Here’s why kids might prefer to poop outside (or anywhere BUT the potty!)

Posted in Learning and Development.

If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time with a toddler or preschooler, you may be aware that for many littlies, the toilet is the last place they want to poop.

Bathroom battleground?

But why is this alfresco habit so popular amongst the toddler set? And what’s wrong with the good old loo?

“Some kids have a fear of flushing the toilet and hearing the loud flow of water gushing into the toilet,” physician Dianah Lake, told Fatherly. Which makes complete sense.

Psychotherapist Fran Walfish took things a little further, telling Fatherly,“Some boys fear dropping faeces into the toilet because of an unconscious worry of losing their penis at the same time. The flushing raises anxiety for fear of permanent loss. It is an unconscious castration anxiety.” 

Wait what? Okayyyyy.

Read more about toilet training:

Not THAT big

Parenting expert Janet Lansbury says the toilet is often a brilliant place for kids to simply exert some control. “When we have an agenda, especially when it’s about something our toddler controls (like his bodily functions), he can’t help but want to push back.”

Janet also says that the responsibility of that goes with using the toilet or potty – and being a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ now – can worry some children.

“The problem with ‘big boys’ is that they don’t get as much hands-on care as ‘little boys’ or ‘babies’ do. Being a big boy or big girl — growing up — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be … There are gains, but also losses. Not living up to being a ‘big boy’ can be cause for shame.”

(You could try substituting words like ‘clever’ or simply reinforcing the behaviour verbally ‘well done, you pooped in the potty today!’)

Let it go, let it go-oooo

While those are some pretty deep seated reasons to avoid the bathroom, perhaps there are other reasons your little one might prefer to poop in the woods, so to speak.

For one, being outside is relaxing. All that fresh air and running about gets the blood flowing and the system moving. Before you know it, you’ve got a kiddo nugget in your daffodils and is that really such a big deal?

Or perhaps once they’re outside, they forget their cares and worries about growing up or disappearing body parts – and simply do what comes naturally. Let it go-oooooo!

toddler child potty toilet training crying stock sl

Toilet refusal

US paediatrician Dr Edward Christophersen literally wrote the book on toilet training and kids (for real, it’s called Elimination Disorders in Children and Adolescents, in the series Advances in Psychotherapy, Evidence-Based Practice). In a Slate piece, he’s noted as saying it’s really common for kids to avoid using the potty or toilet. This might lead to them pooping in other more private outdoorsy places. (Like behind a tree.)

Dr Christopherson says one in five kids exhibit this ‘stool toileting refusal’ and that it’s “more common in kids who hide while they poop in their diapers, it could have something to do with the fact that these kids think of poop as something ‘bad’ that happens in private.”

Words matter

In related research, experts have found that even kids whose parents speak positively about toileting get a little toilet or potty shy – and interestingly that parents who encourage their kids to ‘push’ on the potty are prone to having more issues that parents who don’t offer this kind of chatter (but that study was focused on kids doing a wee.)

If your kid is an outdoorsy pooper, stay positive, be patient, avoid using words like ‘push’ and be guided by your kiddo. Continue to encourage them inside – and chat to your GP if it seems to be becoming a habit.


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