How to Stop Toddlers From Pooping in Their Pants

Helping children get back on track when potty training goes awry

toddler girl potty training
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When potty training goes wrong, such as when toddlers repeatedly poop their pants, parents can draw on a number of tools to get their children back on track. Take the mother who complained that her 3-year-old daughter had been potty training since age 18 months with both progress and regression. The mother wrote:

"She does very well at daycare with no accidents but is having problems at home. As soon as I pick her up from daycare, she will poop in the car on the way home.

Our biggest problem, however, is that she refuses to be changed without a huge fit. She screams at me while she's on the changing table and squirms the whole time."

The Solution

A parent in this situation might make sure the girl potties at daycare before loading her up in the car. As soon as the parent arrives at preschool, she should lovingly greet her daughter and then shuffle her off to the bathroom. The mother should take as much time as necessary and give her daughter privacy if she needs it. This may mean locating another bathroom in the building since toddler bathrooms are often full of activity.

This technique should be enough to eliminate the daily accidents and the fights the toddler puts up when she needs to get cleaned up and changed. At 3 years old, she's likely mature enough to handle a cleanup. The parent should make sure not to do all the work but simply assist her when she has accidents.

It's also important for the mother to keep her own attitude about the event in check, so the girl doesn't feel like these accidents are anything other than a regular part of life. Parents who express anger or negative emotions when children have accidents may lead children to react with their own negativity.

Act Casual and Use Discipline

If the parent keeps her composure and treats the accidents casually but the child still throws a fit, instituting a time out may be necessary. The mother can warn her daughter that if she doesn't cooperate and allow herself to be changed, she'll go to time out. The mother should then follow through if the child continues to make things difficult. When the time out ends, the parent should give her the chance to revisit the task at hand. She doesn't have to clean up perfectly or happily (Who enjoys cleaning up poop, after all?), but she does have to do it.

Wrapping Up

In this situation, parents need to let children take care of as much of the task as possible. Parents should avoid placing toddlers on the changing table because this feels more like a diaper change for a baby than cleanup time for a toddler. Instead, they should try helping children do what they can in the bathroom while still standing up. Parents can offer instruction, assistance and, most importantly, praise and encouragement.


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