If only it were this easy.

How to Potty Train a Four-Year-Old Who Won't Poop in a Toilet

by Christine Pillman

Potty training is a messy battle that all parents must endure at some point. It doesn’t help when our mothers-in-law chime in that their little angels were potty trained by 18 months! Yeah, right. Peeing in the toilet is usually the first hurdle crossed. And while most kids pick up the pooping part in short-order, there are some that just won’t do it. We know the stubborn little munchkins are fully capable, but at this point it’s a battle of wills.

Give up control over this battle. Tell her it’s her poop, and it’s her job to get rid of it. Explain that she’s a big girl, and you know she’s perfectly capable of pooping in the toilet. Apologize for nagging about it before, and assure her you won’t do that anymore – and then don’t. Act like it doesn’t matter to you whether or not she poops in the toilet or in a diaper. The hope (however far-fetched it might be) is that if she’s not getting the negative attention, maybe she’ll strive for some positive attention.

Encourage him to use the toilet (and not soil his underwear) by telling him that Superman or Diego or whoever is on his big boy undies doesn’t like being pooped on. No one does. Let him wear pull-up-type diapers for pooping until he’s ready to take control himself. You don’t want him holding it in and getting constipated.

Offer to help her wipe her bum. At this age, she won’t do a great job anyway. It could be that the sheer independence of it is daunting. Offering to help might make the hurdle seem less insurmountable. On the other hand, if your child is really stubborn and itching for independence, tell her she can go into the bathroom herself and even wipe her own bum. Offer it like it’s a concession you’re willing to make, and tell her you’ll wait outside the door. You know your child, and will know which method will suit her better.

Let him watch you use the toilet. Appear relaxed, calm and collected (instead of uncomfortable and weirded-out that there’s a 4-year-old staring at you while you’re doing your business). When it’s time to flush, tell him it’s going to a poop and pee party underground, and wave goodbye together. Then never mention it again …

Give her a reward when she poops in the toilet. Have her choose the reward, whether it be a new bike, a Barbie or a remote-control car. Allow her to play with this reward for 30 to 60 minutes after she does her business successfully, then take it away until next time – this will help retain its allure. When she’s all done toilet training and is a competent pooper trooper, let her have the reward full-time.

Offer her lots of positive reinforcement. Shower her with hugs and kisses, and let her know what a big girl she is, and how proud of her you are.

Items you will need

  • Underwear with characters
  • Reward


  • Don’t punish him when he chooses not to use the toilet. For a stubborn child, this will have the opposite of the desired affect.

About the Author

Based in Toronto, Christine Pillman has worked as a writer and editor since 1996. She has worked for Harlequin Enterprises, "Scott's" directories and "Boards" magazine. Pillman earned an honors B.A. in English from the University of Toronto, as well as a diploma in book and magazine publishing from Centennial College.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images