How to Get a Toddler to Poop on the Potty: Effective Strategies

Potty training is a major milestone for toddlers and their parents, but it can sometimes be a challenging process, particularly when it comes to pooping on the potty. It’s not uncommon for toddlers to experience some resistance or even fear when making the transition from diapers to using the toilet for bowel movements. However, with patience, understanding, and some strategies in place, parents can help their little ones overcome these obstacles and achieve potty training success.

One key element in encouraging a toddler to poop on the potty is to create a comfortable and positive environment around using the toilet. This includes ensuring that the child feels safe and secure sitting on the toilet, offering praise and rewards for successful attempts, and maintaining consistent, supportive communication with the child. Additionally, it’s important to address any underlying issues that may be contributing to a toddler’s reluctance to poop on the potty, such as constipation, which can create an unpleasant and even painful experience for the child.

By breaking down the process into manageable steps and providing ongoing encouragement, parents can help their toddler gain the confidence needed to fully embrace potty training.

Signs of Readiness

When it comes to toilet training, it’s essential to identify the signs that indicate your toddler is ready for the next step. Proper timing plays a crucial role in the success of the training process. Typically, children start developing the necessary physical and cognitive skills between 18 and 24 months; however, some may not be ready until they’re 3 years old.

One of the primary signs that your child is ready for toilet training is their ability to walk to and sit on a toilet. It’s essential for the child to have the independence and mobility to reach the potty without assistance. Additionally, their daytime bladder control must be reliable, which usually occurs when the child is between two-and-a-half to 3 years old.

Your toddler’s behavior can also indicate readiness for potty training. Some clear signs include:

  • Asking to use the potty
  • Showing interest in wearing “big kid” underwear
  • Telling you when their diaper needs changing
  • Heading to a private room or hiding behind furniture to pee or poop
  • Pointing to or touching their diaper when they’re in the process of peeing or pooping

To ensure success, it’s essential to establish a schedule and maintain consistency during toilet training. Responding to your child’s signs of readiness can help them transition smoothly from diapers to using the potty independently. Remember to make the training process positive, non-threatening, and natural, as suggested by the Cleveland Clinic.

With a keen eye for these signs of readiness and a carefully crafted toilet training plan, your child will be on the path to mastering their potty skills.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Choosing the Right Potty

When you begin potty training, it’s important to choose a child-sized potty that your toddler feels comfortable using. A potty that is too big, too small, or feels unstable can hinder their progress. Consider the following when selecting a potty:

  • Size: The potty should be low enough for your toddler to sit on it easily, with their feet touching the ground.
  • Stability: Look for a potty with a wide base and non-slip features to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Design: Opt for a potty with a simple, uncluttered design to minimize distractions.

Using a Step Stool

If your child prefers to use a regular toilet, it’s essential to make it more accessible by providing a step stool. A sturdy step stool with non-slip features can help your toddler feel more secure when climbing onto and off the toilet. Additionally, a step stool enables them to have their feet firmly planted on a surface, which helps with bowel movements.

The Role of Underwear

Switching from diapers to underwear is a crucial step in the potty training process. Underwear provides an additional sensory cue for your child, as it feels different when wet or soiled. Consider the following aspects when introducing underwear:

  • Fit: Choose snug-fitting, comfortable underwear that’s easy for your child to pull up and down.
  • Style: Opt for fun designs and colors that your child likes, to make the transition from diapers more appealing.
  • Training pants: Consider using disposable training pants during the transitioning period, as it offers the benefits of both diapers and underwear.

Establishing a Routine

Establishing a consistent potty training routine for your toddler is crucial to helping them feel more comfortable and confident with the process. Start by scheduling specific times throughout the day during which your child can sit on the potty. Aim for moments when you think they’re most likely to need to use it, such as after waking up with a dry diaper or 45 minutes to an hour after drinking lots of liquids1.

Each time your child uses the potty, take some time to celebrate their success with them. Cheer together as they flush the toilet, and consider using a sticker chart to showcase their accomplishments. Encouraging your child to tell other family members about their achievements can help build pride in their progress.

