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The Preschool Pooping

The Preschool Pooping “Deadline”

By Amalah

TL/DR: My potty-trained kid still poops his pants 9 months later. Need to resolve that issue so he can start preschool in 4 months.

My son (31 months) has been daytime + pee potty trained since last summer (21 months). We did a 3-day (err…13-day in our case) boot camp potty training where he tells me when he needs to use the potty, not the other way around. Sometimes I’ll suggest that “everyone” go potty, and sometimes he agrees, but I never force it and he clearly knows his own signals because there are never any “I told you so” moments where he has an accident because he declined to go when I suggested it.

Other than a brief potty strike recently (at 30 months), and after which he made some major language/logic developmental breakthroughs, the pee goes in the potty 99% of the time, and when it doesn’t he is genuinely disappointed (but not ashamed). When we are home, we still reward pee with a small candy and/or a celebration song/dance, but he doesn’t mind that we don’t do rewards/celebrating when we’re outside the home. He’s great about using the potty in others’ homes, in public places, or in the “car potty” (a BabyBjorn potty seat we keep in the trunk for this purpose).

I’m not worried about nighttime training. He sleeps through the night and it’s not worth disturbing his sleep to get him out of diapers. We use cloth diapers so there’s no financial push to quit the diapers entirely, and the bedtime diaper doesn’t seem to be impeding his training.

So overall, YAY!

He poops every other day (not at a predictable time, and he clearly is NOT timing it to happen in his bedtime diaper). If I happen to be RIGHT THERE I’ll notice the look on his face before he poops and say, “Oh! You need to poop! Let’s do it on the potty!” and he complies. Yay! Celebration dance and a super special SUCKER…but he NEVER verbally warns me on his own the way he does with pee. At least 50% of the time I don’t catch “the look,” and poop happens in the undies, after which he tells me he pooped and asks me to clean him up and help him with new undies. He doesn’t have a particular preferred position for pooping, though we have taught him to put his feet up on the seat, so he’s in a sit-squat position for pooping, which seems to help the poop progress out with less straining/effort. The past few weeks he’s actually been stopping mid-poop-accident and asking to finish on the potty. So progress? Maybe? He did something similar with pee, too, before gradually progressing to getting ALL the pee in the potty.

In a vacuum, I’d just be patient and let this run its course…but he is signed up to start preschool this fall, in about 4 months (when he’s 36 months old). Preschool requires kids to be potty trained. He is SO EXCITED about school. We did a “preview day” several months ago and he still talks about it regularly and asks “Can I go back to school?” over and over. Lately I’ve been explaining that “YES, you can go to school IF you are pooping in the potty. School does not accept kids who poop in their undies,” and he seems to understand, but hasn’t changed his poop behavior accordingly. I’m not sure whether school would ACTUALLY kick him out for the poop accidents (they’d likely witness zero to two per week), but I’d really like to resolve the issue before we find out, for everyone’s sake. Considering this poop business has been going on for over 9 months, I’m losing my confidence that the problem will magically fix itself.

So far, here are the strategies the internet has yielded, and all of my Debbie Downer responses to each one…

* Sticker chart, to earn a more impressive prize than the usual sucker. The most motivating prize I can come up with is a day at “school.” The preschool we’ve chosen has a separate drop-in program for 24-48 months, which is perfect…but it’s only every other Thursday, so the long delay between behavior and reward might be too much for a 2.5-year-old? So maybe a more immediate prize? But he doesn’t seem particularly motivated by material things, more-so with experiences, but it’s difficult to give an experience reward THAT VERY INSTANT, compared to just having a bucket of toys at the ready. (It’s fascinating how our family’s values are already so evident in our child…and how that’s to my disadvantage when I’d like to use classic bribery as a parenting tool!)

* Play up the difference between “baby diapers” and “big boy undies.” My concern here is we are expecting baby #2 (also in 4 months—yeah I’m fully expecting some new-sibling regression while we’re at home, but I’m hoping that school will be so fun that he won’t do the attention-seeking behaviors there). My son is currently enjoying some “I’m the baby” role-playing, so putting him in “baby diapers” might backfire entirely. I also have not, to date, used language implying that babies are inferior to big kids (“big kid” isn’t really in our vocabulary) so introducing the language now might not actually be effective anyway. And if that language COULD be effective over the next few months, how would I “undo” it when the baby comes and we’ve just spent 4 months conditioning him to believe that babies are inferior? I just don’t want to go there!

