I am going to try and keep this as simple as possible, without a big preface- because if you are like I was, you just want the facts and the solution –ASAP!
My son has always been excellent at doing wee’s. Is it a boy thing? Perhaps. He copied Daddy from day one and liked to “Water the grass” and “clean the toilet with his hose” … I imagined learning how to poo on the toilet would be just as easy- it wasn’t. It’s a big black blur now looking back, I think I have repressed a lot of it (because it was HELL on earth for all of us!). So many people would try and reassure us, he’ll get there. It takes time. He can’t hold it forever… let me tell you he can! One day we sat him on the toilet for four and a half hours… nothing except a mental breakdown for all and an almost divorce. This was becoming a big issue for all of us. Stress. Anxiety. We all peaked when we knew it was “poo time”.
He would only go in his nappy “hiding” in his room. We tried many things, bubbles on the toilet. Watching shows. Lolly rewards, toy rewards, cuddles, compromise, authority. NOTHING worked. We had a toilet seat for him and we let him watch us go to the toilet, but when he turned four and was still holding it for days in fear of being sat on the toilet we began to go crazy ourselves. I began looking for a child psychologist thinking, something must be wrong with him. One night whilst googling “how to make my child shit on the toilet” I came across an article that suggested cutting a hole in the nappy. So that is where our journey began and I began a seven step gradual release:
Step One: Be positive- take the pressure away.
Take a deep breath and don’t make the situation about YOU because your child will react directly to how you set the tone for the situation. Ask your child, “Do you feel like you need to do a poo?” If they respond with an anxious/sad/aggressive “no” – simply say, “That’s okay, let me know when you are ready and I can get your nappy for you.” Offer the safe option, so the child knows they are going to get the safety they are desiring. The goal is to have them tell you they need to go without being afraid too. To start with, let them poo in their nappy where they feel safe.
Step Two: Moving into the bathroom.
Now that your child is not showing anxious signs and trusts that you will give them the safety of the nappy, it’s time to move into the bathroom. When your child needs to go, say “Awesome! I want you to choose a special toy and we’re going to take them on an adventure.” Have your child choose a toy from their room or wherever they usually poo- and take it into the bathroom. This process may take a few tries. Get down to your child’s level and explain; “You are a big boy, and this is where you need to do your poo. You can still have your nappy – but we do it in here now.” Stay positive and if the child becomes too upset, give them a hug and say you’ll try again tomorrow.
Step Three: Sitting on the toilet.
Now that your child can comfortably go in the bathroom and they feel safe, transition onto the toilet similarly to how you moved into the bathroom. Use a step and a seat insert. You can go shopping for these together and choose a fun one. Talk about how proud you are of them sitting on the toilet like a big boy/girl. Let them flush the toilet, and when you change the nappy tip the poo into the toilet so they can see this is where it goes and it’s okay.
Step Four: A hole in one.
Time to get that poo going into the toilet, you do this by cutting a hole in the nappy. The child will still wear it like a nappy for the feeling of safety and security. At first I didn’t tell him I was cutting the hole I just did it, he became distressed with this. So we went back to hole-less nappy for a while. Then I let him watch me cut the hole, he even helped me with some of them. (Pre cut and have some ready to go in your bathroom!). We slowly got going, and before we knew it he was doing it and laughing about how stinky it was. (Make sure to bring out your Logie award winning performances here and really act up how smelly it is – kids think its hilarious and want to laugh again so it encourages them to want to do more poos!).
Step Five: Sticker chart.
I found this wonderful book called “Toilet Time- A training kit for boys” by First Steps at Kmart. The book comes with the same sticker chart the boy has in the book, this really inspired my son to be like the “big boy in the book.” I said, “Hey you can be like him, he doesn’t have a nappy. Let’s try it tomorrow!” The next day we took the nappy off and I reminded him to be like the “big boy” and that we get a sticker if he can do it! He really wanted that sticker, and he did it! The sticker chart took over and before we knew it he had the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation needed to achieve his toileting. Every time he got a sticker, I would say I am so proud of you!
Step Six: When the chart is complete.
The chart has 21 sticker points, which is clever because a lot of research shows 21 days is the time it takes to form or create a habit- thought I have read other research that states it is 66 to create a true and sustained habit. So, we have begun putting stickers in random places on the chart – but I also don’t remind him of the chart anymore. Give less attention and praise once your child is able to complete the toileting action. This helps it become a “normal” part of their routine. We still say, “Great job, that’s a good one!” or “I am proud of you!” “Well done for washing your hands!” – but no more song and dance.
Step Seven: Wiping –
Well this is a skill we are still harnessing. We are using flushable wipes and I wipe and show him each time and talk about how you keep going until there is no more poo on the paper. Ask “Would you like a go?” – And the slow gradual release process begins!
Some quick Do’s and Don’ts I have learnt:
Do: Take time to plan toileting. A good time is when there is a lull in defiance or aggression. No planned trips or holidays.
Do: Be positive, take a “parent breath” and suck it up, take your own ego out of it and surrender to the process knowing it will happen eventually.
Do: Lead by example, show how you do it. Bring your child into the toilet with you. Use a toy as an example – pretend you are on playschool and explain how big Ted does a number 2.
Do: Talk about your frustrations with a “positive” sound board, not someone who is going to make you feel disappointed in yourself.
Do: Give your child a healthy bowel diet to make the process easier. Lot’s of water, pears and psyllium husk great which can be added to pasta sauces or juice.
Don’t: Power struggles will always be won by the child so don’t bother. Stick to your game plan and diffuse the aggression. “Wait and demonstrate” is your new mantra.
Don’t: Punish, never take something away or threaten if they can’t or won’t do a poo – wait and demonstrate.
Don’t: Over prompt, this can cause the child to rely on you or wait for your signal. Talk about how the body feels when you need to do a poo, “Tummy tightens, bottom feels sharp or heavy” etc.
Don’t: Show your frustration, it can be f%^&ing hard not too, but it will cause more anxiety and stress and your child can lose motivation.
Remember: The best time to sit on the toilet is about 20 minutes after a meal, waking up or exercise. Make sure you stay close to provide praise, if your child is not willing to sit and try don’t force them. This guide is called steps for a reason, you can go up and down if necessary.
I soooooo hope this helps you! I have been where you are, frustrated thinking that your kid is never going to be able to poo. I have been at that relentless breaking point, please don’t go down the hard road I did. Take the pressure away and slowly guide your child through this time. Let me know how you go!