Why Is My Toddler Afraid of the Potty?

Watching your kids grow up and develop their unique personalities is exciting, especially as they become more independent and start performing daily tasks they once relied on us to do for them. 

Using the potty on their own is undoubtedly one such duty (pun intended).

However, not everyone makes the transition from diapers to the potty smoothly. And that’s okay because we’re all different. And we all need to go at our own pace. 

But suppose your toddler avoids using the potty out of fear. When that’s the case, it’s essential to address any concerns or anxieties he's experiencing now so it doesn’t develop into bigger issues later. 

Wondering Why Your Child Is Afraid to Poop in the Potty?

Let’s back up a second and talk about a few reasons why toddlers are afraid of the potty. In a recent article, we highlighted three common reasons your toddler may be avoiding the potty like the plague, such as:

  1. Your toddler is afraid to poop because it hurts (i.e., the result of occasional constipation).
  2. Your toddler is scared to poop on the potty.
  3. Your toddler has better things to do than sit around all day.

Here’s another common reason: your toddler is afraid of “letting go.”

Fear of Releasing Poop

Remember, our kids are confronted with new experiences every day. They’re also learning how their bodies work, including their digestive system.

So, if a toddler does not understand that the body gets rid of waste by passing stool, she may think she’s losing a part of herself when she poops.

This sounds scary, right? Well, it’s actually quite common. Children may even express sadness as they flush the toilet or wave goodbye to their poop, demonstrating that they see a connection between their bodies and the passing of stool—but this relationship is a little too close to home—hence why they feel the need to "hold on" vs. "let go."

Let’s dive deeper into why your toddler is afraid to poop in the potty.

Creepy Crawlies

Toddlers and kids, in general, have active imaginations. Though a creative quality we want to encourage, it could also explain why your toddler is afraid to use the toilet. 

Thoughts of creepy crawlies lurking in the pipes, waiting for the right moment to strike, can have anyone running for the hills. And unfortunately, this fear is not the result of urban legends. 

We’ve all heard the campfire tales of reptiles making their way through residential plumbing systems, and though this is unlikely to occur, it can make anyone at any age feel apprehensive about potty time. 

So why should we be so surprised by our kids who experience the same irrational fear?

Load Flushing

Imagine coming into contact with a large porcelain bowl boasting a giant-gaping mouth that makes monstrous sounds as it sucks everything down. Yikes!

Let’s face it: toilets, though a necessity, take time getting used to. They are also hard, cold, and uncomfortable to sit on. Therefore, it’s understandable why our kids may fear the potty. But this fear can transform into stress and anxiety whenever your child feels the urge to go. And guess what stress causes? Occasional constipation.

“In stressful situations, the body’s adrenal glands release a hormone called epinephrine, which plays a role in the so-called fight-or-flight response. It causes the body to divert blood flow from the intestines toward vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and brain. As a result, intestinal movement slows down, and constipation can occur” (Medical News Today).

Stress can also lead to gut health issues, reducing the number of healthy gut bacteria. So, if your toddler is feeling stressed and experiencing occasional constipation, they may also start associating potty time with pain, which in turn starts this vicious cycle all over again!

What’s a Parent to Do?

Every child is different, so you may need to speak with your pediatrician if they continue to struggle with going #2 on the potty. However, here are a few practical strategies that may help:

  • Start a Conversation: Read potty-time books, talk it out, and discuss your kids’ concerns as a family. The more your kids learn that potty time is just a fact of life, the more they'll start to view it as a natural process.
  • Decorate the Bathroom: Try to add fun stickers, books, toys, and other items your kids might like to play with so the focus stays on other items and they feel less stressed on the toilet.
  • Fiber. Fiber. Fiber. Ensure your kids get enough fiber to improve digestive health and regular bowel movements.
  • Drink Plenty of Water: Keep your kids hydrated, as fiber and H20 make the perfect pair to combat occasional constipation.
  • Get Active: Incorporate more opportunities for play to help your kids get enough exercise.
  • Improve Bathroom Safety: Make the bathroom a safe, comfortable space; you might decide to buy a fun potty seat that fits securely over the toilet. This will remove the fear of falling in and hold the seat in place so it doesn’t move around. 
  • Give Kids Stability: Be sure to get a stool that allows your child to safely climb on and off and rest their feet while sitting on the toilet
  • Add Calming Sounds: See if your child likes the sound of running water in the background while going #2. Some kids find it helps relax them.

Take the Fear Out of Potty Time

Talk with your kids about their fear of potty time, and continue to provide reassurance and support. It may take a while for your child to understand that poop is “no big whoop” and is just the digestive system doing its thing to keep their tummies healthy and happy.

Remember that lifestyle choices also play a key role in digestion, so make sure to give your kids a running head start with fiber, H20, and plenty of exercise.

At Doolies, we can help with the fiber part! Our bite-size snacks help make going #2 feel less stressful. Discover for yourself why so many parents continue to make Doolies a part of their kids' snack-time routine!