Poop Happens! Potty training expert returns to explain the good, the bad, and the ugly of BMs with guest Mary Vaughn

About this Episode

We learned so much about potty training from Mary Vaughn that we’ve asked her back for “Part 2: Number 2.” That’s right, on this episode of the Brainy Moms podcast, Dr. Amy and Teri talk with Mary about potty training for bowel movements. If you’re struggling to find answers about sensory issues, constipation, wiping, or simply why some kids don’t want to poop in the potty, check out this episode. It’s a mix of light-hearted joking, funny stories from our own potty-training vaults, and plenty of useful tips and take-aways to get your little one ready to make the transition from diapers or pull-ups.

About Mary Vaughn

Mary is a certified PCI Parent Coach©, sleep consultant, and potty training coach. She helps moms escape survival mode induced by lack of sleep, desperate need for more time in the day, and the chaos of having young kids at home.Her mom-to-mom life coaching (pregnancy through early elementary school) was designed to help women find more joy, hope, and fulfillment in motherhood. On her website, MotherTogether.com, you can book a free 20-minute call with Mary, read her blogs, get a free potty-training assessment, or download her workbook, “Managing the Mental Load.”

Connect with Mary

Website: www.mothertogether.com

Instagram: @letsmothertogether

Facebook: @letsmothertogether

LinkedIn: @letsmothertogether

“Managing the Mental Load” workbook: www.mothertogether.com/blog/mental-load

“My Child Won’t Poop” (a 2-part blog): https://www.mothertogether.com/blog/my-child-wont-poop-explanations

Listen or Subscribe to our Podcast

Watch us on YouTube

Read the transcript for this episode:

DR. AMY: Hi, smart moms and dads. We are so excited to have you join us for another episode of Brainy Moms, brought to you today by LearningRx Brain Training centers. I’m your host, Dr. Amy Moore. I am joined by my co-host Teri Miller, and we are both coming to you today from Colorado Springs, Colorado. We are super excited to welcome back our guest, Mary Vaughn. Mary is a certified PCI coach, sleep consultant, and potty training coach. She’s also the mother of three boys and founder of Mother Together, where she helps moms feel engaged, uplifted, and supported. We had such an engaging conversation with Mary the last time that she was on. We talked about potty training. But what we didn’t get to talk about very long was a topic that doesn’t get enough attention outside of the bathroom and that is poop. And so we invited Mary back today just to talk about poop. Welcome, Mary.  

MARY: Thank you so much for having me on this just riveting topic that I know is gonna get all of your downloads. This is gonna be like a high score for your podcast.  

DR. AMY: It’s gonna be like the most popular episode we’ve ever done. Because I mean, nobody wants to even say the word right. It’s embarrassing, but it’s full of issues.  

MARY: Yes. No, it absolutely is. And I actually was just reviewing a blog post that I had written a while back on the topic and reading some of the words that you are forced to use when you’re talking about poop and talk. Just to say, it’s hard, it’s a difficult topic to have. So I’m excited to be here and, and dig into it.  

TERI: Okay. Well, hey, for some of our listeners who maybe didn’t hear the first episode when you talked about potty training, which was just so incredible and helpful and so important because things are really changing. I mean, back in the day, potty training was something very different than it is now. So, really great topic listeners. If you didn’t listen to that one, go back and visit it. But those of you who are new to our topic and our guest right now, tell us a little bit more, Mary, about what brought you to talking about potty training and poop.  

MARY: Sure. So I got started in business as a sleep consultant. I was a military spouse who was woefully underemployed. And then once starting that there’s just endless ways that moms need support. And potty training is something we all go through. We all have to deal with this with our kids at some point. And so it is one of the relatively few truly universal parenting experiences and you know, we can parent a lot of different ways about a lot of different things, but we all have to potty train eventually. And so, so yeah, it is, it infinitely valuable and there’s just, I’m ever evolving information and different approaches and so trying to help you find the path to a potty trained kid that works for your family and is successful and as quick as possible and is without complication and poop is probably the number one complicating factor for parents. They have kids who pee like champs, but I get called regularly and saying like, “My kid is potty trained for pee, but they will not poop on the potty.” And so this is something I never imagined I would be an expert on, but here we are.  

