34 answers

Almost 7 Year Old Won't Wipe Bottom.

My step-daughter is staying with us for the summer and she won't wipe whether she urinates or defecates. She ends up with caked on poop and wet underwear by the end of the day, is constantly scratching herself, and she has had a rash on her bottom for a full month. My husband has talked to her mom but she says it doesn't happen at her house. When I asked her if anyone other than us has told her she needs to wipe, she said her mom always tells her and her grandmother, too. She and I have a very good relationship (her father and I have been together since she 22 mo) and we sat down and had a talk about it, and I found out she knows and thinks about wiping after but just doesn't. I asked if there is any particular reason, but there isn't. She just doesn't do it. She is very matter-of-fact about making a conscious decision about not wiping. I figure she has made a habit of not wiping and now she must break that and make a wiping habit. I have told her that it she doesn't start, certain privileges will be taken away. (TV, toys, etc) I also told her I won't get her any new underwear and I will throw each pair she "messes" away. So eventually, if she continues, she will have no underwear. I gave her a bracelet to help remind her throughout the day to wipe when she goes to the bathroom. I have also told her if she does well, she can pick out a new package of underwear and a new night gown. I guess I want to know if I am doing the right thing or if there is any other ideas I can do to help her. Thank you so much in advance for your advice!

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Tell her how bad "it" as in her bottom or underwear can get if she keeps on refusing to wipe. Then she may want to start wiping. Just a thought. Good luck! :-)

1 mom found this helpful

Instead of throwing her underwear away, I'd make her clean them herself, let her see how nasty it is...

1 mom found this helpful

Have you thought about having wipes handy, they may help her feel like she can do a better job cleaning.

More Answers

Step-parenting - it can be challenging. Sometimes children feel out of control of their circumstances and so choose other ways to exert control. Really to her it is her bottom - and if she knows it drives you crazy - then it makes doing it worthwhile - and now Daddy has a new little girl - I am a step-parent and when my children came along, she was envious which she later admitted. I suggest you back off and let Daddy do the talking, and most of the disciplining, it is his attention she is wanting. He is her parent. She will tire eventually of being itchy and having ugly underwear, don't buy new ones and don't bribe her - as you expressed she is making a conscious decision. Do put some wet wipes by cottonelle on the back of the toilet just in case she decides to begin, they help clean the bottom better especially if the last wipe was less than adequate. Don't turn this into a tug of war with her -- get Daddy involved - not in a dictatorial way but an encouraging way -- maybe he can tuck her in at night - make sure he notices something to compliment her on each day - leave a note for her before he goes to work - and he can bring her some little girl bath stuff from Bath and body and say how little girls should smell sweet and clean - etc.... good luck - your fun is just beginning!!!

3 moms found this helpful

Tell her how bad "it" as in her bottom or underwear can get if she keeps on refusing to wipe. Then she may want to start wiping. Just a thought. Good luck! :-)

1 mom found this helpful

If she has a rash, maybe it hurts? Maybe some of the flushable towelettes might make it easier, and feel better?

1 mom found this helpful

Instead of throwing her underwear away, I'd make her clean them herself, let her see how nasty it is...

1 mom found this helpful

A friend of mine went through something similar with her step-daughter. She made her daughter handwash all of her panties. After a while she figured out that it was dirty and she hated having to handwash her own things. It got better; but it took time. I'm not sure what kind of relationship you and your husband have with the ex; but if the daughter is saying that she's told the same thing at her house, then both households should be on the same page and handling this issue the same way. Otherwise, on her next visit she may have this very same issue.

If having your step-daughter wash her own panties doesn't work, I wold take her to a peditrician. Maybe there's something going on that she's not comfortable discussing just yet. It's possible that her rash is starting to crack and bleed and now it just hurts to wipe.

Good luck!
A. W.

1 mom found this helpful

Have her leave the door open if this helps, and stand by the door. Sometimes it feels strange for children to use the restroom in a differnt home. Sometimes they feel they will be left behind so assure her you will standing by the door in case she needs help.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi L.
Well done on being such a great step-mum - one of the hardest jobs on earth!
My own daughter went through a stage of not wiping either and it is a really awful phase - I put it down to looking for attention and she just outgrew it.
What you are doing is absolutely the right way to go and if things do not improve, you should have a chat to your doctor about it.
Perhaps she has worms?

1 mom found this helpful

It may be the toilet paper that you are using. Try letting her pick out the toilet paper at the store. I think Cottenelle makes a trainer toilet paper that is fun for kids and teaches them how many squares is enough. Maybe she would like the Kandoo wipes that are wet. I would not throw out her underwear. She may like not wearing underwear and then you are in a different boat. It is easier to throw away a soiled pair of underwear than it is a pair of soiled pants! I think it would be more appropriate to make her wash them out herself. Maybe a sticker chart to work towards a prize. Then she sees the stickers in the bathroom and is reminded of the prize that she is working towards. I would really try to focus on the positive. The natural consequence is cleaning her underwear herself. I would not give any other punishment.

