I would like some help on how to deal with an 8 year old boy, who is refusing to go number 2's in the toilet and does them in his pants and then won't go and clean himself up. I have talked to him and asked if there is anything going on at school that may have upset him and he told me no. I have seen a doctor, no help, I finally got out of him tonight that its because he is being lazy. I then told him that it was not on and if it happens again he will loose his privileges, and he said he didn't care. I also made him hand wash his soiled clothes( this may have been the wrong thing to do) to which he said he didn't care. This has been going on since he was a baby. I'm at my wits end HELP

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    Does he do this at school, or just at home? Unless there is a physical reason, a doctor won't be much help. A counselor would be a better bet
    – Kevin
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:32
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    It might be psychological, i.e. he's enjoying the act and does not understand why it's wrong. Did you try visiting a psychologist? Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:37
  • Thanks, I think this will be my next step. I'm at a loss. He does it anywhere although it has now stopped at school.
    – user7830
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 22:30
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    There is a tag on here for encopresis. While I am no expert, that may be something worth investigating. Commented May 27, 2014 at 23:53
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    @JeremyMiller, the doctor had diagnosed this a while back and we had him on a children's laxative and also having him sit on the toilet morning before school and again as soon as he got home. He loves to play video games so we even gave him an iPod so he could sit there and 'go', that worked for 2 days. I have been in contact with his school here in Australia and they have been great and he started today with a psychologist. Fingers crossed. I know there is something more going on, but what exactly not sure. Will have to wait and see.
    – user7830
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 12:36

6 Answers 6


Positive Reinforcement

I can't stress that enough. Everything you've mentioned to resolve the issue is a negative reinforcement. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it's not supportive of shaping behavior.

What might have happen is you've become caught up in dealing with the problem instead of focusing on the goal of toilet training.

Become Nonreactive

The very act of getting upset when he spoils himself could be reinforcing the behavior. Children can develop an interest in the negative reactions of their parents.

Deal with it calmly, and without any negative emotion. Simply tell him "That's okay, next time use the toilet".

This neutral response when coupled with positive reinforcement for using the toilet will make spoiling himself an unattractive option.

Get Back To The Basics

It's time to get back to the basics. You need to walk the child through the process of toilet training from start to finish. Repeat this process until success. You can't just skip steps and assume he knows how it works.

  • Read him books on toilet training. Most books are focused at younger children, but the key is the bound between parent and child. The child needs to have a strong feeling of trust with the parent to use the toilet while the parent is present. It's during this sharing time that the bound is created.
  • Stay with him during toilet time. Speak in encouraging ways. This is a special time between parent and child. This is the time a parent gives the child one-on-one attention.
  • Take him to the bathroom. Hold his hand and walk him there. You're the parent and it's your job to say "It's bathroom time". Don't say "Go to the bathroom" and stay behind.
  • Set a time duration. During bathroom time my children spend about 1 minute per year of age. After that if nothing happens they are free to go play.
  • Model the behavior. Openingly state "I have to use the bathroom" when you need to go. Leave the bathroom door open, and allow him to see adults are the same as children. Allow him to enter and talk with him during your bathroom breaks.
  • Display the end results. Before flushing bring in the child and display what you've done. For a young child this fulfils curiosity. An older child might not be interested, but allow him the opportunity.

Use Positive Reinforcement To Shape Behavior

Children will do almost anything for just a little attention from their parents. You can reward bathroom time in many ways.

  • Keep books he finds interesting in the bathroom, and read to him.
  • Keep some toys he likes (action figures are good) and play with him while he sits.
  • Allow him to personalize the bathroom. Put his artwork on the walls.
  • Take him shopping and allow him to pick out a custom toilet seat with cartoon characters on it he likes.

Avoid delayed rewards. Don't promise gifts or treats that are given later. Don't promise something based upon conditions (i.e. if you poop you get thing X as a reward). These are complex concepts for children to associate with a behavior.

Let Go Of The Problem

Yes, the child going number 2 in his pants is a huge problem. It's a big problem for you and for him when he's at school.

You need to let it go. That weight of the problem could be shaping the way you're handling the training. Don't let the problem create a negative atmosphere around the process of training. Keep the toilet training and accidents he has as separate things in your head.

Part of starting training over is understanding that he doesn't currently use the bathroom correctly. Therefore, accidents are a perfectly natural event for him.


