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Still Pooping Pants at 8 Years Old

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Child Still Poops in Pants When They're 8 Years Old

Do you have an older child who still “holds”?   It’s a common problem with children in the younger grades.  They check out medically as being okay, yet when they need to move their bowels, they still won’t go use the toilet.

You plead with them to go sit on the toilet, you discover soiled underwear hidden in their bedroom and you find yourself monitoring their washroom habits to see if they are “producing” anything. You’re afraid they’ll soil their pants in public if you don’t help them train properly.  Right?  Actually–wrong.  Let’s look at what is happening.

Why Older Children Hold Their Bowels

It’s our fear that our children can’t manage that gets us overly involved, and as we begin to micromanage them, we usurp the child’s proper role and responsibility for toileting themselves. We rob them of this power. This sets up a power struggle.  The child resists the parental urgings and manipulations.  They are saying “It’s my body, it’s my decision, and you can’t make me.”   They “hold” to win the power struggle.

What to Do?

The power struggle needs to dissolve.  You need to hand over this responsibility back to the child and trust him to manage it, accidents and all.  I suggest you teach them how to wash soiled underwear and how to do a load of laundry. At 8 years old, with a a step stool, it’s as easy as a toaster. Once they have learned how to do that, your life is not impacted by their bowel habits, and I suggest you tell them so, and let them know respectfully that you trust them to be independent and that won’t be mentioning toileting to them again. Ever.

The child will decide in their own time how long they want to hold and how much of a hassle it is to clean up–and none of that will be worth if it doesn’t set you off!

So, we end the power struggle, empower him, and stop being invested in trying to change the child’s behaviors.  They won’t change until you get un-invested. If the power struggle still exists, they will feel defeated by you if they change, so they are in essence, “stuck” in this behavior.

You can free them to change by stop your involvement in their business.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

62 Responses to “Still Pooping Pants at 8 Years Old”

  1. -W

    My child is a 7 yr old boy. We have been dealing with pooping issues since potty training. He was born with Hirschsprung’s Disease and had 1/3 of his colon surgically removed, which complicates our issues. About 18 mos. ago we saw a pediatric gastroenterologist for just over a year. The doctor never changed her course of action and nothing she did helped in the least. She never acknowledged that the disease could be a factor and just kept the same treatment the whole time we visited her. After 14 mos. of $40 co-pays I said ENOUGH! I have given up on the medical world and I am now looking for other solutions. I too am guilty of loosing my patience and, his 3 siblings often make unkind comments. We are working on this as a family. But we know the exhaustion this issue brings upon individuals and families. Good luck to each of you!

    • eliza

      Take your son to a kinesiologist! they work!

      • Gigi

        Encopresis is commonly caused byconstipation, by reflexive withholding of stool, by various physiological, psychological, or neurological disorders, or from surgery (a somewhat rare occurrence).

        The colon normally removes excess water from feces. If the feces or stool remains in the colon too long due to conditioned withholding or incidental constipation, so much water is removed that the stool becomes hard, and becomes painful for the child to expel in an ordinary bowel movement. A vicious cycle can develop, where the child may avoid moving his/her bowels in order to avoid the “expected” painful toilet episode. This cycle can result in so deeply conditioning the holding response that the rectal anal inhibitory response (RAIR) or anismus results. The RAIR has been shown to occur even under anesthesia and when voluntary control is lost. The hardened stool continues to build up and stretches the colon or rectum to the point where the normal sensations associated with impending bowel movements do not occur. Eventually, softer stool leaks around the blockage and cannot be withheld by the anus, resulting in soiling. The child typically has no control over these leakage accidents, and may not be able to feel that they have occurred or are about to occur due to the loss of sensation in the rectum and the RAIR. Strong emotional reactions typically result from failed and repeated attempts to control this highly aversive bodily product. These reactions then in turn may complicate conventional treatments using stool softeners, sitting demands, and behavioral strategies.

        The onset of encopresis is most often benign. The usual onset is associated with toilet training, demands that the child sit for long periods of time, and intense negative parental reactions to feces. Beginning school or preschool is another major environmental trigger with shared bathrooms. Feuding parents, siblings, moving, and divorce can also inhibit toileting behaviors and promote constipation. An initiating cause may become less relevant as chronic stimuli predominate.
        I found this on Wikipedia. I hope it helps.

        • alyson

          Thanks for the post. I am sure that will help many of the readers here.

  2. Fiona

    I feel compelled to contribute to this thread. I consulted this website three months ago when I reached an impasse with my four year old (since turned five). She was having daily bowel movements in her underwear, and I couldn’t figure out why. It had been happening on an off for about six months, but this last stretch was particularly trying.
    It turns out that a number of key foods that I had been encouraging her to eat (because they are healthy) had been irritating her small intestine. It was a Naturopath here in Oakville, Ontario, with NAET training (allergy training) who pinpointed the problem for us. We have since eliminated these foods from her diet and there hasn’t been one poop incident since.
    I wanted to share this with you to let you know that it really might be out of your child’s control. I hope that this e-mail has helped you and I wish all of you and your children the very best for the future.

