When Your 4 Year Old Poops in Their Pants (And Doesn’t Care)

Has your potty-trained child started to have poop accidents again? Learn what to do when your 4 year old poops in their pants and doesn’t even seem to care.

4 Year Old Poops in Pants and Doesn't Care

I didn’t get it. My son had been potty trained for two years, but out of the blue, started pooping in his pants. He simply refused to poop in the toilet and instead would hold it in until it practically seeped out. I was beyond tired of washing dirty underwear, ready to lose my mind with yet another accident.

No amount of admonishment or explanation could convince him to use the toilet to poop. Nope—every day, yet another pair of undies was soiled or streaked once again.

It’s never easy when your 4 year old won’t poop on the potty, especially when he doesn’t seem to care that he’d dirtied his undies or that he was a “big kid” now.

Thankfully, I learned that it’s important to stay calm and work together to fix the issue. The more you can get on the same side as your child, the more likely he’ll finally comply. Take a look at these solutions to try when your 4 year old poops in his pants and doesn’t care one bit:

Ease your child’s constipation

A common culprit for your child pooping in her undies is constipation. She might’ve had a difficult time pushing, which then scared her the next time she had to go. Any kind of potty training poop anxiety meant she couldn’t relax enough to pass anything. And withholding only contributed to even more discomfort and pain, furthering the cycle.

To ease her constipation, consider the Three F’s: food, fluids, and fitness.

To start, increase her fiber intake, from eating more high-fiber foods like grains, vegetables, and fruits to taking fiber gummies. Consider decreasing food that may not help much with passing stools, like carbs or sugars.

Then, make sure she drinks plenty of fluids like water or even prune juice. You might even entice her to drink by giving her a water bottle she can take with her throughout the day.

Make sure she’s getting enough physical activity every day. Kids shouldn’t be sedentary for more than an hour at a time (except for sleep). So, even if she’s not playing video games, she could be reading a book or working on a craft for an hour without getting up once.

And if needed, you can always ask her pediatrician about giving a suppository or stool softener. If you go this route, you can then time the medication with sitting her on the potty to help her poop.

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Give your child clean-up responsibility

Your 4 year old could be having accidents during the day because he hardly has to face its consequences. Meanwhile, you’re dealing with cleaning up the mess every day.

To help him see what happens when he doesn’t poop in the toilet, have him help you clean up his mess. For instance, he can watch you dump poop in the toilet and wash the undies. He might grab clean clothes and load a new batch of laundry.

Yes, you’ll have to guide him through the cleanup process, so it’s not like you’re handing the entire task to him. But he does see what happens when he has an accident. More importantly, he feels compelled to poop in the toilet if he knows he has to clean up otherwise.

Besides cleaning up the mess, another consequence can be what happens because of the accident. Maybe you have to cut playtime short to clean the mess or leave the park because he has to go home and change. Explain the real-life consequences of the choices he makes so he can make better ones next time.

4 Year Old Having Accidents During the Day

Sit your child on the toilet regularly

To make pooping in the toilet feel more regular, have your child sit on it at predictable times and for a set length.

For instance, have her sit on the potty for 15 minutes after each meal or for 5 minutes before she takes a bath (since she’ll be getting undressed soon, anyway). Perhaps you’ll have her sit whenever she tends to poop in her undies to try to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Make sitting a regular part of your routine, just as she brushes her teeth twice a day and changes into pajamas at night. That way, she develops a habit that feels automatic rather than something she’ll fight about.

And ask her whether she wants you to be in the bathroom with her or not. Some kids prefer privacy while others would appreciate some company.

Expert tip

Set a timer so she knows when her minutes are done. That way, sitting on the potty doesn’t end when you say so, but when the actual time has passed.

Offer positive reinforcement

No one likes being scolded or told what to do day in and day out. Encourage your child to poop in the toilet by praising any bit of progress you see. The more supported he feels, the more inclined he can be to continue that behavior.

Keep in mind to praise progress, and not only what you define as “success.” Don’t just praise him for the times he poops in the toilet instead of his undies (because, at this point, those times might be few and far between).

Instead, praise him for any good choices he made. Maybe he was willing to sit on the toilet for a few minutes or he told you that he had poop (yup, even in his undies). Thank him for helping you clean his soiled clothes or for eating fruits and vegetables.

The more you praise him for these steps, the more encouraged he can be to keep going.

Frequently asked questions

How many cups of water should my child drink every day?

The general rule is to aim for however many 8-ounce cups of water as his age at a minimum. So, at 4 years old, he should be drinking 4 cups, or 32 ounces, of water every day.


Learning how to stop your child from pooping in his pants, especially when he’d been potty trained for a while, can be a challenge. Thankfully, now you know what to do when your 4 year old poops in his pants and doesn’t care one bit. No more streaked or soiled undies, friend—just regular, mess-free toilet use instead.

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  1. My 4 year old poops in his underwear and also holds in his poop. When we sit him on the potty, he’ll cry the whole time. Of course, once we put him back diapers or undies, that’s when he’ll poop. We are at a loss of what to do. Any advice? Thank you so much.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Erica! It’s definitely rough dealing with these potty issues. One thing you can try to ease him into using the toilet is to let him poop in his diaper while sitting on the toilet. Seems weird, but it could be the transition he needs to feel comfortable sitting down. Then once he does that a couple of times, you could then leave the diaper off. Also, after he poops in the diaper, toss the contents into the toilet so that he knows that’s where it goes.

  2. Our 4 year old boy has no problem using the toilet to pee whether he stands up or uses his seat to sit on the toilet. But he will not poop on the toilet. He gives no signs of when he has to go. He will poop in his pull-up or underwear and happily sit in it. If we ask if he has pooped he says no. We do believe he is trying to assert himself. He says no to absolutely everything, even the things you know he likes.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I totally know what you mean about kids not wanting to use the potty to poop, even though they can pee just fine. Our pediatrician actually told us that pooping in the potty takes longer than peeing, and that it can take up to a year before they fully master it. This has been the case with all three of my kids. Not that they were having crazy accidents all year long and then it disappeared overnight. Instead, there was a gradual decline in accidents, and it wasn’t until a year later before accidents were a thing of the past (or at least a very rare occasion).

      My guess though, like you said, is that it’s him trying to assert himself. He might see pooping as a power struggle between the two of you. Whenever I sensed this in my kids, the thing that finally worked was backing off and not making a big deal out of it—I just wouldn’t bite the bait. And eventually they became more willing to give pooping a try.

      Hang in there, Mark! Hopefully he gets the hang of it sooner than later.

  3. My son 3 years old after I guess one time constipation in our toilet start pooping in his underwear! It has been 2 weeks now..We set some gifts for him as a prize and the on other hand each time he do that we took one of his favorite toy from him .. it is so frustrating now … what we should do?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi there! I would stop the rewards for now since they don’t seem to be effective with enticing him to poop. Maybe focus more on easing the constipation, whether that’s giving fiber-rich food, lots of water, not a lot of carbs, and talking to the pediatrician about laxatives or stool softeners. That way, when he does go, he learns that it doesn’t always have to be painful.