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5 Year Old Having Accidents

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5 year old boy with his hands in the air.
Occasionally an older child will suddenly begin to have accidents. Determining the cause is critical to helping the child change this behavior. This is a guide about 5 year old having accidents.
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June 13, 2008

I seem to be having a sudden problem with my 5 year old moving her bowels in her pants. When asked why she does this she says she isn't getting there in time or she was playing and didn't stop. We have tried taking things away from her, putting her to bed, time outs, no tv but nothing seems to be working. It just doesn't seem to bother her. I am so frustrated and embarrassed as she is doing this in public. What can I do please give me some ideas.

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Debbie from Berwick ME

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June 13, 20080 found this helpful

Hi Debbie! You must be so frustrated to be dealing with this again. Have you had her checked by the doctor to be sure nothing is wrong (does it hurt to go)? If so, have you tried the reward system? You could have a container with little goodies (toys, games, crayons, etc) to reward her for going to the bathroom like "a big girl". I hope you find a solution.

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June 13, 20080 found this helpful

Some kids just don't want to stop playing long enough to do their business, they might miss something. Try making her go sit on the toliet several times a day. Give her a book or something. Kind of like make her take a time out on the toliet, but don't make it punishment.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 13, 20080 found this helpful

Try putting her on the toilet every day after meals, and setting a timer for her to remain there until the timer goes off or she has a bowel movement. Make this very matter-of-fact, not a punishment but a "potty schedule" or something. Perhaps add a sticker system for every day she stays clean. When she gets a certain number of stickers-perhaps 3 or 4 she can have a small reward-like a favorite ice cream, extra story, game of choice with you, etc. Also add more water and fiber to her diet. Punishment rarely helps. Little kids have control over very little in their lives, but their toileting is one thing they can control and getting in a power struggle with her will make it worse.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 13, 20080 found this helpful

If she had stopped doing this once and started again something is probably wrong! Either physically or emotionally. It may be a cry for help. My grandchild did this and investigation found that she was being sexually abused by her father. Keep your eyes open.

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June 13, 20080 found this helpful

Ok, somebody is sure to scream at me but I would vote for having her wash her own underwear out by hand - poop and all. Of course, you'd have to do them in the washing machine but maybe if she has a "close-up and personal relationship" with the big nasty she might have a better appreciation for having it go in the toilet in the first place. I know a woman who (when she was a child) wet her pants for the same reason: "I didn't want to stop playing!" and she had to wash her pants and take a bath every single time. She soon realized she was missing much more play time than a bathroom break took in the first place. I'd do it with as little interaction as possible so she doesn't get the reward of mom all to herself but rather the stinky panties all to herself!

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 13, 20080 found this helpful

Hi,

I have 5 children grown now. I also had this problem with one. He hated to use public bathrooms and was very shy, another had food allergies, and my niece who we found after many years had add and we also have a high for of autism in the family called assbergers syndrome. This is not a normal thing for a child of five especially a girl. Does the child have bouts of Diarrhea or constipation, allergies, hyperactivity or is she reclusive? Is she emotionally and chemically balanced ( which has nothing to do with how well you parent)? Make sure you look into your child's health.There are many illnesses Dr.'s can miss. If the child does not care punishment won't work and may prolong the incident. Cleaning her self will not hurt but if it is a physical or emotional problem or need punishment will not help. Just being responsible is sensible and she, if well is old enough to help with cleaning her self. Good luck.

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June 13, 20080 found this helpful

The ideas given are good! First, there is a REASON that this has started all of a sudden. Please let a doctor check things out, then quietly, make it her responsibility to clean everything needed. No fuss, no emotion, "Dunk the clothes in the toilet...etc....Here is the bar of soap, here is the old toothbrush and basin. Scrub until it is clean. Here are the cleaners for the sink and your hands afterwards." If it requires furniture cleaning or anything else, she does that too. If it is so much that you cannot take her out, then QUIETLY tell her, "Oh it is too bad we will have to miss..., but of course we cannot do...until we are sure there is no more problem with..." Make SURE you let her know it is NO problem for you, you'll just be right here enjoying your new library book you've been wanting to read, then go do it.

Do not pay any extra attention to the problem or to her. I am NOT saying ignore her by any means, just do NOT make it your job to entertain her because of this. When she "gains control of the problem, then I am sure you will enjoy doing...again." and walk off to do your usual things. There is some reward in this unusual behavior for her (attention or getting to continue to play or something), or some medical problem.

I had a child who was not potty trained till about 3.5 because he didn't want to stop playing to go, but he wasn't trained in the first place.

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June 13, 20080 found this helpful

I agree with Phyllis, this started with my own daughter and she was being abused by her own father!! Please, please listen to your daughter and believe what she says. By being "dirty" she is trying to make the person not want to touch her. Tread softly, go gently, with love. Remember, if it is true,,,it is not her fault!!

