Potty Training War of The Wills

Dear Dr. Gwenn:

I have two toddler daughters , a two year old and a three year old.  We recently started potty training both of them and to our amazement they just took to it for  pee but poop has been a different story. We also have three older boys and didn’t have these issues – they were able to potty train for both poop and pee very easily at the same time.

Both girls pee with no problem at all, even away from home like in stores, and they will tell us they have to go potty.

Its been 2 weeks and they haven’t gone #2 at all in the potty. They both seem to have loose stools now which seem better if they are in a Pull-up.

How can we get them have this control in the potty and will this cause major problems if they don’t poop?

We are very concerned about this problem. We have even tried letting them watch us poop but they seem uninterested.  We are at a standstill with poop and don’t know what steps to take now.

Thanks for your help!!


Thank you for your letter. I know how frustrating this can be, especially when potty training starts off so easily and when you have a history of it going well with other children.

Given the ages of your children and the fact that you have only been working on this for 2 weeks, there is no reason to be concerned at all. It can take toddlers many, many months to master control over potty issues, for peeing in the potty and popping in the potty. This is a very individual process.

As parents, all we can do is help our small children identify when they are ready and encourage them but “training” is really a misnomer. It’s best viewed as “potty guiding”.

The fact that your children are “uninterested” and you are describing the situation as a “standstill” tells me that part of the issue is a classic toddler-parent power struggle. So, the first thing you and the other adults in the home need to do is use the pull ups and just let the kids tell you when they are ready to poop in the potty. Just be more casual about it. Once a week or so simply ask each of them if they want to use the potty and leave it at that. Once of these days you’ll see the pull ups stop being used in lieu of the potty and you can help them be more competent with those skills when you see them show interest on their own.

That said, if the loose stools continue, talk to your pediatrician. They obviously seem to be able to control the poop which is a good sign. But, there may be other issues going on such as constipation that your pediatrician can help you explore that would make pooping in the potty a challenge.


I have partnered with Pull-Ups® to serve as a Pull-Ups® Potty Training Partner. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing articles for Pull-Ups.com, offering tips and advice on the Pull-Ups® Facebook page and holding “Potty Training Talk Office Hours” on the Pull-Ups® Facebook page during February and March 2010. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments or endorse the product.