The Poop Problem: How to get your toddler to poop in the potty, not on the floor
So it’s been a few days, or a few weeks, and your toddler has mastered peeing on the potty. Yay! That’s great news! But wait. There’s poop on the floor. Or in his bed. Or in his undies. Again. Sound familiar? It definitely does to me. I just got out of that tired old song and dance, thank God, with my second toddler. You may be about to pull your hair out right now, thinking the poop problem will never end. I get it. It’s frustrating. SO frustrating. But I am here to give you a (virtual) hug and reassure you that it will end. It always does. And in fact, I’ve gleaned some tips and tricks from this last go around that may help you get through the poop problem a little sooner. So buckle up and get ready to talk poop!
First you need to identify what kind of a pooper you have. Is she distracted? Has FOMO (fear of missing out) and just wants to get off the potty to get back to her toys? Or is she scared of pooping on the potty? Or maybe she feels exposed and needs a little privacy. Whatever your situation, I would take a few days to simply observe her behavior, no stress or judgement over accidents that will inevitably happen, and then come up with a plan that best serves her. You can also reference my favorite potty training book, Oh Crap! Potty Training By Jamie Glowacki or visit her website or Facebook page to get targeted help or tips. But if you think you have a good idea of what’s going on with your toddler, here are some tips and tricks you can try to help motivate them to put their poop in the potty, not on your favorite vintage rug.
Keep A Stash of “Potty Books”
With my first, potty training was fairly quick and easy, but with my second, we faced almost every scenario outlined above. One of those scenarios was his short attention span. If the poop didn’t come in a matter of minutes he was off and playing. At first I figured he didn’t have to go and let him get off the potty. Until he started getting up only to poop on the floor. Over. And over. And over again. I tried to entice him by reading books, singing songs, heck, I even resorted to cartoons at times. Nothing seemed to work, and I did not want to get stuck in a habit of watching cartoons on the can. So I came up with another plan. I bought three new books online and when they arrived we tried a new approach. Now, I’m not talking about any old average books. I’m talking about the good stuff. A seek-and-find book, a squeak toy book and a Bizzy Bear book with interactive slide tabs on every page. These were special “Potty Books” that he only got to look at while he sat on the potty. Was it a bribe? Maybe. But it made potty time enjoyable and the seek-and-find book especially kept him engaged for long periods of time until... Plop! We got a poop in the potty. Then another and another. The more often he pooped on the potty the more normal it felt to him. So bribe or no bribe, it worked.
For a brief stint in the beginning of our successes on the potty, my toddler would scrunch his face and say, “It’s hard! It’s hard!” when a poop was getting close. Now, I DO NOT recommend giving your child a stool softener without consulting your child’s doctor first. But, after we got the go ahead from our doctor, I tried it for a week and it certainly made it easier for him to go. That being said, learn from my mistake and make sure you are giving the right dose!! Early on I accidentally gave him a little too much in his sippy cup and what followed was nothing short of a shit show. Literally. I went to wake him from his nap and not only had he removed his pants and pooped in his bed, but he ROLLED ALL OVER in it!! It must have happened early in his nap because he had dried poop in places I still don’t want to think about. Instead of scraping the poop out of every crevice on his body, I had to hose him down in the shower while he cried and screamed. Nightmare. Check the label.
Create a Poop Schedule
At the risk of TMI (too much information), I will tell you that I have fairly regular bowel movements. I always go at the same time every day and my body has gotten used to that routine. Your toddler’s body can, likely, do the same. For us, I always gave him a looooong opportunity to poop after breakfast, before nap, in the afternoon, and before bed. When I say long, I mean long - at least 45 minutes, but no longer than an hour. “What?!” you may be thinking. “That’s almost four hours out of my day!” Well, let me ask you this: how much time and energy does it take to scrape out the poop and sanitize your carpet every time she has an accident? Now I’m not fooling myself. Reserving this time is HARD - especially if you have other kids or a busy schedule. However, as Jamie Glowacki would tell you, you have to prioritize potty training, at least in the beginning, or it will come back to bite you in the butt. At first it was stressful, and difficult, but then it became… fun. How? Well first I made sure my older son had a fun, engaging activity that he liked to do by himself. In our case it was LEGOs. The pieces are too small for his younger brother, so either he couldn’t play them all the time or if mom was supervising, it was still chaos with a toddler trying to smash and grab everything he built. So, he would have some peace and quiet to build, and once he was engaged, I would take the little guy to the potty. I would let him choose which of the special “potty books” he wanted to start with and, over time, he had them memorized and didn’t even want me to read! He would pull the tabs or seek out the items or squeeze the plushie book on his own. This opened up a world of possibilities for me. From ordering groceries, to checking emails, to sipping tea and doing a Sudoku puzzle - you name it, I did it. Poop time became my time. And I enjoyed every smelly second of it.
Creating a poop schedule allowed me to see which times of the day he was most likely to poop. For him, it was usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening. Instead of risking another poop fiasco (see above), I started giving him a full cup of water about 30 minutes before I believed the poop was about to come. Not only did this ensure he would drink his water, which let’s be honest is always a struggle, but it also ensured a good pee on the potty and a smoother poop. Increasing water is a great tool during potty training and I stand by it - other than the potty books, water made the biggest difference in going from “Oh Crap!” to “Yay Crap!” when it came to poop. However, I will note that you should be aware of more frequent pees, making sure to prompt or watch for signals so you don’t have more wet accidents in the process of trying to stop poop accidents. Also, another thing I learned from Jamie Glowacki is that water should be administered in two upside-down pyramids. The most water in the morning, then taper off to nothing about an hour before nap. A lot of water upon waking up from nap in the early afternoon until you taper down and limit water three to four hours before bedtime. So use water but be mindful of its great power.
I hope this helped you and you feel less likely to pull your hair out. No matter what happens, just know that this is temporary. Even if it doesn’t feel like it will ever end, it will. Your child will learn to use the potty. Keep up the great work and reward yourself for your efforts. You’re learning a new skill too! If you have any tips or tricks of your own for getting poop on the potty please leave them in the comments below! I’d love to hear them. Or if you need to vent or commiserate about the awfulness that is poop or have horror stories of your own, PLEASE leave them in the comments. LOL. I’d love to hear those as well.