Just Poop Already, Dammit!

May 23rd, 2012  |  by  |  Published in Actual Advice, Health and (Un) Safety, Media, Q & A  |  13 Comments

Not a fun morning. Fifteen minutes after Jean left to take Sasha to school, she returned. Sasha, it appears, had been grabbing her butt and complaining it hurt too much to walk. Again. FUCKING AGAIN.

This is becoming an all-too-regular occurrence in our lives: Sasha’s butt hurts, which means she needs to poop, but the last thing she wants to do is sit on the potty and poop. We don’t know why. We haven’t even put that much pressure on her to poop like a big girl. She just fucking hates it. Won’t do it. Will do anything to get out of sitting on the potty. So this morning, just like we’ve done many times before, we had to pick her up, take off her undies, and literally hold her down on the toilet.

I gave the nod to Jean—I can handle this—and she went off to work. But still, Sasha would not poop. She was crying, struggling, unable to relax. I tried to remind her about Monday night, when her mom went through this with her and she did actually, finally poop, and how much better she felt afterwards, and how the very next morning the first thing she’d said to me was “Daddy, I pooped!” Sasha didn’t care. She screamed and cried. Eventually she peed, and eventually we gave up. She wiped herself and stood up.

Then she said, “Daddy, I want to poop.”

Back on the pot she went, and this time at least there were no tears. No poop, either, alas.

We gave up again, and I sent her to go watch SpongeBob while I had a quick shower and got dressed. By then, of course, she’d gotten settled in to the TV and freaked out when I told her to turn it off. More tears, more screaming, and, after actually spanking her—yes, I spanked my kid for the first time ever, lightly but angrily—I wound up having to pick her up and drag her, shoeless, out the door. Tears and screaming all the way to the F train, where finally she started to quiet down. And still no poop.

What the hell are we doing wrong with this 3-and-a-half-year-old? I mean, besides placing too much emphasis on pooping and then getting angry at her when she doesn’t, thereby giving her a psychological complex that will haunt her for the next few decades (and enrich legions of therapists)? We’ve done the star-sticker system, we’ve tried more immediate enticements, we’ve tried threats and punishments, we’ve tried laxatives and wheat germ and salad, we’ve tried ignoring the whole thing and letting her proceed at her own potty-training pace. None of it has worked. The kid just seems to prefer shuffling down the street in pain, grabbing her butt, until one night she’ll blast an enormous dump in her diaper or, more often now, her undies.

Please, someone, help us with this shitty situation!


  1. zchamu says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 10:46 am(#)

    Dude, I feel your pain. My almost 3 year old will NOT poop on the potty. Pee is no problem, but she still only poops in a pullup. Yep, I’m lazy, but the kind of battle you just described is exactly the kind of thing I have no interest in facing.

    We’re sort of lucky in that we know her pooping cues. For some reason, whenever she plays with a particular playhouse toy, she’ll poop. So we can kind of trigger her to poop if we get her going on that toy, then she poops and we get on with our day. Does Sasha have any kind of cue like that you could use to your advantage?

    Hang in there. One day she will realize that pooping is a good thing.

  2. Matt says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 10:49 am(#)

    Clues? Not in the “play with this toy and shit yourself” kind of way. Usually, when she poops it’s overnight in whatever she’s allowed us to put on her: an overnight diaper if we get our way, her undies if we don’t have the energy to fight her. In fact, these days it’s most often undies, which is why she’s pooping less and less. All this is so frustrating because she was soooooo good about learning to pee. Actually, she trained herself—just up and decided, one day last August, that from now on she’d pee in the potty. Hardly a daytime accident since then. Why can’t/won’t she do the same for number 2?

  3. Tim says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 11:11 am(#)

    “This too shall pass.” Ha.

    Little kids can easily get caught in a vicious cycle with pooping. It’s boring and interrupts whatever fascinating thing that they’re doing, so they hold it and ignore the urge to go. Eventually they lose the urge to go and become constipated–like Kramer when he couldn’t find a toilet and had to run home through the park. When they’re constipated, it can hurt like hell when they finally do go: pooping then becomes a figurative and literal pain in the ass.

    You might want to consider a trip to the doctor just to rule out anything anatomical, esp if she is going many days between poops and is screaming/crying in pain when she does go. Make sure she is getting plenty of fiber and water (you might totally cut out sugary stuff, white rice/flour, etc), but stay away from laxatives and from forcing her to try to poop. The goal is to put her in charge and get her to respond to what her body is telling her.

    I also think it’s far from unusual for kids to have a “storm before the calm” with this final aspect of potty training. She’ll be fine.

