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Hi, This is my first time on here and I'm utterly desperate -

My 3 and 1/2 son has been having problems with his poos for the past 2 years. About 18 months ago, he started getting very anxious when he needed to poo in his nappy and would try to withhold it, eventually getting extremely upset when it came out. I think this was preceeded by a few episodes of constipation when it hurt him to poo. We started potty training him last year and he is mostly dry (unless he's too busy playing or is dealing with a health challenge of some sort). With poos, it took a while and a few battles and during the summer he conquered pooing in the toilet. Unfortunately, we had a significant emotional trauma in the family and since then (September) he has returned to not wanting to poo in the toilet, withholding poo and soiling. Its gotten so bad that I've had to put him back into pull-ups as I'm a working mum with a younger daughter and was struggling to wash up to 15 pairs of pants a day at worse.

Prior to the summer, we saw the GP who prescribed movicol which probably helped, however, this time round, despite giving him movicol, making sure his diet and water intake are good, exercise, abdominal massage, positive re-inforcement, and speaking to his preschool, I feel at a loss of where to go next. Since the new year and returning to preschool, my son has been having mixed success at pooing whilst at preschool, however refuses to do so at home. We are trying to replicate the environment from preschool at home to help, but I feel the problem is psychological as I cannot see any physical reason for him not to be able to go - he will go in his pull up when he can no longer hold it in, and it is always soft and well formed, but he will not let himself go! This is our problem if this makes any sense - Does anyone have any advice to help? What are we doing wrong?


7 Replies

Hi there, I don't think you are doing anything wrong it's just a tough situation you have found yourself in. The only advice I can offer that may help is perhaps let him poo in his pull up for now and not worry about the toilet. Maybe let him use the potty even if he sits on it with the pull up on to get used to it then take it slowly from there. There is good info on Eric website about children who want to poo in pull ups. sticker charts worked well for my daughter at that age, even just stickers for pooing in pull up, then sitting on potty in pull up and so on, slowly slowly. Try to relax more about it which is really hard but I have found that it helps. Go back to GP too if you feel really desperate x


Thank you so much for your reply. I am very analytical by nature and am trying to understand why this situation has developed. I just feel so relieved that we're not the only ones as for something that I have read is very common, no-one talks about it (apart from here!) Do you mind if I ask how things went with your daughter?


Hi, I don't mind at all. I've written a few posts on here if you have a search. My daughter is 6 now and probs started when she was about 3 and 1/2 whilst potty training. We have come along way since then but she still has problems, she has good periods and not so good but I'm optimistic things will improve with age. She poos regularly on the toilet now but still sometimes dances around and holds it in until I take her to the loo. For us the problem is she still gets bits of poo in her knickers between normal poos, on average twice a week I would say and not much. She takes low dose of movicol and senokot and is under the care of a paediatric doctor. I have accepted that she has this condition and I try to stay calm about it (not always though as can be v stressful and upsetting) It's something we work through together as a family with great support from school. Forums like this have helped keep me sane over the years! If it's any consolation I have known children get over this problem far quicker than my daughter so do not despair.


And also I have no idea how or why this all started for her. Her older sister is now 12 and had no issues at all.


Hi I'm not a child therapist but I do work with adults and have a child with constipation/withholding and toilet refusal. Have you spoken to your GP about the phsycological side of withholding as this is the only way I wa able to get to see a professional.

From a therapists view and don't take this as the only right answer as I don't work with children but sometimes in adults we need to be in control of something in times of trouble and unrest and maybe it's his way of controlling you and himself. I know he's young and this may sound silly but it was mentioned to me by the psychologist that my son has control over me as the problems he had ment that the whole family was effected but mainly me. My son had behavioural difficulties too when he was really constipated and directed this at me only. So that could be why they said that.

Try talking to you GP or Incontinence team if your in contact with one.

Keep to a rigid schedule of toilet times and play games while he sits with his feet on a stool to relieve pressure. If he likes his pull ups sit him in the loo in them so he gets used to the loo that way a gradually stop.

I'm sorry I know I'm not much help but feel for your situation and know how disheartening it can be.


Keep up with the massage and a good foot massage works wonders as well. Trauma can cause 'age regression' hence the return to nappies for a while. I think you are right - it is psychological and associated with home since he has no problem going at school. Kids must feel safe to poo - it's a very primal thing! Can you just 'weather the storm' ? This could just be a temporary set back. He is still so young...nappies again for a while.


thank you for all your suggestions...we had a small breakthrough over the w/e, but back to it again this week! our ERIC book about poo go home arrived over the w/e which he loved so will continue with that and weather it out I think whilst continuing to do it all! Its just so helpful to know that we're not the only ones struggling with this and that there is help out there - Thank you for lifting my spirits up!



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