Under the Slide and Pooping.

Warning to all those without children: it’s best to stop reading this right now. I used words like “potty”, “number two” and “diarrhea slide”.

Em turned three on Sunday. And he’s not yet entirely potty trained. He’ll pee in the toilet 99% of the time. He’s been pee potty trained for a long time. It’s Number 2 that has us ripping our hair out.

He simply will not poop on the toilet. No matter how many talks we have, it just doesn’t happen. You see, if he’s naked and running around the house (yes, this is a very, very common occurrence at our house) he will poop on the pot. But if you so much as put a pair of underwear on him, forget about it.

And this is my fault entirely. When he was a wee one (maybe 1.5) I started letting him run around naked. I figured that since I was a stay-at-home mom and he spent most of his time with me at home, we’d start potty training early. I showed him where the toilet was and told him that if he needed to use the bathroom, we’d go together. And it worked! (He even used the potty back then for poop, but only a couple of times. Usually he waited until he had a diaper on to go number two. But he was young, so I didn’t press it.)

We were pleased and figured that he’d be potty trained really early. (Oh, we’re so stupid. Everyone knows you never say such a thing out loud.)

We’re running out of ideas. I’ve asked him—pleaded with him—and nothing. I’ve kept him home explaining that we can’t go to the playground until he poops. And then I go stir-crazy in our tiny apartment and decide I can’t stay in so we go out and—no kidding—within five minutes he’s under the slide and pooping. And it always makes a huge mess.

For example, about a week ago he pooped under the jungle gym and instead of letting me know, he continued to go down the curly slide, smearing poop all over it. I finally got a whiff (ah, pregnancy nose!) and realized that the brown skid marks all over the curly slide were not mud or chocolate or paint. They were poop! And the poop was coming off of my kid. What’s more, he was still wet from the water park. So he basically turned the curly slide into a diarrhea slide.

But that’s not all! Oh no, my friends, that’s not all. A few other kids had gone down it after he had. Naturally, I freaked out. I’m used to my kid being covered in poop. But other kids being covered in my kid’s poop? Ugh.

Thankfully the other parents were understanding. Granted, I was the one who had to climb up the curly slide and wipe off all the poop. I think they felt sorry enough for me. I left covered in poop. My kid left covered in poop.

And everyone involved now needs therapy.

Anyway, this morning I created these gems:

I know! What kind of graphic designer creates this ugly, boring mess? A desperate one with little supplies and no printer. Seriously, they might not look like much right now, but I’m hoping they’ll soon be covered in brightly colored stickers, stars and awesome things that will make him realize how AWESOME it is to use the potty.

I added The “Pee Sign” so he’d get it right away, since he’s already got the hang of that. But the “Poop Sign” is for bigger awards.

Bribery? You betcha. But if I never have to climb up the curly slide to wipe off my kid’s feces ever again, it’ll be too soon.

If anyone has any other ideas, I’m am all ears.


  1. Don’t beat yourself up. These things take time. My son has now been potty trained since June and he will be 4 in October. I made him wear a pull-up until he was pooping in the potty. He had the peeing down, stayed dry all night, etc., but he refused to poop in the toilet. Lots of bribery in our house as we paid him $1.00 everytime he pooped in the toilet. Worked like a charm!


    1. I wonder why boys tend to be slower at this poop thing than girls? He too wakes up dry. It’s just that it’s SUCH A MESS when he poops! Especially since he doesn’t tell me about it until it’s all over the inside of his pants.

      Thanks, Julie. It helps to hear that. It does. A lot of the parents in my area can be a bit competitive and judgmental. (Or maybe I’m paranoid? Or maybe both?) Anyway, yeah. I feel like somehow there is something I should be doing to speed this up or something. It’s hard when every last one of his friends are. Ah well.


  2. bribery works with kids for short term gains, but not for long term gains. fortunately, by the time the short term gains wear off, emory won’t want to be sitting in a pile of his own poop anymore – so you’ll be good to go!


