My neice is 4 years old. She is very "girlish", kind hearted, seems to know right from wrong, and she always plays very nicely with others and by herself. She has never been abused- mentally or physically/sexually. Today she went potty, and #2 and smeared her b.m. all over the bathroom wall, shower curtain and her tummy. This was extremely surprising to us. Her mom talked to her and gave her a "time out". She also did this at her Dad's house, and her Aunt's house. This is the third time. Her Mom & Dad have never been "together", she lives with her big brother who is 9 yrs. old, and her mom.(Her brother has never acted out in a strange way, been violent or anything to have a concern about.) My neice has always gone to the same daycare, while her mom works full time days (m-f, 8am-4pm) but about a month ago she got an additional part time job, so 3 days a week she will not see the kids in the evening; because by the time she gets home (at 9pm) the kids are already in bed. I babysit, and so does my grandma during this time. They are usually very well behaved and only minor, every day-kid issues arrise. What could make a 4 year old girl want to do this? Please give your honest feed back, and let us know what we can and should do. Thank you and God bless you!
Generally, such acute episodes in a child (a) who has displayed a baeline of normal behavior and (b) who has accomplished toilet training, indicates some form of turmoil in their environment. Sometimes the source of the turmoil is not obvious, since young children can be unsettled by things which, to the so-called objective eye, might not appear to be significant events. Be sure you set a firm, clear limit on this behavior. If it occurs again, seek evaluation by a pediatric mental health professional. Scrutinize her day-to-day environments in order to determine if anything might be amiss. Regardless of how stable those environments have been, don't assume that everything is OK.
Very young children often experience anxiety over changes in their routines or other upsetting events. Some children are more sensitive than others. Children this age do not have the language skills to "process" their emotional upset so you see it come out in other ways: bed wetting, hitting, and even fecal smearing. I do agree with the previous commenter that fecal smearing is typically seen in response to more significant life events. Changes in routine can be upsetting. If we assume it is due to the change in routine, consider the following:
From here on try to provide as much consistency in her routine as possible so she knows "whats around the corner.
Give her messages, directly in conversations and indirectly (via social stories, age appropriate story books) that it is o.k. to be upset and being angry or missing mom does not mean she's not a good kid. Sometimes getting books about other characters that experience these is a good way to help her along.
See if mom can put aside a small block of special 1:1 time with her once a week and make a big deal of it.
Model. Model. Model. Teach her to label her emotions. Sometimes this means caregivers have to behave a little different than what they are used to: Don't be afraid to act like Mr. Rogers or Kaptain Kangaroo as you label how you are feeling when such and such happens... etc. ("I'm really feeling sad because my friend went away for along time...")This will take time but in the long run she will be able to tell you what is bothering her and it will serve you well into her teens!
Now here is the awkward part. I have been working with families for a long time. While you don't want to jump to conclusions, don't ever assume that a caregiver nearest her is incapable of acting in unmentionable ways or ways that create upset to a young child. Try these things but also keep your eyes open. If the behavior persists, contact her pediatrician or a clinical psychologist who specializes in child development/behavior.
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