* Relinquish control, say “you’re in charge,” and stop talking about it, then just wait for it to magically happen. This is kind of what we’ve been doing. I haven’t completely stopped talking about it, but I have gone through months and months where I don’t really say anything about the accident other than, “Oh, I bet you feel really yucky. Let’s get you cleaned up and put that poop in the potty where it belongs.” Plus, I know my kid’s personality, and I really don’t think this is a power struggle thing for him.

* Force scheduled toilet-sitting until the poop magically happens. As I mentioned, my kid poops about every other day and it’s not at a predictable time, so even if I could coerce/wrestle him into sitting on the toilet, we could literally be there ALL DAY and still not get any poop in the potty.

* Miralax. I suppose we could try this. I don’t think we’re dealing with constipation. I have become intimately aware of his poop texture over the past 9 months and none of it struck me as something that would hurt coming out. (Alpha Mom Editor on Feb 2017: please see this investigative report about MiraLAX use and children.) 

* Make the kid take a bath every time they poop their pants. My kid loves bath time because it’s one of the few times in his day that he gets absolutely uninterrupted parent attention. The only thing he loves more than his regular bath time is a middle-of-the-day bath.

So, I’m at a loss. Please advise!

So yeah, we’ve covered this pee-but-not-poop training topic a few times, but um…yeah. Sounds like you’ve read the columns, tried the suggestions, and still no dice. So let’s cover it one last time (HAAAA I’M KIDDING YOU KNOW I’LL TALK ABOUT POOP ANY TIME Y’ALL ASK ME TO TALK ABOUT POOP), from the perspective of the tried everything, end-of-your-rope parent with a preschool deadline looming.

Here’s the secret about that, from a three-time preschool veteran: Don’t stress about it. I guarantee you it’s NOT a zero-tolerance policy. Even schools that have a potty-training requirement are perfectly aware that little kids have accidents. That’s like, 99.9999999% of the reason they will also require you to bring in a supply of extra clothing, down to socks and underwear. They’ve had kids pee and poop their pants, they’ve had kids barf on the floor (and…other places), they’ve cleaned it, smelt it, dealt with it, etc. Even a solidly trained kid can have an accident at school, because they’re distracted, they don’t want to stop what they’re doing, they’re out on the playground and don’t leave enough time to get back inside to the toilet, all that jazz. (This is not just true for their first year of preschool, either. Think all the way up to kindergarten.)

For lots of kids, in fact, it’s school that finally cements the training and gets them out of the shaky, almost-there-but-not-quite 100% zone. An accident at school is a whole different thing and they know it. Obviously, you don’t want a teacher who will yell or shame or make it traumatic — in my experience it’s always been treated in a very efficient, matter-of-fact way, and I frankly can’t imagine any decent preschool or teacher or aide doing anything differently in response to a 3 or 4 year old having an accident. (If they did, that’s probably just one sign of many that your child shouldn’t be there in the first place, because they suck and have no business being around 3 and 4 year olds.)

My kids’ Montessori preschool requires potty training in the primary program (ages 3-6), but I have it on VERY VERY GOOD AUTHORITY that accidents happen there all the time, no big deal, and for almost every kid it works itself out pretty quickly, because 1) no one wants be the 3 year old who gets sent back to the toddler room, and 2) no one wants to be the kid who peed/pooped his pants in front of the 6 year olds.

So. I want you to put that particular worry/stressor aside. Your 3 year old is not going to get himself expelled from preschool because of Failure to Poop.

(And OH YES, preschool teachers are also well aware of the new sibling regression thing. Preschool is like, the prime New Sibling At Home age. So they know, and in your case, HA HA, they don’t necessarily have to even know that you knowingly signed up a not-100% there yet kid. Go ahead and blame it all on that new baby. It’s the perfect cover!)

“Okay, OKAY. I get it, Amy. Jesus, you’re talky. The preschool deadline isn’t a huge thing. BUT WHAT DO I DOOOOOO I JUST WANT THIS KID TO POOP IN THE POTTY ALREADY.”

I have been where you are, by the way. Despite covering this topic multiple times and tossing out multiple ideas and suggestions, I had one child for whom nothing worked. Nothing. I had one child for whom the time span between peeing in the potty and pooping in the potty was CLOSE TO A YEAR.

