3 Year Old Is Pooping in Pants at School - HELP!

Updated on August 23, 2012
W.T. asks from Dallas, TX
11 answers

We have struggled with potty training my 3.5 year old daughter for months. She is pretty good with pee, but will only poop on the potty very occasionally. She is in Montessori school, in a potty trained class and has had poop accidents consistently for the last couple of weeks. The teacher/staff is frustrated and so are we. The director told us yesterday that she has the remainder of the week to stop pooping in her pants or she will be moved back to a younger class without the teacher she loves or her friends. This breaks my heart and I understand the logic, but I also do not want to move her back to a class where she dislikes the teacher and does not have her friends. We have tried rewards, punishment, bribery and nothing seems to sink in. She will tell you she understands, but then hides and poops when she needs to go. GROSS FACT: we give her fiber gummies or Miralax to soften her stools because she was constipated and in pain and the consistency of her poops are now mud-like. This means its hard for her to "get it out" and results in multiple, messy skids daily. If she would at least tell someone she has to go, it would go a long way. This weekend, we are going to go completely naked and go potty every 15 minutes, boot camp style, and hope this will sink in. I never though poop would upset me this much, but I'm at my wit's end! Advice/thoughts/remedies are much appreciated.

FYI: I will definitely entertain the possibility of Encopresis if this continues. That said, she can be pant-less for a while and the minute you put panties or a pull-up on her, she will hide and poop. In fact, we gave her new panties this morning she loved, she said "I will not poop in these panties!", and not 5 minutes later she had pooped in the new panties. I don't doubt that she can't control some of it, but she does know it's happening and won't ask for help or even head toward the potty. She has clearly regressed though, that is my frustration. She has gone poop on the potty many times (school included) and has been very proud of doing so. Also, she loves her current POTTY-TRAINED class and friends, so I hate to move her. I would never want my daughter to feel ashamed or embarrassed, and if push comes to shove, she will go to un-potty trained class and I will be fine with it. Thanks to all who responded, I will let you know what happened.

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answers from Chicago on

The fact that she hides and then goes shows that she knows when she has to go. It's not a matter of she's playing and oops, it just comes out.

There's nothing wrong with moving back. She probably needs constant reminders, which the potty trained class is NOT going to give. It's like moving a kid back a math level in school. Would you rather her be in a class she can't handle so she's constantly failing, or moved back so she can get those basics in?

Don't make it a punishment. Just let her know you understand she's not ready, so TOGETHER you will work on this skill so she can move to a different class.

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answers from Chicago on

Wow such harsh criticism. I feel your pain, and understand the frustration, but I think your little one just needs some more time and unfortunately I think moving her back is going to be the only solution until she is ready.

My oldest was like this and it is very frustrating to deal with it, but they can also be frustrated. If she was constipated before she has not forgotten that feeling and is most likely scared to go poop. That is what happened with my oldest and it was not fun, eventually she got it though and one day it will click for your daughter.

I am sorry for your frustration and it is totally understandable, but I think the best move is for her to go back a step until she gets comfortable going on the potty.

Good Luck!

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answers from New York on

Please check with your doctor to make sure there is not a medical problem. Is it possible she is backed up and the "mud" is what is getting around the blockage?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Do you know about encopresis? Could that be it? Sure soiunds like it especially with the "skids" you're describing.

If this is strictly a potty training issue I would be beyond pi$$ed at the school's "plan" for their convenience. That would be a giant RED flag for me, that I need to find a new school, asap. She's 3 for goodness sake.

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answers from Honolulu on

Not all schools... handle a pooping child that way.
My son, went to a great preschool... and they ACCEPTED kids, who were not potty trained. No matter what age. They helped the kids, in a very nice manner. My son was 4.

Not all kids at this age, are fully poop/potty "able." I am not saying "trained" because this is about a child being able or not there yet. Some kids, do do it later. My son was like that and so was my friend's son.

Punishments and bribes... DO NOT WORK.

If this goes on, she will get constipation problems, of which she ALREADY has. Then constipation causes other medical issues such as : Encopresis, backed up bowels internally, pain, etc. And it will then cause an emotion based problem, for her.
So then you will be dealing with TWO problems: emotional issues and medical problems.
All because, her school does not approve.

Her poop is now mud like, because, it is being held in internally, in an UNnatural manner.
She is Constipated... because she is HOLDING IN Her poop. This is called "withholding." And this is unnatural. And completely AVOIDABLE if only.... those around her were not chastising for it or for not being 100% mastered, at the toilet.

To me, you need to take her to a Doctor... for an x-ray or exam, to make sure she is not INTERNALLY blocked up. She has, constipation. And that causes MANY medical problems. A Doctor, needs to assess her.

All of this is completely avoidable.
If she were not forced.

My son, and I know other kids that were late in pottying... and I never chastised my son for it, nor did his Preschool.

Your daughter's school, does not seem very nurturing.
And at home, she is getting so much stress/scoldings just over poop because the school... is making it a BIG issue.
If your daughter were NOT going to this school, would you still be pressuring her about it and scolding her over it?

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answers from Sioux City on

Boy I would hate to be 3 in your house! I had a little one that had some of the same issues. It sounds like she really needs to relax to be able to go and that is hard to do in the bathroom and especially hard to do at school. Most of my kids would hold it rather than to go outside of our home. It sounds like she still has some developing to do and some patients would help. I can't think of anyone that would prefer to stink and have poo in their pants. When a child has experienced some constipation they often have a hard time finding a way to relax to pop and will seek out a quiet place to poop. Often times that place is not a cold hard toilet seat.

