4 Year Old Still Poops His Pants

Updated on July 10, 2009
H.A. asks from Mesa, AZ
12 answers

My son has always had problems learning to go potty. For the past year, I've desperately been trying to get him to poop on the potty. He pees on the pot, but no poo. I still catch him hiding and crossing his legs with a beet-red face. I've tried being nice, I've tried punishment(can you blame me? it's GROSS). I know he knows better and I've discussed it with him, but I just don't know what to do!!! Is he constipated or is it something else?

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for your advice!!! It was very helpful to us. I started a sticker chart with him, but he didn't want to put them on paper so he gets to put the sticker on his old toy chest(which makes it look cuter lol) and I just sort of ignored the problem when he had accidents. I didn't make a big deal of it, just threw away the undies and had him clean himself up. Now he has no problem going to the potty, even though he still needs help wiping now and then.
Thank you all again for your help, it's comforting to know that I'm not the only mother going through this.

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answers from Phoenix on


For some young children, boys in particular, the BM can be quite a traumatic experience. For some reason they believe that the BM is a part of their body and a part of them is quite fearful about flushing it down the toilet. This can be quite trying for both the child and the parent. Simply be patient. Don't make it a power struggle because you will lose. In the summer months I recommend you let him run around without clothing and make a potty chair available to him. This will reduce the stress and once he's comfortable with the process on the potty chair you can try again with the big toilet.

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answers from Phoenix on

H., try taking the entire weekend at home. Do not put trainers (underwear) on him, he will not go potty because he will know it is wrong. Plus Our friends had the same problem and they did the same. It worked after one weekend.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

It can be a medical condition called encopresis (?sp?) Have you talked to your doctor?



answers from Tucson on

Have you tried making him feel like a "big boy" when he does it in the toilet? Just a thought.




answers from Flagstaff on

My oldest son had problems going poo in the potty. I basically just started taking the underwear with the poo and put it into the potty, the poo, not the underwear (although I would rinse out the unders if they were sloppy). I would flush and wave bye bye to the poo. Some kids are possesive about their BM's, after all when wearing diapers, most parents just take away the poo and put it into the trash. Now all of a sudden you want to put it into the potty? After awhile, my son started to poo in the potty once he understood that is where it goes. Your son is a quite a bit older though.

I would try a chart. After so many times going poo in the potty give a treat. Making sure to take away if he goes poo in his underwear. Have you explainded to him why the body produces waste and where it should go? My sons and I have a little chant to remember when they were little. "Poo Poo in the Potty". It is important to be consistent and not to scold.

My 3rd son has constipation issues. He had very painful BM's, so he would hold it, making it even worse. I try to use natural stuff first, eating correctly, but he wouldn't eat the things that would help. So I give him a fiber supplement in his juice. He is much better now.

You may also have your son help clean up after such a mess. I know it is more work, but if he can see how unpleasant it is to deal with in the underwear perhaps he will stop it. Also, while I don't hold with punishing, having a icky face and gagging while dealing with nastiness so they know how icky it is, is something I don't have any problem doing.



answers from Yuma on

There are many reasons 4 year old children still defecate in underwear after toilet training. It is possible he is fearful of the toilet. He might be afraid he will fall in. He might need a seat that sits on the toilet. Another reason is he could be constipated and needs to have more water and fiber added to his diet. When kids strain to go it can hurt and they will hold it until it can not be held any longer. Sometimes they can not feel the urge in time or ignore it until it is too late. Another reason is the attention he is getting when he poops in his pants. Negative attention is still attention. Perhaps the less said the better. Help him clean up and say nothing about the accident and then praise and reward when he uses the toilet.



answers from Albuquerque on

We had been dealing with something similar, and just recently turned to corner on this one. The key for my son was to make pooping in his pants very unpleasant for him. He had to wash out his dirty undies in the toilet. I helped, but I always made sure he got some on his hands. He thought that was the worst thing ever. It's gross! I totally agree!

He cleaned himself with tp, and we would do a final wipe. We'd help with a good washing up. He'd have to go get clean clothes and put them on. We did it all very matter-of-factly.

