Thursday, October 01, 2020

Potty Fears and Tips

Toddlers can have many fears when it comes to potty training. In fact, being afraid of the potty is one of most common reasons potty training fails. But sometimes it isn’t the potty that your toddler is afraid of. He may have a fear of releasing on the potty, or a fear of going on the toilet. When your child develops these fears it can be alarming, and you may be apprehensive about potty training worrying that you may make things worse. However, postponing potty training is not a great idea as the older your child gets the more resistant he will become. So let’s talk about some of the most common reasons toddlers are afraid of potty training and what you can do about it.

Fear of “Letting it Go”

Poop– Fear of going poop on the potty is actually a very common fear. Many toddlers “hold in” their poop because they are afraid of letting it go. In theory, toddlers think of their poop as part of their body, so they are afraid a piece of them will fall into the toilet or potty. Scary, right!?!

A toddler who is afraid of pooping in the potty for fear that a piece of them will fall will typically be upset or even sad rather than excited after pooping. She will also be reluctant or even really upset when asked to wave bye or flush the poop.

PeePeeing on the potty is a little bit easier for a toddler than pooping, but for some there’s still that fear of “letting it go”. The same as with poop, they are afraid of losing a part of themselves. The feeling of letting it go into something other than a diaper, can be very scary. The diaper makes your toddler feel secure. Warm pee or mushy poop up against their butt is how they know to eliminate themselves. Asking your child to just “let it go” into an open space, can be very frightening. Many toddlers are afraid of peeing on the potty.


  • Be very patient with a toddler who is afraid of peeing or pooping in the potty. They will need a lot of comforting and reassurance.
  • Never force your toddler to go. You will learn quickly that this will only make things worse.
  • Give your child some space while still encouraging him to keep trying.
  • Don’t give up. Putting things off typically leads to a more difficult time potty training as it gets  harder as your child gets older.
  • Consider getting help! I’ve created the Potty Training Plan™, a 3 day method to helping even the most difficult child. I can even help you through the whole process. Take a look at the potty training options 


  • Offer lots of liquids. This has 3 benefits. First, it will obviously make your child want to go. Second, it will keep away UTI’s. Lastly, it will keep the stools soft.
  • Watch for constipation. You may want to offer foods like prunes and pears to help your child go and to make the stools easier to pass. Enough of these fruits will make it almost impossible to keep the poop in. Pears are gentler on the bowels than prunes and they still have the “laxative-like” effect.
  • Talk and coach your child through it. My daughter was so afraid of letting pee or poop go in the potty. She would cry, she would sweat. It was awful watching her so upset. I literally had to hug and hold her and gently whisper in her ear that it was going to be ok. I did this and my 3 day method for a few days and within the first week her fear of peeing started to go away, and by the 2nd week the fear of pooping resolving too. When she became good at going on the potty, she would still say “hold Mommy” when she had to go. It was actually pretty cute.
  • Offer really awesome rewards. For a child with a big potty training fear, she is going to need something a lot better than just a sticker. Potty training is extremely stressful for a child with a strong fear, the incentive has to be a big one! We bought little toys from the dollar store. We had a stash in a drawer and my daughter was so excited to get a new toy every time. Sometimes I gave her a small piece of chocolate (which is really a big treat, since she never gets that). Other times I gave her a popsicle. Your child has to feel, that this reward is really special.


  • Cut a hole in the diaper for the first few tries. It will make your child feel secure when “letting it go” in the potty.
  • When my daughter would hold in her pee for an extended amount of time,  I was afraid of her getting an UTI. So I had to pull out all the stops to get her to go. I put her on the potty and put her feet in a basin of luke-warm water. This gave her the sensation of going, and also distracted her enough so that she could relax. I know you probably don’t want to keep pulling out a basin every time your child has to go, but even a few times just to get her use to going in the potty.
  • Running water. For some kids the sound of running water really works well, while for others it’s ineffective, but it’s worth a try! Put your child on the potty, run the water in the background and see if this helps him release it.