DR. AMY: So talk to us a little bit about why you think you’re getting those calls, right? Like, what are the reasons that that kids aren’t willing or able to poop on the potty?  

MARY: It is so hard, and I, like, I don’t for a second want to dismiss the struggle because, you know, one of the, the main reasons, right? There are other complicating issues. Like, we’ll talk about constipation and we’ll talk about, you know, withholding. But for a lot of kids, it’s just an anxiety thing where for two or three years of your life, you have pooped in the safety of your diaper and to go from that to having to release what they feel like is part of their little bodies is really stressful, and it’s something they have done rather privately, right? You probably have seen your child hide behind the couch or hide behind the curtains or go to the corner of their room to poop, and they know that it’s kind of something that they have done privately for a long time. And so learning to poop on the potty is, it is a big leap in the brain of a 2- or 3-year-old.  

DR. AMY: Yeah, it is.  

TERI: Yeah. So many reasons why. I was gonna, you know, ask you about, you know, just that you’re talking about. It’s hard for them to let go of that, that transition from, “Oh, it’s nice and warm. I get to do this in my diaper.” What might be some of the other underlying reasons? Okay, so say I’m a mom, I’ve got a little one, I’m like, “Gosh, we’ve done potty training, but just over and over. Poop accidents in their pants.” What could be the reason why? Are there any other underlying reasons?  

MARY: Absolutely. So if it’s not just a generalized anxiety issue, which is really common, we see a lot for kids who, while they’re potty training are inclined to hold it, which rather quickly leads to constipation, which leads to uncomfortable pooping. And as soon as your kid has one painful experience, and I tell moms, it’s like, do you remember the first time you pooped after you gave birth? And it was … you remember it! But we remember that specific and very uncomfortable experience as parents. And so imagine for your child to have even one, let alone multiple really uncomfortable poops, whether it was in the potty or in a diaper. It doesn’t matter like it is, they remember. And so then having to overcome fear, like real fear of pain, and that discomfort is a totally different beast than managing anxiety. And so there are, there are slightly different protocols, and if your kid is really constipated, it’s gonna mean talking to your pediatrician, it’s gonna mean like diet changes. It’s a whole other beast to overcome painful poops. It is so hard and it takes time and parents get frustrated so quickly because they were seeing so much progress potty training was going pretty smoothly, and now they’ve got this kid who is rightfully terrified to poop, and then it just compounds, right? Like they’re afraid to do it so they don’t go and then it hurts and then they don’t go. And it just is …  

DR. AMY: It’s a cycle of … a really difficult cycle, right?  

TERI: Yeah. So, but what do we do? Sorry, go ahead, Amy.  

DR. AMY: Well, no, so all three of my boys had issues with constipation. All three of them. And I can remember—now, my youngest is 18, so maybe the recommendations have changed. But I can remember putting suppositories in their little bottoms and, you know, the oil tubes that you squeeze to help, the stool softeners, all of that. And we still struggled. Like we still, in fact, one of my children, not to scare any listeners, one of my children’s anus inverted, like inverted, so you could see it. Oh no, the muscle hanging out of his little bottom. And, of course, we panicked, rushed him to the ER and by the time they saw him, it had relaxed and kind of gone back up in there and the doctor said they see it all the time. It happens. It’s common.  

MARY: That’s terrifying. That’s terrifying.  

DR. AMY: It was! I mean, to see that kind of striated muscle hanging out of his little bottom as a mom, holy cow did we panic!   MARY: I would do the same. I mean, immediately panic and take them to be seen. But you, you’re right. It does. It does correct. I’ve heard of this. It’s definitely not common, so I don’t want listeners to fear this. It’s definitely not a, something that happens frequently, but it happens.  

TERI: But good to hear. Yeah, good to hear. So that if a listener’s like this happened, they’re gonna be like, “Wait, I remember that podcast. It’s okay.”  

MARY: Yeah.  

DR. AMY: You wouldn’t typically, as an ER doc, that would be why you would see a child with severe constipation, right? Because that could happen. Whereas you wouldn’t take your child to the ER. So the ER doc isn’t gonna be talking about it not happening because that’s what he’s saying, right? So, but you’re absolutely right that that wouldn’t be common in the scheme of raising children, just No.  