I can only hope this is a medical problem.

I am sending healing energy and blessings to you and to your daughter.

Blessings, light and prayers.

Tena in Tahsis

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June 13, 20080 found this helpful

I agree with Phyllis, this started with my own daughter and she was being abused by her own father!! Please, please listen to your daughter and believe what she says. By being "dirty" she is trying to make the person not want to touch her. Tread softly, go gently, with love. Remember, if it is true,,,it is not her fault!!

I can only hope this is a medical problem.

I am sending healing energy and blessings to you and to your daughter.

Blessings, light and prayers.

Tena in Tahsis

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 13, 20080 found this helpful

HI. I went through this with 2 of my 4 children. Both of them were just too busy to take time to go. I also made them wash their poopy pants out by them selves. By 5, I thought that was fair enough. :)I never did figure out a reason other than laziness. It is true that this can happen if a child is being abused/molested so don't rule that out either. God bless you and remember-you are not alone. Most of us have kids who have done just this thing.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 13, 20080 found this helpful

Soiling or Encopresis happens to boys and girls. She needs to go to the doctor for a check-up. It can be a serious condition. Something has caused her condition. You can check on the internet for information about this problem. Do not punish her she needs help. Good luck.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 14, 20080 found this helpful

Something has changed in her world to make her go backwards -- moving, a new sibling, a death of a pet, abuse, something as simple as a fight with a playmate -- the list is long. You need to figure out what that change is so it can be addressed. Punishment is not the answer at this point as something is bothering her and this is how she's telling you that. A good place to start would be her pediatrician.

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June 14, 20080 found this helpful

My friend's 4 yr. old had the same problem The dr. found the child had an impacted stool and had little control over his bowel movements. After the child received an enema, he had no more problems. The parents felt horrible since prior seeking medical help, they assumed the child was lazy and punished him, when, in fact, he could not control the soiling.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 14, 20080 found this helpful

My nephew has had this problem off and on for several years and she finally took him to the dr. and constant constipation and poop buildup made the nerve endings of the colon stop registering any information about the need to get to the bathroom in time. Ask the dr., I think they were doing more vegetables, sitting on toilet more , etc.

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By guest (Guest Post)
June 14, 20080 found this helpful

My grandson is 7 & still has this problem. His parents punished him at first but then felt really bad after he was diagnosed with Enchopresis (spelling ?). He had a colonoscopy & other tests. The other person is correct about them not having the nerve ending responses to know when to go. It also does something to their sense of smell where they cannot smell it. They get impacted and the poop goes around it & usually ends up being loose. It also has an awful smell. He has meds to take but it gives him diarrehea. They need to eat high fiber foods etc. to keep it moving. He has to wear pull ups in public sometimes. He will probably outgrow it we have been told. Good luck, take your child to the Dr. for a thorough evaluation & mention this diagnosis so they can check for it. You can also look on the internet for info on the subject.

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 15, 20080 found this helpful

I am having the same problem with my 5year old at the moment and I just took him to the doctors. The reason he is doing it in his pants is he is all blocked up. So take her to the doctors because maybe he can help. She could be in pain.

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August 19, 20080 found this helpful

I am having this problem with my 4 year old daughter. I am not sure what to do about it. She is going to school in Sept and to a babysitter, and I know that the school will send her home! I really don't know what to do? Somebody help me?

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 19, 20080 found this helpful

I took my daughter to the doctors like every one said, and the determination was that she has very sensitive bowels and to watch the whole grains and fruit we give her. Do not give her both at one time or to much in any giving day. Other then that they said everything was ok. So know if she has fruit in the morning we don't give her whole grains too or if she has bread or wheat crackers for lunch or dinner we don't give her fruit. So far so good no more accidents. Thank You all for your suggestions

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By guest (Guest Post)
February 1, 20090 found this helpful

I am going through the same thing with my son, part of it is a power trip with him, he is learning his own body and controlling the urge to go is one thing that he over-controlled, to the point where instead of going every day he was going every other day or every two days and got very backed up, and very stinky.

The way the pediatrician explained it was that he basically stretched his colon from holding his poo so much and with that he desensitized the nerve endings and weakened his sphincter muscle. He is currently on 1 tsp of miralax/day, 1 tsp of benefiber, and .5 mL of little tummies laxative. This keeps him going every day.

The point of the treatment is to basically keep the bowels moving so that the colon starts to shrink back to where it is supposed to be. It's been about 3 months and although the accidents have decreased dramatically there are still occasions when it still occurs. Good Luck!

