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.
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:
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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
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.
Get more tips:
- 16 Examples of a 4 Year Old Schedule
- When Your 4 Year Old Wakes Up Every Night
- When to Stop Potty Training and Wait
- How to Get Your 4 Year Old to Sleep Alone
- 4 Year Old Waking Up Early All of a Sudden? Here’s What to Do
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