Fear of Potty Itself
Not all toddlers accept the potty right away. Some are really afraid of the potty. A fear of the potty itself can be caused by many reasons. First and foremost it’s an unfamiliar place for your child to do his/her duty. Your child is just not use to the idea of going pee or poop somewhere other than the diaper. Here are some other reasons:

  • Potty is hard or uncomfortable
  • Potty is unstable on the floor, or it moves around too much.
  • The opening is too big, so your child feels he/she will fall in.
  • Not the right potty for your child. Toddlers are picky and like to be in control, make sure you allow them to pick their own potty.

   Tips:afraid of pooping in potty

  • Read lots of books about the potty before you even have your child sit on it.
  • Buy some potty training dolls to practice with. They have them for boys and girls Here on Amazon.
  • Pick out a fun potty together. Make sure it’s something your child really likes.
  • Decorate the potty together with stickers or write your child’s name on it.
  • Play dress up and have fun with it! Have your child be a super hero or princess. This may help ease your child’s fears. Yes this is my child to the right who wanted to dress up while she sat on the potty. Hey, whatever it takes!


Fear of Toilet

Some children can go on the potty but are afraid of the toilet. A toilet can be pretty intimidating. Your toddler may be afraid of how large it is, how loud the flush is, or even think they are going to get sucked in. Her are some tips if your child is afraid of the toilet.
  • If you are going to be potty training using a potty seat on top of the toilet, use books, toys, dvds to introduce the toilet.
  • Make sure you have a sturdy stool that your child can confidently step on. Make sure he/she can reach it while sitting on the toilet, this makes your child feel more secure.
  • Buy a fun potty seat but make sure it fits sturdy on your toilet. Any wiggle or movement can really scare a child that’s already afraid of falling in.

Fun Tricks

  • Use blue food coloring. When your child pees, it will turn green. This amazes some children so much, they want to keep peeing in the toilet over and over.
  • Use “targets” such as cheerios. This works great for boys!

Fear of Public Bathrooms
So now your toddler is potty trained, but he is afraid of using public bathroom. Can you blame him? It’s an intimidating place, with lots of unfamiliar faces, noise, and loud flushing. It is very common for children to be afraid of going in public restrooms. Not to mention the automatic flush situation, this can be traumatizing if your child is not prepared.


  • Before you go out in public with your potty training toddler, have him/her go in many different bathrooms that are not as scary as public bathrooms i.e. grandparents, relatives, or friends.
  • Have a few “practice runs”, go somewhere for very short periods of time to see if your child is going to be able to hold it.
  • Bring a portable and foldable potty seat like this one when you go out. It folds up and easily fits in your bag.
  • Bring a portable potty or the Potette Plus to keep in the car when undoubtedly your child will say “I need to go now” and you are no where near a bathroom.
  • You can also just take your child’s potty with you. I kept the potty in the trunk of our SUV. When my daughter had to go I just put her right on it. Eventually we started using the foldable potty seat, but when we first started, bringing her own potty with us everywhere, was the key to her success. Yes we felt a little silly, but it was worth the extra effort.

Potty Training in 3 Days

If you are still having problems, have a difficult or stubborn child, or if your child’s fear is interfering with potty training. I can help!  My daughter was extremely afraid of potty training, especially of letting it go. Traditional methods did not work. After figuring out why, I started potty training on a Friday evening, and by Monday morning my daughter who was so afraid of the potty was completely potty trained. I now help other parent going through the same struggles with my Potty Training Plan™ and support. Learn more about me here

afraid of the potty






25 thoughts on “Potty Fears and Tips

  1. Hi, we just did Carol Cline's toilet training which had mixed success. Your tip for hugging her while on the potty meant she did a pooh on day 4! Thanks so much!!

  2. Wonderful! Who would of thought we'd be so excited about pooh right? Great keep up the great progress. Let me know if you need any help or tips with the program.