    • shar drake

      Would you give an example of the types of food that you are talking about

    • Suzanne

      I am raising my 8 year old niece, she has been diagnosed with severe constipation, the pediatrician has on taking a daily laxative powder, which does help.. But I do remind her to use the washroom and she has actually chosen to poo her pants instead of using the toilet. She told me it’s easier to just clean her pants then use the toilet… This frustrates me so much! I’ve taken her to a psychologist and she thinks part of it may be caused by a deep rooted problem or depression, but this has been going on for years. As far back as I can remember my sister complaining about it when she was alive.. Parents, please give me suggestions to help me not get so frustrated??
      I already make her clean the mess herself, so other suggestions please.

      • alyson

        Are there other areas of her life where she could have more say, control, agency or choice? Increasing her overall sense of feeling in control helps.

      • alyson

        Suzanne, I believe this is a power struggle. As such, you can drop the rope so she is no longer embroiled in a fight with you over toiletting. After all, if she is cleaning up the mess independently, then I would say this doesn’t involve you. Its between her and her choices for how she cleans herself, odd as they are.

        If you don’t care – and if you stop making it an issue in the house, I suspect that she will see there is no power to be gained in defying you anymore, since its no longer defiance! Its accepted that she can poo her pants if she chooses. Without the benefit of conquering you and upsetting you and proving to you that you CAN”T MAKE HER – the behaviour losses its purpose. With no gain to be had – why not use the toilet, its just easier.

        Good luck!

        • drsepherothd

          I am Disabled, Incontinent and an Adult Baby. So from a Regression point of view this could be an issue.
          This 8 year old girl is choosing to poop her pants despite having to clean herself and her pants up herself. I would say ask her if she wants some diapers, one she might be doing this as a means to control you because she is unable to communicate her will two she may very well wish to be treated like a baby again.
          Investigate, ask her questions and observe her behavior find out what she wants, and then let her have it.
          If she wants to be treated like a baby again, go through the last month of her in diapers before she was potty trained with her,, think of it like a therapeutic opera. Within a week or two she will be board stiff of acting like a baby and being treated like a baby.

          If she does not want to be treated like a baby again then I would still offer her the nappies, but treat her as you would a severely disabled child who wears diapers.

          If she does not wish to use diapers, then try offering them to her in a months time, as she will get sick of washing out her underwear.
          Explain that she can just poop in the diaper if she chooses, throw the diaper away and clean herself up.

          Ultimately it is her body, her bowel movement and her toileting routine, if she chooses to poop on herself accept it, this is normal, many animals poop on themselves for one reason or another, and a large portion of humans do the same thing. Mostly humans that are under the age of 5, over the age of 80 or severely disabled but if you look on google (search for “Panty Poop”) you will be shocked how many people choose to soil their pants.

          Accept her for who she is, and try and help her manage this in a discreet and easier way.

  3. Tammy

    I have a 6.5 year old whose still pooping her pants.Here lately she has even wet them also.I have tried time out,taking away television which hurts her mostly,and I have even tried spanking.She’ll just hide it when she’s tired of punishment.She’ll even use a bunch of clean clothes to clean herself off which means more laundry.She will also poop on herself and then use a whole roll of toilet paper at a time to clean it off and then stop the toilet up.She gets poop all over her bedding,her mattress,the carpet,the toilet,and making her clean it up has no effect either.This is a daily routine that happens several times a day sometimes.Sometimes her undies and clothes are so bad I have to throw them out.I replace so much underwear.She will sit in it for hours and then you’ll start smelling the old poop and you just gag.She knows what she is doing is wrong because she knows our other children don’t do it but I think she doesn’t care.What do you do when they are doing it because they are just being plain lazy?We have 3 bathrooms in our house,and she rarely ever pees on herself.We have even taken her to the doctors and he said she is not constipated and he told her in a stern voice not to do it anymore and thought that would cure her.Any advice!?

    • julie jenkins

      does she hide her underwear within the bedroom so you can’t find them? tell her if she don’t listen to you soon that you will start using nappies again until she stops pooping her undies and if she don’t take any notice march her to the bathroom and take her undies down for her and plonk her on the toilet seat and stand there until she goes and don’t leave before no matter what – even if there is some one at the door, they will have to wait until she has done her business.

    • Pam Timmermans

      Hi Tammy,

      My experience might be helpful to you.