Helping your toddler understand that everybody poops is equally important. Read books that discuss this topic, such as the popular children’s book “Everyone Poops” by Taro Gomi. Reinforcing the idea that going to the bathroom is a normal and natural process can alleviate some of the anxiety they might have around pooping in the potty.

Make the bathroom a comfortable and inviting space for your toddler. You could:

  • Add decorations or fun, colorful items to create a pleasant environment
  • Place a step stool for easier access to the toilet
  • Provide a small selection of books or toys to keep them entertained while sitting on the potty

Remember, it’s essential to take a gentle approach during this process. Allow your child to sit on the potty for a few minutes, but be prepared to let them get up if they express discomfort or unwillingness2. Progressing at a pace that suits them can make the overall experience more enjoyable and successful for both you and your child.

Positive Reinforcement Strategies

Praise and Encouragement

One of the most effective ways to help your toddler learn to use the potty is through positive reinforcement. When your child successfully uses the potty, be sure to offer them praise and encouragement. Compliment their efforts by saying things like “Great job!” or “You did it!”. This will help your child feel proud of their accomplishment and motivate them to keep trying.

It’s also important to remain patient and supportive when your child has accidents or struggles with using the potty. Instead of scolding or showing disappointment, remind your little one that it’s okay and it takes time to learn new things.

Sticker Chart

Another popular positive reinforcement strategy is the use of a sticker chart. Create a simple chart with columns for each day of the week and rows for the different potty-related tasks, such as sitting on the potty, peeing, and pooping. Each time your child completes one of these tasks, they can place a sticker in the corresponding spot on the chart.

Not only does the sticker chart provide a visual representation of your child’s progress, but it also offers them an exciting way to celebrate their successes. You can experiment with different types of stickers, like ones featuring their favorite characters or animals, to make the process even more enjoyable.

Remember, these strategies aim to support your toddler as they transition from diapers to using the potty. By using praise, positive reinforcement, and a sticker chart, you can make the potty training experience less stressful and more fun for both you and your little one. Keep in mind that every child learns at their own pace, so patience and consistency are key during this process.

Addressing Fears and Anxiety

Toddlers often experience fear and anxiety when it comes to using the potty for pooping. It’s essential to address these emotions in a supportive and understanding way to help them overcome their apprehensions.

One common fear that children may experience is the act of flushing. The loud noise can be startling for toddlers, so initially avoiding flushing while they are still in the bathroom might help alleviate this fear. Over time, you can gradually introduce them to the flushing process, and celebrate together after a successful potty session to make it a positive experience 1.

When your child is scared to poop on the potty, try using techniques to help them feel more secure and comforted. One approach is to sit the child on the toilet either with a pull-up that has a hole cut in the bottom, allowing the poop to fall into the toilet, or have an adult hold the child’s sides while they’re seated with no pull-up 2. This gradual approach helps them become comfortable with the process.

It’s also essential to maintain open communication with your toddler about their fears and anxiety. Encourage your child to express their feelings and offer reassurance. Help your child identify the problem, sympathize with their emotions, and together, find practical solutions 3.

Incorporating a routine can be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety surrounding potty time. Try visiting the potty after meals, as this is when they’re more likely to need to poop 4. Additionally, creating a calm and relaxing environment in the bathroom can help make the experience less intimidating for your toddler.

Finally, using rewards and positive reinforcement can be instrumental in addressing your child’s fear and anxiety surrounding using the potty. Creating a sticker chart to celebrate their successes can help build pride and confidence in their progress 1.

By addressing your toddler’s fears and anxiety in a supportive and patient manner, you can help them successfully make the transition to using the potty for pooping.

Diet and Stool Softeners

A healthy diet plays a crucial role in preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements in toddlers. Including fiber-rich foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help maintain proper digestion and prevent stool issues. For instance, you can serve high-fiber foods like prunes, pears, and whole grains to promote regular bowel movements.

In addition to a fiber-rich diet, ensure that your toddler has an adequate fluid intake. Encourage them to drink around 2 to 4 cups of water per day, as it helps soften stools. You may also offer small amounts of fruit juices like prune or pear juice, which can provide gentle relief from constipation.