  3. My son is almost 3 yrs old and gets frantic when he pees or is about to pee in the little potty. He will jump up hysterical when he starts peeing and want me to hold him and change his diaper. I tried hugging him and hold his hand on the potty but he still gets frantic. His pee goes all over the place and I try to get him to stay seated. He also has a fear on peeing in underwear, the floor and the bathtub. He just doesn't want to pee anywhere but in a diaper. He will sit on the potty a long time but when he's about to go he freaks out. We tried the toilet will the potty seat and he doesn't like to sit on it. He is definately ready because he talks about wanting to use the potty, being a big boy and that he wants to try. Every time I sit him on the potty it's a complete failure. He gets so tramatized and I don't know what to do. I will try the hole in the diaper. Any other help would be greatly appricated

  4. My son is so frightened of peeing in the potty that he jumps up when he starts to pee is or is about to pee. He is afraid of peeing anywhere but in a diaper. He gets hysterical when he pees on the floor, in his underwear or in the bathtub too. I've tried everything you suggested except putting a hole in the diaper. I know he's ready because he says the wants to be a big boy and poop and pee belong in the potty. We tried the toilet too . No luck. Please he . Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  5. I don't have a specific method. Just trying to get him to pee in the potty. We tried the big toilet but he doesn't like it. He is just so afraid of peeing anywhere but in his diaper. We also tried rewards like toys and play doh but nothing makes him overcome his fear. When he is about to pee or starts peeing he gets so frantic and cries hysterically. Any suggestions?

  6. I don't have a specific method. I am just trying to get him to make pee or poo on the potty but he is so afraid of going anywhere but in his diaper. He will sit on the potty a long time but jumps off and pees everywhere when he has to go. He cries hysterical when he pees all over. I know he is ready. I've tried rewards and making it fun. He is all for going potty until he has to actually go. I have never got him to successfully pee on the potty once. I am so fustrated and feel like a failure. My son is so smart and know exactly what he has to do but freaks out every time. We tried the big toilet but he won't stay on it. I'm going to try and cut a hole in the diaper to see if that works. Any other suggestions?

  7. That is EXACTLY what my daughter did. I felt so bad, she literally got nervous, tense, and started sweating. My advice, just lots of love, encouragement, patience, and coaching when he actually does sit on it. Even if that means holding and hugging him the entire time. I would also pick a method. Here is my review of some of the popular potty training programs Let me know if there is any other way I can help. Good luck Gina!

  8. Thanks so much. Good to hear I'm not the only one. Lol. Please tell me he will eventually overcome this fear? I am working on picking a method too. Thanks again!

  9. Yes, I promise he will get over this fear. Right now it may seem like this will never end, then one day he will just sit on the potty and do his thing with no fuss. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I swear 😉

  10. I have done nearly everything known to man. He's 3 1/2 and does everything else except pooing in the toilet. Sometimes I feel like crying. 3 girls and never this frustration. I take comfort that I am not alone. Besides, he's a really good boy.

  11. My daughter is only 20 months old. She kept asking to go on the potty. So we let her. She peed successfully for a couple of days, so we went and bought training pants. (We hesitated because we have another baby due in 2 months.) We are only on day 5. The first two days she had a BM and was ok the first time, but scared-terrified the second time. The last two days she will tell us when she needs to go and that the poop is coming, but she is so scared. I followed the advice and took it easy and put her training pants back on. No pressure. But she still tells me it's coming and starts to freak out. She doesn't like going in her pants. Just now she tried and freaked out and just wanted a hug. When I gave her one, she pulled herself off the toilet. I put her pants back on. Almost immediately she went into the corner. Her face turned red and she said, "Oh no. Poop!" I came to help her, but before I could even get to her she had gone. She wanted to go to put it on the toilet and sit on it and flush it away right away. She was so relieved when it was gone. But then she asked for a chocolate chip. (That's her training treat.) I gave her one, but I'm not sure I should have. She was trying to tell me it was coming, and wanted to sit on the toilet and flush it away, but she didn't actually make it. What is your suggestion?

  12. I had the same problem with my daughter. She was petrified of going poop. I had to literally hold, hug, coach, and bribe her every time she had to poop. She would get all red and nervous, and I didn't want to force her. She definitely wanted to do, and initiated it, but would just get so frightened to let it go. Just like with any other fear it's about a week's time to help teach your child that it's going to be ok, an d there's nothing to be fearful of. The more BM's she does in the potty, the more she'll start getting use to it. Good luck!