      I have a 5 year old son who constantly pooped his pants and had pee accidents all the time. It was driving me nuts. I stayed calm and was indifferent to the situation, as I figured he would do it when he was ready. I do have an incentive system (he gets 1 smartie for going pee on the toilet and 5 for going poo). That is working quite well. When he does have an accident (which is for 2 reasons: 1, he has anxiety around going poo on the toilet; 2, he is way too involved with playing and not willing to take the time to go on the toilet). When he does have an accident, I immediately remove him from his play in an indifferent way and take him to the bathtub, where he is required to clean himself to the best of his abilities, then I do the rest. When he complains, I tell him that he chose to go in his pants, so when he makes that choice, he has to get cleaned up. He chose the action and the natural consequence is to clean himself up. I think this is a good method because he can’t be lazy. If he chooses to be lazy, then in the end, he spends more time cleaning himself up and has to get wet in the tub. He has to choose for himself, is it really worth it?

      I know as parents we are busy and it’s hard to constantly monitor our kids to see if they had an accident. As part of our routine, he is also on a toileting schedule until he consistently makes better choices. Every hour, he has to come down to the toilet and try to go, whether he has to or not. You could try instilling a similar technique with your daughter. That way, it doesn’t pay to be lazy. Let her know that it’s not healthy to go to the washroom in her pants, so as her mother, it’s important to you for her to make healthy choices. Let her know that when she starts making better choices (ask her what some better choices might be; Let her be a part of the process), she won’t have to be on a schedule any longer.

      When he does go on the toilet, I make sure I give him lots of praise. Recently, a switch has gone off and he is finally getting it. For the past week, he has had no accidents in his pants. He’s going poo and pee on the toilet all day long on his own and he still gets his smarties until the container is empty (we filled a container from the bulk store). So nice to see some progress.

      I wish you lots of luck.

      • alyson

        Thank you for sharing your story. You have made recommendations very generously and I thank you for taking the time to help someone you have never met. In Adlerian psychology, we call that social interest. BRAVA. That is one of the best parts of these websites – for parents to connect and share so we don’t feel alone. Alas, I want to make some comments without being discouraging. Could it be that children who are made to clean up, sometimes find that they get personal one on one time with their parent during this time of assistant, such that, there is more to be gained from soiling than in toileting? Also, when we reward kids with smarties and insists on a schedule, they can be made to feel very controlled and will NOT use the toilet simple to defy our authority? To prove ” we can’t make them”. I find that by accepting the reality that most people do the normative behaviour of using a toilet, that simple patience, faith, guidance, and a hands off approach will allow a child to move in the direction of pro-social behaviours of the group norm. The busy-er we get training ( aka controlling) the longer the process takes. Hope this helps and gives some potential insights. – Alyson

        • olpampam

          I also wondered if the cleaning process was more along the lines of positive reinforcement because it gave him mommy and me time.

          My son might be a little different than some because he has a global delay. We had a pediatrician help with these recommendations, although I added the external reward (Smarties) because to be honest, the other stuff did kind of seem like a reward in itself and I wanted to shift the attraction to using the toilet rather than bath time with Mom and after awhile, you’re willing to try just about anything. I don’t normally agree with external rewards, but in this case, I had just about exhausted all of my patience. I knew he could do it, he just needed to want to do it.

          The schedule was also recommended by our pediatrician for home and school. I most definitely don’t disagree with you though that it could make him feel controlled, but it did save many pairs of underwear and since he is a very routine based child, he didn’t seem to mind the schedule because it just felt like part of his routine to him. It’s good to take all perspectives due to the fact that every child is different.

          Thank you for your expertise. All perspectives are greatly appreciated, especially when there is good reasoning behind it.

          • Amanda Gentle

            It is a medical condition called encopresis. Allison, check your facts before spreading your nonsense ok. These kids have soft leakage that makes us believe constipation is not a factor but in fact it is. Your children hide their clothes because you shame and degrade them for something they truly cannot control and you most likely caused with the foods or junk you feed them!!! My 8 year old son has this problem and check ups were normal. Finally, after online research, I had him tested for encopresis. The cure? Mostly your actual time and love. First, they empty the bowel, then you maintain a better diet, food journal, and potty times along with stool softeners. This is not easy or fast but it is possible and better. You chose to have children as did I. Lets keep them healthy and happy. DO NOT DISCIPLINE FOR THIS!!!! Our frustrated, ignorant response to this condition harms our child far more than any peer will. We are supposed to be the ones that understand!!!

        • Timothy

          Have have a 5 year that will pee in the toilet but poops in the floor and she’s going to school in august. Please help I tried everything

          • monica

            Hi. I am in a similar situation.I have a question to see whether my partial solution may help or not. Does he tells you ahead she wants to go?

        • Angela Eller

          Alyson not to be negative but letting the child do the cleaning and go on their own in just good faith that they will stop is ridiculous. Those who have girls know how dangerous it can be for their health as a small example UTIs just being an example. I can half way understand with a boy but as a parent looking after the health for her kids this seems like a receipt for disaster. They are kids they don’t get to be in charge and being able to have some say to what they want to do and can do on their own, should been seen as a privilege if they are acting like a 2 yr old when they are 5 and up. I say the diaper method may be the best way and I mean full on as in make them where it in public and check them regularly like you would a 2 yr old . And yeah even if you have their friends over. I may sound harsh but this is what stopped my son from doing this. It was the embarrassment that got him to stop. And it looks like I’m going to have to do the same for my daughter. Honestly there is a time to ignore them with some behavior but not in this case. You want to pay for that doctor bill go ahead ill be here with my lil girl healthy but extremely embarrassed.