I have a six year old in the same situation. He's a control freak. He's oppositional defiant. He doesn't want to stop what he's doing to go poop in the potty and generally holds it. His overall goal is to prove me and the rest of the world wrong... he is convinced that he will do things his way and will be right about not having to poop on the potty. We have scheduled potty sit times in the morning and evening. All of the above advice has been tried for two solid years. NONE of it works. I repeat, none of it works.

Don't listen to anyone but a licensed behavioral specialist. A parent that hasn't dealt with this has no idea how determined your child is. It just might be the most frustrating situation that I have dealt with in my life, not just parenting. At three or four years old, some of those techniques can work, but at 5, 6, 7 and 8 years old, it is beyond normal toilet training tactics. Don't let a parent push their success with their two year old to make you feel like they have any idea about your 8 year old. This a an entirely different issue - it's not potty training anymore.

Once again, I implore you, seek out ONLY professional behavioral advice. Even if he has a medical issue at the root of this problem, it has conditioned his behavior for so long, that he needs behavioral modification. Good luck. I am up to my neck in this awful situation.


Toilet timing? Would that help? You send him to the toilet at regular times when you think he has to do a poo. I can recognize when my daughter has to, for instance, but I can't see on my other kids, so maybe you wouldn't recognize the signs neither. In that case, maybe first during a week or so you would have to write on a paper the times when your boy soiled his pants. So then you know more or less when it is likely to happen next. And so you would send him to the toilet around that time, and encourage him to stay as long as he needs to (and if that doesn't result in a poo, then you would have to send him back not too long after, etc etc). And when it is done, maybe a little reward or at least congratulate him?

(I personally never got much chance with toilet timing, but it apparently works very well for many people...)

My daughter is nearly seven year old and regurlarly wets/soils her pants. So I hear your pain, I am sometimes very very depressed too, it has put lots of pressure on my relationship with my daughter (who is a very nice cheerful girl otherwise). All the things we can try, it makes me feel bad and useless. I hope you will find a solution soon.

  • Toilet training is a good thing to try, to get some regularity in the process of eating and digestion. Toilet training makes most sense (according to "our" specialized doctor - we have a similar problem, the boy is 6.5 years old now) directly or short after meals: after each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) the child should sit on the toilet for 5..10 minutes. Input stimulates output, so to say.
    – BBM
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 18:21

With those few of my children who continued to poop in their pants rather than the toilet well after learning and generally choosing to urinate in the toilet, we eventually told them something similar to, "You are capable of recognizing when you need to use the restroom, and taking care of yourself in there. We would like you to choose to keep yourself and your clothing clean, but if you want to go poop in your pants you will be responsible for cleaning yourself and your clothing. You aren't allowed to continue to play with poop in your pants."

Usually there was a time or two after that where we would have to enforce the rules by making them stop playing, and making them go through the yucky process of cleaning themselves and their clothes - or staying in the bathroom until they did so. But eventually they decided that while going to the bathroom was annoying, cleaning up was much more annoying.

This won't work if there's a medical issue and they can't even tell when they need to use the restroom, and usually we would try rewards, reminders, scheduled bathroom breaks, and a few other methods first before resorting to this.


My son does this when he is busy doing something else and does not want to stop what ever he is enjoying to go to the bathroom. Like, watching a movie, playing a game, or outside playing. He does not do it at school or at one of his grandma's house. She makes him clean his pants in the toliet and clean himself up! So, I know he can control it!

I have threatened to make him wear girl underwear and also diapers.... however it was explained to me that could do more harm mentally than it would good. What I have been trying recently is to take away activities and games after I realize that he soiled his pants.... no improvement as of yet. I believe I will try what his grandma does so he makes the connection that if he chooses to soil his pants, then he will be responsible for cleaning his mess!

I believe consistency is also key. He spends time at different homes, his fathers and grandparents as well, so if we All agree to do the same thing.... I hope it will resolve the issue!

  • I hope you are giving positive reinforcement for desired behavior. You can also set a timer and have him visit the bathroom at regular intervals. Commented May 4, 2015 at 3:49

If he has been cleared medically by a doctor and he is okay physically and mentally, suspend all favorite activities and have him earn them back by using the bathroom when he has to poop. You have to let him realize he is going to lose all fun by choosing to soil his pants. Make him responsible for cleaning up himself and ban playing until he finishes. He will care when he has no video games but it may take a day or do for it to sink in.

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