1 mom found this helpful

Your plan sounds like a good one. I especially liked the incentive of new underwear and a new nightie. The only part I would change is throwing away the underwear. If she eventually had none, it would make a nasty mess on her clothing and create a new problem for you. Maybe she should hand clean the soiled underwear.

Also, have you tried moist wipes for older kids, like Kandoo wipes? My son was having problems with getting clean enough with regular wipes. We got the Kandoo wipes, and that has almost completely cleared up the issue. There is more than one scent, so I allow him to choose the scent when we are running low. He likes having choices. It's worth a try...

1 mom found this helpful

It could be the feel of the toilet paper that she doesn't like. She could feel like it "hurts" to wipe with it.

I had my now 10 yo use the flushable wipes for awhile because she had such a hard time learning to use regular toilet paper. They are wet like baby wipes and soft so they aren't as rough or dry as most toilet paper.

I had a pack I would carry in my bag and I get a box at each toilet. She really liked it and she got clean. I didn't have to worry about "messed" underwear or complaints after I did that and eventually she figured out toilet paper for herself and has been using it regularly for about 2 years now... ;-)

Good Luck...

Maybe have her help you make a colorful sign on a small
sheet of poster board with markers or crayons that says
"Don't Forget To Wipe". She can decorate it with markers,
stickets, glitter, etc. Most girls this age like crafty
things. Maybe something visual put right in her line of
vision hung in the bathroom she always uses at home will
give her just one extra reminder.
Good luck, and hang in there, things will get better.

Dear L.: I read about your problem with your 7 year-old
step-daughter. I don't know of another thing you can do
except carry through with the plan you've started. I applaud
you for making a plan that is fair and motivating.

You sound like a great mom and it always makes my heart soar
when I hear a step-parent handling a situation the way they
would with their own biological children. Keep up the good work and don't lose your patients. I think Morgan has a
great second mom!

I completely understand your frustration, 7-year-old daughter rarely wipes regardless of what she's done on the toilet. One thing I have done is to keep plenty of the "butt wipes" as we call them. They sell them for adults, and super cute and smell good brands for kids. I'd minimize any shame or embarrassment, and even offer to help if she needs help in getting it off. My daughter has times where it's messier and because she's not able to reach around so good, or can't "see" what to get back there, it can turn into a huge mess and I personally stress how much I don't mind, just ask.
Good luck, I'm sure it's just a phase and I'd be understanding of her -- undies don't cost that much in the scheme of things.

I thnk it is great you are trying to find a game plan. It is obviously a problem that needs to be dealt with and while you can not control what is happening at the mom's house, you can control your house. Step parent or not. Tell her your house rules nicely. LEt her know it is her choice to follow them or not. Explain that if she chooses not to follow your rules there are consequences. So, if she chooses not to wipe, then when you find dirty underwear, have her undress from waist down, hop into the bath tub, and clean out her panties and wash herself thoroughly. Then have her redress in fresh clean clothes. Let her know that this is the rulle in your house and from then on enforce it with her dad's approval. I wouldn't necesssarily supervise unless you normally do, but the washed out undies non smelling body should be proof she is following instructions. She is old enough to choose and understand. With my daughter (3), I use only cold water because I let her know that I don't want to use all our hot water. It is saved for bath time before bed. It makes it more uncomfortable. I never get angry or upset, just act matter of fact. It is her choice and her consequences. If she is a smart girl she will figure out that wiping is just so much easier and less time consuming. I do provide wipes for my family to use and my 3 year old finds they are more appealing to use and she can manage on her own. If she uses the paper, we have a messy problem of the paper sticking and she gets poop on her hands and she uses entirely too much and the toilet gets stopped up. So, I vote for the wipes as well. As for rewarding, well after she begins to nake good choices, I would acknowledge that you appreciate her doing her part and perhaps share a coke with her or something of that nature. That is the only way my kids get soda is for a special recognition. They know it isn't healthy and should only be consumed every now and again and so when I do offer it, it makes it oh so special and that makes for good bonding. Good luck.

I don't know independent she is, but I would tell her that if she doesn't start to, you will have to go into th restroom with her and wipe it for her. that might change her mind. And enforce it too. I love your idea and I hope that works. Soudns like it may :).

What about those "Kan-doo" wipes made just for kids. Perhaps making a big deal about how they are just for her may promote wiping. I think they are a little moist so, it may also be more comfortable.