  4. lynn

    My son is almost 8,I’ve been having this problem with him since he was 3yrs old.. he was pooping his pants all the time and then some days are fine …But I always have to remind him to go to the washroom….(ALWAYS).. Know he is started slowly to pee his pants I think It’s lazyness???? Well to be honest I dnt know what to do Please help….

  5. Grandma

    I want to thank all of you for writing what is going on with you as I have thought we were the only ones in the world going through this hell.
    We have the most wonderful 10¾ grandson, that came to live with us along with his sister and mother a year ago. Well for the past year all I smell is poop! We have tried JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, and I SO MEAN JUST BOUT EVERYTHING to STOP this. But ALL has FAILED. I WONT allow ppl to come into my house as it smells like a sewer. We’ve had him checked out by his doctor…. all is okay. Next to the psychotherapist… and still POOP! It’s has gotten so bad I am not going through depression as I am stuck in the house all day smelling it! I mean the smell has gotten into everything no matter how much we clean. We have tried making him scrub his clothes, and wash them… still poop!
    I have talked to him if there is anything I can do to help him… nada. I went and sent away for diapers for older children and that will be my next step as I am lost at what to try next. The sad part is he doesn’t seem to even care that his friends can smell him. One of the psychotherapist told us to make his sit on newspapers on the floor as he ISNT allowed to sit on anything else… and that we should have “pratice wipping” three times a day. Sounds like an idea to me, but the daughter is fighting me on it. The 2nd psychotherapist told us to give him “coffee” which just made him wired out! lol I am at a lost and truthfully really starting to get sick of all of this… HELP!!!!

    • elenabozhinova

      As a Psychotherapist myself I can only say – please change psychotherapists! I think it will be beneficial to look for somebody who is doing psychodynamic/psychoanalytical psychotherapy as this is not a question of behaviour, but of emotional conflict which needs working through. what you are describing are behavioural techniques that obviously are not helpful. Good luck

    • Debbie

      Grandma, I am a grandma too! I am raising a 7 and 8 year old boy! I have got them to stop shitting at school! How? I gave them a Nintendo controller if they could make it a week. The first week was awful! But, the second week worked! Now they don’t do it at school! However, they still do it at home all the time. They didn’t do it yesterday because I told them they would go to bed! Today they pooped and ruined their pants and tried to hide it! I made them straighten their room and go to bed w no tv. I’m sick of it and can do nothing about it. It’s horrible!

  6. nikki

    i so happy to hear that i’m not the only parent out there that has to deal with this on a daily basis ~ i’m at the end of my rope too and reading all the other comments ~ i see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel but it is going to take a long time in getting there ~ thank you everyone for the advice ~ my daughter is almost 8 years old and has been doing this for almost a year and i’m starting to think that maybe this is caused from us (her parents) always fighting and this is the result ~ but i’m still pretty confused to why it is happening ~ but please keep posting comments on this problem as i will be coming back every few days to read people’s comments and advice on this matter!

    • Julie Jenkins

      maybe use pampers for a while until she stops pooing her self – don’t let her have toys and make her go to bed until she realize she has not got to poo her undies and go to the toilet.

  7. Julie

    My 5 year old keeps pooping in his pants and then will hide it in his room. He says he doesn’t like to sit on the potty because it’s boring. I’ve tried everything from bribing him to making him sit on the toilet. He’s almost 6 and I’m wondering if I should take him to the Dr.

  8. KC

    I am so glad that I am not alone!!! My son is 8 and he still has “accidents.” He says that he can’t feel when he has to go. We don’t push him and I have stopped asking him every 5 minutes if he needs to go. He is definately getting better, but it doesn’t bother him near as much as it bothers me. The doctor says that he will outgrow it…

    • Patricia

      I don’t believe he will outgrow it. My Godson is 13 and I thought he would outgrow it; he hasn’t. I am reading many articles on the topic, reading other posts but I am seeing the only true first step is going to see his doctor.

  9. Trevor

    Okay, my brother is 13 years old. He is still pooping in his pants. No idea why he does that. I don’t think it’s a power issue at all.

