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Avatar universal

12-year old boy poops pants daily. Parent enabled?

jodykip posted:
I read bit and pieces of my question/problem, but never the whole thing.

My fiance's 12-yr-old son poops his pants every day, and still wets the bed. It isn't encopresis (I don't think). His parents split when he was 2.5, he was frantic and his mom "didn't have the heart" to discipline him for toileting. So today, his idea of bowel control seems to be "hold it until school is out" and "weekends are free."

He's coming to live with us this month, and maybe will stay for school in the fall. I love him to death. He is bright, wry, a crackerjack student and athlete, and a perfect small replica of his gorgeous dad (I'm marrying a great guy!). But I feel like I can't quite accept him because of the pooping. (He wears something like a diaper or pull-up to bed, and I don't mind that.)

I want to get a handle on this so I can understand it and help stop it. Can parents enable this? His mom is hostile to me, but once we were talking about Jack (the son) and she said "I was changing his pan . . . " -- and she stopped. I said, "You change his pants?" But she wouldn't answer, and seemed embarrassed. I know that his dad used to change him, and still will clean him up in some circumstances, like if he's dirty at bedtime. So, if parents do this, does it enable to kid? I'm sure there are no consequences for pooped pants at his mom's, and few here (he has to stop what he's doing and go change).

Jack himself never mentions that he has pooped, but he will admit it if you ask, and will go change without resistance (thank God!). But he doesn't do a very good job, because I don't think he knows how. I've bought a hand-held shower for the bathtub, and a hand mirror. I want him to put the mirror on the floor and to stand over it so that he can see if he's clean. Will this help?

The reason I don't know if this is encopresis or something else (like habit) is that the "accidents" never happen in school, but otherwise aren't real predictable. He poops 1, 2, or 3 times every day, but at different times. The poop that I've seen looks completely normal. I mean, not runny/pasty or pellets, like enco. (See, I've done some research.) He will go pee, and while he stands there, he might dirty his pants too. We've talked a little about his accidents, and he's told me that he feels it too late, and that it starts by itself, but he has to "finish it off." I think he has control, but that it comes and goes. Or something.

The "accidents" make me push him away even though he is such a great kid, and I want to embrace him as if he were my own son. I feel guilty. For instance, Saturday before Memorial day, we all went to a concert on a big lawn. It got chilly, so I invited him to lean against me, and I put my coat and my arms around him to keep him warm. Fine. I felt like a great mom. Nuzzled him, kissed the back of his head, and so on. But in about 5 minutes, the odor began, and I realized that he had just dirtied his pants as he sat there. I had to push him away. I said, "Jack, you poopied your pants and I just don't like it when you smell." He seemed a little surprised (I don't know why, since I've mentioned it before), and slid over to his dad, who took him in. And I felt like I'd rejected him.

So, it looks like pooped pants are going to be "business as usual" in our house until I can figure a way to interrupt it. Sorry to run on about this. Any ideas?
33 Responses
189897 tn?1441130118
   Couple of thoughts.  Kids of his age don't like to go in school.  The bathrooms can be a nightmare - particularly if you are one of the younger kids.   Thus, he could be holding it all day, and then just can't control it once he gets home or on the way home.
   Also wonder how he does at school.   Sounds like he is a very sharp kid, but if his grades has lately begin to fall that could be an indication of ADD.  There is a good link between AD/HD and wetting accidents.  See http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/752076?src=nl_topic.   Basically, "Children with ADHD also struggle to manage multiple activities, and might neglect to address the urge to urinate while they're occupied with other tasks."  And I would think that this would also apply to pooping.
    Mirror is a bad idea.  Get those "moist wipes".  They work better and are easier to use anyway.  Tell him to use them till he sees nothing (or very little on it).
   Make sure he gets enough fiber in his diet ( a good cereal will help), and that should also make him more regular.   And of course, plan ahead.  Going to a concert - hit the toilet first.
   But essentially, he sounds like a great kid.  He is now at an age or almost at an age where he will want to deal with this.  Work with him and his dad.  Don't use embarrassment as a tool.  Hope this gives you some ideas.  I'm sure other will post too.
1006035 tn?1485579497
Is it possible he has any allergies that are causing this? For example he could be lactose intolerant, have IBS, or any other food allergy. Has anyone spoken to his doctor about this? I wrote a journal about this http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/320368/PSA-About-Little-Kids

I would also look into what Sandman said about ADD. Bathroom problems often accompany many developmental problems so I would ask his pediatrician if he needs to see a developmental pediatrician.
Avatar universal
Thanks for your thoughtful responses.

Writing this out yesterday actually clarified some thoughts I've had, and I probably should have waited to post a different version.

Unless there's such a thing as "intentional encopresis," I don't think we're dealing with enco. I think his soiling is a deeply ingrained habit, greatly reinforced by his mom. If she is still involved with changing his dirty underpants--as I believe she is, and believe his dad can also be--then I think he's being "rewarded" for soiling, or at best, not facing negative consequences for it. She has certainly made efforts to accommodate the soiling: Costco quantities of wipes, and dark-colored briefs only--because they hide stains and confine the accidents. (The bedwetting is a separate issue.)

