My Toddler Won't Poop On The Potty: 5 Tips To Overcome The Fear

by Tara Saltzburg

Hey There, 

For the past six months, I've been knee deep in potty training. My son took to peeing rather quickly and is now independently walking to the bathroom, peeing, and cleaning his hands. He rarely has accidents, except occasionally during nap time. 

But he's petrified of using the potty for #2. The good news: he knows when he has to poop and he'll ask for a diaper when the time comes. At school, he refuses to even do that, saving the BMs for me once I get him home. But I can't complain - the kid has saved me from the unpleasant experience of constantly removing poop-filled underwear, so I'm forever grateful 🙌.

But after 6 months of no potty pooping, I'm getting eager for this stage to pass. My attempt basically starts and ends with "do you wanna try to poop on the potty?". When the answer is "no", that's pretty much all I've got in my arsenal. 

Until now.

Don't Stress

Turns out, the fear of pooping on the potty is a common issue for toddlers. As long as there are no other underlying issues, it's safe to assume he's just experiencing a fear that many other kids also experience.

According to Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, MD, a pediatrician at the Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics at Texas Children's Hospital, in Houston: "They may feel as though they're losing a part of their body when they poop...or they may not like it if the water splashes onto their bottom, or they may worry about being sucked into the toilet" (via Parents).

So what should I do so he's not going to college like this? Here's what I found...

5 Tips To Overcome The Potty Pooping Fear

1. Acknowledge The Fear

The most important thing to remember is to acknowledge your child's natural fear and proceed with patience and empathy. If you force him on potty training issues, it can stress him out, causing even more issues.

2. Transition Gradually

Dr. Spinks-Franklin recommends this gradual process:

  • Let him poop in the diaper but only when in the bathroom.
  • After a week or so, continue letting him poop in his diaper, but have him do it while sitting on the potty.
  • Next, cut a hole in the diaper with a pair of scissors just before putting it on him, and let him wear it as he uses the toilet.
  • Eventually, move away from the diaper altogether.

*Yup, the part about cutting a hole sounds cray to me, too. But I've heard it several times, so it must have some merit.*

3. Increase Attention Span

Toddlers have short attention spans, and they certainly have more fun things to do than sit and wait for poop. (As I write this blog, I'm watching my son dance and wriggle while holding himself. He clearly has to pee, but refuses to miss the end of this episode of Paw Patrol. So I guess this is true).

Try interventions that allow him to feel like he's accomplishing something while on the potty. Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann, a pediatrician in Creve Coeur, Missouri, and a contributor to Children'sMD, suggests that when he asks for a pull-up, say, “Instead of a pull-up, why don’t we read this book together while you sit on the potty until the poop comes out.” Keeping a basket of books in the bathroom may be helpful. Which brings us to #4...

4. Use Books

It may be helpful to read books that talk about pooping. Here's the poop trifecta:

I Can't. I Won't. No Way!

By: Tracey J. Vessillo



It Hurts When I Poop

By: Howard J. Bennett



"Bloop Bloop" Goes The Poop

By: Temara Moore


5. Plant Feet

Provide a step stool or a potty that sits on the floor. Some kids need their feet planted firmly on the ground in order to brace themselves for 💩.


Armed with these tips, I feel a bit more prepared to help him conquer his fear and I hope you do, too. As I've said before: 

There will be accidents. There will be crying. There will be tantrums on your part and his. Just stick to the mantra:


I'll let you know how it goes...

XO, Tara 

Related: Potty Training A Boy: Try These Tips

Related: Ditch The Diapers: 5 Signs Your Toddler Is Ready For The Potty

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Tara Saltzburg

About The Author

Tara Saltzburg founded Westyn Baby when her son was an infant battling severe eczema. She was always on the lookout for products that would minimize the irritation and ease his discomfort, but safe, non-irritating pajamas proved difficult to find. Tara started Westyn Baby in 2016 with a mission to create better, safer sleepwear for kids - sleepwear that's exceptionally soft, flame-retardant free, sensitivity-friendly, and durable. Read more about WB sleepwear.

Tara was born and raised at the NJ shore and attended Penn State University, where she played soccer and discovered her love of mountain life. She is a mom of one boy and hopes to eventually have enough kids to form some sort of athletic team. She and her family currently reside in Central Pennsylvania and spend the summers in Stone Harbor, NJ.