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August 23, 20090 found this helpful

Hi, I hear all of you here on this problem, my son was that way at age 5, we took him to doctor, they said if he was my kid, I'd take him to Childrens Hospital. Well that scared us to death, but we done just that, went there and had to find out that he had a impaction. Crazy we had to go so far to find this out, but we did, we ended up getting this liquid stuff that looked like tar. I'm having problem with the name right now. It's been 28 yrs ago, we put this in his drinks, & guess what? He was so much better after that, just keep them from getting all packed inside, this stuff really did work, maybe someone on here knows the name of this, its black like tar. Hope this helps you all out here with your little one.

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October 27, 20110 found this helpful

My 6 yr old son is still having bowel movements in his pants on a daily basis and today he did it at school so of course I had to pick him up and then while wearing pullups he did it two more times. We have taken him to a therapist who said we just need to be consistent and start a structured schedule with him (how do you do that when he is in school) and we have taken him to the Dr. at least 4 times now for the same reason, we have had him tested, he is not constipated but when he does it its like he doesn't care, it doesn't seem to bother him at all.

I am going to try some of the suggestions like making him clean his soiled clothes and himself and try not to make a big deal about it . We have even taken sports away from him because of this. Anybody got anymore suggestions. Please help.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 23, 2009

My son just turned 5 yrs. old. He's been potty trained since he was 2 1/2 but just recently for about 3 or 4 months he's been going in his pants. Is something wrong with him? Should I take him to the doctor? Why do you think he's doing this? Could it be that he is too lazy to go to the bathroom? Please help.

By prov31woman08 from Denver, CO

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July 23, 20090 found this helpful

Hi, I am a parent and parenting educator and want to say that I know toileting changes can be tough for both you and your child. I've known a number of children who have had this kind of experience - it can be physical, but it is often related to some kind of emotional stress usually resulting from some changes in the child's or families life. Like a new baby, a new home, starting school or attending a different one, parent's separation/divorce. Is there anything going on for your child right now? If so, one step you might take is to talk with your child about the issue that may be connected to these toileting changes.

Make sure you have the slack to listen to him and his feelings. Since that is often what a child needs. One thing we know about 5 year olds is that they are often in a developmental place to begin to worry about things that they might not have thought much about when they were younger. There is lots of good info out there re child development. Are there any parent resource centers near you that you can also connect with? Good luck!

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July 23, 20090 found this helpful

I think my first response would be to have a talk with the child. It would probably be at bed time or some other peaceful, non-stressful time. Listening to what is NOT said is just as important as what is said. My next order of business would be a visit to the doctor.

I would not assume the child is lazy or doesn't care because I believe he most likely does care very much. As suggested by listeningmom, I'd look for changes in the life of the child. If nothing is different at home, what could be different at day care or where ever else the child goes. Bullying is my first question.

He could just be playing too long and then when he does decide he really needs to go it's too late. Maybe frequent calls by you to "go potty" could help. I know this must be terribly frustrating but with love and patience you should be able to discover the cause.

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July 24, 20090 found this helpful

For some reason, your child has reverted. Like the other poster said, he could be under stress over something. Has something happened that you are aware of?

I had that problem myself once, at the same age, and I know what caused mine----be sure to talk to your child---at least you have noticed a change in him, and don't just brush it off.

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July 27, 20090 found this helpful

For some reason maybe your child is seeking attention. How is the home relationship? Does he get as much attention as other children? Or he could have a medical situation needing to be addressed. Or It could just be a stage or Many other numerous things. I would try this, Try rewarding him for going to the bathroom. Like a dollar or something that might catch his eye. It may make wonders then tell him Big boys go to the bathroom in the toliet. If he still doesn't do that. Talk to him. A little talking can do wonders.

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July 27, 20090 found this helpful

I have read the responses that have posted to this point, and agree with parts of all of them. The only thing that I think each one of them came close to, but just didn't actually mention. Are there times when your child is alone with a person that he was not alone with before? Do not, I beg you, rule out any form of abuse, as in sexual. I was abused by a step grandfather who died when I was 10. It was years later before I could tell my mom, (not her step father, by the way), because I knew she would have to tell my dad, and I felt he would believe his step dad, not me. I am nearly 71 now, so you have an idea of the way things have changed since then, but do all you can to see if there has been improper touching, or worse. A 5 year old does not know it as being "bad".

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July 27, 20090 found this helpful

First I would take him to the doctors and make sure everything is okay. Then has something changed in his life. Also if he is fixing to start school in the fall this could do it, AS a preschool teacher I have seen this happen and I have seen 5 year olds get very clingy to mom also just before school starts.

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July 27, 20090 found this helpful

Look for something causing him great anxiety. Might be something obvious but it could be something you don't even know about. I'm a teacher and this is usually what it means. Don't let this go until you know what it is. Don't mean to scare you but, you just never know.

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