  3. Totally and completely normal. My son will be 4 in November. We finally overcame the poop in the toilet issue just 3 months ago. He refused, would go and put a diaper on himself, etc.
    Finally I just said “ya know, they don’t make those diapers for kids your size anymore.” I was worried he would hold it until something terrible happened…but alas it worked.
    No matter how you look at it, some day very soon and BEFORE he is 5 he will poop in the toilet. Pick your battles:) lol.


  4. This blog had me in stitches! I have a nephew who refuses to poop on the pot, too. Just straight out refuses. He is only 2 1/2 but he has been pee-trained for a while, but seems to enjoy sitting in his poop. He will even tell you, seconds before he takes a poop “Charlie gonna poop now!” Before you can get him to the potty, he has let out a giant turd in his pants. The kid is stubborn.

    When I was potty training my stepson, we used charts with stickers and rewards, just like you are doing. Lots of over-exaggerated praise and cheap dollar store toys did the trick. He was potty trained before he was 3 (with a few nighttime accidents).

    What I wanna know is, where does one buy a fart whistle? I WANT!


  5. This method has worked for 2 of our friends (separate couples) when their 3 year olds were having a hard time with the pooping (also boys).
    Use the sticker chart, but along with adding to it when he DOES go in the potty, try taking away a sticker when he doesn’t go in the potty.
    I don’t know how well negative reinforcement works for your son, but it worked like a charm for those 2 (both very stubborn). Something to consider if the sticker chart alone doesn’t work…


    1. Anyone have any samples of these? I whipped this puppy out this morning, but the designer in me wants to naturally make it a 4-color process with animations and full color photography. :]

      Thanks, everyone! You’re making me feel better that he’s kind of behind.


  6. What do I have to do to get that fart whistle?


  7. Come over and have a drink with us on Saturday afternoon. NO KIDDING. It can be yours. YOURS!

    I should have mentioned, much to Toby Joe’s dismay, Em LOVES fart humor. LOVES IT. Hence the Whistle. He’s gonna drive us all mad with it.


  8. My son was about 3 1/2 before he would poop on the potty. Rewards didn’t work unfortunately. I was ok with it for awhile, but one weekend I drew the line. He was dry all night already. I took all of the diapers away and put him in underwear. I told him he had to clean himself up if he didn’t go in the potty. I helped and made sure he was clean, but he had to take off his messy pants, get a change of clothes, wipe himself & the floor. He did not like doing most of the work. After 2 accidents he was trained. I don’t think I would have tried this before he was 3, but this was the perfect method for his personality. My younger daughter on the other hand couldn’t wait to be grown up and was completely trained by 2.75. She was not stubborn about the move to underwear at all.

    Your story about the slide reminds me of when my son was 3 and daughter 1. Excuse me if I’ve told it before. My daughter used to stick her hand down her diaper and also sucked her thumb. (Fun times!) One day my son pointed at his sister’s face and yelled, “Mama, poop or chocolate!” Thankfully it was chocolate, but it’s become one of our family’s catchphrases for any mysterious substance.


  9. Evan was very visual when we potty trained him. He was fully trained just after he turned 3 (he’ll be 5 in November). Putting stickers on a chart didn’t work for him, no. He put stickers ON the toilet and toilet seat. and on his little potty when we used it to start. We also bribed him with dollars so he could pick out something from the dollar store.
    Good luck! :)


  10. We are in the EXACT same boat (and so are a lot of parents of nearly 3-year-olds I know). No worries! I’d kill for my kid to request a diaper rather than just let go in her underwear, though. She got the peeing thing right away and randomly poops in the potty but if we make *too* big a deal about it, she stops again. Ug. Good luck and let us know what finally works!


  11. My mother’s tried-and-true method which has overcome even the most diaper-stubborn grandchild: get them underwear that they really, really like. Superheros, cartoon characters, whichever…you get the picture.

    She lets the kiddo choose and then simply says “you wouldn’t want to make them dirty by going on the bathroom on them, would you?”

    And that’s that.


