The Halfway-There Potty-Trained Kid (Who Poops On The Floor)
I have been reading your advice for quite some time now, and I am even following your week by week pregnancy calendar (sooooo much better than your average week by week!!!), and I have come to the realization that my own son is a halfway-there potty-trained kid. Now, he pees just fine in the toilet, and will even use the little potty we got him for his room for when he’s supposed to be sleeping (he won’t let himself out of his room, and we wanted to avoid messes), but when it comes to poop, OOOH NOOO! Not only does he NOT poop on the toilet for us (it has only ever happened once, and that was when my dear, patient, husband waited nearly an hour in the bathroom with him), but he even refuses to go in his unders/a pull up/ cloth diaper we used to use for bedtime. This kid will wait for naptime or bedtime and proceed to take off (usually all) his clothes and crap on his floor. Every. Single. &#(&#$&#( Day. If we are out and about and he doesn’t get naptime (his preferred time to poo on his floor) and we get back late enough he just goes to sleep right away, he will hold it and we will get two piles sometime the next day. It has been going on for MONTHS! I would almost be happier if he just went in his pants, because then I’m not having to deep clean his floor every day. My Mr is going to be gone ALL next month for work, we’re moving in September, and I’m due in October. How do I get this stubborn kid to actually poop in the toilet?
Frustrated With Cleaning Up the S**t
Well. This IS a new one. (Though on the plus side: At least he’s not twins, and at least he’s not throwing the poop.)
So what we have here is a kid who has embraced the concept that peeing and pooping in a diaper or underwear is unpleasant, but has some aversion/fear/resistance when it comes to pooping in the toilet/potty seat. This is a very common thing (as I’ve said over and over and over in this column and to myself, during our potty training years because COME ONNNNN JUST POOP ON THE POTTY), and it crops up for a variety of reasons: A negative experience, a badly timed bout of constipation or diarrhea, a sense that poop is “part” of him and he’s afraid to let it fall in the water, etc. And a lot of times it’s just plain stubbornness and a need to exert control. Ah, toddlerhood.
If this were my kid, I would probably get a good video monitor for his room and do my best to watch it during his prime “poop windows.” The second I spotted any stripping or pants removal, I’d get my butt in there as quickly as possible and quickly and calmly redirect him to the potty. (If you have a big house or know you can’t be super-nearby, put him to bed in multiple layers or clothing that takes him longer to remove, like onesies, footie sleepers or overalls.)
(Somewhat relatedly: I spent most of my summer afternoons sitting on the floor of our upstairs hallway, working with my laptop perched on a plastic storage bin, just to catch my toddler trying to escape his room during the crib-to-bed nap transition. You do what you gotta do, right?)
If he refuses or tries to hold it, dress him back up and put him back to bed and repeat as necessary until he can’t anymore. Then I’d make a HUGGGGGGGE DEEEEEAAAALLLLL over any successful pooping and lavish him with a ton of positive attention. There would also probably be some candy or other reward, cuz thatz just how I roll.
If a poop on the floor happens, no reaction. No yelling, no scolding, no eye contact. Just “poop belongs in the potty, not the floor.” You don’t mention his age, but if he’s on the older side and you do short time-outs, you could try telling him he has to sit on the step (or somewhere away from you) while you clean the mess up. Not really a punishment, per se, but just something to make the aftermath be a bit of a bummer and not fun for him.
In theory, he SHOULD realize that the positive reaction and praise/incentives are more fun and satisfying than whatever he’s getting from his little bid for Poop Control. He probably won’t realize this overnight or anything, but in time, he’ll decide that pooping in the potty is just preferable all around. Hopefully it won’t take TOO long, provided you can catch him “right before the act” a couple times— and when he’s past the point of holding it in once you physically pick him up and sit him where the poop is supposed to go. And then make those couple times a couple of really, really positive experiences (since he’s only pooped on the potty ONCE, and it sounds like it was a boring/agonizing experience for everyone involved). I know that sounds crazy at this point, when this behavior’s been going on for MONTHS, but it’s true. All kids eventually get over this weirdness and poop on the potty. ALL OF THEM.