Okay – since the beginning of my Kindermusik Educator career, I have repeatedly, REPEATEDLY said there are two issues on which I will not advise – sleep issues and potty issues. All I can do is commiserate with the parents who are still going through this.
Last week, in endeavoring to find new topics on which to blog, the suggestion came from a parent that I discuss getting her son to poop in the potty. He does the pee thing fine, but the poop is elusive. SIGH . I said I would write about what was suggested. There were no other suggestions. So here is my (pardon the pun) dirty story and what little help I can provide.
Here is my story about Hannah (our younger daughter who is now 12). She was still pooping in her pants at age 9. Yes, that is correct, I had a child who still pooped her pants in the fourth grade. Now do you see why I do not feel qualified to give advice? However, I feel the situation we went through with her, may actually have been given to me so someday I could share this blog post.
When Hannah was around age 2 – 2.5 years old we started to potty train her. The pee thing went fairly well as far as I remember, though perhaps I have psychologically blocked the trauma I felt by potty training both of her girls. However, she was still inconsistent about pooping. For many years, I believed she did it as a control issue with me. Some children throw tantrums when they want to convey a point, Hannah would poop because she knew it frustrated me. I tried everything – bribery in the form of candy, stickers, treats, movies, undies – you name it. I punished her by taking away her t.v. time, sitting her on her bed, putting her back in Pull Ups (Very bad idea). Nothing worked. I suffered the personal mortification of motherhood embarrassment of having poop fall out of her pants at church, Girl Scouts, the grocery store. I suffered having the teachers from school call and tell me they needed another change of pants or that I needed to take her home. I often felt that her poop was an indictment on my qualifications to be a successful mom. ALL of this time, I did not believe it was physical but more an emotional, mental response she had.
Around the time Hannah was seven we began to realize that she had some attention issues. If something engaged her creatively or academically and challenged her mind, she could stay focused for long periods of time. But, mundane things such as chores, math facts, spelling words, brushing teeth, going to the bathroom seemed not to even trigger a response to her. I began to make waves at school but because her grades were always very good, and she tested brilliantly – no one wanted to listen.
When she was 9 and headed into the fourth grade, and still pooping her pants, I finally took her to our family doctor. As I described what we transpiring, he put her on a laxative, and had us created a schedule (read on for more details about this) for bathroom time. He also advocated taking her to Children’s Hospital in Columbus to be tested for ADHD. When we had her tested, we discovered that she has a very very high IQ and that, I was on the right track with my mom gut, that going to the bathroom was too ordinary to interest her. It was suggested that she didn’t even realize she had to go and didn’t notice the discomfort in her pants or the odor – though everyone around her did. I, to this day, do not understand how this is even possible, but Hannah says as much herself (before the testing) so I have to believe it. We ended up putting her in counseling and creating a bathroom schedule.
I was adamant that we had to take care of this problem once and for all before she reached middle school. I was terrified that other children were going to start teasing her, ostracizing her, and being horrendous. It may have already started, but Hannah seemed unaffected.
I am happy and proud to say that Hannah is no longer in counseling, we were able to avoid going the medication route for the ADHD through behavioral modifications, and that her bathroom issues have been resolved.
I am not saying that every case of refusing to poo in the potty is as extreme as ours. But, I can tell you I learned a few things through this situation with Hannah.
1. Giving your child a little Bene-Fiber every day will not harm them. Check with a doctor or the pharmacist for dosage for your child. But, we found with Hannah she couldn’t taste it and didn’t even know it was there.
2 Make a set time to sit on the potty and train the body to go. This can take a LONG time both while sitting on the toilet and over the course of weeks to adjust. First track and see if there is an approximate time that your child has a bowel movement every day. Start by trying to make that the potty time. For us, we did it with Hannah before she left for school in the morning and upon returning home. Provide entertainment while they are sitting there. Hannah was able to read to herself or color, but a younger child may need someone to read to them or play a game or something. At first, she would some times sit as long as 15 minutes – we had to plan it in to our mornings.
3. If the problem doesn’t seem to be getting better, see a doctor. It is possible the stool is too hard or too large for your child’s bowels. Also there is a condition called, Encopresis which can cause bowel movements to happen – or not happen – without the child being able to control it.
4. DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP AS A MOTHER – every child has an issue. Any mother who doesn’t admit this is lying to herself and others. Food, sleep, tantrums, biting, hair pulling, soiling, crying, etc – all children have something that is a challenge for themselves and their parents. Be gentle with yourself and know that – no matter what others might say or how you might feel judged – you are doing the best you can.
5. Children do not all potty train at the same time, in the same way or on the same schedule. It is a developmental issue and all we can do is provide the instruction and the guidance to get them through it.
6. Though harder to clean up sometimes, real underwear is the only way to go (in my opinion) for potty training. Pull ups, training diapers etc give a child a mixed message about what we expect. If the child is a big boy (or girl), then put him in big boy underwear consistently with the expectation that big boys go in the potty.
7. Gretchen Rubin’s in her book The Happiness Project has 10 rules of adulthood. One of them is “make water any time you have an opportunity” (That may not be phrased exactly word for word the way she says it – someone has my book). I have adopted this as a rule for our household. If there is an opportunity to visit the bathroom – we have to go.
I still don’t have the answers. Every child is different and what we went through with Sarah was different than with Hannah – even within the same family. I do feel your pain if you are in this awkward developmental area, but I can assure, now that one daughter is in college and the other in seventh grade, they learn to go to the bathroom and this stage will pass (again sorry about the pun). Find a friend or call me – if you need to talk – someone to whom you can bare your soul and dirty little frustrations.
A couple good books I have enjoyed:
Everyone Poops Taro Gomi
All By Myself (Emile Jadoul)
The Potty Train (David Hochman)