If your toddler experiences constipation despite a high-fiber diet and adequate fluid intake, you may consider incorporating stool softeners or fiber supplements, but only as advised by your pediatrician. Consult your doctor before using over-the-counter products like Metamucil or Citrucel.

Here are a few diet and stool softener tips to keep in mind:

  • Serve a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your toddler’s diet
  • Encourage fluid intake, especially water
  • Offer small amounts of prune or pear juice to help with constipation
  • Consult your pediatrician before using any stool softeners or fiber supplements

Managing your toddler’s diet and incorporating stool softeners when necessary can make a big difference in helping them establish a successful potty training routine. Remember to always consult your doctor for any concerns related to your child’s bowel habits or constipation.

Dealing with Encopresis and Stool Withholding

Encopresis, a condition where a child has difficulty with bowel movements, can sometimes result from stool withholding. When a child resists the urge to go, stool collects in their colon and hardens, making potty training more challenging 1.

Recognize the Signs

To help your child overcome encopresis and stool withholding, it’s essential first to recognize the signs. Symptoms can include:

  • Avoiding or fear of using the toilet
  • Straining when trying to pass stools
  • Soiled underwear

Remove the Stool Ball

In cases where encopresis has caused a buildup of hard stool, it’s crucial to remove the stool ball to allow for smoother bowel movements. This may involve using laxatives, enemas, or consulting with your child’s doctor.

Ensure Soft Stools

To prevent further stool buildup and promote regular bowel movements, ensure your child has soft, manageable stools by:

  • Giving them stool softeners or laxatives, as recommended by a doctor
  • Encouraging a high-fiber diet (fruits, whole grains, vegetables)
  • Offering plenty of water to drink

Implement Scheduled Sitting

Help your child establish a routine by scheduling regular toilet sitting times each day. To motivate them, provide a special toy or electronic device used only during toilet time.

Encourage Open Communication

Finally, make sure you maintain open communication with your child about their bowel movements and offer support as they work through any fears or anxieties associated with using the potty.

Remember, overcoming encopresis and stool withholding may take time and patience, but with persistence and a supportive environment, your child can eventually establish healthy habits and successful potty training.

When to Consult a Pediatrician

It’s essential to know when it’s time to consult a pediatrician regarding your toddler’s potty training struggles. There could be underlying medical conditions that might be causing the difficulty in using the potty for bowel movements.

One common issue is stool withholding, in which a child avoids having bowel movements. This can be completely normal, according to pediatric gastroenterologist Deborah Goldman, MD. However, it’s crucial to monitor your child’s progress and consult a pediatrician if you notice any other symptoms or unusual behaviors.

In some cases, toddlers may struggle with a condition called dyschezia, where they cannot coordinate their abdominal and pelvic floor muscles together to push poop out. This condition typically resolves by the sixth to the ninth month of age; however, if it persists or causes severe discomfort, it’s essential to consult a pediatrician.

While potty training, also keep an eye out for other issues such as bedwetting or urinary tract infections (UTIs). Although these problems can be common during the potty training process, frequent occurrences may warrant a visit to the pediatrician to rule out any underlying issues. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines on potty training, which can be an excellent resource for parents.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, it might also be helpful to bring up any concerns during your child’s regular check-ups. Don’t hesitate to discuss any worries about your toddler’s progress, even if it isn’t directly related to a specific medical condition. Your child’s pediatrician will provide personalized guidance and recommendations for your unique situation.

Remember that potty training is a process, and every child reaches milestones at different times. It’s crucial to be patient and supportive during this period. If you suspect any medical condition or observe persistent issues despite trying various strategies, consult a pediatrician for expert advice.

Overcoming Power Struggles and Frustration

One common issue parents face while potty training their toddlers is a power struggle. Toddlers often attempt to assert control over their bodies and actions, which can lead to resistance when it comes to pooping on the potty. To avoid this and help your child become more comfortable with using the potty, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy, patience, and the right strategies.