  12. TMI alert. This may sound gross, but when I was potty training my almost 3 year old I showed her when I would go in the potty so she would understand that I poop too, and so does Daddy, and that it is totally normal for her to poop on the potty too. I think sometimes they just get freaked out that this stuff is coming out of them. When they go in a diaper they don’t really have to see it ( out of sight, out of mind), mom takes care of the mess and its magically gone…just an idea:)


  13. You are lucky that he pees in the potty. My little boy is exactly Em’s age. He REFUSES to use the potty at all. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with him. He’s starting preschool in 2 weeks and is supposed to be potty trained. Though they said if he has accidents its OK. I’ve tried stick charts and rewards, buying him underpants that he loves. It doesn’t matter. He won’t do it.


  14. My theory? Don’t stress out about it, he’ll go when he’s ready. He doesn’t have a whole lot of control over things in his life, and this is one thing he can control (that has the benefit of driving you crazy as well!).

    My Mom started pressuring me to potty train my daughter when she was 18 months old. She’s 34 months now, and fully potty trained without really any training. She had a severe diaper rash at 17 months, so I started letting her run around the house naked, and putting her on the potty right before her bath. She’s not talking though, and she surprised the heck out of me because I thought, how can she tell me when she has to go when she’s not talking? She’s a pretty regular pooper, so when we knew she had to go in the afternoon we’d ask her if she wanted to use the potty, and she’d always say no. I agree with the other commenter about letting them pick out their favorite underwear. Last month, my daughter wanted to put on a pair of panties one Saturday morning. We let her, and then forgot to put a pull up back on her before we went to the park. I remembered in the car on the way there, so we hit every bathroom along the way. And that was it – she’s been wearing underwear since that day. She’s had a few accidents, but nothing graphic so far.

    Boys just take longer. My nephew was still pooping in his pants at 3.5-4. The whole family was together for 4th of July 2009 and a turd rolled out of his pants and onto the patio.


    1. Ha! Turd on the patio. Awesome.

      We had the turd roll at the pediatrician. Right on their playroom floor. That was fun! Oh, there have been many public pooping moments. But the slide was the worst so far.

      We have the awesome underwear thing going for us, but he doesn’t care. He’ll soil it like a champ and think nothing of it.


  15. I’ve heard that the “make them clean themselves up” thing works for some kids.

    Good luck!


  16. I’ve heard from a professional childcare worker that the “smartie” treatment works wonders – one candy for pees, two for poos.

    So bribery is clearly an effective and childcare-professionally recognized method!


  17. Found the link:

    And this is someone with bachelor’s degrees and childhood education credits and everything!


  18. My son is 2yr 9mths now and he’s been pee-potty trained for nearly a month now (I also let him run around naked around the house for a long time before, so he was used to going to the potty – but no pooping).

    A month ago he had Roseola and since we had to stay away from other kids and at the house I decided it was the perfect time to try and potty train him. Some of my friends had success with the potty-‘bootcamps’ over weekends. He did great with the underwear from the start and told me whenever he had to go. Since he hardly ever gets candy and chocolate I told him he can get chocolate M&M’s whenever he goes. He immediately had his own terms: An attempt warrants 1 M&M, Peeing = 2 and pooping = 4! Worked like a charm (for the peeing but still now pooping). He waited for the diapers or went in the underwear.

    Now a month later he will say he has to go pee and when we get there he doesn’t have to go anymore so I know a poop is soon to follow. This will go on for about an hour and I have to drop everything each time (like to boy who cried wolf-story) and keep my patience. Every day there is a little improvement and when he does poop in the toilet I let him flush and there is a big farewell ceremony to the poop.

    I’ve read some people let their kids sit on the toilet with the diaper on at first since they’re used to pooping the diaper. Also the sitting and pooping thing is probably hard getting used to since they usually stand and do it right? I started out letting him sit backward facing on the toilet until one of his little friends who is potty trained came to visit and he went along to the toilet to see what was going on and since then he just wanted to stand up like his buddy. Maybe we should have pee/poo- playdates at homes so everyone see their friends are doing it too.

    Good luck, we’re all struggling with this pooping-thing. So many of my friends have the same problem. We’ll get there.


