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.