  10. CeeBee

    These are depressing comments. I’ve got a four and a half year old who I just spanked to within two inches of his life for pooping in his pants. He has two younger siblings, and I’ve always bought into the whole line about how “children will train when they’re ready!” and “He won’t go to kindergarten in diapers! wink wink!”
    But I’m starting to suspect these happy-sounding lines are a bunch of overly-permissive s&*t. 😉
    Gawd. Thirteen years old? I can’t take another nine years of this.
    Sometimes he’ll go in the potty, but more often than not, he’ll just go in his underwear. It doesn’t help that he’s verbally delayed; this is part of the reason we’ve suffered in silence this long. It’s a good excuse. But this kid is bright enough to run our computer, knows his numbers and alphabet and hundreds of sight words. He’s NOT a helpless invalid.
    My husband is a lot more forgiving about this than I am, so he asks for Daddy when he’s had a dirty one, but even my husband’s saintly patience is fast running out. Cleaning up after a four-year-old’s bowel movements is NO FUN AT ALL.
    My hands smell like feces no matter how many times I scrub them. Today I made him clean his own poopy underwear out into the toilet.
    He kept saying “yuck!” because yeah, it DOES suck to have to scrape out feces with your hands, doesn’t it, boy??? Then he had to clean off the toilet seat, which had poop smeared all over IT, and then he had to take a shower to clean off his rear end. Oh, and clean off the ledge of the tub where he managed to get poop smeared as he got into the shower. Hopefully this will be aggravating enough for him to avoid repeating his hideous mess.

    • Nicole (@mamavisions)

      CeeBee, I feel sorry for your kids. My son’s holding poop habit drives us crazy. I feel frustrated. He can see that. But spanking and bragging about it is just…sad.

      • Kc

        I feel sorry for her child.

      • Lisa Gorsuch

        Yes i agree. Spanking for this is so completly wrong. My son is 7 it is causing so many issues with my husband and i. When he was a baby i had to hold him v in warm water for him to poop. He wasnt around for this so has no idea how badly this hurts me to see this battle with them. What did you do? Please contact me need someone talk to about this.

    • Amanda Gentle

      You need to check yourself MOMMY!! Look up necropesis before you beat your little 4 year old within an inch of his life okay? HORRIBLE!!! Disciplining for it will only make it worse! Do some research.

    • Bree

      Your post is completely horrifying CeeBee! A four year old? If he knee hundreds of sight words, as you suggested, he was a very BRIGHT boy. Making him scrub the toilet and the tub is slightly overboard for a preschooler. I realize your post is from 2009, and your boy is around 12 years old. Hopefully all issues have been resolved without any long term psychological damage. I have wondered if, maybe, our children have certain behaviors that enable them to feel more connected to us. If we are so busy drilling them into perfection that we don’t take time to love them and care for them, then it is quite possible they will do things to receive ANY reaction from us, be it a good reaction of compassion and understanding, or a reaction of disgust, anger, and judgement. To a child, any reaction is better than no reaction.

  11. Ana

    My 8 year old is pooping too. School, home and when we are out. He doesn’t want to miss out on the action. Punishing does not work. Washing underwear does not work. The point is why is he still continuing the behaviour. I am frustrated and angry. My main concern is that if kids get wind of it at school – excuse the play on words, he will have bigger issues. I am putting my hands up. Over it!

  12. Cindy

    My step – son pooped and peed his pants until he was 8. We tried EVERYTHING we could think of and we finally found a SOLUTION. He would go a few months of just peeing, then a few months of just pooping, then many months of both. His pediatrician said it could be related to his ADHD. His special education teachers thought it was behavioral (he regressed at 2 years old when his birth mother left and was never able to be fully potty trained ). We tried sticker charts, rewards, punishments, m asking him clean his underwear, totally ignoring it, re – potty training with a baby doll, showing him pictures of how the muscles work.. nothing helped. The doctor tested for juvenile diabetes, gave him exercises, took x-rays, and diagnosed him with encopresis. We did enemas, clean-outs, probiotics, and a year worth of prescription strength Miralax. No change. Then we has the pediatric gastroenterologist do biofeedback testing called anorectal manometry….results came back normal. We gave up and figured we would crap himself into adulthood. Then I got pregnant and talked to my chiropractic assistant friend about adjustments for my back pain. It popped into my head that they do adjustments for bed-wetting, so I figured we could give it a try. We did one adjustment. Within 3 days he stopped going to the bathroom on himself. He started getting up from playing or watching a movie and telling us he needed to use the bathroom. Night time wetting stopped too. School started and he has stayed clean and dry for 4 weeks so far. So CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENT worked for us! My theory is that he was never aligned properly and his nerves were pinched or inflamed. I don’t think he could actually feel the urge to go until it was too late. I think the adjustment put everything back in place and over a few days his nerves returned to normal. It’s worth a try if your child has the same problem!

    • Kristy

      I have a 7 year old who has been pooping and peeing for 2 years. Chiropractor is my next step. I hope it works. We have done Miralax clean out, pediatric gastroenterologist, MRI, rewards, punishments you name it. I am exhausted and afraid for him

      • Alyson Schafer

        I am sure you are exhausted. Perhaps the next step is family counselling and seeing this more of a behaviour that is symptomatic of some relationship stressors.

