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How to get your child to poo in the toilet

Most of us have forgotten that we had to learn how to poo in a toilet. It can be scary and overwhelming for a child, and it’s our job as parents to show empathy even when we are sick of cleaning up poo. Laura Morley is an expert in helping parents to help their children learn how to use a toilet. Here’s her advice.

I freely admit that scrubbing poo out of my kid’s undies is the worst job ever. It is one of those things that no one tells you when you are newly pregnant and excitedly looking at all the cute outfits in baby clothing stores.

You’re not told that two years down the track your kid might be playing in the lounge and then quietly disappear behind the couch. You start wandering around the house in search of your rogue, suddenly very quiet toddler, and a smell wafts towards you.

The shock and horror hits. You grit your teeth as you realise that despite “the lecture” about using the toilet and not doing a poo in their “big kid” pants, it has happened again.

You find yourself asking the big questions of life….

How am I to get this child clean without splattering poo around the bathroom?

Do I just throw these undies away or am I going to try to scrub the poo out of them?

How do I convince my child to stop hiding and start pooing on the toilet?

One day soon, you realise that you have become the hypervigilant, helicopter parent who hovers around their child talking about poo and watching for the ‘screen saver face’ aka the doing a poo expression. You find yourself asking ten times a day:

“Have you got poos, do you need to go to the toilet now?”

You’re dreading the day when you’re at your mother-in-law’s house and you have to scrape poo off your kid’s backside and your MIL’s couch

If you have a kid who is prone to having poo accidents, then welcome to parenting. It happens to the best of us. Out of all questions I get asked as a parenting coach, how to get a two to four-year-old to poo in the loo is one of the most common. It’s a messy, smelly business and there are lots of things you can try to convince your child that doing a poo in the loo is the best idea ever.

The author and her subjects

Here’s a few to get you started:

Position them for launch

Most kids sit in the L shaped position on the toilet. This puts a kink in their colon which makes poo difficult to pass. By simply getting them a higher step stool it enables them to get into a squatting position; it straightens the colon and means they do not need to strain to push it out.

The winning formula is:

  1. feet grounded
  2. knees above their bottom
  3. elbows on knees
  4. relax and gently push down

For kids under three years old, using a potty is a great tool to help them get into a squatting position and they can take it to poo in the location they feel most relaxed.

Make poo a character

Some kids are scared of their own poop. They don’t like the smell, the way they have to push down to pass it, and the way it plops into the toilet. Be more playful by talking to them about poo being a friend (you could even give it a name) who needs to come out and go into the toilet. If it helps read them a dump truck book, showing the truck tipping it’s load. Then ask them to try dumping their poo load in the toilet like a dump truck.

Breaking habits

For many years, they have pooped in a warm, padded nappy close to their body, usually while hiding in their “happy place” or play area. It feels foreign to do it on a toilet seat with water running under it. Adjusting to this change is not going to take a day. When they have done a wee celebrate it, then ask them to get into a squatting position and push down like passing wind so they learn to connect a wee and a poo stop.

Good poo is like toothpaste

The best poo is soft and easy to pass. By being intentional about increasing their water consumption and fibre the consistency of their poo should stay soft.

Fear can build if they experience pain when they poo. Poo should not be a like a “picnic bar” or “sheep pellet poo” or super runny. If it is, then head to doctor to check for constipation.

Here’s my favourite recipe for a smoothie to keep their poos regular:

Avoid talking about it all the time

Asking them constantly about whether they want to poo in the loo can build anxiety. Help them to relax on the toilet by singing a song or reading a story. Kids normally poo about 20 minutes after a meal. If you remind them after a wee to do a poo, twice a day, that’s great. Any more than this and it can feel like nagging, which most kids will react to with either being nervous or angry.

Focus on getting a “little poo” on the loo

With many of the kids I’ve worked with, they have responded really well if I ask them to “catch a little poo in the loo”. It feels a little less overwhelming. Once they have started catching a little poo on the loo they then learn that it is not a scary as first thought. They can relax and gently push the rest out.

Don’t forget…

Try not to feel pressure from friends and family who dispense well meaning advice. Your kid not pooing on the toilet does not make you a bad parent. Learning to walk took trial and error and a few accidents along the way. Learning to poo on the loo is the same. It’s OK to ask for help and get some more ideas, especially if you are feeling frustrated or worried. Before you know it they will be using the loo like a pro.

Laura Morley is the author of the book Potty Talk, a teacher and a parenting coach at Looloo-Toilet Training Solutions in Auckland. When she is not hanging out with her three kids and her horse Oscar, you will find her talking wees and poos with parents and educators throughout NZ and Australia. You can take her five day toilet training challenge here.

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