Just a thought,

You know, I don't really believe that this is a matter of her forgetting and needing reminders to not forget. You say that she seems to make it appear that she has made a firm decision to not wipe, so its not as though she has forgotten. Perhaps it has to do with what she is doing when she has to go to the bathroom that she wants to get back it as quickly as possible and out of the anxiety to get back to her activity or maybe even out of laziness, she does not wipe. Maybe you and her other mom need to make it a point to go to the bathroom with her at all times. At least for a week or so. Then observe her and make sure that she practices her good hygiene with you both. If she goes before you can get there, tell her that she will have to wait for you to get there to make sure she is following the right steps to staying healthy and clean. Perhaps if she learns how it is to feel clean again, she will want to stay away from getting rashes and just being dirty.
You are awesome for taking the lead in this. Perhaps you can make a break through of what is sure to be one of many girlie issues to come:)

Good luck!

Have you thought about having wipes handy, they may help her feel like she can do a better job cleaning.

You got a lot of advice. I was confused about one thing, you wrote that she doesn't have this problem at her mom's, yet both her mom and her grandma, tell her to wipe, so apparently there was a problem at one time anyway. Well my mom and dad divorced when I was 6 1/2, and I remember that my mom had a heck of a time getting me to brush my teeth! She put a sign up in the bathroom to "brush" but it didn't really work. It wasn't so much that I forgot especially after she put the sign up in my face! But I didn't want to brush, I didn't want to take the time for it and I was lazy about it. I don't know if it had any thing to do with my dad leaving, I don't think so, I wasn't angry and didn't feel abandoned. But my mom was very abusive and maybe it had something to do with that?? But I can tell you when it changed! I was embarrassed to find out that I had bad breath from not brushing! And in school I wanted to have friends, so I started brushing! As an adult I am finatical about brushing, flossing, gum , you name it, when I am around people, but when I am home alone for the day, I could care less if I brush my teeth, Till hubby is coming home! (ok that was personal that I just shared with the whole world! LOL!)Anyway, maybe if you let her know that she smells when her butt is dirty and that the kids at school are going to make fun of her and call her names, and that sometimes once a child gets a bad nickname it stays with them even after they clean up their act, well that might make her think twice. Also I did foster parenting for 4 years for teenage girls, many had been sexually abused and one of the behaviors from sexually abused girls is to keep things dirty and smelly down there (they think that maybe no one will want to touch them if it smells and is dirty.) Just a possibility for you to keep your eyes open about. Most times it is a family member or family friend, even a sibling! and not always a male! (I know how inconceivable that may seem but so sadly sometimes the case.) best of luck to your situation, hope that it turns out alright. please don't be cruel to her about it, just explain the facts about the uncleanliness.

I know this sounds crude, but I threatened my step-son with cleaning his own underwear by hand. After picking up underwear caked with poo for the hundreth time, I had enough and I told made him pick it up and put it in the trash. I told him that if I saw another pair he would be washing them out by hand. He got alot better about it. It must just be something with that age.
Whatever works is what I say and if you have to buy a couple of packs of underwear and it works the go to it.
Good luck!

L.' i yhink iys freat the way you are handling this keep up the good work

This might sound mean to some, but I had that problem with my son when he was younger and one day I had enough of rinsing out his messy underwear so I made him rinse them out, it was amazing how fast he learned to wipe better after that. Good luck!

Hi L. my name is Julia, and i have the same problem with my 7 year old boy he is from our marriage. I tryed an alarm for the night and it did not work was to loud and frighten my son so he refuses to use the alarm again.
I will try the bracelet and hope it will work. I also took him to the dr. and every thig is ok with him... I cry constantly because I dont know what to do... please advice if you have any new ideas. thank you for sharing your experience.

I think you ought to bring n a third party "expert" such as a nurse or someone in the health field who will give your SD a simple, but to the point accurate description of why "not wiping" is bad hygeine. (As you know, this can lead to urinary tract infections and a very uncomfortable rash - which i am surprised is not already bothering her. My niece started wearing a "thong" at a young age and got UTIs from those). My sister was a school nurse and used to explain this sort of stuff to students when they either wouldnt listen to the parents - or just needed to hear a more scientific reason for doing something. since girls grow up so fast these days, perhaps you can tie-in the explanation to being a young lady, etc.

Then also speak with your SD to see if you can determine a reason why - and i dont feel that it is laziness or other "simplified" reason she is telling you.

I think your idea of rewarding her with new pretty panties or nightgown is great - but im not so sure about the punishing with taking away toys. I tend to save "punishment" for rebellious or defiant behavior.

I dont know - my gut instinct tells me that there is some other reason for this. Kids tend to take a "step backward" just before taking several steps forward in their development, so maybe she is just needing some special attention for a short while. I think she may need you to do a little "hand holding" for a while and accompany her to the bathroom to make sure she does do it. Since i have heard that it takes 21 days to either make or break a habit, perhaps you can help her do a progress chart for 21 days.

Good luck with this.

about Me - a 53 yr old married, working, mom of two grown kids.