  13. Farrah

    I’m not sure if anyone still posts on this blog, but I am also up to my eyeballs with this issue concerning my 8 yr old stepson. This has been going on for almost 4 yrs now. We were hoping he’d outgrow it, but it only seems to be getting worse. He goes through cycles with peeing himself, but he poops himself numerous times a day every single day. He doesn’t discriminate either. At school, at our house, his mom’s house, friend’s houses, out in public, etc. His brother and sister are constantly coming up to me or my husband and telling us that Lucas smells like poop again. We make him clean himself up, put his nasty underwear in a plastic bag to be thrown away (he has blown holes through his underwear on multiple occassions,) use sanitary wipes to clean up his butt and legs, and wash his hands. He also wears a watch that goes off every single hour signaling him to use the bathroom. NOTHING works, We’ve done time outs, early bedtimes, no video games, no tv….We always have an extra pair of clothes in his backpack and most days he comes home wearing a totally different outfit. He won’t come tell us that he’s had an “accident”, he waits until someone smells it and calls him out on it. Then when we send him upstairs to get clean, he lies about doing it. You can still smell the poop, and he admits that he doesn’t wash his hands! It’s disgusting! He’s been tested for autism, adhd, gluten allergies….he’s been to therapists, counselors, a pediatric gastroenterologist. He’s been asked by numerous people if he’s been inappropriately touched… he always says no. He gets made fun of at school….he has even been caught playing with it. I noticed a poop stain on his wall next to his bed and his brother spoke up and said that Lucas told him he was “finger painting” and he also had it on his stomach. I’m mortified and disgusted. I love this little boy so much…but this isn’t what I signed up for. HELP!!!!!

    • elenabozhinova

      this is so tough on everybody, but it sounds like your step son needs a long-term psychotherapy, please consider it. i know you said he has been to therapists in the past, but i think this has an underlying psychological cause that needs long-term stable relationship. i can only suggest what i know (i am a psychotherapist) which is a psychodynamic/psychoanalytic psychotherapy. it takes time and effort and might be expensive, but i really think this is more than “simple” behaviour issue. all the best in a very difficult situation.

      • alyson

        I wish more parents were open to psychotherapy. We are all complex beings and behaviour is an expression of so much. I agree that when families are dealing with enduring power struggles or revenge behaviours – its time for to utilize professionals.

    • Stephanie

      How you are describing your son is totally the same situation I am in with my soon to be 9 yr old son. I’m beyond frustrated. I’m sad and depressed and it has put a huge strain on my family. He and his twin sister came to us at 18 months through foster care. He already had several issues from his past neglect which we promptly recognized and got him therapy for…mostly speech and development. We adopted them at age 4. They were both potty trained by the time they were 4 with an occasional pee accident at night. At age 5 we took in another foster sibling set age 2 and 4. The 4 year old was a HUGE hand full who would have daily (sometimes several a day) screaming at the top of his lungs temper tantrums. After 6 months they left my home. Thats when my adopted son started pooping himself. We think he saw all the drama the foster boy caused and the attention it received. He has since been diagnosed with ADHD. I also think he has oppositional defiance disorder. I think he uses the poop to punish me when he gets in trouble for something. I have seen him sit in time out give me a dirty look and then bare down while pooping in his pants! For a while he had us trained. If he knew there was a reward for staying clean for a couple of days he would stay clean but as soon as he was given the reward he would poop. After 4 rewards we caught on… I run a daycare and he has actually come out while I’m having a parent interview and let poop fall out of his clothes while being as charming as he can be to the new clients knowing he smells. I no longer do interviews with him at home. if its summer time and no school my husband takes him on a drive for an hour until I’m finished. We even stopped going on family outings because he ruins them for everyone. now we just leave him home but its usually me or his oldest sister who also has to miss out to stay home with him. Just today we found 2 hand prints on his ceiling above his bunkbed so now we are worried he is going to start “painting”. We did a full scrubbing on his room but I just think of everything he has touched and I am so grossed out. The saddest part is that we adopted him to love him and take care of him his whole life and now we don’t even want to spend time with him because he makes everyone stressed out. his twin doesn’t even want to be around him and is embarrassed by him at school… I have no idea what to do for him, we have tried it ALL.

    • Bean

      If he’s got that much poop in him, he’s severly constipated. There shouldn’t be enough poop in him to be pooping that many times a day. Kids get that full and can no longer feel the need to poop.
      Doesn’t explain the finger painting though.

  14. Mel

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This is the best advice! You are so right! This is what I am going to do. My daughter doesn’t full on spoil herself she just waits and then has major
    Skiddies! So thank you! I will take your advice.