Of the options you listed, the things that ended up “working” best was changing the incentive process while basically relinquishing control. Giving up, temporarily. Tossing up my hands and putting it on him. You know what to do, dude. I don’t think he was pulling a power trip with me, either, actually — he just…wasn’t particularly motivated and would just rather not, if you don’t mind. So fine. WHATEVER. We ditched the rewards/celebrations for pee and made that as straightforward and matter-of-fact as possible. Yep. You can do that now. It’s great and all, but now it’s just expected. No candy, no dancing. If you want any reward or incentive going forward, it’s gonna have to be for poop. I made one final incentive promise of one particular item that he wanted and left it at that. No sticker chart, no delayed gratification, just “we will go to the store and buy that if you poop on the potty.”

That STILL didn’t seem to really change anything on his part, until one day it just…did. Just like that. He went on the potty, we went to the store. I worried that blowing the incentive (AN INCENTIVE IS NOT A BRIBE, BTW) on just one “go” would mean it wouldn’t be a repeat thing, but thankfully that didn’t happen. (It probably helped that our incentive was a DVD, so we could let him watch it after future successes. That only lasted a couple times, though, because it got kinda ridiculous dropping everything and watching an entire Disney movie after every poop.)

I am going to guess your son is probably following the same maddening path. He just won’t, until he does, and no amount of haggling and begging and Big Deal Making on your part is necessarily going to get him there any sooner. (At least he’s not holding it in until he gets a diaper or pull-up on at nap/bedtime? For kids like that you usually end up waiting until they’re capable of going cold-turkey on diapers overnight, while pumping them full of something to prevent constipation while they attempt to hold it in forever. Ugh, children. IT’S JUST A TOILET. PUT YOUR POOP IN IT.)

The idea of not going to school because of pooping on the potty is far too abstract, and perhaps the ongoing sticker chart thing is too long term as well. Maybe an instantaneous reward is the way to go — for my last round of potty training I kept the Big Toy Reward up on a shelf, where it was visible and could be given to him immediately once he met our star chart goal. The next time he asks for something, anything in particular, go ahead and make it conditional on pooping and see what happens. Or: maybe he’s just going to have to find his own motivation — not having accidents at school, or a maturity shift from wanting to be the baby to wanting to be a big boy. (All my kids took their own sweet time on that one, too, weirdly enough, and all actively resisted and rebelled against anything I tried to label as a “big kid” accomplishment.)

So…yeah. I’m sorry. I don’t really know what your magic bullet will be to make things click with him, but I CAN promise that it will happen. IT WILL. It will take longer than you’d like, probably, but for your own sanity do your very best to stay chill and not stress about it, and about preschool, and about the new baby, and oh my God my child is going to be pooping his pants until junior high unless I DO SOMETHING. That will not happen. Pooping on the potty will, though, probably right when you least expect it, all casual and drama-free and you’ll be like, “WHAT. ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS. THERE IS NO REASON THAT EVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUCH A THING.” And then from that point forward, thankfully, magically, it won’t be a thing.

(Until your next kid pulls the same schtick. Try to maybe not be pregnant next time so you can at least drink.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Brooke

    June 2, 2014 at 11:48 am

    This was me. I had a son who was potty trained great for pee, but pooped in his pullup, which he only wore for naps and at night. I tried E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Our dr suggested underwear for night and naps. Since my son wasn’t always dry (and my daughter needed pullups for night only until age 4.5, which we were fine with), I thought he was crazy. But he swore it would help… and it did. He pooped his underwear only one more time after that. When he realized the diapers/pullups were gone all the time, he stopped saving his bowel movements for night time/ nap time and just started going in the toilet. And surprisingly, he hardly ever wets the bed any more. It happens occasionally, but it is more like once every 2-3 weeks occurrence. It’s worth a try. Hang in there!

    • Gina

      January 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      My 4 year old son would hold it all day at pre-school and then go out, squat and take a crap in the playground!  Toilet was no problem at home but no way anywhere else.  We’re still working on this one.

  • Brigid Keely

    June 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I think kids sometimes just aren’t READY to poop in the potty. They haven’t quite learned their body cues yet, don’t know how to read them yet. It’s a process.

    Your son sounds like he’s on the same path mine was on. It was frustrating, but one day it just… worked. And the next day. And every day after.

