead to more holding it, which lead to still harder and more painful bowel movements. I have a friend who has the stubbornest kid I have ever met and they twice had to take her to the hospital to have an impaction removed. It was a nightmare.

It's good to trust your instincts about your kid. It's not clear to me, though, what it is about your daughter that makes you think she is ready. Screaming, the fear of the potty, the discomfort about the act of pooing, all that shows suggest to me that she isn't ready. Toileting is partly physical, but a really big part of it is psychological.

As for the Pampers conspiracy, I suppose that's possible, but the biggest proponents of child-led toileting I've known were the crunchy-granola cloth diapering set.
posted by looli at 9:15 PM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

Also, just to clarify, when I say let her lead, I don't mean wait until she's six and brings up the idea on her own. You just might want to ease up and let her set the pace and encourage her gently rather than pushing forward against her refusal.
posted by looli at 9:20 PM on October 31, 2012

My daughter was potty trained at 2 yrs 8 mos, after about 3 mos. of trying. My son was about the same age. I strongly believe your daughter is not ready. Her behavior indicates this. I know you do not want to go back to diapers but do what is best for her, not you. Try again in a few months. There may be some resistance, but not to the level you are describing, if she is really ready.
posted by cherrybounce at 9:24 PM on October 31, 2012

Btw, I am sure you know this already, but if she's pooping the tub, she is in a prime position to get her first UTI or even BV. That could make this process a lot more upsetting for her.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:42 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

A video called Potty Power did wonders for my daughter's potty training.
posted by Dansaman at 10:10 PM on October 31, 2012

Sorry to tell you this, because you've made it clear you don't want to hear it but: YOUR DAUGHTER ISN'T READY

Please - for her sake, don't push this. Just let her proceed at her own pace. Impaction and even just a tendency to hold her poo is a big deal and its just not worth it.

Heres what I did: I put toddler potties in all the toilets of the house. I didn't ask my daughter to use them, but she saw adults using the toilet and she played at it. At two, she did develop the ability to pee in the toilet (for fun) but poohing was hard and took concentration, physically controlling it wasn't easy for her and she found poo a bit scary. No matter, I let it alone and didn't even talk about it.

Shortly after she turned 3, she announced she was going to use the toilet like a big girl. I asked her if she was sure (she was). I reminded her it would be her responsibility to make sure she got to the toilet in time and that when she had to pee / pooh she should remember she didn't have a diaper. She toilet trained herself in 3 days. By 3 and a half she decided to only use big toilets and has never looked back.

This was not a pamper or huggie driven thing, but a child driven one. My daughter (around 2) did go through a phase where the toddler potty was scary and we left it entirely alone and let her come back to play with it when she was ready.
posted by zia at 11:22 PM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Perhaps putting a diaper unfolded in the potty would help. So she's pooing in the diaper whilst sitting on the potty.
posted by plonkee at 1:29 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Of course you can train her to use the potty. I'd take a gradual approach. Give small rewards for sitting on the closed potty fully clothed. M&Ms work well. Then give rewards for sitting on the closed potty wearing only a diaper. Then give rewards for sitting on the open potty wearing a diaper. Then for POOPING in the diaper.

Finally you can move to rewards for sitting naked on the potty + better rewards for pooping in the potty. At that age you can take, e.g., a small piece of candy and break it in two and voilà, you have two rewards. (Two-year-olds don't conserve volume yet so that trick works with them.) I've also seen parents use iPod, smartphone, or iPad time as a reward.

You can't FORCE a kid to sit on the potty. But you sure as hell can TEACH them to use the potty with a patient, consistent reward approach.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 4:30 AM on November 1, 2012

I had huge success with a couple of my kids by suggesting that they show [favorite toy] how big kids use the potty. Every day we picked out a different toy that wanted to know how to use the potty, and kid - who had been resisting mightily up to that point - would happy sit down and explain, "Okay, Spiderman, watch me. The first thing we do, is . . . " Action figures, baby dolls, stuffed animals, vehicles, and even a teapot got lessons. It completely changed the focus from 'Mommy is making me do this thing' to 'I get to show off what I can do!' Mine were a little older than yours at that point though.

None of my four learned to poop in the potty until long after they were peeing regularly. One kid in particular who LOVED naked time and never peed outside of the potty would beg and cry for a diaper when it was time to poop. Every time. It was the only sign she showed of needing to go - but she was miserable if she was in underwear or naked at the time. I just put her in a diaper and explained that what she felt was her body needing to get the poop out and that she could do that in the potty too. It took quite a while for her to get past it, and it was extremely frustrating for me, but she did eventually, and never had accidents once she did.
posted by Dojie at 6:00 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are seriously upping the stakes here trying to train for both pee and poo at the same time. I would absolutely step back and tell her she can poop in her diaper but there will be rewards for peeing in the potty.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:32 AM on November 1, 2012

She is not ready. "Propaganda" or not (and my mom had six kids out of dipes not until nearly three), I can only say from experience that my Five-Star Potty Pee-er took a full six months to train into pooping there too. And I tried everything, the books, the movies, forcing her to sit, bribes, positive praise, and you know what I got? A kid who refused to poop for so long that she pooped out a monstrosity of constipation after ten days of holding out. This is a futile battle. Those people who have their kids trained super early are able to do it because their kids aren't in that more self-aware stage that yours is in at nearly two. And most of the kids I know who are trained super early are more like, not really trained, but their parents are trained to know when they time their poops. If you think your kid sounds stressed out by this, then you're right - she is. Otherwise she wouldn't be screaming. Kids get worked up about weird things and they make big leaps foreward and regress back with even little stressors in life. You kinda just have to roll with it as a parent and not add anything else to the mix or you'll be the one causing unnecessary stress for you both.
posted by takoukla at 7:12 AM on November 1, 2012