MARY: But you do occasionally, like I have heard of parents who took their kid in, who was chronically constipated and they see, so you actually will see .., If your child is truly constipated, one of the effects is that you, they may have more poop accidents because they are backed up, and then what is getting through is kind of loose stool. And so your child might have frequent loose stools that you’re like, “Oh, well they’re pooping so they’re doing okay.” But in fact, they’re actually just compounding this really, really hard stool and it is just forming this like blockage inside of them. And so I have heard of families who have to go and they to do an x-ray and they can see that there’s just this massive blockage that has been impacted. Yeah, yeah. And so it is, it is hard. And then it becomes, I mean, it is still a potty training issue, but it becomes one that you’re talking to your pediatrician about and managing, whether it’s MiraLax, which is suddenly is now a controversial thing. It is, you know, pediatricians recommend it regularly, but it’s not approved for kids under 16. But it is the most routinely recommended route to take to manage constipation and toddlers. So you really wanna trust your pediatrician and make informed decisions around that. Like that’s beyond my pay grade to recommend that your child take anything over the counter or not.  

DR. AMY: And I would recommend reading the ingredients and researching the ingredients prior to making that decision.   MARY: Yes, for sure. Yeah.   DR. AMY: So do you manage—is the idea then prevention?  

MARY: A million percent. And in fact, when I have parents who say, “Okay, we have, my child is no longer constipated, but they won’t poop on the potty,” especially if it was related to pain or they had some uncomfortable experiences, I will tell them that they can take a breather from potty training and keep their kid having successful bowel movements, even if it’s in a diaper for a little while and let them overcome the fear and kind of relax back into knowing that they can pass a stool without pain before they resume trying to get their kid on the toilet. And that is frustrating news for some parents. I see it often. And if your listeners are listening to this, we’re recording this in April, please do not wait until August to potty train your three-year-old to go to school. I know a lot of three-year-old classrooms insist that your child be potty trained when they start school in the fall. Please do it early this summer, and so that you build in time for things like this. It is a consequence of rushing. It’s a consequence of pressuring your child. We talked about that on the last episode. Pressuring your kid to perform is going to lead to resistance, and that has mountainous—mountainous, is that a word? Like enormous consequences that are much longer term. You know, you have to, you spend a lot of time correcting when you could have handled it a little bit more cool and with a little bit more time. So for your listeners who have rising three-year-olds who need to be potty trained by the end of the summer, please, please, please do it in May and June.  

TERI: That’s so smart. And I think also, yeah, like what I’m wondering as I’m listening to you, if a part of that initial potty training process, like we talked about in the last episode, that, you know, one thing we personally did is, you know, we got the special sippy cup. They got, you know, like special juice and they got to drink more and more. I’m thinking maybe that could be from the very beginning, a big part of the process. “You get this special snack! Oh, it’s pretty—”  

MARY: Fluids and fiber and smoothies are a great way to push both of those things simultaneously. And, so yeah, the dietary piece, you can be proactive about helping to keep their little systems moving. And if your kid has real anxiety—if it’s okay for me to just kind of get into the protocol for managing a child who’s really stressed out about it—is to let them, letting them use their diaper for the like introductory phase. Especially if your kid can say, I’ve had parents say, “My child asks for their diaper to poop in.” That’s not a bad problem to have. Right? Like, should it be on the toilet? Yeah, that would be great. But your kid knows they need to go. They’re requesting an appropriate place to do it. And there’s, and they’re using it to pass a bowel movement in a clean place that’s not their pants. And so that’s not a bad baseline, you know? You can’t necessarily send them to school doing that, but it’s okay to praise that success because it is your child’s awareness. It is, it is progress, right? Like it’s, it’s a huge step for a kid who is stressed out about this. So letting them have that and then building on that success. And so I have kids, and this applies to kids with anxiety. This applies to kids applies to kids who—I’ve done this with one or two clients who have kids with autism. I’ve done this with like, if you have sensory issues. We talked a little bit about the sensory challenges of potty training, getting your kid then to ask for a diaper and take it to the bathroom and use their diaper in the bathroom and then maybe approach it and say like, “Why don’t we try sitting and using your diaper?” so that they practice that motion. Right? Moving your body in a different way and pooping in a different position, and then considering taking off the diaper and or I’ve even, I even had a parent cut a hole in the diaper and so their child still had that security. But their poop was getting to the right place. And it is a process and it is very slow and it requires so much patience from the parent, but it is, but it’s tried and true and really supporting the incremental steps for kids who need to take their time getting there.  