  19. I agree with elle. sitting down to poop is weird after standing to poop for so long.

    ryan isn’t yet 3 but he basically potty trained himself. i introduced him to the potty a few months before but he wasn’t ready. and then i would try every week or two to see if he would attempt the potty. no go. so i forgot about it. he actually came up to me and dragged me to the potty so he could go and he’s been going since.

    we did have issues with poop but it was more the fact that he would hold it rather than just go in his pants. he did have an accident a couple times and he was very upset .. i just said it’s no big deal and calmly cleaned it all up.

    even if he attempted to use the potty to poop i praised his attempts. and when he actually went i praised him to no end. that was the reward really LOL lots of hugs and kisses and amazement and jumping up and down and the poopy party dance.

    even if he wasn’t potty trained and didn’t show any interest i wouldn’t feel any pressure for him to be dry/clean. kids are ready when they are ready.

    i will say what i think helped is going over to a mate’s house and letting ryan see her little boy (a few months older) using the potty. if you know anyone with a potty trained boy it might help Em to see.

    if Em’s not ready don’t beat yourself up. it’s not your fault and it’s not a competition. he will get it … on his time schedule, not necessarily someone elses


  20. Same boat here. My son will be 3 at the end of September. He was a late talker….just decided to get to it in his own time so I’m not really stressing about getting him potty trained by a certain time (until he hits 4, then I may start stressing if he’s still not trained). He’s aces with going pee pee in the potty. He tells me when he has to go and wears big boy underwear all day and even during naps. He’s pretty unmoving about the poop-in-the-potty thing. We talk about it, have discussed that when he poops in the potty we’ll go to Chuck E. Cheese (kill me when that happens, k?) and we talk about how bad it is to poop in his underwear. He just still flat out refuses to even try. As I said, I’m not really stressing about it right now. I know, as with his talking, that he’ll get around to it when he’s damn good and ready and my pushing it will only set him in his stubborn ways all the more.
    You’re not alone. Lots of us with kids close to Em’s age are going through this. Em is totally normal…not behind. Soon enough this will all be behind us. Our kids will be using the toilet unattended and it will soon be a part of their lives that is really none of our business!


  21. Oh girl. I cannot tell you how much I understand what you are going through. I had a rough time of it with the toilet training with my three year old. When I wrote the post in this link I was at my wit’s end – we was three years and a few months and I was at my wit’s end. We’re been potty training for about five months at this point:
    As I said in that post, the peeing took a little time and he got it – which you have apparently conquered so no issue there. The pooping…oy. Let’s just say that from about 2.5 through 3.5 my older son was a little shit (no pun intended) and given the fact that he has my personality, it was not happy times in this house. He had a new younger brother (born when he was 2.5) and that was an adjustment for him – that didn’t show generally but manifested itself in control issues. Toileting was one thing he could control and no amount of pooping in his brand ner underwear seemed to deter him. He just didn’t care. He’d walk around with poop in there all day, just to prove a point. One of the commenters gave me a link to an article that was very helpful, do check that out. I did go back to diapers for a a bit and he didn’t like that…so I thought it would help with the pooping. It took a couple of months, but one day, he decided to poop in the potty (while I was feeding the baby, no less). He did and got a reward (oh, the bribery….). I made a big deal out of it but then he regressed for a few days but sloooowly started improving. What I figured out with him is the stubbornnes won out over everything else. Had I backed off and just not made a big deal either way, life probably would have been easier. Of course, that’s just my kid and there is no one size fits all solution unfortunately – no matter what the “experts” will have you believe! My point is, you’re not alone in this so feel free to vent whenever you need and keep in mind that he will eventually do his business where it needs to be done. It might just take a little longer. (ps. our rewards chart worked for a week and then he lost interest. What helped him a lot was a matchbox car every time he pooped in the toilet. Now he gets a car when he gets dressed by himself, since he hasn’t had a poop accident in months knock wood.)


  22. By the way, apologies for all of the spelling and grammatical errors. I was trying to do two things at once and don’t think I was paying close enough attention.


  23. Wow, I am so glad you brought this up. My nearly 3.5 year old son pretty much refuses to use the potty. He will pee standing up but never wants to poop on the potty.

