Does your child refuse to pee and poop inside the house? In our Facebook group we often hear from parents that are concerned that their child seems to not understand where it’s OK to poo or wee and are worried about reinforcing or breaking these habits. It’s not unusual that children should display a preference about where they feel comfortable toileting but how should parents address it?
Your child has developed a preference for peeing on a certain garden plant, pooing only on the lawn or generally refusing to use a potty or toilet that’s not their own. Sometimes, the same issue can show itself as your child pooing or peeing when you have your back turned. These sorts of “accidents” are actually part of the same problem.
Whats going on?
The problem manifests in where your child wants to poo or pee. But the actual problem itself is either because they have what we can call a “gap in learning” or it is a behavioural problem. The good news is there are solutions that will help you address both.
Gap in learning
If your child is just pooping or peeing where they want and doesn’t seem to care, it is probably not that they don’t care, but that they have given up trying to work out the answer. In this case, the gap in learning may be more to do with how they communicate their needs and how much they can do independently. All toddlers desire independence and mastery, so they may need to be taught the relevant skills that will enable them to be independent in the process. By tapping into their internal motivation ( a desire for mastery) you can channel their energy into getting this right.
A behavioural problem
Preferences may be for a particular toilet (e.g. your own at home), a quiet bathroom where you cannot be heard, or where you can be anonymous. I know that one of the only safe spaces where I can be alone in my home is sitting on the toilet! (although even that is not always guaranteed!!) Preferences create associations, and the anal muscles learn to relax when these things are in place, or when the person feels safe . Both are usually helped by feeling private. As social beings, we are born with instincts about this, so it’s very much a natural way to think and behave. People want to feel they can get on with things in private.
What you can do to fix this
1. Give them privacy
Create a safe space, perhaps behind the sofa (a classic preferred spot!), tucked behind a clothes horse/airer etc. You could even add a little basket of potty-only books, pictures/cards, or small toys they can enjoy whilst in the space. Your child may enjoy helping to make this, perhaps choosing where and how it will look. Tell your child when they need to go, their potty is waiting.
Set things up for your child to succeed and then allow them to make their own choices about it. If you tell your child what you expect (wee/poo goes in the potty) and back away, you may find your child starts getting it.
The best way to do this is to stay calm, even in the face of tantrums, issues, and accidents. Help your child understand you will not react with the same emotional intensity. Help make the bathroom or potty space nice and relaxing, so they feel safe. It will help if your child has helped make this space the way they would like it as well. Reassure your child that the space is safe.
Need more help troubleshooting a potty learning problem?
If you are feeling particularly lost or overwhelmed, you can also work with me directly for a private consultation. I’m a children’s research nurse who specialises in potty learning and I work with families all over the world to resolve their issues.Here’s some feedback from a family I worked with recently:“We used Rebecca’s consultation service as our child was having some potty training issues which we’d been trying to resolve for 6 months! Rebecca gave us very detailed, thoughtful, and personalised advice. We followed all her guidance and after 4 days something clicked with our child and they started to take themselves off to the toilet without being asked. Since then there have been almost no accidents. It’s a huge weight off our shoulders and has made a huge difference in our home life. “