After my son was born, my daughter (7 at the time) would call me into the bathroom to wipe her bottom. I told her that she was a big girl and had been doing it herself for some time. She told me, "but you wipe bubba (brother)". It didn't get as bad as what you have described; but what helped her is by me putting wipes in the bathroom for her to use. She liked the idea and still uses them at times to make sure she is extra clean.

You're step-daughter may be jealous of her sister and this may be a way to get attention. I wish you the very best of luck and really hope your strategy works. :)

Boy, this can be a real mess...I feel for u. I would approach it in a manner that is extremely positive. Maybe try this, let her know: Big girls always wipe so they stay clean and smell good. People love to be around clean smelling people. Do u know how to wipe because your mommy wipes and thinks it is very important? If she says yes then say: r u really able to do that b/c only big girls can. Will u show me how your mommy does it the next time?
Sometimes getting them to prove to you that they r big girls works by itself.
If something like this doesn't work, then add an incentive to this. What is something she really likes...such as getting to pick out a dessert for the evening or which park she can go to? Tell her if she does this throughout the day, she will get a gold star for each achievement and place a chart on the refrigerator. Label the chart as being a big girl. When chart is complete she will get this incentive. I believe that this is not bartering with a child, I believe you r teaching her to realize a goal, learn a new skill, and benefits will follow.
I have read in children books that kids sometimes use "using the bathroom" as a sense of control. They cannot control much, but they can control this. If you give them an incentive to control instead, it may work. I am not sure how young she is. U may need to tell her often throughout the day that when she wipes like a big girl she will be able to pick out a park to go to just like a big girl would do. Good luck.

L. -

Why not talk with her about what happens when she doesn't wipe - what this will lead to - infection, sores, and pain. I would look online and just find out what kind of sores would happen - maybe you could show her some really horrid pictures of what may happen - appropriate for her age that would make her think twice. Ask her questions as to why she would want that to happen. Or maybe take her to the doctor and he/she can explain this to your daughter. I doubt if the stuff you are doing will work - not close enough to the issue at hand.
I think if you keep asking questions as to if she knows what will happen if she does this, how would it feel if she gets sores or infection, etc... Not so much "why? why?" but ask more concrete type questions for her to think on.


I have a friend who's son in this case was "messing" on purpose so she would just very non-chalantly (ie NO interaction or fun type stuff) just take him outside and hose him down. This started in September and by the time the leaves were turning brown two weeks later he had decided that NOT messing was a lot more fun than getting hosed off.

She obviously has to be kept clean and sanitary. Perhaps losing a treat? "Oh I'm sorry - only girls with clean bottoms can ride with me to the store." If you make it a "big deal" it will be a source of attention.

Decide on whatever consequence seems appropriate to you and then just implement. Boom. Bottom line, matter-of-fact, with no fuss. She has to decide it is worth it to her to wipe and clean.

Just wondering how much extra trouble it's going to be for you if she calls your bluff & does run out of underwear. Maybe you should make her wash them out herself in a bucket.

Seriously, try the wet wipes. My 9 year old doesn't like to wipe either, unless I get him the wet wipes. They work better anyhow.

Make her wash her panties by hand. Buy her a mop bucket and put some Tide in it and her panties. Do this outside so it's uncomfortable. Fill the bucket with water and hand her a small scrub brush and have her brush her panties clean. When she is done, show her the dirty water and tell that when she doesn't wipe, all of that mess ends up on everyones laundry. My mom did something similiar with my sister. That backfired on my mom, because my sister started hiding the dirty panties under the bed. So keep on eye out for that. Good luck.

Who is scrubbing and spraying Shout on her underwear at laundry time? If it is not her, then she doesn't fully realize what is going on. I'd start with having her scrub her underwear at the end of the day, or right before her shower. If that doesn't do the trick, have her pediatrician have a talk with her about the situation.

It sounds like you are doing all you can. Positive reinforcement is pretty much all you can do right now. I guess if it continues, you will have to monitor her bathroom habits and teach her how to wipe herself. Maybe print a sheet and stick it on the wall across from each toilet that says in bold letters, WIPE!

It sounds like you have a good plan to help your stepdaughter. My only thing is about throwing away the underwear. So she has no underwear to wear - then what? She'll mess up her shorts? Maybe you should get her involved in doing the laundry and get her to realize nobody likes dealing with poopy underwear. I would let her drip-dry if she wants to - that's not such a big deal as long as her underwear isn't soaked - but she's too old not to wipe herself after she poops. Maybe get her some flushable wet wipes to wipe with to make it more fun.

Look up online what happens to those body parts if no wping occurs after going to the bathroom.
You might find some pretty nasty pics.
(Ex.my 11 yr.old DD wouldn't bring home her socks from p.e.,so we should her pics of athletes foot and she never forgot again.)
good luck

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