    He says he doesn’t want to get bigger and I am truly convinced I will be potty training both him and my 1.5 yo daughter together. To make matters worse they both wear the same size diapers due to my son being a skinny little sh*t with no ass-at-all. Therefore the “oops, we’re out of diapers,” thing won’t fly.

    I think it is mostly an attention thing so far. We have tried the sticker chart (he lost interest) but I am wondering if the instant gratification of smarties or candy at each attempt/success might do it.
    To be honest, I am not sure it is worth the huge fight. I figure he will hit a point when he wants to do it, hopefully by high school otherwise I might be checking into a mental institute. Am I being too lazy thinking that changing two diapers is easier than cleaning up the poop messes while trying to corral a 1.5 yo from getting into them? Thanks for all the suggestions, advice, and especially the knowledge that we are not alone in this!


  24. I was just discussing potty training and our boys with some friends of mine the other day. The other dad is a therapist, and he was saying that he’s read in a number of places that M&M’s are the magic bribery tool for the poops. I haven’t a clue if it’s true, (my boy is only 18m right now) but it’s worth passing along.

    Good luck!


  25. Do any of you use pull ups?


    1. Thanks, everyone. Michele: great suggestions.

      MommaA: I use pull ups on Em but they are kind of a pain in the ass because they’re not nearly as fitted and snug as a diaper so poop always ends up squirting out all over his legs, pants and whatever piece of playground equipment he’s on. I still use them, but I’m starting to hate them a bit. Might go back to diapers as much as i don’t want to. Or maybe buy plastic underwear to wear on the outside? I don’t know. But I’m so sick of getting covered in poop. He doesn’t seem to be though.


  26. I had MASSIVE poop issues with my daughter. She was 4+ before we were truly able to conquer the poop issue. I tried EVERYTHING, I was totally at the end of my rope. She’d been pee trained since 3 so she was wearing regular underpants. I seriously thought I’d never get away from poop.

    I agree with the one comment that poop issues are very related to control issues. It is very psychological. So don’t stress too much (though I totally did and I got to the point where I was screaming every other day about how tired I was of cleaning poop and I’m sure that didn’t help anything)

    Here are some things that helped:

    1. I did use a reward system. I made a HUGE deal when she pooped in the potty. We had a song and a dance and we hooted and hollered and she got to pick a prize out of the “good job” box when she was successful. (Still today she tells me when she does a “good job poop”)

    2. Pay attention to your kid’s natural system — if your kid normally poops in the late morning, make him sit on the potty that time every day to encourage the natural flow of things.

    3. I would sometimes tell her we couldn’t do a special thing (like go swimming, for example) until she pooped, especially if it was during her natural pooping time of day. Sometimes the motivation of doing the fun activity is more important than controlling the poop and they’ll comply.

    4. This was ultimately the thing that helped us turn the corner. I told her she was going back to diapers (pull ups) if she was going to keep pooping in her pants. She acted like she didn’t care, at first. I bought the pull ups and threatened for about a week. She said she didn’t care. Then the day came and she pooped in her pants and I said that’s it. I made a stand and I put the pull up on her. She still said she didn’t care, but 5 minutes later the pull up was off. Something clicked in my head — I was onto something, she did not want to wear diapers. The next day, she pooped in her pants again…and I physically had to fight to put this one on her. She was not happy and it was off immediately. I told her I was taking away her underwear and she’d need to wear the diaper. She fought and yelled…and I knew we were onto something. Within a week, and after a lot of massive tantrums, she was pooping in the toilet. Her desire to not wear a diaper was the key. She wanted to wear underpants and that was it.

    It may take time. Do your best to be patient and don’t blame yourself. I just kept trying every technique that every mother and book suggested…but it just that light bulb that went off when she took off that diaper after telling me she didn’t care that was the key. One day, it’ll just click and you’ll move on to the next challenge! I promise.


  27. Ha ha–I have tried literally every suggestion in the comments section here and nothing will stop my girl from holding her poo, then forgetting and letting go in her underpants (no matter how special they are). So take heart, Michele, I’m in your boat too. They’ll get it eventually.