DR. AMY: So talk to us a little bit about what that conversation would look like. So do we let the child know that the ultimate goal is to be able to go in the potty? Or does that create additional anxiety by saying, “Hey, this is where we really want you to go, but we’re gonna take steps to get there”? Or how does that, what does that look like? What does it sound like?  

MARY: Oh, that’s probably gonna vary child to child. I think there are kids who are really motivated by, who are motivated and have a desire to please, right? There are kids who respond really well to that and kind of have just this inherent desire to do what the grownups are doing and want to make their, and would respond positively to that. If you have a kid who you know is gonna dig in their heels, it’s okay to be more relaxed about that. And I think that’s a case of parental nuance and knowing your child better than I do. Yeah, I would, I would … I don’t think it would be, I dunno, that’s a tricky, that’s a tricky question. I think that, you know, among, it remits the process of doing this really slowly and kind of gradually for your child is also normalizing it. Letting them still continue to kind of see what’s going on in the bathroom, letting them be in the bathroom when you’re pooping, seeing what is expected and kind of normal. And then, you can also layer in —they love to read social stories with kids about pooping. It’s a good extra layer. So they will, there’s an implied expectation that maybe doesn’t need to be super explicit and pressure laden. So that’s probably, that’s probably my better answer.  

TERI: I wanna ask about—and this wasn’t every one of my kids, but I wanna say just about all of ’em out of the nine kids. Just about all of them went through some spell where they pooped in the bathtub.  

DR. AMY: Yeah, I, we saw that too.  

TERI: Yeah. Like, what’s up with that? And how can you, because, I varied. I mean, there were times with some of my older kids, you know, when that happened and I’d be like, “No, no, that’s gross!” You know, and I would have this reaction that later, I was like, “That was not nice. I totally shamed my kid for pooping in the bathtub.” And like maybe they’re not even potty trained yet, you know, and they’re just, you know, they’re just like 20 months old. How can we handle that better as parents? Just all that.  

MARY: That is such a natural reaction though. And it is very hard as a parent to not overreact when you’re surprised by, it takes you off guard, and it takes your kid off guard. And that’s the truth is that the bathtub is super relaxing. It is warm, it is safe, it is comfortable, and they naturally relax and kind of release. There’s a release there and it probably was not intentional. It probably was not that—for most kids, it’s probably a true accident and I’m sure there are exceptions. I’m trying to, trying to recall if my kids. I’m sure they all, I’m sure they all have. I don’t, it’s not jumping out at me anyway. I’m sure they did though. I think every kid does, but I think it’s a case of just being a little too relaxed in the tub.  

DR. AMY: Yeah. And I can remember just scooping it out, flushing it, draining the water. Rinsing them off and then refilling the bathtub to continue the bath. Like I just remember making this kind of a process, “Uh oh, let’s wash this off.”  

MARY: And showing them that it should go, that’s exactly right. To put it in the toilet, show them where it belongs, and trying to keep your, keep your cool about it. But it is, it is frustrating and it is not, it’s not something you wanted to deal with.  

TERI: Of the nine, I’ve got three sets that would be considered Irish twins. The oldest set are just 13 months apart, and then I’ve got two sets that are exactly 15 months and nine days apart. So three sets, three times. I would end up with little ones in the bath together. And every time, every set, when they were at that age, invariably the younger one would end up pooping in the bathtub when they’re both in the bath and it’s like the Scream Fest. We had one that is that, the story is that they were like, “It’s a monster!” So yucky. But yeah.  

DR. AMY: So what about kids who play with their poop?  