  • Just me

    June 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I’m in a ‘just let it happen’ boat. My son was similar but with serious constipation issues, I wish that on no one. He started in the 3 year old class and I was VERY concerned about it but he completely transitioned on his own. I think it helped having the power of the masses. Did he have accidents? Sure, but it wasn’t a big deal. My oldest daughter was similar with the masses thing, completely trained on her own accord in her 2 year old class. We’ll see about my next daughter.

    One thing I wasn’t clear on about your response is after he has an accident, do you make him clean it up? Not taking a bath but being responsible for putting the dirty clothes in the wash, ‘clean’ the floor, get new clothes, etc. All on him with no shaming “Oops, you had an accident, it happens. Time to clean up your mess”. 

  • MR

    June 2, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    My youngest was like that. After months of cleaning poop out of her panties (unlike your son, she poops a couple times a day), I was talking to a male coworker who told me what he claims is the best parenting advice he ever got. When his son was this age and doing the same thing, he was told to wash him off with cold water. It doesn’t hurt them, but it isn’t fun. And you know what, it worked. I would wipe her off, and then put her in the tub and splash some cold water on her. It wasn’t even probably 30 seconds. Just enough to do a quick rinse and have her realize the water was cold and it wasn’t fun. It took 4 times and she started pooping in the potty.
    But, your son is stopping himself and finishing on the potty. So, I wouldn’t necessarily do the cold water thing right now. He is getting it. And he will most likely get it pretty soon. I’d suggest only giving him a reward if his panties stay completely clean. If he poops in them a little, no reward. That will help incentivize him to go to the potty earlier. You are really almost done! He’ll get this down before pre-school, and then the occasional accident is seriously no big deal.

  • Karen

    June 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Same thing here. My daughter pee trained in one day the week of her third bday – we just waited until she was ready rather than do the whole “training” thing. But then pooped in her pants for close to 18 months after that. And she was also very irregular with timing and going every other day.

    The miracle solution advice came from my good friend who is a pediatrician. She explained that bowel utility is maximal (meaning, most likely to “move”) after breakfast but after any meal will work, so if we could, then have her sit on the potty about 5 minutes after finishing eating. We work, so it was hard to time that, so we did post-dinner time.

    I was totally convinced it wouldn’t work (we had tried this once before and there was gnashing and wailing) but the very first night we tried it, she immediately pooped. We have kept up this habit ever since, at least M-F when dinner is more predictable.

    Highly recommend starting with this versus all other suggestions because it required the least amt of work and no Miralax. If you can get him to poop not by training him, but by just giving him the opportunity at the point when his body is most likely to be up for the act, then you won’t have to worry about poop coming out at preschool. And eventually he’ll just do it on his own.

  • kaela

    June 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Yep, I could have written this about my now almost 4 year old son. He’s always battled constipation issues and I think poop is just not a comfortable thing for him. After a year of going through phases where he poops in the potty every day until something like travel or illness mess with him and send him back to the holding it in/constipation cycle he just sort of worked it out…mostly. We still have a few rough days from time to time. NOTHING worked but time. We had to go back to diapers to take the pressure off of him (he still chose to pee in the potty) and just let it run it’s course. He is also not close to being night trained (which every pediatrician I’ve talked to says is totally normal, but GAAAAHHHH I am so done with diapers!)…I just try to keep calm and tell myself, this kid has been so easy and golden in every other facet of his development, just accept that this is our one big issue and that sort of puts it in perspective. Breath and move on with the day. He won’t graduate high school, or probably even kindergarten in diapers. 

  • SArah

    June 2, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    My daughter has had constipation issues/ not going on the toilet issue for years. The thing that finally seemed to work was what the commentor above suggested. Putting her on the toilet 3 times a day morning, after school and after dinner. I also let her play on my phone while she is there as an incentive to stay on for 10 min. Sometimes she stays longer and it eventually comes out.

  • Melanie

    June 2, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    It took my daughter a while to get the poop thing too. The pooping in her underwear then finishing in the potty was the beginning of the end so hopefully you’re on your way! It just took her a little longer to understand that sensation. And once she got it figured out her poops became more regular too!  Good luck!