I was patient with my little one. We made sure their diet had enough fiber to make it easy to get the job done. There wasn't a lot of push to our approach. We patiently rewarded and encouraged. By no means I am I a push over parent. I am very strict in most areas but when it comes to getting a little body to produce I work with the development of the child.

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answers from Austin on

Oh my, brings back memories.
You know our daughter was pretty advanced at everything she ever did. Walked unassisted at 6 months. Spoke in full sentences at a year. Early reader.. blah, blah, blah..

But she would not for the life of me, she would not potty train.. It just was not happening. She would not even consider it until she was almost 4!

We had little neighbors potty trained at right after 1 year old.. so to see them for all of those years, potty trained freaked me out.

Finally one day our daughter showed some interest on her own and i jumped on it. She was fully potty trained in just a few days.

Fully potty trained meant, me not asking her if she needed to potty (she would go on her own or ask me to go with her), no accidents (none), at night or through the day.. It just clicked for her.

And so maybe your child is not fully potty trained yet. There is nothing wrong with this, it has just not clicked.

How to help her? Try to get to know what her potty schedule is.

Examples... In the morning when she wakes up..

after she eats breakfast and then will need to go 10 minutes later?

Maybe once she has been in the car and arrives at school she needs to go..

Maybe right before lunch,

maybe right after lunch,

maybe 10 minutes after lunch..

This is something You will need to help figure out. Then you will need to remind her. "Good morning..Be sure to go to the potty. "

"That was a good breakfast, you want to try to go to the potty before we leave for school?'

'We are here at school, do you need to go to the potty before you go into class?"

If at home and when she is with you, you are reminding her, then you will need her teachers at school to do the same thing..

If the potty trained class teachers do not do this, then your daughter is not ready for this class yet. Not a big deal, it is just that your daughter is not physically able yet to know when she needs to go. She knows when she begins to eliminate, but not the sensation right before..

Always follow your child's actual needs.

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answers from Dallas on

You have gotten some good advice but sometimes children just don't take the time to sit down and potty. I have to make my 5 year old son sit on the potty every night after dinner. He has 30 minutes and if he poops before then, he can get up. He usually does poop within the first 5 minutes and this has stopped a lot of the pooping in his pants and having accidents.



answers from Chattanooga on

I FINALLY got my 2yo (28mos) DD to start pooping in the potty.

Bribery DOES work wonders when done right! lol.

I stopped trying to 'make' her go... That stressed her out, and would make her upset about having to sit on the seat at all. I really would avoid the boot camp style you mentioned... You wouldn't really want her to start viewing the potty seat as a punishment/negative place to be!

I originally would sit my DD on the potty at regular intervals, and tell her to 'try'. BUT that backfired on me and she started resisting the potty 100%, and didn't want to even pee in it any more. (which she had been doing completely on her own for a couple months...)

So I stopped with that, and instead started just ASKING her, "do you need to poop?" If she said NO, I would tell her "alright, but if yo poop in your pants you don't get a treat." Then I would ask her again every so often.

IF she pooped in her pants, I usually went "UH OH!!! POOP! Run to the bathroom!" Then I would take her pants off and have her sit on her potty while I rinsed her undies and cleaned up any mess. While I was doing that, I would say, "Uh oh, you pooped in your pants. Eeew, gross. No treats!" THEN I would clean her up, and have her rinse out her underwear again. (I did it first so they were 'clean', and she had to do it again so that she would be 'cleaning up her mess'.) I never got mad or punished her for it... Just acted like I was sad and disappointed.

If she went in the potty, I went over-the-top celebrating. I would cheer for her and clap, and have her give me a high 5 while she was sitting on the potty. Then I would help her wipe, and we would do our 'poo-poo in the potty' dance. (My hubby got a video of us doing this dance... I can never tell any embarrassing stories about him again. lol.) Then she would get a treat (usually a handful of fruit loops, or some chips...)

Also... I have noticed that my DD seems to have an easier time pooping in the 'real' toilet than in her potty seat. I'm not sure what you are using, but you might try the big toilet if you are using a potty. :)

So far, we have gone for 4 weeks with no accidents! The last 2 weeks have been completely on her, I haven't been giving her any reminders at all. Here's hoping she continues her trend! :)



answers from Dallas on

I think that you need to go Boot Camp style.



answers from Dallas on

My daughter's BFF has encoprosis, and it's been a real challenge with daycare. What you described sounds exactly like her situation. The thing is that sometimes she's constipated and has the skids, then she gets on the laxatives and has major blowouts, and other times she just plain has no control or knowledge that she has gone, is going or needs to go. They are finally getting some relief in curing her by working with a pediatric gastroligist. Prior to that, they'd worked with the pediatrician for over a year. The gastro says that it will take a year for her colon to return to normal.

Bottom line (pun intended) is that your daughter may not be able to control this at all. Talk to her pediatrician, get the colon xrays, and find out if something is physically causing this. Don't make your daughter ashamed or fearful of something that may be beyond her control right now. If there is no improvement after working with the pediatrician, get a referral to a specialist. Accept that this is not going to change in a week and ask the school to work with you while you find answers for her. If they are unwilling to do so, then they might not be the right daycare option for you.

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