The Poopy Party

The Pediatric Insider

© 2009 Roy Benaroch, MD

Hey! Based on comments, I rewrote & updated this. Here’s the newer version: 

How to get your child to poop on the potty: The Poopy Party

The Pediatric Insider

© 2018 Roy Benaroch, MD

Julie’s 3 year old son uses the potty great—at least for urine. For poop, well, he’d prefer to use a diaper. What she needs to know about is the poopy party, and how to create some fun and excitement to get her child to take that last step!

Keep in mind: there are three ironclad rules of parenting. You can’t make ‘em eat. You can’t make ‘em sleep. And you definitely can’t make ‘em poop. Kids can hold their poop for a shockingly long time when they’re feeling stubborn, and you may end up with a very stubborn child if you try to force her to poop on the potty. So no forcing, no punishing, no humiliating, and nothing at all negative is going to work if you want your child to be successful on the potty.

Fortunately, all kids inherently want to succeed and learn new things. As soon as they’re sure you’re not pushing, and they start to get an inkling that—hey, this is the way to go!—they’ll do it. For kids who are a little late to the party, here’s one way to jump-start the process.


“The Poopy Party”: A method to encourage using the potty for stool

This works best at age 3 and above. It’s important to “ham it up” and really play with this to create a sense of fun and excitement about the potty. At no point should you be direct—never say “Don’t you want to use the potty now?” The point is to create excitement, but only to indirectly talk about what the potty is for.

You’ll need: a willing parent or caretaker, two hardhats, two bright orange construction worker vests, and two big chunky flashlights. Feel free to add in some kind of wrench looking thing, and a tape measure, and whatever other mechanical-plumber sort of equipment inspires you. If you want, you can involve your child in a trip to the tool store to load up on your equipment.

The parent puts on an outfit with hat and vest, then (while dressed up!) goes to get the child so she can put her set on. Child and parent have both got their own big flashlights, vests, tools, whatever. Dad or mom says something like, “Something’s up with the toilet, we’ve got to get it fixed so the poop can go to The Poopy Party!”

Don’t talk more about The Poopy Party…yet. Let the excitement build!

Then go to the toilet and take it apart, or as much of it as a parent feels comfortable putting back together. Talk about the parts, the flusher, the bobber thing, the insides, and where the poop goes down. Then, if you can, go to the basement and pull down some tiles, and shine your light along the big drain pipe all the way outside the house. Go out to the street and pull off a manhole cover (or the utility cover over the water main, or just peer down a storm drain) and shine your lights down there. Then talk about The Poopy Party. Yep, that’s where the poop goes, down there. There’s dancing and singing, and it’s a great place for poop to go!

If you want to go a step further, take the child to the county wastewater treatment plant. You’ve got to keep the hardhat and vest on. Explain there that you want to show your child where the poop goes. Then check out the big tanks and turbines and other fascinating things. Then go out for ice cream.

Afterwards, hang up the vest in the bathroom where the child will see it, but – and this is very important – do NOT talk about this any more. You set the stage, make it exciting, but do not remind or suggest. Anything like that will further delay potty success.

And be prepared, once she’s using the potty, to bring the vest everywhere you go.

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4 Comments on “The Poopy Party”

  1. Lara Lewis Says:

    Oh, I was laughing so hard reading this! Did you do this Dr. Roy?


  2. Liz Ditz Says:

    Dr. B., you are brilliant!


  3. None Yo Says:

    Maybe this “seems more effective with boys than with girls” because mainstream culture along with some parents/teachers/doctors/family friends/relatives instill the belief in children, by the ripe old age of 3, that cool stuff like learning how the toilet works and visiting a wastewater treatment plant is “manly stuff.”

    “You’ll need: a willing Daddy (this is manly stuff, and seems to work better mano-a-mano)…” Wow. I shouldn’t have to draw anyone’s attention to the following facts, especially not a pediatrician, but obviously I need to:

    1) NOT EVERY FAMILY HAS A FATHER IN THE PICTURE. I mean, obviously. What is wrong with you??

    2) There are mothers who have occupations like: water treatment plant worker, welder, construction worker, engineer, soldier… You know, “manly” jobs. There are even women who – GASP! – are just generally interested in “manly” things, like how a freaking toilet works.

    3) Again, because I feel this can’t be overstated, there are actually women who understand how the common household toilet works. It’s not a concept that’s particularly difficult to grasp.

    4) Psst… not all little boys are into hard hats, construction vests, etc. Conversely, some little girls are.

    All the blather about “manly stuff” and how men are the only people who understand how a toilet works was simply unnecessary. And also appalling. I see this was posted in 2009, but thanks for the trip back to 1959.


  4. Dr. Roy Says:

    You’re right. Will close comments, work on a rewrite to come out in the next few days. Thanks for your comments.


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