    (My most recent tack is to tell her that when her baby sister arrives in a month she’s going to wear all the diapers so what will Ellie wear? She’ll have to wear her underwear so the baby can use the diapers! We’ve talked about how the baby can’t wear underwear, etc. I’ll let you know if I have any success with this!)


  28. PS: Try buying one size smaller in the Pull-Ups. I had the same problem with the poop coming out the legs so I went down a size and they are very snug but prevent leakage. I also like that they hold less urine so she’s more apt to be aware when she’s peed in them. And hey, you get more for your money in the smaller size! Though they can be kind of hard to pull up if she’s wet or sweaty or something.

    We have to use Pull-Ups b/c of preschool but it doesn’t matter b/c she loves Pull-Ups, diapers and underwear all the same! Pull-Ups have princesses and Toy Story, diapers have Mickey Mouse, and even though she loves her special underwear it doesn’t stop her from pooping in it–once she did it every day for two straight weeks until her preschool made her go to Pull-Ups. Hard to blame them, really…


  29. Hi Mihow,
    We tried everything and unfortunately until they are ready you are wasting your energy. Our final offer after reward charts, lollies and every other small treat we could think of was an extravagant any 3 things at the toy shop.

    Surprisingly that wasn’t even a motivator as material things aren’t really important to our little one so we would simply change from undies to nappy or pull up just for the poo for seemingly months on end.

    When the day finally came little miss casually told us just before bath time of her achivement at childcare and we’ve never looked back. It wasn’t even a big deal to her – she was just ready.

    Thankfully the toy shop visit wasn’t a killer to the budget but I think when we stopped making a fuss she decided she would oblige. Good luck because like anything when you are living it you just wish it would happen.

    Congrats on your exciting news – fingers crossed that your course will make the time just fly by.


  30. That’s so funny! We’ve been potty training a month (my son will be three in December) and poop is not an issue but pee. OMG pee. At home–as long as he’s not distracted by friend’s over–he’ll pee in the potty. But out and about, he just goes in his pants most of the time.


  31. Not sure if these things have already been mentioned but here is what worked for us.
    Jack doesn’t get much candy. So it was one m&m for pee and two for poop. He was thrilled. I made a hideous chart in five seconds with a black sharpie and it worked like a charm. I taped it on the wall above the potty but where he could see it each time he went. We used shiny star stickers. And let him put them on the chart and get to wear one on his hand as well. Those things helped but here is what really cinched it. This may sound weird but stay with me. Jack is an only, and yes he has seen us go to the bathroom but he hasn’t really seen a lot of other kids do it. So I found some cute vids on youtube of other little kids learning to use the potty and being “successful” with it and it was like he instantly got it after watching a few.
    Also, we watched the vid of Elmo and Elmo’s daddy singing it out and he enjoyed it, too.


    1. Y’all aren’t going to believe this! But he’s gone TWICE in the past 24-hours. IN THE POTTY! M&Ms have been helping. Presents too. First a fart whistle, which loves. And just now he got some math flash cards. (Kid loves to add and subtract. Who’s like his daddy?) YAY! I hope this lasts….

      But now that I’ve written it down. It’s over.


  32. Our son wasn’t fully potty trained until he was 3 1/2 y.o. He still has accidents sometimes though (just a warning).

    RE: the chart. My husband had the brilliant idea to have our son HELP making the chart. The created levels: level one he had to poop on the potty once to get a prize, level two, twice etc. Once he got to level 10 we had a “graduation party”.

    The strangest thing about all of it was that he really resisted potty training until we went on a two-week vacation. Once we were out of the house he decided he was going to go on the potty ALL THE TIME and he did. We didn’t have the small training potty on vacation, so he had to use adult sized toilets. I seriously have no idea why a trip to Boston worked for us…kids have their own logic.


  33. Our daughter (now 15 and in Drivers Ed. YIKES!) was pee trained well before poop trained. She actually knew where pull ups were and would go change from underwear to pull ups to poop.

    I used M and M’s to bribe her. It eventually worked.


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