  • Buttercup

    June 2, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    You might try having him go commando for a few days, wearing just loose pants with no undies. Granted it will make cleaning up a poop accident more of a pain for you, but I bet it will also be more unpleasant for him and may get him moving to the potty quicker!

  • Jeannie

    June 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I don’t have a lot of suggestions, but I also had a kid who was 98% of the way there when he hit age 3 and preschool, and the teacher was very laissez faire about the whole thing. She also noted that it’s often school which tips kids over the edge into trained, because the other kids notice. The good thing is that at three, they don’t tend to be *mean* about it, they are just all “Oh, so-and-so peed / pooped in his pants!” but just the fact that they notice, and others don’t do it, is often enough for a kid teetering on the edge of trained to get things together. It did work for my kid; had a few accidents as he adjusted to a new school and then was totally trained, at home and at school.

    So my only advice — it will happen, don’t stress, and if nothing else the mild peer pressure at school will probably take care of it.

  • Jay

    June 2, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    My son is also not really motivated by material rewards – he likes experiences.  And for him, getting to watch a few minutes of TV is a big experience.  His issue was not wanting to poop on the potty – he knew he had to go but I think he was nervous.  He’d pee, and then ask for a diaper to poop.  We knew he could poop on the potty because he did it with the nanny.  To get him to poop on the potty for us, we told him that every time he pooped he’d get to watch a segment of Mater Tales on Netflix.  That changed everything in about five minutes – he has literally never (well, now that I’m writing it on the internet it’ll probably change) had a poop accident.  I think finding the right incentive was all we needed – hopefully something simple will work for you too, once you figure out what it is!  

  • Jill

    June 2, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    If you think constipation/pain is an issue, have a chat with the doctor and she will probably put him on miralax.
    If not, for both my younger ones, upping the incentive for pooping in the potty worked well. (We had been giving 1 m&m before and then increased it to something outrageous like a whole fun size package of m&m’s or a lollipop, or something your child really likes.) For my son, we also had to have him go naked while at home several days in a row. Luckily, he stopped short at pooping on the floor.

    One last idea that worked for both younger ones again was to use the potty that sits on the floor and that way I didn’t have to help them get on the potty when they didn’t want my help anyway / it didn’t take as long for them to get on the potty. It really became “their job” to get on the potty in time.

  • Melissa

    June 2, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I could have written this a few months ago, so please let me reassure you it will get better. It was so frustrating, and that deadline of preschool looming made it worse. My son was a bit late to potty training, and he took much longer to poop in the potty, like your son. The dr had him go on miralax mostly to make him regular- once a day. Once that happened, we had him try pooping in a pull-up while sitting on the potty. That combined with a spur-of-the-moment incentive made him brave enough to go. He was just afraid of the unknown (and extremely stubborn!). We are slowly weaning down the miralax since he seems more regular, and we’ve kept an incentive chart in place to keep his interest. I honestly thought it would never happen- keep the faith!!

  • Laura Lou

    June 2, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    i could have written this exact letter up until two weeks ago. My just turned 3yo has been pretty much pee trained since January but hadn’t once pooped in the potty. His underwear was fine for that, thank you very much. We had tried all the things you had, including that he needed to poop in the potty to go to school. What finally got him over the hump and pooping in the potty the first time was that I made him go commando. I knew he needed to go (he’s a daily pooper, but the time varies) and told him nicely but firmly, that I didn’t want to clean his poopy underwear anymore and that boys that didn’t poop in the potty needed to go without their underwear and pants to help them remember to use the potty. Given the choice between the floor and the potty, he chose the potty. That got a special “poop present” as well as a lollipop every time he goes in the potty.

    He’d also been having trouble getting to the potty each time he needed to go pee or poop. If I reminded him he’d do it, but he was generally too busy to bother on his own. The final incentive there was wanting to go in the big pool with his brother this summer. Our pool doesn’t allow swim diapers in the main pool, so I’d told him that he had to get all his pees and poops in the potty for a whole week and then he could go in the big pool. We went to the pool all of once where he had to stay in the baby pool. He claimed to be fine with that, but darned if he didn’t run to the potty each and every time he needed to go and we haven’t had an accident since Memorial day (frantically knocking on everything in sight). This weekend, he spent the day in the big pool!