MARY:: So, so difficult. Um, I hear it. I’ve heard these horror stories of parents who go in after nap time and their child has like, poop on the wall. Okay. I don’t wanna universalize, right? Nothing is universal, but for a lot of kids it’s a sensory thing. It is warm and squishy and it is very tactile. It is like paint, but better and it’s, there’s a lot going on. And so, one of the first recommendations—in addition to, of course, you know, like we clean it up properly, we put it in the right place to the best of our ability. At an age-appropriate level, they can help clean up. But feeding that sensory input with appropriate things is one of the better approaches. And get your kids some Play-Doh or slime or other opportunities to get their hands dirty. It is one of the top recommendations. It is. So, and it didn’t happen to me, cross my fingers. Did I tell you guys that we’re expecting another boy last time we spoke?  

DR. AMY: Yes.  

MARY. It’ll be four of them. I have yet to experience that and I am big time crossing my fingers that that is a particular parent experience that I never have to deal with. But yeah, it is a most commonly, you’ll see experts say that it was a sensory thing. And so just really doing everything you can during waking hours and ugh, and being patient because right, the like over the top negative feedback is almost never gonna get to where you wanna be. And so trying really hard to keep it cool to neutral and handle it and clean it up together. And be as calm as you can because that negative attention very often is still attention, right? Your child is doing something and whether, whether your kid is attention deprived—they don’t have to be. It’s not saying that you’re not giving them attention elsewhere, but any kind of big, big attention, whether it’s positive or negative, feeds your child’s future decisions. And so being as cool as you can in that moment when you walk in and see poop on the walls is … that’s your best. And I know, like I feel like I’m speaking to like, that’s an insane request to tell parents to be calm. It’s.   DR. AMY: No, I think you did a really good job of saying, “Hey, this was a, a positive sensory experience for your child.” Right? So they’re not viewing it as, “Ooh, I’m gonna do something that I’m not allowed to do.” Right? They’re saying, “Ooh, this feels neat. This is warm, this is squishy. What if I put it on the wall, I can paint with it.” Right? And so to be able to build some empathy that way, right? Hey, this is what your child’s motivation for doing that was. Then we go in and we say, “Oh, well that looked like it must have been fun, however …” Right? “Our poop goes in the potty, but I’m gonna get you some Play-Doh or paints and that’s what you can play with from now on.   MARY: Yes. And we can even, right, like I have put butcher paper on my walls and let the kids paint up against, you know, a safe space with paint.  

DR. AMY: With paint, right?  

MARY: Like I have given them—  

TERI: Not with poop!  

MARY: Not with no. Ew. Oh, that’s rough. But yeah, given them that outlet to do what they feel like might be … You know, at that age, they probably don’t even know the drawing on the walls is not an appropriate choice, but giving them this like kind of fun different alter, like option to, to explore that sensory input and, and create and, but yeah, like that’s why man, I love, I’m a huge, and this is just off topic, like big fan of seeing parents doing sensory bins for just everything now, like I don’t remember that I, I’m certain my parents never created this like beautiful sensory bin experience for me as a child, but I love it and I loved it for my own kids. And so there’s just infinite ways to give your kids different sensory experiences, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be dirt and you can make mud, right? Like you can absolutely. It doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top to give your kid the same kind of experience.  

TERI: Yeah.  

DR. AMY: So speaking of sensory, one of the things that I note, as a child development specialist, is that children love to play in the sink. And so I know that parents and teachers are usually in a hurry, right? Like, “Wash your hands. Let’s wash your hands after we go to the potty. Let’s wash our hands.” And we’ve got those kids who really wanna play in that water and splash around in that water a little bit. How important is that to let them have that experience and that extra time?  