Firstly, try engaging your child in problem-solving. Allow them to come up with ideas and solutions for making their potty experience more enjoyable. Offering them choices, like picking a favorite potty seat design, can give them a sense of control and responsibility without feeling forced or pressured. Giving a sense of autonomy might lessen their resistance and improve their willingness to use the potty (source).

  • Empathy: See things from your child’s perspective and validate their feelings
  • Choices: Offer choices that allow your child to feel involved and in control
  • Responsibility: Encourage them to take responsibility for their potty habits

Instead of opting for punishment or shaming, it is more effective to provide gentle and consistent consequences for not using the potty. For example, calmly explain that if they don’t poop on the potty, they will have to help with clean-up. This approach enables your child to understand the natural consequences of their behavior and helps them make better choices in the future.

Keep in mind that patience is key during this process. It’s important to avoid rushing or pushing your child to use the potty if they are not ready. Also, be prepared to switch tactics or take a break from potty training if you notice that your current approach is only leading to frustration and power struggles.

Finally, consider incorporating a stool softener into your child’s routine, as it might help make the process easier and more comfortable for them. Remember to consult your pediatrician before introducing any medication or supplement.

By focusing on empathy, providing choices, emphasizing responsibility, and maintaining patience, you are more likely to handle power struggles and frustration effectively during the potty training process.

Addressing Accidents and Setbacks

It is common for toddlers to experience accidents and setbacks during the potty training process. Addressing these issues with patience and understanding can help your child feel more comfortable using the potty.


When accidents happen, remain calm and composed. Gently remind your child that accidents are a part of learning, and reinforce the idea that using the potty is the right thing to do. Encourage your child to empty the contents of their diaper into the potty to create a connection between poop and the toilet (source).

Consider implementing a regular potty schedule, such as before and after meals, before bedtime, and at specific points throughout the day. This way, your child has frequent opportunities to practice using the potty (source).

Poop Accidents

Poop accidents may occur if a child experiences fear or discomfort while attempting to use the potty. In order to address these concerns, try explaining to your child that poop is not a part of their body, but instead the waste left over from the food they eat, and that it is completely harmless (source).

If your child faces challenges with poop accidents, try the following strategies:

  • Monitor their bowel movements and anticipate accidents by taking them to the bathroom 15-30 minutes beforehand (source).
  • Provide a stool for your child’s feet so they can maintain a comfortable and stable position on the toilet.
  • Offer praise and rewards for successful potty trips, which can boost their confidence and motivation.

By taking a patient and positive approach to addressing accidents and setbacks, your child will gradually feel more comfortable using the potty for bowel movements.

Special Considerations for Boys

When potty training boys, there are some specific concerns you may encounter. Boys often take a bit longer to potty train compared to girls, so being patient and staying consistent is crucial.

One approach to potty training boys is to start with sitting down to pee and poop. This can make the process less intimidating for your child and can help them understand the sensations when they need to go. As they become more comfortable sitting on the potty, you can gradually transition them to standing up to pee.

It’s essential to pay attention to your child’s schedule and natural body responses. The gastrocolic reflex is triggered shortly after meals, making it a good time for your child to sit on the potty for about 15 to 30 minutes. This increases the chances of successful bowel movements, and can help establish a consistent routine.

Here are some strategies to consider for boys:

  • Demonstrate proper technique: It may be useful for a male role model, such as a father or older brother, to demonstrate how to successfully use the toilet.
  • Target practice: Make going to the bathroom more engaging by placing a small target, like a piece of toilet paper, in the bowl for them to aim at while peeing.
  • Fun potty chairs: Find potty chairs designed specifically for boys, with features like splash guards, that can help make the process more comfortable and enjoyable.

Remember to always praise your child’s efforts and successes, avoiding punishment or shaming tactics. By making potty training a positive and non-threatening experience, your child will be more likely to feel comfortable using the potty and achieve success in the process.


  1. Nemours KidsHealth – Toilet Training 2 3 4

  2. When Your Child Is Scared to Poop on the Potty 2



About the author
Piper is a seasoned parent who has been through the ups and downs of raising toddlers. As a writer, she shares her experiences and offers practical advice to help other parents navigate the challenges of parenthood.