3 Year Old Pooping in Her Underwear, Months After Being Completed Trained.

Updated on November 01, 2008
R.S. asks from Castle Rock, CO
10 answers

Hi Moms!
My daughter is almost three. She has been potty trained since the beginning of the summer. We didn't have a great deal of difficulty with the process, pretty normal overall. All of the sudden she won't go poop on the toilet. She hides in a corner when she has to go and gets in a 'pooping' position on hands and knees on the floor. I don't know if she's trying to hold it in, at that moment, or actually trying to go. Regardless, she does go a bit in her underwear (although not all of it). When I put her on the potty then, she sits there a long time without going. She will eventually go in the potty, but not without much hollering about how she's 'all done!'. We've tried positive reinforcement (you'll get at treat and much praise when you go on the potty),we're now on to negative reinforcement (she loses her favorite sleep toy and her tv show if she goes at all in her undies). None of this really seems to be working. There has been no real dramatic change in our lives... she has started daycare in an unfamiliar environment two days a week, but that is it.

Any thoughts or suggestions?! I'm tired of cleaning up poop out of underwear!

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Salt Lake City on

I have gone through the same thing! My, almost 3 year old, went through this and I finally just told her she had a choice. If she needed to poop and did not want to go in the pottey she could wear a pull up to poop or a diaper. If she still went poop in her underwear (which I let her pick out at the store) she would have to start wearing a diaper because Ariel, or whatever princess was on the underwear, does not appreciate being pooped in. This has worked more often than not. I also bought her some princess jewlry and put it where she can see it. I told her that if she poops in the potty that day she can wear it, if not she can not. I have discovered this is very commmon. It is part of being able to control something. Give it time and be patient. She will not do it forever and if you have to put her in diapers again for a while - then so be it. It may be a way of her trying to get attention, any kind good or bad praise. Give it some time and patience. And...make a HUGE deal out of it when she does go potty. I mean sing and clap and tell her how wonderful she is. When she does not poop in the potty just calmly tell her that is too bad and you are sorry but big girls do not poop in their underwear so you are going to have to put her back in a diaper until she can learn to poop in the potty like a big girl. Do not demean her, just be matter of fact about it and do not make such a big deal about it.
Good luck!

More Answers



answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi R.,
My comment is that "completely potty trained" doesn't really exist until age 4+. All children regress, all children will have accidents, and many children will use refusal to toilet as a coping mechanism for some stressor in their lives. Starting a new daycare is a huge stressor for little ones. I agree with the other post you received. Don't resort to punishment. She is still so little. Keep guiding her gently and she will get it eventually.
Take care,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Our daughter started doing that again when she started a new school ... we did a chart (we have done a couple ... originally when potty training her we called it a poop chart and she got a sticker on a chart and when she filled the chart she got a prize -- a tent she had wanted). Now she was almost 3 1/2 so we called it a clean and dry chart ... whenver she kept her pants clean and dry for the whole day she got a sticker ... after 2 weeks she again got to pick what she wanted to do, which was go the aquarium. Both seemed to work well for us.




answers from Salt Lake City on

Any life change throws a kid off everything (new daycare counts). It could take her several months to get back to where she was. I doubt she's doing it on purpose. Maybe they even made a comment (not neccessarily to her) to the idea of poop being icky and she understood it wrong (it's not that uncommon).

With that in mind, recognize that she's probably not trying to be naughty! She hates being poopy too, I'm sure. So put her back in pull-ups until things get settled. Still put her on the potty when you see she needs to poop. Lots of praise once she is all done and don't comment at all for the behaviors that you want to get rid of - pooping in pullups and saying that she's done before she is (except to calmly tell her to wait a bit more). You may have to sit in the bathroom with her. Tell/read a story while she sits there so she's not bored.