In "the old days" (pre-80s) kids were nearly always potty trained before two... my mum had all 4 of us out of nappies before 2 and it was no big deal. I do think the modern paradigm of "wait until they're ready" is largely Huggies/Pampers propaganda... controversial, I know! and I really don't want to get into an argument about this... but I believe my daughter is ready, just that I am going about it the wrong way and need to find a less stressful way of getting her to pooh without her nappy on. I think she is just freaked out by the feeling of it leaving her body, and we have to figure out how to make her okay with that, whether it's now or in 6 months time.
This can be argued, but kids were not necessarily potty-trained. The parents were trained to anticipate or schedule their needs, and help them through it. A kid isn't trained until they can complete the transaction on their own, really.

When they can not only identify the need to go, but actually hold it until they're in the appropriate place, and can manage their clothing (in all weather, especially snow suits!) and wipe, and hopefully remember to wash their hands. (And, I would add, when they will use any toilet available, not just the one at home. My child is 8 1/2 and I recently had to tell her "This is possibly the cleanest Johnny on the Spot I've ever seen, and you have to learn to use them some day, and I will not walk you to a restaurant and buy something so you can use the bathroom.")

She is probably not there yet, and a five-part process is rather complicated for someone that age to handle. You probably need to break it down, so yes - peeing is success enough for now. It can take months, and sure you can train her using various methods, or she can just do it herself when she's ready. Ready comes later for some.

I work in a school, and in a kindergarten class I was working in at the beginning of the year (and yesterday when I checked back in) many of those who won't be four until January were/are not always successfully toileting themselves. Many of the four year olds aren't able to hold it for any length of time, and the idea of going before you really need to doesn't always work for them. There is always an assistant because when they are in gym or outdoors or not in their own classroom with a toilet, someone needs to go.

What is training her now going to accomplish, really? You'll just have to make mad dashes to washrooms and accidents instead of having flexibility.

Books are helpful because pictures really do help little kids with concepts. Once upon a Potty, as mentioned or Everyone Poops help them to be comfortable and have fun. In school we have pictures of the process (use toilet, wipe, FLUSH, wash hands) posted in the kindergarten washrooms.

And in the kindy room I worked in, I was pleased to learn that one child no longer feels the need to spend ten minutes pooping completely naked at exactly the time 24 other children need to head out to recess. It is really hard to be calm, supportive and understanding at times like that. I wish you luck, and I understand that you're ready, but think that she's probably not.
posted by peagood at 7:16 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My daughter went through something very similar. I talked to her for a while to find out WHY she was terrified of pooping, and it turns out she didn't know what happens to the poop when it goes in the potty. We talked about where it goes (we have a septic system so it plays in the yard with Mommy and Daddy's poops), and I got her Everyone Poops and Where's the Poop? books. Allowed her to read them while sitting clothed on the potty, then naked on the potty, then all of a sudden it was SO not a big deal. And we talked for several months about what happens when she goes potty; she was fascinated that they go to the yard.

Talk to her about why she's scared. See if you can help her articulate the reasons, and then help her fix them. And as everyone else has said, give it time; when she's ready, that light switch will flip on.
posted by tigerjade at 8:27 AM on November 1, 2012

Thanks all. I understand that peeing and poohing might happen in different time frames - thanks for pointing that out - the toilet training book I read did not seem to think this was the case...

So what do I do if we are hanging out naked and peeing on the potty but not poohing? Put a nappy back on her for the pooh? What did others do?
posted by beccyjoe at 12:54 PM on November 1, 2012

Yes, that's exactly what I've done. Keep her naked unless she's distressed by it - then let her wear a diaper if she wants to. When she poos in her diaper, clean it up and leave her naked again.

Dumping the poo out of the diaper into the toilet and flushing it down helps to make the connection too.
posted by Dojie at 2:12 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

My older daughter was out of diapers before she was three during the whole day, and used the potty to pee in. She would wear a night time diaper and poop in it at bedtime, like clockwork. She simply would not poop in the potty until she was very well ready. I think she liked the feeling of the diaper. She finally started to go in the potty at around 3 1/4. There was no real trick to it- she was just ready. Your daughter doesn't sound ready- I don't know many two-year-olds who are really ready to fully learn, and go independently.
posted by percor at 5:52 PM on November 1, 2012

Wow, I really appreciate all this great advice. THANKS METAFILTER MUMS and DADS and NON-PARENTS WITH OPINIONS!! You've all been helpful.

I am totally going to ease up. We are back in nappies today because yesterday was just too stressful. But she has been talking about peeing and poohing in the potty today, so I know she's interested. We started watching the Elmo video but it is SO American (we are Australian) and I think she finds it hard to relate to, also it does seem aimed at older kids, I wonder if there is anything simpler out there that is effective...
posted by beccyjoe at 7:35 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry that dvd didn't work out, beccyjoe :(
posted by carter at 6:57 AM on November 7, 2012

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