  15. Anna

    There is a long term solution. See

  16. Tracy

    Oh my gosh, so relieving actually to know that I am not the only one out there going through this! I know it is much worse for my son…or at least possibly, unfortunately will be some day with how the trajectory is looking. He is 7. He sometimes still pees (although is very good at hiding it…it is like he “leaks” all day long in his underwear). It is obvious at the end of the day when his underwear stinks like urine. He also still poops in his pants probably 3-5 times a week, usually a little, but sometimes, disturbingly, more than a little. And he does this in school, on play dates, at home when he is a few feet from the toilet. He says friends don’t notice or say anything at school, but come on! they know. I worry incessantly about the social repercussions and just feel so completely awful for my little man. More correctly, I vacillate between feeling completely worried, and completely fed up and frustrated with him about it! There are 2 things I feel at play. One him having accidents, which maybe he cannot help…I don’t know! But then #2 Him having an accident and then not doing anything to clean himself up! That is just disgusting! He is like in denial about it. He often sits on his heel trying to stop the poop from coming out. He says it is like a race, he either wins by getting to the bathroom on time or the poop wins by coming out a little. His dad has a very very short fuse and is a very scary person when angry and sometimes I wonder if this is the root of this. My son also has a complete gag reflex when he sees or touches toilet paper. He is typically developing in every way except for this, he does not have autism or any sensory issues besides the toilet paper thing. I feel just awful for him and I have no idea what to do. He REFUSES to get tested for Hirshsprungs Disease, and his dad backs him up on this ( part of our divorce contract says both parents need to agree on medical treatment). My son is emphatic, and I feel that if I did get a judge to approve my request to have it done, he would kick and scream and it just wouldn’t happen. Also he refuses to go to a therapist, because he thinks we need to keep this private (I think something that he heard from his dad). I am so frustrated and I feel powerless. I feel like he is starting to get ostracized, at least from the parents of his friends from school…they don’t want him to come over to his house anymore, I think, because of this issue, and truly I can’t blame them. Honestly I think both the dad and I have tolerated it for as long as we have because at the end of the week he goes back to the other parent, and we get a break from it. We both love our kid so much, but this is maddening. I don’t know what to do! PLEASE any help, suggestions would be very much appreciated.

    • Amanda H.

      Tracy, I don’t know if you will ever see this, but my 8 year old son’s behavior exactly mimics your son’s. The sitting on his heel and “racing” to the potty are spot on. I’ve gotten very good at telling him that he needs to go, then he suddenly “needs” to go. I’m at my wits end. I know his friends and classmates know, and I think it pays a large part in why he has very few friends. I am fortunate enough that he seems to “want” to fix it, but we often make no progress. Thank you for sharing your story because I often feel alone and defeated by the situation.

      • melissa

        When a medical rule out has determined there is no structural or underlying physiological cause … i believe that children have bowel issues when their is some emotional concerns that are not being spoken by the child…afterall it is not easy to talk about issues especially if it pertains to family members you love! but we are talking about a developmental stage between 7 and 11 that makes talking about deep feelings and experiences that are troubling to them hard…they often cant find ‘the words” to express because they are still learning how to be interpersonally related and expressive. So going to a professional psychotherapist would enable all family members to learn about expressing feelings between one another. i am of the mind that when you dont talk things out you act them out in all kinds of unique ways. ask yourself are we a family that is not talking about their feelings are there troubles or ongoing conflicts that are not being worked out in the family? also if this a peer issue of some kind your child would benefit if he or she could talk this through with a therapist while the family learns how to discuss these concerns at home. Not all the time but many times; a physical symptom can be reflecting a deeper emotional need that still must be addressed and worked through with all family members..

  17. Emma

    ‘Once they have learned how to do that, your life is not impacted’ I don’t think it’s that easy! My son will sit on the couch and make it stink. He has started pulling out dry peices and throwing them on the floor, and they stink, bad! It is affecting us.

  18. Erica F.

    Maybe its just as simple as them wanting to remain in diapers. i apologize for sounding like one of many diaper lover trolls out there, but i say, let them wear their diapers. I know its disgusting, painfully monotonous, not to mention extremely expensive, but make him or her wear diapers and USE them EVERYWHERE. the more they get embarrassed and teased by their peers, when changed in public or at school, the more they may be willing to break that habit.

    Another thing to maybe consider, is despite countless doctor visits claiming nothing is wrong with them, keep pushing the issue with them, and get as many opinions as you need. Doctors, believe it or not, are only human… they make mistakes and sometimes are lazy themselves. Dismissing something they may not understand, saying nothing is wrong or its psychosomatic, gives them an easy way out of actually doing their jobs.

    I have a niece, who is now 16 years old, who did the same thing and 4, at 6, at 8 years of age… having doctor after doctor tell my sister nothing was wrong. Her being at wits end, tearing her own hair out and being on the verge of physically abusive towards her daughter. and guess what, she was later, MUCH LATER, diagnosed with Spina Bifida Occulta… a rare form of SB, that showed no outward signs, normal childhood SB often does. Just because she could walk and run, didn’t mean she didn’t have the birth defect. you know what im saying? If not look it up. My point is you never know.