  13. Hello, thank you for these helpful hints! I have a problem though– my child is afraid of underwear! Any helpful hints for this? He has gone on the potty a few times but it’s a fight to get underwear on him…to get them on, I would literally have to hold him down and I just don’t want to do that.

    1. I would let your child pick out his own underwear. Take him to the store and make into a fun thing. Good luck!

  14. My child has pooped on the potty since he was 6 1/2 months old due to the fact that he was constipated and this would help him go. He has been on medication prescribed by the doctor and is no longer constipated; however, he is now 19 months and refusses to poop on the potty. He screams, pushes and crys saying bye bye. We used to say bye bye to the poop. Now I can’t even get him to sit on the potty. I guess he now has the fear of losing a piece of himself. I don’t know. What are we going to do now?

  15. Hi, ur posts seem very helpful…. But my daughter who is 3.5 is just not working on anything but the diaper… Have tried so many times but in a frustrated state of despair And fear of her cranky bhaviour at preschool as a result makes me go back…..she has no fear of sitting on either the toilet seat or the potty… Infact she wont mind sitting for hours even… She will try, but wont release her pee..when she feels it coming hard she cries coz she cannot hold it any longer but she still doesnt release unless i make her sit for a prolonged time, like 2 hours or something.. Poop is still far fetched an aim…as soon as i put on her diaper, within seconds, she pees…if i dont, she even holds it for as long as the whole day! Unless she is unwatched and has an accident!nwhat to do im in a fix with nothing that works! And dont know what to try, pls help !!

    1. You don’t have to make her sit for a long time. Just let her go about her business and as soon as she looks like she’s about to go, direct her to the potty. Also give her lots of fluids like popsicles, jello, juice and water, so she won’t be able to hold in the pee and pears so she won’t be able to hold in the poop. Also have you tried any methods? This one is a really good one.

  16. Hi there! My daughter just turned 3 and we recently potty trained. We did a 3-day intense stay-at-home potty weekend and she seemed to master the peeing pretty quickly. We met a little bit of resistance the second day, but seemed to get over this pretty quickly. However, the fear of pooping on the potty has been present from the beginning. I have been giving stool softeners … so much that at times her poop is so soft she has a really hard time holding it in. She has to poop so bad, she is writhing in discomfort, crying, wants to be held, clearly withholding. EXCEPT… she WILL not sit on potty … and WILL not go in a pull-up or a diaper. She gets hysterical when I suggest this. I’ll spare you the details, but eventually after SO much stool softener, a poop dance and cramping that went on for hours, I had to gently insist that she sit on potty and let it out. I have been very careful not to force her to sit, but in this instance I had no other choice – she HAD to get it out and would not let herself go otherwise.
    I have done a lot of reading – I am trying to be careful about not forcing the issue, not over-prompting, not putting stress on her. I have tried rewards, stickers, big prizes; I have hugged her and sung to her, talked to her on potty, tried to reason with her (which i know isn’t REALLY possible with a 3 year old), tried every kind of gentle soothing and coaxing I can do to alleviate fears and talk her through it, make her feel safe, etc. The problem is really that I cannot get her to sit to even TRY, but also cannot get her to go in pull up diaper!! Can you give me some tips?? It is incredibly upsetting for her (and for me!) and we both end up crying as she cramps and frantically tries to hold in her poop. It is so hard to watch. Thank you!!!!

  17. Can those of you who had toddlers with “fear of release” tell me how long it took to finally get over it and what helped? I’ve tried every method under the sun – bare-bottoming, three day, etc., etc., and nothing works. My son simply has a mental block. He knows he’s supposed to go pee in the potty, doesn’t mind sitting on the potty, but he freaks out when he starts to go. I’ve tried holding his hand, peeing at the same time in the big toilet (and making a big deal about how good it feels), hugging, coaching, giving him privacy, and nothing works. HELP!

Comments are closed.

This website contains affiliate links, but don't worry I only recommend products that I absolutely love!
Back To Top