Supporting children to feel more comfortable around poo

Not all children find poo funny. Some children find doing a poo scary and this makes it difficult for them to relax on the potty or toilet.

Here are some ways to help them overcome their fear of poop:

  • Some children are really interested in where their poo goes after it's left their body. Your child may enjoy watching some of the videos we have on this page about how toilets work and where our poo ends up.
  • Let you child poke their poo with an old lolly stick or a twig. If possible, let them squeeze it if it is in a nappy or pants - they could use a rubber glove or test it through the nappy/fabric. They may need to do this several times to prove to themselves that it is not just a ‘one off’ soft poo.
  • To reduce a fear of poo, get your child interested in it - what it is, where it comes from, how it's a necessary part of our nutrition, giving us energy and helping us grow.
  • Help them to feel reassured that it is safe to touch poo, just wash your hands afterwards, to prevent it messing clothing and equipment.
  • Some parents show children their own poo for comparison, or that of siblings. You know what your child will tolerate or appreciate.
Boy scared of using toilet
  • Read stories about poo, direct ones like ‘Poo in the Zoo’ and ‘Poo go home’ but also tales like ‘The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business’- a great interactive tale, involving flaps and wheels. Games like ‘Plop trumps’ can help to open discussions on poo types.
  • It is great to talk about their fears and how sometimes we need to work hard to overcome them, also that you are willing and able help. It is best not to attempt to chat about it when they are tense and in the process of holding. Choose a time when they are more relaxed perhaps after their bath, when they are feeling calm. Most children will prefer it to be an intimate 1:1 conversation, rather than one for the whole family.
  • Some children can benefit from learning some yoga type breathing, to help them to relax, both when they are sitting on the toilet and when they are feeling anxious. Teaching techniques like ‘Imagine you have a cup of hot chocolate in your hands, it is a bit hot, so blow on it 5 times’, this can reduce the anxiety and help your child feel a bit more able to manage.
  • When children have soiled, they will often deny it. They do not wish to admit to failing again and they are also scared of what will be said. Our words and even our body language is immensely powerful and can have a profound effect on a child, it is advised that in preference to saying something unpleasant or harmful, it is better to say nothing.
  • If your child has pooed in their pants, rather than in the toilet, they will be aware that they have, but often think denial is the way to get away with it. If they become angry, shouting back will not help, it is preferable to point to the toilet, follow them there if they need help to clean up. Your silence will speak volumes to that child, they know you are not pleased.
  • Some children prefer a ‘secret sign’ for you to inform them that they need to use the toilet, rather than frequently repeated messages, ‘you need to go to the toilet’, ‘have you done a poo?’.
  • If they refuse to go, it may help to cover their toys with a king size duvet cover or put their programme on ‘pause’ until they have been to the toilet. Don’t argue though, just remain calm, firm and try to ignore them. If they make the right choice and go to the bathroom, then give them plenty of praise.
  • Think about what you say to your child and try not to shame them. It is better to look at it as something that is happening to the family, rather than your child’s fault. That will help you tackle it together. Phrases like ‘Oh no, not again’, ‘you stink’, ‘we won’t be able to go out now- because of you’, are not helpful. Just think how these words can make the child feel about something they also ‘hate’ about themselves, but feel they have no control over.

Upcoming dates

Share this page