Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Potty training


Hello, I have a 4 year old boy who refuses to poop on his potty.  He rather sit on the floor and go in his pants.  One day he decided to use the toilet, and did several poops.  He used to be very constipated.  I have been giving him Murilax, as per gastroenterologist, to soften his stool for the past 3 years.  I think he is just very lazy.  I have tried negative and positive reinforcement.  Nothing seems to work, I am at my wits end!  Should I take him to a therapist?

Hello Melissa,

It is likely that constipation led him to withhold his stools and pooping was perhaps very painful.
I think you should continue to use positive reinforcement when he uses his potty. However, if you are using any kind of pressure (such as by talking to him about using the potty and telling him he has to use it,  or scolding him when he poops in his pants), then you should discontinue that.
On the other hand, if he uses the potty give him lots of praise and attention. If he poops in his pants, then he should be put in pullups. And when he poops in his pants, he needs to help you clean up and he must get washed. If you have enough time, you could give him a bath every time he poops in his pants. Without saying anything to him, you should make the whole process of changing very uncomfortable and inconvenient.
You didn't say anything about going to school, so I assume he is not in school. However, he will probably be going to school this fall. In that case, you must tell him about school from time to time. You can casually mention in describing what school is like that all the boys and girls go to the bathroom at school. At any milestones (such as his next birthday), you can ask him if he is ready for "big boy" pants -- that is, no pullups. You can point out that all the boys who go to school wear big boy pants.

Any questions?

James Windell  


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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