Make sure she eats lots of fiber (fruits and veggies, whole grains) and gets plenty to drink, so that it's easy for her to go (maybe it's painful!) Be patient, but if you still see she is withholding, contact the doctor to make sure there is nothing else going on and that she's not making herself sick.



answers from Denver on

I think starting the daycare is the key. Those things are stressful on kiddos. My daughter regressed a bit when she started her preschool. It is like moving to a new country for us, and trying to find our way in totally foreign surroundings. Give her a lot of love, help her as much as you can with the daycare transition (maybe have some of the kids over for a playdate so she gets used to them/makes friends?), and keep up the positive reinforcement. The negative doesn't work in my experience, b/c it is giving our kids attention for negative behavior (not that I don't slip up and do it myself sometimes--this parenting this takes a lot of thought and energy!! LOL). She'll get it.
Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Even just starting daycare in a new place can throw a child off. Regression is very normal especially if she potty trained young. I would just put her back into pullups.
I wouldn't do punishment or positive, just be matter of fact about it and give her some time to adjust with the new situations at daycare. I would continue when you are at home putting her on the potty frequently, NEVER ask a child if they have to go as most of the time the answer is no. Tell her when she is ready to be a big girl you will go out and buy some new underwear and she will get big girl toys again.
She is obviously very aware of when she has to go and is hiding so to avoid the toilet. Do not reinforce the toilet ever being a negative however also just don't play into the power struggle either.
If she asks for some big girl toy or big girl TV show, just explain very nicely big girl don't poop in their pants and to let you know when she is ready to stop pooping in her pants!
Is she going on the potty at school?
Give it time, I am betting once she sees kids at school doing it, gets sick of not being a big girl she will get back on track.
My daughter potty trained easy at 26 mos, however at 3 she regressed for a while when I had her little brother. All it took was a call from Santa (an outside friend) calling in and talking to her about wanting to bring big girl toys for Christmas to her and it was done 100% even at night and not one accident after that.



answers from Denver on

The daycare could be enough to trigger it. I would try to have her clean herself up.. maybe if she has to do it, it will stop.

Whatever you do DO NOT punish your child. This is a battle you won't win and in my opinion potty accidents should NEVER EVER be punished.



answers from Denver on

My son has been having some problems with his 4 year old son in this area and I looked up some things for him. Below is what I found... I hope this helps.

Accidents are an inevitable part of learning the the potty---just as falls are an inevitable part o learning to walk. But whether they're occasional or frequent, sincerely accidental or accidentally-on -purpose, the less said about them, the better. Lecturing Threatening, or otherwise making a fuss will only promote resistance in a rebellious toddler and diminish confidence in in a reticent one. Punishment is certainly not warranted; just as you would never have thought of punishing your toddler for falling when learning how to walk, neither should you consider punishing your child when learning to control his bladder. Don'[t demand an apology (it was and accident, remember) or a confession ( unless there's a renegade puppy on the premises, there will be no doubt who did it).

React to an accident as casually as you possibly can. If your child seems upset, be reassuring, "That's okay--you had an accident. Not problem. Maybe next time you'll get to the potty in time." Change his clothes without negative comment and without delay (forcing your child to stay in wet underpants in order to teach "a lesson" is cruel, and will humiliate and /or anger, not motivate). To foster a feeling of self-sufficiency, encourage your child to "help"you clean-up, if he or she seems willing (but make hand washing afterwords a required part of the process).


>STRESS. Separation anxiety, a new baby-sitter, a move, a new sibling, and family distress can all trigger accidents, even in children who have been clean and dry for awhile.

>FATIGUE. Tired children often have less control over all their skills, toileting included, and are also more likely to revert to "babyish" behavior.

>EXCITEMENT. Children often lose control of their bladder when they're can disrupt some of the concentration a child needs to remember to use the potty. They are more prone to accidents when they're engrossed in an activity.

>PARENTAL PRESSURE. A parent's preoccupation with toileting often turns off an independent-minded child.

