The Poop on Potty Training and Other Parenting Truths

poop potty training

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Poop potty training has been one of those clarifying moments in parenting for me.

If there were PhDs available for parenting research, I assure you I would have graduated the program before my first child was even born.

I knew all the answers on everything from car seats and unmedicated birth to baby led weaning and potty training.


The thing about parenting that really doesn’t get talked about enough is that absolutely no one on earth has all the answers.

Sure, I am a font of parenting related information- and believe it or not, my extensive research has served me very well.

The thing is, there’s no one right way to do certain things.

True, I really do believe there’s a best way to do most things.

In our family we practice respectful, gentle parenting free from coercion with rewards and punishment.

We listen to big feelings and hold space.

We follow a child-led approach to development and milestones.

We also try to limit sugar and other less than healthy foods.

But when it comes to poop potty training, I think that’s a wild card in the parenting deck.

poop potty training

I say all this as I hand over 10 silver foil wrapped Hershey’s kisses to my 4.5 year old daughter.

For pooping on the toilet.

The thing is, sometimes, as a parent, you have to be flexible. And creative.

You have to navigate your own stormy seas. The parenting advice is just a guide- you’re the one in the trenches with your kids.

When something isn’t working, it’s okay to change course.

Is this new sugarcoated reward system something we do with all aspects of parenting?

Of course not.

But once all the good advice isn’t working it’s time to reflect.

Our daughter has had bladder and bowel control since she was one year old.

She’s been able to urinate on the potty for years. She’s had a couple of accidental but successful poops on the potty, but they left her unsettled and anxious about it happening again.

I want to preface this with the following information, to potty train (I truly prefer the term potty learn) our 4.5 year old we’ve done the following “right” things:

  • Diaper free time from infancy
  • Cloth diapers (4.5 years of continuous use and our stash is still going strong, y’all!)
  • Access to child sized potty from before age 1
  • Practice sitting on the big potty
  • Child led approach without pressure or shaming
  • Encouragement
  • …and the list truly goes on

The thing is, trying to let her achieve this accomplishment entirely on her own simply wasn’t working. Obviously.

She doesn’t have accidents. Ever.

Making her diaper free full time only led to tears and severe constipation. After several attempts at this approach that ended up needing actual intervention to help her poop, I am fairly convinced she would hold her poop in forever.

And the thing is, y’all, if you poop potty train a kiddo the wrong way, that’s a life-long issue. Really, go look into it (it can even cause bed-wetting!!).

I wish I were kidding.

However, recently I came to the realization that the key I was missing to the poop on potty puzzle was that by only following her lead we were allowing her underlying anxiety to continue festering.

In came some intense listening sessions about pooping on the potty. Tears, screaming, lashing out, anger (her, not me, I promise).

All of that came pouring out with my simple request:

Say “I can do it! I am capable! I can poop on the potty!”

Obviously this listening needed to happen, and it’s fully in line with our parenting philosophy to give her the space to express these feelings.

The first listening session was a brutal couple of hours spent working with a little child hiding on the floor in the corner of my closet. I got in close and I helped her get those tears to surface. Once she had that big release of emotion surrounding using the potty I had my sweet girl back.

We agreed to work together on this problem and I explained to her that my job is to support her to live her life fully- which means believing in her ability to poop on the potty.

See? All that parenting research pays off sometimes.

There have been several sessions since, but the intensity has reduced significantly each time.

The other hurdle, however, was the level of resistance that had built surrounding the potty and poop.

That’s where my beautiful, careful research was set aside for practicality.

Also known as bribery.

This is something we basically never use because we strongly believe in maintaining internal motivation. However, in this scenario there was no internal motivation left.

Poop Potty Training Plan

The main keys to reaching our goal of pooping on the potty are to make lots of room to listen to our child and to take very small baby steps over an extended period of time.

Step 1

If you poop (in a diaper) in the bathroom you can have Smarties (repeat for 1 week).

Step 2

If you poop (in a diaper) squatting on the potty lid you can have 2 Smarties (repeat for 1 week).

Step 3

If you poop (in a diaper) squatting on the potty seat you can have 2 Smarties (repeat for 1 week).

Step 4

If you poop (in a diaper with a hole cut out of the bottom) squatting on the potty seat you can have 10 Hershey’s kisses. (Reduce to 1 kiss per poop and repeat for one week)

Step 5

If you poop on the potty (no diaper) squatting on the potty seat you can have 10 Hershey’s kisses. (Reduce to 1 kiss per day until kisses are gone or no longer needed as an incentive).

You may be wondering- why on earth is she okay with her daughter squatting on the toilet seat?

Well, folks, go watch this hilariously gross commercial:

Yep, all of us really should be squatting to poop. So I’m not inclined to “unteach” that natural instinct.

And here we are, the week of step 4, roughly a month out from my commitment to support my daughter in recognizing she is capable of using the potty.

And she did it.

She pooped on the potty willingly and with pride.

The first day using a diaper with a hole cut into the bottom was really tough for her and took 3 or 4 separate trips to the bathroom to try and have some listening time about her fears.

But that evening she did it! She opted for pink and purple nail polish instead of kisses since it was near bedtime.

And today she asked to poop on the potty and got it done her first try. And got those 10 kisses.

Do I think this was perfect parenting?


Not at all.

However, these days, I know that I can prepare to the best of my ability but in the end there’s no such thing as perfect parenting.

There’s educating yourself, trying your best and working with your child. That’s as close to perfect as you’re going to get.

And that’s perfect.

poop potty training

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