  4. Marlena says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 11:34 am(#)

    Probiotics. Open the capsule and put it on her food/in her drink. It might help it not hurt so much. Make sure you get the refrigerated kind.

    Also, it’s a pain, but maybe have her pick another type of potty or potty seat that she can decide is her poop seat?

  5. chairmanmai says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 11:42 am(#)

    In our house, we have a rallying cry for pooping: “Release the otters!” Yes, we have Leo release all kinds of sea creatures into the “aquarium.” It seems to work for our kid, who is really into animals and is okay with the idea of them coming out of his butt and seeing what shapes they make. We also found “Where’s The Poop?” book (which has interactive tabs and windows) to be useful.

  6. Erin says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 12:55 pm(#)


    I read this earlier this week and thought of your situation now… I think a lot of this article is bullshit, but it is interesting to consider. Maybe put her back in pullups until she is pooping regularly?

  7. Matt says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 1:05 pm(#)

    I just had this lovely IM conversation with my sister, Nell:

    Nell: has sasha ever seen you pee? and has she ever seen you poo?
    Me: yes, and yes. although Jean is much more circumspect
    Nell: maybe she really needs to see this happen more frequenrly, from the people she trusts most
    Me: you mean Dora and Diego?
    Nell: haha. well i was figuring that she’s probably seen plenty fo cartoons poo
    Me: Dora Takes a Dump—now that would get her in the mood!

  8. Garry says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 9:22 pm(#)

    I have a Special Needs Son that has an issue Weekly after serving time at his mother’s place. I have to get him on track quickly before he goes to school, and the most successful tactic is to let him have his favorite toy that makes him laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. I have a 90% success rate. My son is Non-Verbal, and does not tell me when he has a Tummy Pain and has to poop. You have to make it a “Happy Place” where they get to feel good for getting rid of the pain. Another Trick I use is Cold Foods. Yes, it works. Let them eat a Hot Dinner and wait an hour or two then give them something cold, wait an hour, send them into the bathroom with a toy or whatever makes them giggle/laugh and very soon you have results. Then you tell them how proud you are of them and don’t be afraid to make a big deal of how well they did.

  9. Alex says:

    May 23rd, 2012at 11:20 pm(#)

    We did an approximation of “elimination communication.” Using cloth diapers for the first year gave us an incentive to learn our son’s patterns and physical signals.

    Our issues now at 3 years old:

    * We suddenly hear screaming from the bathroom that he wants help wiping right while we’re up to our elbows in raw chicken prepping dinner or something else inconvenient. (He knows how to wipe and seems to do it effectively and with a minimum of TP, but still prefers to ask for help.)

    * He’s still wetting the bed at night, but hasn’t worn a diaper in nearly a year. The diapers weren’t containing it anyway. We’re solving this by waking him to pee just as we’re going to bed. If he pees the bed, it’s usually either because we let him drink too much before going to bed or we fell asleep without rousting him.

  10. patty says:

    May 24th, 2012at 8:31 am(#)

    Look, some kids are just scared to sit on the potty. and by the looks of your attitude I can see why. Put 2 jars out the 1 with coins 1 with picture of her favorite place tell her that when she poops on the potty she get to put coins in the 2ed jar that has a picture of her favorite place such as chuck e cheese tell her when she poops on the potty she can move some change from 1 jar to the other when she fils that 2ed jar she will go to her favorite place it works for me .

  11. Matt says:

    May 24th, 2012at 9:55 am(#)

    My attitude? We’ve been laissez-faire throughout this entire thing, occasionally trying enticements like the one you suggest (though with stickers and M&Ms), and it’s only when my daughter’s butt hurt her too much to walk that we had to make her sit on the toilet. Sheesh.

  12. Christine says:

    May 24th, 2012at 10:06 am(#)

    We used straight up bribery, we made a chart with #1-10 and put an X for each poop and at the end he got a new toy. After doing that twice, we up-ed to a 20 count, and then a 40 count, which was kind of silly because it took over a month, but by the end of that we could eliminate the toys and just expect him to go.

    We couldn’t get it started till he was cooperative though. He was 3.5 and the youngest in his preschool class, but didn’t seem at all concerned to be the only one in pullups. It was only me that was embarrassed that I clearly wasn’t succeeding as a parent.

    Kids. They’re trying to kill us, one poopy pair of undies at a time.

  13. Matt says:

    May 25th, 2012at 9:17 am(#)

    Yeah, we tried that with a chart, too: Five stars would get her a bag of M&Ms. She knew about the plan, could discuss it, talked about how much she wanted the M&Ms—but none of that got her to actually poop on the potty. At some point her hatred of pooping outweighed her love of candy.

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