MARY: Oh, that’s a fun question. I think when you’re washing your hands, like when you’re learning the hand-washing process, And this is, I’m gonna preface this as a parent of a child who played in the sink and it overflowed and we just replaced all of our floors—in a massive homeowners claim, deep in a hand washing accident, there’s a time and a place for water play and it isn’t the bathroom sink. Get a water table. You can help wash dishes. You can have your child engage in other appropriate activities that involve water. But clearly delineating that after you go to the bathroom, you wash your hands and you sing Happy Birthday, and then you turn the water off and you dry your hands and you move on with your day. I have a newfound appreciation for creating appropriate boundaries and times and places for those activities. And so maybe, maybe my response is deeply personal, but I, but I think there’s a nugget in there that is important. And I do think because there are school routines and there are limits and there like, there is a time and a place and it’s not after you go to the bathroom. Like there are other things. And so I think setting that like, “Let’s sing Happy Birthday, let’s wash our hands very well and teach good hygiene. But giving them right in the same way where you say like, “Well, I see you wanna explore this some more. We can do bubbles, we can do water. But let’s do it outside and let’s do it in a place that is safe to explore.” I think that there’s a kernel in there that Is important in spite of my deeply personal opinions about water play.  

DR. AMY: And expensive opinion.  

MARY: Right. He will never know how expensive that was.  

TERI: it seems like, I mean, you’re, what you’re saying is so good for us all to hear that it’s, it’s essentially the same thing, even with the playing with poop on the walls. We don’t wanna, we don’t wanna say you’re bad or shame your kiddos for doing something that in the moment they don’t. They’re not intentionally doing do anything, right?  

MARY: Yeah, it totally does. Yeah, I do too. Right? Like a little like soap is … soap is smooth. It is slippery, it is. Bubbles are fun. There’s a lot of fun to be had with water and soap and a million ways to do it, but I … Asking that question, I think, I think it’s very appropriate to set times and places for those activities and giving your kid the same input in a way that is safe and controlled and teaching them those limits. And I don’t know where I went.  

DR. AMY: Well, no, I think that that’s a really important point that children need to learn disappointment and boundaries and limits in the emotional safety of that relationship that they have with you. Right?  

MARY: Right.  

DR. AMY: And so it’s okay to say, “No, this is not where we’re going to play or when we’re going to play. Right? However, I know you enjoyed that. So here’s where is appropriate. Or here’s when you can.  

MARY: Yes. And I even, I have, I mean, there are … Back to like, man I love sensory bins. I did one with my kids when they were very young that we whipped dish soap like in the mixer. And so it was this big bubbly and food coloring and so these big, colorful bubbles and it was so much fun and that kept them busy forever and fed that same kind of experience for them. And so, yes, I, but teaching, teaching boundaries is totally appropriate and I could, I’m sure you guys have done a dozen episodes about that and, and so yes, this, yeah, very much falls into it. It’s interesting to compare playing with soap and bubbles to playing with poop, but it really is very similar in that like we can understand the root of it. But it doesn’t make it appropriate here and now.  

DR. AMY: Sure. Hey. So we need to take a quick break. Let Terry read a word from our sponsor. When we come back, I wanna talk a little bit about what that transition to independent pottying looks like. Okay. When we come back.  

TERI: And when we come back, I wanna also talk about wiping. Ooh, that was, that is a good one.  

DR. AMY: Oh, that’s a good, okay. That’s where we’re going next.  

TERI: Good. Okay. Cause that was a big one, man. Okay, here we go. Are you concerned about your child’s reading or spelling performance? Are you worried your child’s reading curriculum isn’t thorough enough? Well, most learning struggles aren’t the results of poor curriculum or instruction. They’re typically caused by having cognitive skills that need to be strengthened. Skills like auditory processing memory and processing speed. LearningRx one-on-one brain training programs are designed to target and strengthen the skills that we rely on for reading, spelling, writing, and learning. LearningRx can help you identify which skills may be keeping your child from performing their best. In fact, the team at LearningRx has worked with more than 120,000 children and adults who wanna think and perform better. LearningRx would like to help get your child on the path to a brighter and more confident future. Give LearningRx a call at 866-BRAIN-01 or visit learningrx.com. That’s learningrx.com.  

DR. AMY: And we’re having a really interesting conversation with potty training expert Mary Vaughn about poop today. So talk to us a little bit about, all right, we’ve got a kid who is doing really well on the potty at this point. When do we give them independence in wiping? Do we use wipes, flushable wipes versus toilet paper? When do we come back to check? Just walk us through kind of that, that transition and that process and that timeline.  

