Some children get “stuck”—they know they don’t want to poop in the pull-up, but they are still frightened by the alternatives. Unfortunately, getting emotionally “stuck” can lead to getting physically “stuck.” Potty training is not fun or easy when your child is constipated. The Potty Training Answer Book has these suggestions for withholding poop, when children often regress from initial potty training success. If you’ve done all the proactive strategies of a healthy high-fiber diet with lots of fluids, have physically active playtimes, and you notice your child is not pooping regularly, check with your pediatrician. Do not give your child over-the-counter laxatives or medicines without your pediatrician’s approval.
In a positive potty environment with no medical conditions, your child’s body will work as it should. Young children should not depend on laxatives and stool softeners. Use this 3-step, ABC problem solving response (Acknowledge - Balance - Conquer) to help your child get “unstuck.”
Pooping is 100 percent your child’s domain. You cannot force him. He might even decide your “gentle encouragement” is excessive.
- Therefore, acknowledge that he controls when he poops. He must own his potty experience. Withholding situations can be very emotional for the parent and child. Acknowledge your own feelings of frustration and helplessness with your pediatrician or with a non-suppository-recommending potty training buddy.
- Balance your response by relinquishing your control over your child’s pooping as you help him find appropriate ways to exert control in his world. Show your child all the ways he has constructive control by giving him more choices: what he wears, what books he reads, what characters are on the bathroom towels. Make your response as invisible as possible. Keep potty experiences positive while you try to create more relaxing conditions: add poop-friendly foods, simplify your child’s daily schedule, make potty trips easy and unthreatening, and conclude each day with a quiet snuggle time when you re-establish an unconditional connection with your child.
- Conquer the problem. Express your faith in your child’s ability to do what’s healthy for his body. Explain that you don’t want him to hold in the poop because it can make him sick and it hurts his body. With positive potty conditions and your relaxed support, your child can enjoy his body again.