  • Myriam

    June 2, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Just wanted to address the bid kid vs baby thing. It just is. Babies are cute and cudlly, but they don’t play on the big slide at the park, or eat ice cream… And if he is enjoying that role-playing, humour him. Didn’t Ezra go through a regression when Ike was born, where you put him back in diaper, and that lasted about a month beige he was like : dude, pants please! Maybe put him back in diapers for a while, if he agrees, and he might get tired of them sooner rather than later…

  • sarah

    June 3, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Yup. 3 yo boys.  So much fun at poop time! my fun one (I had 3 boys, 1 girl) was the one who pooped in the pants. Forever. Even after months of being night train! I finally handed the cleaning out of the underwear over to him.  Made him clean them out in the toilet.  He pronounced it “disgusting.” I announced that if you are big enough to say disgusting properly, you are old enough to either clean up the disgusting yourself or stop making it.  Never.  Happened. Again.  Not my proudest parenting moment, but it did the trick.

  • Ash

    June 3, 2014 at 10:23 am

    I agree with Amy’s advice 100%. All kids are so different. I have found that my kids 3yo kindy has much better toilet training sucess then we have at home. They are amazing! And so they should be, they have the skills and experience of dealing with it every day for a huge range of kids. Don’t stress.

    Also – A 36 month old is 3. He is a 3 year old child. 36 months means nothing at this age.

    • Arialvetica

      June 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

      I don’t know. I think there is a big difference between a “3 year old” who is 36 months and a “3 year old” who is 47 months. Heck, there is a developmental difference between a kid who just turned 12 and a kid who is a day shy of 13!  When someone asks how old my toddler is, I say “X years,” but when I’m getting into the nitty-gritty of developmental stages, I totally specify the # of months! 🙂

      • Cara

        June 8, 2014 at 11:30 pm

        Not to mention the fact that this little guy is 31 months.  (He will be 36 months when he goes to school.). But, I’d be having a very different reaction if she just said he was two.

  • Melissa

    June 3, 2014 at 11:33 am

    A note about Miralax, think twice before using it!  My three year old does the constipation/holding it in/only poops when he sleeps cycle that moved into encopresis.  Throughout this ordeal, we’ve used Miralax and diet to help encourage his poop to be not painful or scary to him.


    Miralax is not FDA approved for children.  It can also make them mean and out of (their) control.  I had no explanation why my son would get so ragey and angry and mean, or why he had frequent bouts of being absolutely unhinged.  I read somewhere that mentioned it could be the Miralax.  I thought that was insane and unfounded.  The Miralax?  But then again, hey, couldn’t hurt to test it out either.  We were pretty desperate to help him (and yes, us) have some bit of a normal life and child back.  

    Holy shit, you guys.  It was the Miralax.  We stopped giving it to him.  Within a week, he was so much more normal and rational (but totally still a three year old).  He wasn’t hitting and screaming saying he didn’t know why any longer.  He was, frankly, pleasant for the first time in over a year.  

    But he still needed to poop, you know? So we tried instead more probiotics, diet modifications to include even less wheat and dairy than the little he was already getting, and the kicker: NaturalCalm (a magnesium supplement).  That NaturalCalm is amazing!  He poops, he sleeps (he NEVER slept well since birth), and he’s so much happier.  

  • Caroline

    June 3, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Please take your child for a thorough check-up. It sounds like he is constipated. Yes, constipated children still ”go” and often regularly enough that it escapes detection, but if he is fully aware of when he needs to go but for whatever reason isn’t for bowel movements… and then soils his pants, there’s a problem of some kind. Speak to a paediatrician and get it resolved. I’d put money on the theory it’s constipation.

  • Kim

    June 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    A great kids book that helped for us is, Everyone Poops. It is awesome.

  • Olivia

    June 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    My kids didn’t take so long to figure it out, but they both needed encouragement to sit long enough for pooping to happen. They would feel the need to go, but when it didn’t happen in a ,minute they’d get up and then poop in their pants a couple minutes later. I had to talk them into sitting long enough to finish the job.

  • Autumn

    June 4, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Our kiddo moves up to the 3 year old room in September, and there was a big plea at May teacher conferences to have the kids at least pee trained before they moved up.  That way they were dealing with a poop accident or 2 a day rather than diaper changes (I guess out of the class of 15, 6 are still full time in diapers and the teacher is going CRAZY). I’m guessing if your kiddo is in underwear and just having one poop accident a day, peer pressure will help a ton.

