Why children become scared of going to the toilet

curious little boy looks in the toilet

BAs a Clinical Hypnotherapist, specialising in children’s problems, I often get asked by mums “Why won’t my child go for a poo on the toilet or potty?”

Well, the answer is – fear! It could be fear of falling into the toilet or not feeling “stable” on the potty, or it could be that someone has told him there are monsters or spiders that come up and bite their little bottoms! (you know what children can be like – AND some adults!)  It could be that he or she just feels so used to doing it in his nappy that he doesn’t like change! There could be so many reasons. What we do know however, is that if a child holds on to his poo (stool holding) it will lead to constipation which in turn will lead to a lot of discomfort and this will only make the situation worse.

If a child’s bowels become impacted with faeces, this will lead to leakage and soiling – which again causes further problems – embarrassment – the child becoming aware that other children can smell him – and it may even cause him to stop eating! So, as you can see, this “little poo” problem can actually turn into quite a serious situation very quickly.

So, what’s the answer?

The first thing to do is to establish if the child IS constipated and if so, to ensure he is getting a diet high enough in fibre to keep him regular. It may be that he needs more fluid – water and fruit juice. If that doesn’t change things, then a small dose of mild laxative from the doctor will ensure that the stools are soft and not going to hurt him

But how do we change his mindset and stop him being afraid?

Now that’s where I come in! When I am seeing young children with encopresis (stool holding) I always make sure that mum and dad have taken the first few steps as above:

A) Made sure the child has a good high fibre diet and drinking plenty of fluid

B) Checked with the doctor there is nothing physically wrong

C) If constipated – has been given a mild laxative.  Then, I work with the child’s subconscious mind, using role play with glove puppets, songs, stories and subliminal suggestions so that we can eradicate the fear. It’s all done with fun and the child loves it!

Some mums of course are very sceptical. One young mum said half- way through the session There is no way this is going to work – all you are doing is playing with him!”

I told her to be patient and no one was as surprised as I was when the little boy said: “I want to go on potty!”  Fortunately, I have one in my clinic and mum put him on it – he did the biggest poo and was very proud of himself! That’s how quick the progress can be once you get rid of the fear! After a couple more sessions little Thomas was well on the way to using the potty and toilet normally.

Some children, however, take a little longer to overcome stool-holding.

As a therapist I must consider the benefits that a child derives from his behaviour – wanting to stay in a nappy “like a baby”, and the attention he receives because of it.  After all, he probably gets rewards, sweets, presents, special chats with mummy or daddy, stories being read to him – why would he want to change? Even if it meant he was made fun of by other kids or had some discomfort?  This often happens with a first child when a new little sibling arrives on the scene! He sees his little brother or sister getting the nappy changed and all that attention and they think 

“If I don’t poo on the potty, I will get all the attention from mummy too!”

Sometimes it’s better to almost ignore the problem (hard I know!) and just say to him “You can either use the toilet, your potty or your nappy, but remember you are a big boy now and I’m so proud of you when you behave like a big boy.”

I also give the mum a little audio recording for the child to listen to at night before he goes to sleep – this just compounds all the work I’ve done with him during the session and helps to keep the anxiety at bay!

I hope this info helps someone – as I know how frustrating and worrying it can be for the parents.

For more information please don’t hesitate to give me a call: 0777 552 8445

1 Comment

  1. Giovanna Wain on February 23, 2020 at 9:48 pm


    I would like some more information about the hypnotherapy for children with fear of going to toilet

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