  19. Tom Harlin

    I am a widowed father of a nine year old girl that absolutely hates the toilet. She is being home-schooled right now because she was always doing #2 in her underwear every day at school. I know she’s gotten worse since her mom died four months’ ago. I try to confront her about it and she tells me that I can’t stop her because of her being a girl and I’m not. I am tired of doing just her laundry because of it. She does it no matter where we go. The doctors’ all say she’s stubbornly regressed and it is up to her on when to be back using the toilet instead of her underwear. She is one of a kind in my books because I’ve never known anyone else that had these kind of issues with their children. Oh yes she has had quite a few bladder infections because of it but she just don’t seem too care. I will not start her in pullups because I think that would further her from even attempting to go in and use the restroom like a normal child. Any ideas on how to deal with this kind of issue.

    • alyson

      First off, Tom, I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure you and daughter are still very much grieving. Soiling at 9, giving that she has control and was once trained means this is a psychological issue tied in to other thoughts and beliefs that impact her choice of behaviour ( soiling instead of choosing the toilet). I would recommend you discuss this with a family therapist. I am sure she and you would both appreciate some support even around the area of missing her mom and the new family dynamics.

  20. Susie

    My grandson was diagnosed with Redundant Sigmoid Colon age 3. he is six, and I believe it has been fixed. The problem now is he has developed a fear of having a bowel movement. He squirms and moves until it seeps out. My daughter and I have bribed, taken stuff away. Told him to go, and nothing has worked. It hurt him before, and now he is afraid it will still hurt. I am going to tell my daughter to give him a real good clean out this weekend. Is there anything else anyone can think of to help?

    • alyson

      Fear of potential pain is something the doctors who diagnosed him might be able to help with. I would treat this as a specific anxiety issue and use techniques used for other specific fears. Check out website for great ideas for kids and parents.

  21. Sabrina

    I thought I was the only one with a 9 year old who seems to choose to go poo in her knickers. She has no problems usually using the toilet and will sit on it most mornings before school and try hard for a poo. All is good if she manages to poo but if not I know at some point that day I will get a call from school.
    I get so frustrated by this that on some mornings when she hasn’t done it on the toilet and I’ve got time I’ve kept her off school and frog marched her back into the toilet, lifted her skirt,, pulled her knickers down and made her sit on the toilet untill she does it which on most occasions she does without complaining although when she is genuinely constipated she will cry and say she can only do it in her knickers.
    She will sit in dirty knickers untill someone notices and tells her to change. She has probiotic yogurt so thankfully her poo doesn’t really smell bad, like today she came in from school and I checked and she had full knickers, I asked her when she did it and she said some on the way to school then at lunch she said she was in the que and needed to ” get rid of some cos it was hurting” so did it in her knickers then sat and ate her lunch.
    We have also had the situation at home and school where she will do some poo in her knickers whilst playing or at school during lessons and then later will go and sit on the toilet and finish her poo off in the normal manner, sitting there with her poo filled knickers at her knees, and then will get off and just pull her full knickers back up and get on with whatever she was doing.
    Apparently she will grow out of it I was told when she was 7 she is now 9 and shows no sign of changing. Ever time I say something she points out that she did it on the toilet the other day or when at grandma’s etc

    Any thoughts, advice or experience welcome.

  22. vijayashree

    my daughter is 7 yrs oldvshe still doing patty in her panty.she doesn’t want to go tiolet. everyday she is doing the same thing. pls help me what can i do for this probblem

    • Alyson Schafer

      Helo Vijay,

      See the doctor first and make sure there is no health issue. Then ask if there are reasons she doesn’t like using the toilet? Fear of the noise of flushing, fear of alligators in the sink, fear or using the washroom at school alone. If she doesn’t have any such fears and issues, its usually an expression of protest about feeling too controlled in the relationship and wanting to retaliate in some way. Could it be that she feels you are being over bearing in other areas of her life?? What are some ways to warm up the parent child relationship and find ways for her to take care of her own responsibilities independently?

  23. Linda Williams

    I dont buy it that an 8 yr old cant help it. Besides my 8 yr old grandson is pooping himself regularly and smearing it in three different rooms in the home AFTER having been fully toilet trained for over 5 yrs! He has always been a bed wetter but never had this crappy issue before Aug. 2017. Its a nightmare. He is not developmentally delayed but does have behavioral issues. He knows better and definitely knows it is not even close to okay to smear shit all over the damn house…sorry this is very upsetting both for my daughter and son in law but also for her two other boys.

    • Alyson Schafer

      Hi Linda,
      From what you write, it does sound like the usefulness of his behaviour is to anger or revenge upon his parents with his acting out through his poop smearing. The solution lies in helping them improve the relationship between the family members so he is not feeling so vengeful. I would recommend some family therapy to resolve matters. Even 4 sessions can make things so so much better for all.


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