Nothing is more frustrating for parents that having a 3 or 4 year old who is having success using the potty for stools, then suddenly stops. Barbara Howard, MD, Behavioral Pediatrician, just published an excellent article in Pediatric News, titled “He just won’t poop”. She suggests that the key to resolution is to find out what’s at the root of this new behavior.
Some factors behind stool refusal may be:
• Having a painful poop, whether due to constipation, diarrhea or a diaper rash
• Having a scary slip inside an adult toilet seat or have the toilet automatically flush at a public restroom
• Having ideas about not wanting to grow up, maybe the child doesn’t want to leave mommy and go to pre-school or be a BIG girl
• Learning that things that are flushed down the toilet never come back
• Power struggles
Some solutions: (may require several simultaneous steps)
• Use laxative (such as Miralax) to ensure that the stools are soft, frequent and not painful
• Use a seat reducer at home and get a travel one for public bathrooms
• Place a sticky note over the flushing “eye” in unfamiliar bathrooms
• Institute “Special Time”, infantilizing and reassuring your child that they will “always be my baby”
• Put back in diapers if power struggles are a problem, (cloth diapers are less comfortable), show no emotion when cleaning up. Typically, the child will want to use the potty in 2-3 weeks. Act indifferent to the request to use the potty, “okay, if you want to”.
When they finally do poop, there should not be prizes or celebrations. Act indifferent-but inside, you may be screaming for joy. You can just act like this is normal and expected.