Parenting is tough. The internet does a pretty good job of providing the latest guidelines on a child’s first foods, safe methods of discipline, and how to teach a kid to read. But what do you do when your child is scared to poop? And I’m not talking about using the training potty. I mean, literally, scared to let the poo out.
If you’re reading this post, I am assuming you have gone through, or are in the midst of, a terrifying (for your child) and desperate (for you) situation. You constantly think something like, “Pooping is a normal human function. Everyone does it. Why doesn’t my child just go?”
Let me just begin by saying that I am so sorry that you and your child are going through this. Developing a fear of pooping is absolutely horrible for both parent and child, and I would never hope that anyone should have to endure this. But if you are, I am praying for you.
I can also offer you a few tips. I cannot, in any way, promise that these ideas will cure the fear or work for your child. These three tips worked for my toddler, and I wanted to share them with anyone who is as desperate as I was.
Very quickly, I learned what didn’t work. I tried positive encouragement, enticement with treats, even taking a time-out from a favorite TV show. Nothing worked. As soon as my child felt the urge coming on, it was a dash to the couch under some pillows to “hide” from the looming poo. My husband and I were extremely concerned that our child’s bowel would get way too large and compacted. We had to do something.
Tip 1: Control your child’s diet.
The most important first step for us was to make sure our child ate a poop-friendly diet. Fiber, fiber, fiber! We found that fresh fruit and fiber-rich fruit juices worked the best for our child. For breakfast, we stuck to oatmeal, high-fiber cereals, eggs, and fruit. We eliminated toast, starch, and sugary cereals. For lunch, we would offer more oatmeal or eggs as well as any kind of meat and lots of vegetables. Suppers were more of the same story, just being careful to avoid anything processed, sugary, and starchy.
This first step was probably the most important thing we could have done. Because of a fiber-rich, healthy diet, our child was not able to hold the poop in for more than two or three days. By the third day, the poo was so ready to come out that our child just couldn’t hold it in.
So our child was pooping, yes. But we still needed to reverse the fear and help our toddler go more regularly. Going every three days or so was not healthy; when the poop did finally come out, it was so massive because it had been held in for way too long.
Tip 2: Eliminate Your Child’s “Escape” Mechanism
Every time our child felt a poop coming, it was time to try and “escape” from it. Our child would hide under some pillows on the couch and hold the poop in until the sensation passed. I let this behavior go for a while, just figuring that our child could hide the day away but because of the fiber-rich diet, the poop would still come.
One day, I had had enough. I stood my toddler up, got down on my knees, and we held hands. I looked intently and extremely sincerely at my child and said something like,”you can’t hide from your poop. The poop is going to come. No more laying down or sitting until you get that poop out. You’ll feel so much better!”
Now, this may seem a little harsh or mean toward such a small person. But let me tell you, when you’re facing the “scared to poop dilemma” you’ll be desperate to try anything to get your child to. just. go.
And you know what? This decision was the very beginning to my toddler’s fear reversal. Did my child like it that I got serious and didn’t let the hiding routine continue? Of course not. Tears flowed. A loud chorus of “no no nooo!” ensued. But keeping my child upright and facing the fear helped my child begin to learn that it would be ok. It’s ok to poop.
Tip 3: Include Jesus. Pray Together, Out Loud.
This is the absolute, most crucial and most noteworthy tip. Praying that Jesus would help our child poop is the key that brought us success.
Whenever I would get down on my child’s level and grab those little hands, I began to pray. My child would even ask me to start praying most times. I would say something like, “Did you know that Jesus will help you poop? He loves you and he wants you to feel all better. Jesus is with us all the time! He will help your poop come out. Let’s pray to Jesus right now.”
The very first time I offered up our desperate situation in prayer, our kid hadn’t pooped in days. And as soon as I included Jesus in our dilemma, my child pooped within ten minutes. I cannot tell you the relief I felt. I was so thankful to God for his quick response and help. And every time a poop was on the way, we would pray. And every time, the poop came out.
Overcoming the Fear Takes Time
From the first day we monitored our child’s diet, started facing the fear, and praying together, it took about three months for our child to completely knock the fear and begin pooping normally again. By three or four weeks, we were seeing the first spark of change. By six weeks, our child was pooping pretty consistently; more regularly. And by a full two and a half to three months, our child was confident and claiming out loud that “I make a poop and I not scared!”
Dear parents, I pray that Jesus would give relief for your child as well as for you. Give your child healthy foods, hold hands, and face the fear. Always, always pray to Jesus. He will help you; he loves you! Hang in there, Mom and Dad.