MARY: That’s a, that’s a fun question. I recently saw like a TikTok of a school. It might have been in China, where they were teaching kids to wipe using balloons. And it was, it’s comical. So go search for that. Um, but it is wise for you to follow up after your child for months. And depending on the age that they potty train. If they potty train at two even, you’re probably gonna continue to wipe them. They simply don’t have the reach and dexterity and ability to do it well, probably until they’re at least four. I don’t, I don’t even wanna assign an age to it, but you’re probably going to be following up and, and you can have them go first and show them and even, you know, take your hand and guide them and show them what it should feel like and how they should approach wiping. How to use toilet paper well and not just, you know, roll it up in a giant ball because that’s really not the most effective way to wipe. I know I have one that did that. He would just roll up and then it doesn’t get anything. Right? He can’t even get to his butt with this big wad of toilet paper that he has created, and then it clogs the toilet and it’s a whole thing. So teaching your kid and really taking your time with. How much toilet paper to use, how to fold it, how to guide their hand and then go back over them to make sure that they’re really clean. I would say the wipes versus toilet paper is preference. It’s if your kid is really picky about it. The main goal is that they get clean and I don’t have strong feelings about it. They’re not gonna be able to use those in kindergarten. So you will have to transition to introducing what toilet paper feels like before they get to kindergarten. But I have, even in our own house where we try to push independence, we want them to be capable, who end up with a little bit of a diaper rash, basically from not wiping very well. Our kids shower more or less daily and I have a couple of times had to bust out the Aquaphor that I haven’t used since they were in diapers to soothe a very uncomfortable rear end. And so I think it is a—kindergarten is the goal, right? They’ve gotta be able to do it by kindergarten. And so working backwards from whatever age your kid is enrolled and practicing increasing trading off where, you know, you might fully wipe them for a while. And I’ve got one who yells, “Wipe time!” from the toilet still, and he is four. Aand so we are actively working on, he’s going into pre-K in the fall and so his teachers will still help in preschool, but really working on this summer, him going first and us just double checking and, and so that’s kind of … Obviously that’s gonna vary a little bit age by age, but that’s a funny, but every kid will go through that like, “It’s wipe time!” or “Come wipe me!” phase and, and you have to drop what you’re doing to go wipe a butt for a little while.  

DR. AMY: Absolutely. So how much toilet paper do you teach them to use?  

MARY: There are so many hacks for this. I’ve seen people put tape on the wall to help them track, you know, count down four or five, six squares depending on your ply. I’m sure that depends on what kind of toilet paper you’re buying. But yeah, teaching, I think that’s one of the most important things is how much. It matters more than you think it does. How much toilet paper? You don’t wanna clog the toilet. You don’t want their hands to get dirty. You don’t want it to rip. You don’t want it to. It’s an oddly like involved decision that I have never … You’re asking a question but I have never stopped to think so hard about how much toilet paper is appropriate until right in this moment. But we have had clogged toilets and we have had poopy fingers and it’s all of the things and yeah. But teaching a kid, I think the tape idea is great, right? You roll to here and rip is probably the best practice for little kids is so that you, they can’t get totally out of control. And having something very visual for them helps, rather than maybe counting. I think having a nice visual is a good helping—a little scaffold for them to figure that out.  

DR. AMY: So that’s gonna take a little bit of experimentation on your part because it does depend on the type of toilet paper that you use. Right? So if you, if you’re using, if you buy the super thin stuff, like if you use quilted, you know, paper that is not—obviously you’re not gonna need as many sheets. if you buy like the thinner kind … So you’ve gotta figure that out before you create this visual.  

TERI: And that each kid is different too. And I think, Mary, you were talking about that, that like with all my kids, you know, variety of personalities, I know I had some like, my second born, my daughter, she wanted, she was very independent. She did not mind being messy. She was not a perfectionist. She would just like, let’s go. And so she wanted to potty train early. She wanted to wipe early. She was impatient with—  

MARY: I’ll do it myself kinda kid.  

TERI: Yes, exactly. And then we’ve, we have another kiddo, a son who later when he came along, he’s very much a perfectionist. He does not like to get dirty. He’s very tidy, and it was a long time. It’s not like he did it perfectly himself. He just didn’t. He wouldn’t try. And his thing—yours was “wipe time.” My son’s was, “I’m all done now!” And he just yell across the house or from preschool or whatever, you know, “I’m all done now!” And then, I wanna say he was like five, right? But we were like trying to make sure he was gonna be OK in kindergarten.  

