How To Help A Child Who Is Refusing To Poo

When a child refuses to poo it can be extremely traumatic for the parent and the child in question.

Going to the toilet is a natural biological function. Without properly urinating and excreting the body cannot perform optimally. Problems in this department can cause very serious health issues. The same is unfortunately true for children.

In some cases, a child may not be able to go to the toilet because they are unwell or experiencing constipation. These issues can be easier to deal with as they tend to be temporary. There are also a number of solutions to help improve the issue. Dietary and lifestyle changes may be recommended and there are a number of effective medications available also.

Unfortunately, the reason is not always physical though. In many cases, a child who is refusing to poo is experiencing this due to a psychological reason. When a child refuses to poo it can be extremely traumatic for the parent and the child in question. It can affect the child’s physical health, sleep and emotional well-being in a very big way.

When a child develops a sudden aversion to going to the toilet it is extremely frustrating for the parent. You know they have the ability to do it, you’ve seen them do it and now they are refusing completely.

For some children, it stems from one uncomfortable experience. They became constipated, had a less than pleasant bowel-movement and it instilled fear within them.
They do not want to repeat the experience and suddenly develop a fear of that experience and begin to withhold their poo. This leads to a vicious cycle because withholding leads to more constipation and another uncomfortable experience which leads to a heightened sense of fear.

Refusing to go to the toilet can also go hand in hand with anxiety. It might happen during a time of great change or trauma such as when a house or school move is on the horizon. Withholding the poo may be a protest of sorts and the child may not even be aware of the fact that this is what is going on.
Is may seem hopeless but this problem will not persist forever. There are a number of ways that you can help your child to overcome the issue of refusing to poo

1. Act quickly when you notice that there is an issue. The longer the issue persists the greater it becomes. Without treating the issue there are a number of health issues that can occur. Talking about the problem may be enough but you should raise the issue with your GP if it does not as medication may be required, even if just for a short time.

2.  Slow and steady. Try not to rush your child when they need to poo. It may take twenty minutes of sitting on the toilet but the end result will be positive. Adding extra pressure will only fuel the anxiety.

3. Distraction is helpful. Many children find it easier to poo when there is music playing or a game of some sort occurring. Try blowing bubbles or playing eye-spy. The idea is to help your child relax more.

4. Don’t forget to praise. A reward chart could work well here but your words are very powerful. Congratulate your child for every single poo and celebrate it to highlight it as a very positive thing.

5. Increase your child’s intake of fibre and exercise. The issue may be psychological but diet and lifestyle changes may still help as constipation can occur as a consequence.

Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at


Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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