>CONFLICTED FEELINGS. Some children wet themselves frequently because using the potty represents growing up and they don't feel quite ready to give up their status as the "baby" of the family. Others have "accidents" because they're reluctant to cede control to the older generation by doing what they know their what they know their parents want them to do most.

>POKINESS. Some toddlers have accidents or mini-accidents (they get slightly wet or soiled enroute to the potty) because they wait until the last minute and/or are slow in getting their pants down.

>URINARY TRACT INFECTION. Sometimes, a urinary tract infection can make bladder control tricky for a young child. An infection should always be considered in a child who's had no success "holding it in" (but seems eager to try) or has had success followed by sudden regression, particularly if other symptoms are present.

>A PHYSICAL PROBLEM. though such problems are very rare, it's wise to be on the lookout for signs that point to the possibility of one: The child who is always a little wet ( a sign that urine may be leaking), wets when laughing ( a sign of "giggle incontinence"), or has a weak urine steam, painful urination, or blood in the urine should be seen by the doctor.

Often, dealing with these causes of accidents (reassuring a stressed child, gently "reminding" a preoccupied one, seeing to it that a tired one gets more rest, treating an infection, and so) will put toilet learning back on the fast track.

When a toddler two and one half or older shows all the signs of readiness but after several months of parental effort, still refuses to cooperate in toileting, a parent may feel like it's time to get tough. But, actually, it's much better ---at least in the long run---to let up.

TURN IT OVER. Give your child full responsibility for toileting. Explain, "It's your BM and your urine, and you can make them on the potty when you want to. If there's anything I can do to help you, just ask me."

PRESENT CHOICES. Diapers or training pants, potty or big toilet, now or later. And keep your own opinions to yourself.

STOP REMINDING. As long as your toddler knows the routine, you needn't say a word about it. Anything you do say is bound to be held against you---and to delay potty learning even further.

DON'T TALK ABOUT IT. Make potty learning a non-issue for a while---don't discuss it with your child or in your child's presence.

SWEETEN THE "POT" Casually (as though it doesn't matter whether you toddler accepts the challenge or not) offer an incentive for success at the potty. If your child chooses stickers on a calendar, he or she can even chart the toileting "successes" of other family members so it seems like everyone's in this together. Of course, if your child demands stickers or the present even when they haven't been earned, or gets extremely upset when a reward isn't forthcoming, you'll have to shelve this strategy.

ENLIST HELP. Often, a few words from a neutral authority figure, such as a nurse, doctor, or preschool teacher, are more effective than a thousand from a parent.

GIVE IT TIME. Eventually your child will decide it's time. Stop pushing for that time to come, and it will.



answers from Denver on

"There has been no real dramatic change in our lives... she has started daycare in an unfamiliar environment two days a week."

R., I'm so sorry, but I started laughing. Day Care is a huge big deal to children. Hell, I've seen children disturbed for several weeks even when starting Kind., first and second grade. Just use a pull-up for a while. It will blow over.

In the meantime, please remember that there's nothing "natural" for a child about spending hours away from mommy. Talk to her about it, and let her express the parts that concern her without dismissing it. Her concerns are real.

My first daughter was so distressed about not being with mommy and daddy during day care, that after a very long time, we finally woke up and realized that our "perfect daycare siutation" was perfect for everybody involved EXCEPT my daughter. That's when I finally quit my Big Deal Job, and never sent my next children to day care or pre-school. There were plenty of play groups and I taught all of them to read.

Good luck!



answers from Salt Lake City on

I had this problem with my son. I found out that he has some bowel problems. He would get constipated a lot and his tummy hurt and his doctor said that is common for kids to get into the "pooping Position" rather than sitting on the toilet because it does not hurt as much when they go. My son now takes Miralax once a day to help keep him regular and the only time he has accidents is if I forget to give him that medicine. Even if your little one eats really well (mine loves fruits and veggies and a wide variety of food) they can still have bowel problems or other stomach issues that can cause them to do that.

Next question: More Potty Training...