What to do when your kid won't go to the bathroom.
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
We didn't know what was going on. Our daughter who was then 4 was constipated and hated just the word bathroom itself. She was potty trained and was wearing underwear already for months when all of a sudden we noticed that she wouldn't voluntarily use the bathroom. Her underwear will either have little amounts of poop with a horrid smell (6 times a day) or have constant pee. We thought that she was just being lazy and was, to be honest, hard on her most times. After a month of battling with her we decided to put her back on diapers. This went on for months and then a year! We decided to see a pediatrician when we moved back to America (we we're living overseas as missionaries and the place where we were had limited medical help). The pediatrician then told us about encopresis. The fact that there was a name for it and is an actual medical condition helped my husband and I have hope.
What is Encopresis?
Encopresis is the repeated passing of stool (usually involuntarily) into clothing. ... Eventually, stool retention can cause swelling (distention) of the bowels and loss of control over bowel movements. (Mayo Clinic) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseasesconditions/encopresis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354494
Symptoms of Encopresis:
- Leakage of stool or liquid stool on underwear, which can be mistaken for diarrhea
- Constipation with dry, hard stool
- Passage of large stool that clogs or almost clogs the toilet.
Seriously, the size of stool that would come out of her hunted us.
- Avoidance of bowel movements
- Abdominal pain
- Problems with daytime wetting or bedwetting (enuresis)Repeated bladder infections, typically in girls
The amount of frustration that her, I, and her dad had to go through was sad. I started loosing patience because I had to change her diapers at least 10 A DAY at age 5. And for some good reason the spoiling would happen in the morning when we usually do our homeschooling. Our homeschooling literally looked like this: Read a book for 5 mins, change Miya, read a book for 5 minutes, change Miya, read a book for 10 minutes, change Miya..... this went on the whole morning 9 - 12:30!!!! I was loosing it and thought I needed to get counseling!
Finally, and I don't know why I didn't right away, researched more on encopresis and found some really helpful articles that helped calm me down and gave me ideas on how to help her.
Here's a link to the articles I read that helped me and hopefully it helps you. I feel you momma it is not fun.
There are amazing children books out there that are specially made for children suffering from not wanting to go to the bathroom. Here's the list of books Miya actually enjoyed and started reading while sitting in the potty. We read these books to her while she tried to sit in the bathroom for at least 3 minutes. Whether it was a successful trip or not. Congratulate them just for sitting in the potty and reading the books. This helps them feel safer and comfortable in the potty. This took us almost a year of just sitting in the potty without any success. I had to put on a fake smile every time she sits in the potty because when I'm stressed, she is too.
Click a book you want to try to purchase now .(These are affiliate links at NO extra cost to you.)
After 2 painful years of trying many things...... she finally did it! It's been almost 7 months of her wearing underwear. She still has accidents at least once a week but nothing compared to what we went through last year.
Here are other ways that really worked for Miya:
1) We celebrated even when she pooped in the diaper. Congratulate or award every time they DO poop even when it's in their diaper or underwear. To my own shame, I use the shaming way with Miya out of frustration even though obviously it wasn't working. I had to really pray and ask God for help every time I have to change her diaper. I had to work hard on my frustration and remind myself that she is not an enemy and is in desperate need of my help, encouragement and comfort. So I put a fake smile on and said, "Thank you for pooping Miya" every time. And it worked! I could tell that she felt less stress a week after doing this. It was still a while until she finally recovered but just the first step of celebrating poop every time was ground breaking.
2) We encouraged her to go to the bathroom to sit there for as long as she wants. Moms, be patient because most days they will choose 2 seconds and not even try to go. This is where the books will come to the rescue. The books stayed in the bathroom where she could easily grab it and read.
3) Charts, Charts, Charts! Reward charts were the real answer for us. We gave her a candy every time she did poop in the toilet and gave her a bigger reward at the end of the week if she completed it. She also got a bigger reward for a whole month of successful peeing or pooping in the toilet. The fancier the chart the better. If they like their chart, they will look forward to adding stickers on it everyday. That's why it worked for Miya. She loved her chart. You can involve your kid in choosing the chart as well to make them more excited.
Here are some great reward charts you can use:
4) Research. Research helped me. It helped me be mentally and emotionally prepared to help her. I had to constantly remind myself of the things I've read to calm down my frustration.
5) Pray. Miya and I prayed together every night specifically for her stomach and fear. I prayed then she prayed. We have to constantly remind our kids that Jesus cares even with her pooping because he does. Miya loves Jesus and she knows that He was involved in the process of her healing. Our main calling as moms is to make Jesus real to our kids everyday.
Mommas, you got this. If I could do it you can too. There is hope!