Potty Training an 8 Year Old...

Updated on July 26, 2013
V.K. asks from Chisago City, MN
20 answers

Okay, this is a question for my SIL.

Background: My SIL has 5 kids - 13 year old girl, 8 year old boy/girl twins, 5 year old boy, and a newborn girl. The 3 oldest kids are from her first "relationship" (Engaged but never married). The youngest two are from her current marriage. The kids live with my SIL and her husband (Who raises/treats them like his own and loves them just as much as his own), and do every other weekend with their father. I don't know the full story, but their father sounds like a complete ****.

Situation: Her 8 year old son was potty trained. No accidents what-so-ever for a year and a half. Then one weekend he stayed at his father's house. When he got back, he was no longer potty trained. My SIL says that it wouldn't surprise her if her ex had somehow convinced her son to do this. I guess he has convinced them to do other things before (Like saying hateful things to their mom, fighting with each other to stress mommy out, etc). I found this out because I've been watching the kids this week (The 3 oldest kids were at their dad's Monday/Tuesday and Wednesday my SIL took off work to take them all to a Dr appointment, so this was the first day that the 8 year old was with me). Towards the end of the day, I noticed that something stunk. It wasn't my two year old and it wasn't the newborn. I asked the 5 year old if he had an accident, and he said no. Then the 13 year old told me that sometimes the 8 year old boy had accidents. So I asked him and sure enough he admitted that he had pooped his pants. Why? Because he was too busy playing. Now he had used the bathroom several times during the day, so it's not like he doesn't know HOW to use the bathroom... He just chose not to. I made him clean up the mess on the floor (Some of the poop had fallen out of his underwear and onto the carpet in my son's bedroom) and clean his underwear and himself (There wasn't any extra underwear or pants for him in the bag my SIL packed (She forgot because his grandma (The person who usually watches him) has clothes for him at her house).

So when my SIL came to pick up the kids I told her about it. She has said that it has been going on for over a year now. They have taken him to his doctor, who said there was nothing physically wrong. They have tried punishments, taking away favorite things (For example: He is not allowed to play the Wii (Which he loves) until it stops - He doesn't care), and rewards for when he does use the potty. They have had people that he respects try to talk to him. They have asked him why is does it and come up with a solution to every problem (Example: Why didn't you get out of bed to use the bathroom last night? I woke up but was afraid of the dark. Okay, here is a night light.). When he does it at their house, he has to clean up whatever mess on the floor, scrub his underwear out in the bathtub, and then clean the bathtub. They have tried everything that they can think of and he just doesn't seem to care. He does it everywhere. At home, at his dad's, at his relative's houses, at friend's houses, at school... Everywhere. They just can not figure out a way to solve this problem.

I offered to post a question about it on here and see what solutions you ladies come up with. Maybe you can think of something that they haven't thought of?

P.S After his "accident" today, I talked to him and we agreed on what punishment would happen tomorrow if he had another "accident" at my house. No more ipad for him. Hopefully he won't do it again, but we'll have to see.

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Featured Answers



answers from Albuquerque on

At that age, potty training regression is frequently a sign of a traumatic event... like being sexually abused, or physically abused, or witnessing something age inappropriate (dad having sex with girlfriend?). Or it could be stress related - maybe the tension at his dad's house or the tension between the mom and dad. Either way - this boy should really see a child psychologist to get to the root of the problem. Someone who's trained in this could help him get over whatever it is, and back on track.

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answers from Los Angeles on

It's clearly not 100% an accident - he is either doing it willfully, his father has somehow forced him into it (aka abusive), or he's somehow traumatized and this is how it's manifesting itself. If it were truly an accident, he would be embarrassed by it happening at school or with his friends. Sounds more like a desperate cry for attention to me.

Does he have any sort of conditions or disabilities (autism, for example) that might make it harder in general to potty train him?

If he's 8 years old, this is been happening for 1 year, and he was only potty trained for 18 months before that, he was already REALLY old before he was potty trained (like, 5).

This child needs therapy. Chances are the other two do as well. The mom needs it too. This behavior is absolutely not normal and probably not physical (esp since the docs confirmed that).

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answers from Kansas City on

Never punish a chd for bathroom issues.
This child needs professional help ASAP. I'm shocked his pediatrician didn't address that.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

It is time, for professional psychological help, from a mental health professional/Therapist.

And the 2nd problem is: the Dad seems like a jerk. And who knows what goes on at his house, toward the son. Or who comes and goes from the Dad's house and whatever else kind of activities or environment, goes on there and, who knows how the Dad treats, the son, or if he is abusive either physically or mentally and emotionally.

And the bottom line is: WHY, don't they take the boy, to a Professional Psychologist.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I don't think it's because his father "told" him to do it. Encopresis is usually a control issue, and his parents' divorce and his father being a **** probably has something to do with it. They lack control in some area of their lives, but they offset it by controlling (or refusing to control) their bowels.

I think she should focus on the reward aspect more than punishing him. Punishment rarely works for this. He's getting some personal reward from pooping in his pants, so she needs to offer him something that's worth more.

I know a teen who had this through middle school, and he told me that when he decided to contain it he just worked really hard to keep it in, although that's not all that helpful. I could ask him for more information if you wish.

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answers from Dallas on

To a child psychiatrist and quickly. I got nothin else. Anyone with these issues needs help, big time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

We had a boy in my class that would poop when he was stressed. Of course being kids we teased him about it to make him poop more. It was all psychological and he outgrew it. My point isn't that we were awful kids but even if he said he did it purpose there is a chance he didn't.