    Spoken as someone who’s 33 month old loves her cloth diapers.  With the waterproof seal starting to wear out. . . 

  • Erica

    June 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

    When we turned up pregnant last year BY SURPRISE, one of my first five reactions was: “I canNOT be pregnant because God would never, ever wish for me to potty train another human ever again.”  And yet, God seems fine with this.  (He’s adorable.  I love him.  Best surprise EVER.  Oh God, save me from the potty training.)

    What ultimately worked for his brother was Star Wars Lego Wii.  He wants to play, daily, and always.  Sorry, when I have poop in the potty, only then. Aaaaaaaaand, three years of battle of wills, constipation, Miralax, ongoing accidents, not engaging, giving up control, sobbing behind closed doors by ourselves, parenting counseling because THAT’S HOW BAD IT WAS! and it all boiled down to Star Wars Lego Wii.

    I don’t now if it will help you or what your position on video games might be (mine was “limit all the screen time!”  so much for that…)  but this was our solution and if you need a new incentive idea, there you go.

    I will use all these ideas with wee, 9 month old in about two years.  Thank you for writing about poop again.

  • JS

    June 6, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    My kids refuse to poop at school because their teachers aren’t allowed to help them wipe once they are potty trained. I’m just telling you that to say, it may not be an issue kids can be mighty picky about where and when they poop and he may never poop at school.

  • Diane

    June 6, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I could have written this letter (13 years ago). My son was fully pee trained by 3 years old but was scheduled to attend his sister’s school (pre-k) in September.  June 30th was the cut off date to withdraw and get your deposit ($1,500!) back.  He was completely uninterested in pooping on the toilet.  I begged my husband to withdraw him (that is a lot of money to kiss goodbye) but he was confident that my son would figure it out by September.  9 days after June 30th came and went, he used the potty routinely as if it were no big deal. He WILL get it I promise.  Patience really does win out. 

  • Original Question-Asker!

    June 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    I just wanted to share an update.  I took Amy’s advice and it was scary how well it worked.  🙂

    “I want swim goggles.”

    “Okay, if you get ALL the poop in the potty and NO poop in your undies, you can have swim goggles.”  

    I ordered them on Amazon that night, and they arrived two days later.  They arrived in the mail. I opened the box (but not the product packaging) and repeated the promise–poop in potty + clean undies = swim goggles.  Literally within 2 hours of opening the Amazon package he was playing independently in a separate room, announced “Oh! I have to poop in the potty!” and made a mad dash for the bathroom. Total success, YAY, we sang a song, we did a dance, we opened up the swim goggles.  He wore them the rest of the day (including during bath time), wanted them in the bed with him that night (I put them on a stuffed animal so he wouldn’t strangle himself in his sleep), and then wore them to a playdate the next day and told all his little toddler friends how he earned them.

    I was a little worried I’d have to up the ante and invest in full-on snorkel / scuba gear, but apparently all he needed was that one taste of success to start making almost all of his deposits in the potty.

    It’s been almost a month and I’d say we have a 95% success rate.  The accidents he has had since then are super minor. Occasionally he poops in the bedtime diaper, and occasionally he’ll poop just a tiny bit in his undies and then race to the potty to finish up.

    I am feeling SO RELIEVED.  We still have some potty independence skills left to learn, but for a not-quite-3-year-old I think he’s doing GREAT! 🙂

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      June 30, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Thanks so much for the update and so pleased that the advice worked well!

  • AJ

    August 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this! We are facing a preschool potty training deadline next week and I am freaking out a little. We have been trying since last spring and still not there yet (her twin sister was fully trained by the beginning of the summer). Your article is the absolute best I have read since I have been frantically researching advice since last night!

  • anh

    August 31, 2015 at 8:48 am

    soooo reassuring to read. My daughter turns 3 next thursday and REFUSES to have ANYTHING to do with the potty. she will hold it for HOURS. she just doesn’t want to. bribes don’t work. threats don’t work. literally nothing works.

    Last friday my husband came home from getting her at daycare and said the director of the preschool wanted to speak to us today. I literally lay awake all night last night, trying to figure out what would happen when my daughter got kicked out of her amazing preschool. much to my delight this morning, the director said to us “I heard you are worried we will kick your daughter out? That is NOT going to happen! We’ll work with you and do whatever it takes, but she is always going to have a place here”. It was wonderful