This is a parenting blog, so poo and potty training is a topic that was bound to come wasn’t it? I have potty trained a number of children in my time as a parent, nurse, and nanny so the topic of poo had to come up sometime, didn’t it? I promise there won’t be any graphic details or stomach-churning pictures…
My children both potty trained relatively easily, in terms of being dry, during the day, and wearing underpants instead of nappies. However, both of them, for no apparent reason, had issues with actually using the toilet to poo. Both of them seemed very anxious and frightened to actually use the toilet, and one preferred to use a nappy (and would poo in the nappy then be cleaned up, and go back into underpants) and the other insisted on using a potty. When I was first potty training, years ago, I experienced this with the little girl I was nannying and after seeking advice, we decided to let her be, and not to push her (pardon the pun) and that she would eventually feel comfortable with the toilet. She did get over her fear and with minimal fuss decided one day to use the toilet and never looked back. Poo and potty training is something that before you have children you don’t really think about, but can be a big focus when it might not be working.
Since then I have done a fair bit of reading, on potty training and issues that can crop up, and also was fortunate to work with a nurse, who was a children’s continence specialist, in my last nursing job. We lovingly called her “the poo nurse” but she was an amazing source of information and support for parents and healthcare staff working with children who had issues with their health that made toilet training an issue, and was generally a font of all knowledge on all matters poo and wee related when it came to children so I learned a lot from her. She told me that it is very common for children to be scared to use the toilet and that the action of pooing (or emptying their bowels, if we are going to be terminologically correct about it) can feel very weird for a child and they often feel like they aren’t in control and it can cause them to feel anxious and uncomfortable about going to the toilet compared to the comfort of a nappy.
She said it was normal, lots of children struggle with this issue, and that in most circumstances she would encourage their parents and carers to make minimal fuss, let them get to a point where they were less scared and that eventually most children do realize that the toilet isn’t as scary as it seems when it comes to doing a poo. She said (and I have seen myself, with other people’s children) that if you force them to go on the toilet, and make a big deal of them HAVING to poo on the toilet, or are critical, that it can cause more anxiety, and also cause a child to refuse to poo at all, with constipation and withholding being a result, and those can lead to all sorts of other unpleasant issues. You can find lot’s of support and info on this here and will be surprised to learn it is NOT just your child.
So when my own children decided that they weren’t ready to poo on the toilet, I pretty much just went with it. We did talk about it and tried to work out exactly what was worrying them, but after that, we left them to get on with it, literally. We didn’t make a fuss or a big issue out of it. We are pretty open and honest as a family about bodily functions and I knew that eventually they would both figure it out. Both children did, and thankfully, my days of nappies, cleaning potties and potty training are over (I actually quite like potty training and changing nappies, mostly, I hope we will go back to that, one day with number 3) for now. I will admit that I don’t miss cleaning what frankly becomes adult poo once children are fully eating food, for a while though. When each child decided that it was time to let go and do their poo on the loo, we did make a fuss and we did reward and praise them, and then for a few days afterward each visit to the toilet was also praised until them going “for a poo on the loo” is just normal and not a big deal anymore.
I think what this experience has taught me, is that sometimes we do need to just go with our gut and let our children tell us when they are ready for something. Sometimes as parents we have to go with the flow (well this is a post about toilet and potty training) and trust that our kids will figure out what they need to. We need to support them and encourage them. I wanted to share our experience to encourage anyone out there who has a child who is reluctant to poo on the toilet, or seems worried or anxious about it, that it is normal, and what to do about it. It’s totally normal, don’t panic or worry about it. Your child will pick up on this and it adds to the stress of the situation.
I have just gone with my instinct with my children and used my prior experience but there are plenty of books and websites you can find to help with potty training issues, or you could speak to your health visitor or GP who can help and advise, and if potty training looks like it might be becoming more complicated, point you in the right direction for help.
We also have some potty training tips here too
There, poo and potty training, that wasn’t that gruesome, was it? 😉