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answers from New York on

Kids that age aren't potty trained - potties are for toddlers. Does he always poop/pee in his pants, or just occasionally or once a day or what? If a doctor has determined that there's no medical problem, and he is doing this regularly, then perhaps he has emotional issues and needs some counselling. He's way too old to be having accidents - or intentionals - and to be sitting in it without caring or without being embarrassed at school or friends' homes.

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answers from Portland on

www.rogerknapp.com/medical/pottytrainingrefusals.htm‎ gives a good process that many families in similar situations have found useful.

Your solution for tomorrow might work. Since he hasn't seemed to care about punishments/deprivations in the past, he may be feeling angry or resentful (for any number of reasons that make sense only to him). I wonder if a positive spin might be more effective: "You can earn the right to use the iPad for x minutes for every hour you keep your pants clean by using the bathroom. Plus, you can avoid having to clean up after yourself, which takes longer than using the toilet. Good deal, huh? I'm cheering for you!"

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answers from Chicago on

Something bigger is wrong. He needs help, not punishments.

My SD used to pee her pants because she was playing and didn't want to stop to use the bathroom. She would suddenly not be able to hold it and then pee her pants. This usually happened if she was very absorbed in playing with something, or at our relatives house and there were kids to play with and she didn't want to stop. After peeing, she'd be upset and come to us. We used to have to bring extra underwear and clothes everywhere we went. This happened when she was about 7. There weren't any big differences except when she was about that age we stopped watching her so closely and allowed her freedom to play with her friends. This meant we weren't asking her if she had to go potty when we saw the signs, and she wasn't wanting to go.

What worked for us: have your SIL set a timer for 1 hour. He is to try to go to the bathroom every hour when the timer goes off, meaning he will have to stop playing to do it.

Hopefully he will decide that stopping playing every hour is more annoying than just going to the bathroom when you have to go. My SD decided that she hated having to stop playing every hour to try to go, so suddenly she decided to go when she had to go and the accidents stopped.

If he is playing with poop in his pants, something else is wrong. My SD always came to us right away after an accident and was upset.

Good luck!

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answers from Columbus on


Are you sure something "bad" didn't happen at his dad's house? Sounds like something traumatic happened.

Good luck!!!

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answers from Hartford on

It sounds like a regression issue, emotionally based. I doubt the father "convinced" him to regress but rather if the father is abusive and it happens during and after coming home from visiting the father then it's a result of emotional distress from the visit.

They ought to be documenting this each and every time. They ought to be getting those children into a pediatric psychiatrist and family counseling both. What would be great is if they can prove through counseling that the father is being abusive and causing these issues, perhaps he can be ordered by the court to attend anger management and parenting classes. But their mom would have to make the request.

If your sister-in-law believes that those kids are being abused and she has knowledge and proof, such as the kids telling her, then she needs to report it to CPS/DCYS. Get it on the record. They'll be forced to investigate.

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answers from Philadelphia on

It is hard to believe that an 8 yo would willfully do this. He must have some kind of emotional/psychological problem and I do not think punishment is the answer. He needs professional help.

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answers from Washington DC on

SIL needs to understand, NOW, that this is a scream for help. Even if the boy is doing it purely willfully and intentionally, even if the dad encouraged this as a way to just be mean to your SIL -- no kid who is otherwise fine is going to put up with this at age eight unless something else is gravely wrong. The boy needs therapy starting immediately and frankly your SIL and her husband need family therapy as well to figure out why the boy is doing this as well as to find out how to cope with what sounds like a truly awful ex. The ex and your SIL may even need to see a mediator and/or counselor together, because if they cannot learn to cope as a pair -- not a couple, but as a pair of parents -- they are going to damage this child beyond belief. Please help SIL talk with their pediatrician - I am shocked that the ped. said "it's not medical" and left it there and did not refer her immediately for therapy for this poor boy!! Any good ped. would have realized that a child this age who was toileting normally and regressed for a full year this badly needed serious intervention. You may have to be the one to wake up SIL to the seriousness of this and the idea that the boy needs professional help right now.

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answers from San Francisco on

When I was in an abusive relationship, my daughter reverted from being potty trained at night to wetting the bed EVERY night. I would literally get up and take her to the bathroom every couple of hours, and still she managed to wet the bed. I didn't realize is was psychological until I left the relationship. The very first night we were gone, she didn't have an accident and never had one after.

I think there is something going on that is causing this. I agree that it is a cry, not a SCREAM for help. Get him into counseling right away. No amount of talking or punishment is going to help. He needs professional help NOW.

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answers from Boston on

I agree with Diane B (and the other posts, also)...There is more going on here that needs to be addressed by a professional, to either diagnose or rule out some physical issue and then also get him some sort of therapy..at his age, sounds like he's be traumatized by something...And the punishments have got to stop- it's most likely not helping the situation any.

Good luck

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answers from Oklahoma City on

What works for us is we take our 6 year old to the bathroom every couple of hours or so. We take the item he is playing with and we don't give it back until he produces pee in the toilet.

Once he has gone to the bathroom and we have seen pee he can have the item back. Then a couple of hours later we do it again.

If he is not playing on the ipod when your little guy has an accident then there is no association to pee and that toy. Therefore not a logical consequence. So let him play ipod until he has an accident THEN take it away.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I agree...something is wrong here. He needs to see a counselor or therapist to find out what and why.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Sounds like something horrible is going on at the father's house. I would say that he needs to be seen by a child counselor/psychologist asap to see what is going on.

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answers from Dallas on

Family therapy. This isn't about potty training. This is about a kid who is from a broke home and at least one of the parents is messing with his head. He needs help, and his mom needs to take action and get it from him. It's nice that the family wants to help, but I don't think they're enough in this situation.

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