MARY: Yeah. And I have, and it’s, I heard it actually at our kindergarten, you know, open house last year. They, they talked about that. They were like, ”Please, work with your kid over the summer to make sure that they can fully independently. We are not allowed to help them in kindergarten. We are not allowed to go in the bathroom with them.” They’re, you know, the bathrooms are attached to the classroom. They’re close, but they aren’t allowed to help. And so they, you know, they said you don’t want your kid to be the one that smells like poop. You want them to be clean. You want them to be capable and confident and able to handle this and not be embarrassed in a classroom either. And so there’s just these layers of, you know, very necessary independence going into kindergarten. And so if your kid is not close and you are approaching either that preschool milestone where they have to be potty trained by August or September, or you’re looking at kindergarten, really this is the time to start building those habits for your kid this year.  

DR. AMY: Mary, is there a time where you should just be hands off?

MARY: Absolutely. And in fact, I worked with a family once and we threw everything at the wall to see what would stick, and we tried all the approaches and we read the social stories and we, uh, scaffolded it and we tried to set this kid up who was just really resistant to pooping on the potty.   And finally, at the end of. Our time together. I told the mom, I said, I really think you need to just stop and let him poop in a pull up and just remove all of the pressure on this from him. And sure enough, within a couple of weeks she called me and told me that he was pooping on the patio by himself and that the answer for her was just to stop trying.   So yes, there are some kids who are. Who really want to have the control over the decision whether or not to potty train. And there are a million ways to fill your kid’s power bucket. And this is not one that we think of, but for this kid, it really was, the ticket was mom, not suggesting, not prompting, not talking about poop anymore.   And as soon as she stopped, he did it. That’s great. Took the pressure off. Yeah. Yeah. So I cannot overstate how important it can be for kids to just relax about the process because they will get there. And for some kids that’s the answer and, and not just the process. That’s good.  

TERI: Well, this is so good. I know we’re about out of time cuz you’ve gotta head out. You’ve got mommy responsibilities.  

MARY: I do, I do.  

DR. AMY: So what would you like to leave our listeners with about poop?  

MARY: Honestly, the, I think the most important thing is for you to not get discouraged or overwhelmed or upset. Your child will reflect that. And if you’re having, having any issues with poop or potty training, your child is going to, your child will rise to the occasion. First of all, your child will potty train. But your attitude and your ability to stay cool is one of the biggest indicators of their success. And so regulating yourself and being patient through this process. And so, and there’s just, I mean, heaps of resources. We can, we can introduce books. We can introduce different strategies. There are infinite approaches. And even if it becomes a medical issue, there are ways to handle it. But your positive attitude about potty training is probably the biggest indicator of your kid’s success.  

TERI: That’s good.  

DR. AMY: Do you have a favorite children’s book that you like to recommend for poop?  

MARY: Oh, I’ve got a bunch of them. Let me see. I have a list. I actually have a list I can, I can link to. I’ve got a blog post about this topic and about poop and why your kid won’t poop and, and a follow on about the solutions for it.  

DR. AMY: Okay, well, we’ll link to that. Then I can link you that.  

MARY: And it actually has links to different books in the blog post. And so yeah, I would, I would probably go there.  

DR. AMY: Okay, fantastic. So we are out of time. Thank you so much, Mary Vaughn, for coming back to talk to us today again about your potty training expertise and particularly about poop. Listeners, if you would like more information about Mary’s work, you can find her at mothertogether.com. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn at @LetsMotherTogether. And we’ll put all those links and handles in the show notes as well as a link to the blog posts that Mary was just mentioning. So thank you so much for listening today. If you like us, stop what you’re doing right now. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at The Brainy Moms. Do it now before you forget. If you liked our show, we would love it if you would leave us a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts so that we can reach even more parents. If you’d rather watch us, we are on YouTube. That is all the smart stuff we have for you today. I hope that all of you brainy moms and dads out there feel a little bit smarter after spending this time with us. So catch you next time.  

TERI: Bye.