We also rewarded pooping with an m&m and got all excited when he pooped in the potty. That was a hit, but the cleaning yourself was the key for him. It has to be bad enough to make it not worth his while.

If you think there's any chance at all he's constipated, I'd push fluids/juice (apple juice is famous for making stools soft.) High fiber fruits and veggies are good for making poop soft and easy to poop out but hard to hold in. One other thing we did (after talking with our pediatrician) was add one metamucil cracker to his diet at breakfast. It made a difference.

Currently he gets on the potty after dinner, and has success about every other day. He even pooped in a motel room without his little on-top-of-the-big-toilet seat earlier this week.

I hope this helps.



answers from Phoenix on

My son is eight and still has accidents. Long story about him but when he was younger he figured out that he could have accidents in his pants and get sent home from Headstart which he wasn't to happy about attending. So when he started actually kindergarden he would try to hold it in because he was a "big boy" now and didn't want to have any accidents. But he would have accidents and same situation as you we would try rewarding him if he did use the potty and tried the punishment thing and talking and everything else and he also knew better but one day he swallowed a penny. Blessing in disguise, so we had to take him to the dr to find out where in his system the penny was and at this dr visit they noticed his bowels were full, overfull. The dr started asking questions and the outcome was that he had some bowel disorder. I don't exactly remember what the name of it was but him not wanting to go to the restroom caused his bowels to stretch and the nerves that give that sentation of needing to go were somewhat damaged. Luckily we caught it in time and there was nothing medically that we had to do, we just had to get him on a routine. We had to set a time of day that he HAD to go to the restroom. Even if he felt he didn't need to go he would sit there and eventually it became normal for him. He was about 5 when we first discovered this and he is now almost 8 1/2. We still monitor his poop time and remind him to go if we notice that he hasn't gone in a day or so. But getting your son on a routine is a start to getting him used to going poop on the potty and not in his pants. Same time everyday or close to the same time and have him sit there until he goes or our peditrician suggested having him stay on the potty for about 10 minutes if he isn't going. It worked for us and we only had to have him sit that long a couple of times and he got the hint as to why he was there and did his duty and was able to go on his way. Kids are smart and they figure it out on sometimes on their own with a little help from mom or dad. I hope I helped some.



answers from Phoenix on

Does he go to day care? Has someone there embarassed him? Usually there is an emotional problem with this sort of problem. Solve the emotional issue, solve the problem.



answers from Phoenix on

We had issues with our son as well whom is almost 6 now. In my sons case he was constipated so this makes it so much harder. You can usually tell by how soft his poop is. Often if they are constipated its so much harder. My son at 4 did still have accidents and it is frustrating especially in my case when his baby sister is completely trained yet he still had accidents. I can't really say what worked because he would do good then get constipated and have weeks where off and on he had accidents. He even just before kindergarten was constipated and having accidents and I was like good lord how is he going to go to school?! I try my best to be patient and talk to him about where big boys go and we know they know if they pee on the potty! He hasn't had accidents in a long time now but usually when he does its because he is constipated.



answers from Phoenix on

My son took awhile to potty train because he never wanted to stop what he was doing to go to the bathroom. He had many accidents because of it. The only thing that worked was taking his pants and underwear off. I put the portable potty seat on the tile in the den, closer to the activity, and let him go bare bottom. He couldn't, or wouldn't hide in a corner or have an accident as he ran down the hall to the bathroom. He would look at me and say "I have to go!" and I would point to the potty in the den and say "Hurry and sit on the potty!". It took a couple of weeks, but he started going as soon as he felt it. It took a little longer because when we had to leave the house, I would put him in pull-ups to save us both, but I made sure he went just before we left and while we were out we made several potty stops. He is 12 now and still waits to stop and go potty. I will hear him running down the hall and slamming the bathroom door. Some boys just can't be bothered by these bathroom interruptions!



answers from Santa Fe on

My son is now 23. He finally went on the toilet when he was 3 and a half. At the time, everyone said boys take longer. I think everyone is just individual. Have you spoken with your doctor? He will go on the toilet when he does. As awful as it is because he is bigger and so are his poops, it is better if he is not ashamed about it. Good luck! Regards, R.

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