I need, NEED to have a candid talk with his mom. But she is hostile to me, maybe jealous, and maybe embarrassed about the soiling. Jack and I talked only once, briefly. He just shrugs, doesn't see it as much of a problem--and of course he wouldn't since consequences are rarely negative. He knows that other boys don't dirty their pants. I asked if he wanted to stop and he said that "part of me does, part of me doesn't." I asked if he would miss it, and the question seemed not to compute--as if he'd never thought of it or couldn't imagine it. And there we stopped, as he probably began to think that I'm up to something.

So, I'm needing to break into a well-worn habit, I think, and I'm unsure how to proceed without instant resistance. We'll have him all summer and likely for the year (he wants to ski). Helpful ideas are always welcome.

The only thing you "need" to do, is love the child.
189897 tn?1441130118
   You mentioned that his accidents never happen at school.  That probably is an important observation - if it is true.  Are you sure about that.  Got a feeling that he wouldn't admit to it and you don't talk with his mom much - if at all.  Anyway, its really important to know that!  And it may just be that his bowel habits don't come into play till later in the day - so he is fine at school.  But I think you can see why knowing for certain what is happening at school  is important.
    I just have a bit of a hard time believing it is a "well-worn habit".  Its certainly possible I guess.  Its just that dealing with a habit is one thing and dealing with a condition that maybe he has no control over is another thing.  For example, take a look at the post by Barbara in this link http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Child-Behavior/12-year-old-boy-smearing-poop-/show/585404#post_7653465      and you can get a feeling for how complicated this can be.   Which really leads to the question - has a doctor ever been consulted about this?  I would certainly go that route first.
   Of course, breaking a well-worn habit is also very hard to do.  I would say almost impossible with out the willing participation of the person.  
    I would think that it might be best (outside of seeing a doctor) to take it easy and work on some behavioral modifications.  Such as sit down when you pee, so you don't have mistakes.  Hit the bathroom before leaving the house.  You will have control over his diet since he will be with you this summer - that could be helpful.  It may be that as he spends more time with you and starts feeling more at home - the situation may resolve itself naturally.  This is a tricky situation and I would proceed with care ... and love.
13167 tn?1327197724
I agree with the others,  and think you're asking the right questions with the right helpful attitude.

I do think,  though,  that although you don't feel he gets negative consequence,  surely a 12 year old boy soiling his pants has GREAT fear that this will happen in a social situation - if in fact,  he can't completely control it.

Very interesting and insightful of him to truthfully say part of him wants to stop and part of him doesn't.  I wonder what apart doesn't -

Best wishes - I wish you success this summer with this problem.
Avatar universal
Thanks again.

You know, I have the strong suspicion that Jack PARTICIPATES in his soiling. As opposed to trying to avoid it. I can guess why that might be true (a bond with Mom?), but I'm unsure how it manifests. At worst, a completely deliberate and conscious defecation, held until he is in a setting where he won't get into trouble for it, and won't need to clean himself up. Better (I guess), careless slippage that he then has to "finish off" (as he has said), but miraculously, usually in a place where he can get away with it--or just get away.

I know that he comes home from school with poopy pants. His dad says that the school has never called about an accident in session since the first grade, and his mom (I need to TALK to this woman!) says it happens on the walk home, or in the car when she picks him up. And then again at about 7PM-ish. Just not in school or while among his friends. (I think.) Saturday morning is a sure bet. Sunday too. All this makes me think he is aware of his needs, and able to manipulate them for his own purposes.

I'm hoping that this is all just a habit, like biting nails--which I used to do, so I know how automatic it is, and how annoying it is to stop. But as RockRose says, it's significant that part of him doesn't want to stop soiling--or put differently, wants to keep on soiling, want to keep things as they are.

Something in him is being served by this.

He'll be here next weekend for the summer. I intend to have a long, good talk with him on the topic. I'm making a list of questions. Anyone have any suggestions for the list?

Thanks again.

Bet you and the husband are divorced, you just take the advice, you had to stomp all over his mom and dad. Just curious, are you still married to this kids father?
13167 tn?1327197724
Jody,  some thoughts come to mind.  This seems like a ritual,  to me.  Rituals are sought for SO MANY reasons.  Among them,  a reduction of anxiety that comes with routine,  and another common reason is a strong desire to control some aspect of their life.

There are many other reasons for rituals - and I think you need to find out what is causing him to engage in this one.  

I suspect,  reading what you are saying,  that this child is seeking the ability to control himself and his mother in this ritual.  This seems like he's in need of being able to control a facet of his life,  and also exert control over his mother,  and what more perfect way than to make her clean up his poop in a scheduled way.

Is it possible that he feels he has no control at all in his life (can't control what and when he eats,  what he wears,  when he goes to bed,  etc.) and he's aching to take some measure of control over himself?
Thank you, finally, someone that has read up on the subject instead of assuming they know it all.
973741 tn?1342346373
A couple of things really stand out to me from these posts.  First, where does the boys father stand on this issue?  What is HIS plan of action to help his son?  When issues like this arise in a household, especially when it is a step situation, that is the place to start.  Is his dad fine with it all?  Does his dad want to work on this?  What are his father's ideas?  You really need to and have to start there.

I would try to think of this as simply a boy that has an issue.  In terms of urinating, you'd be surprised how many kids into their teens are still night time bed wetting as they don't get proper signals to rise and go.  If you feel that there is a psychological componant with this behavior, then I would talk to his father and start this summer with a psychologist specializing in children.  Talk to the psychologist beforehand about this issue.

Because here is the thing.  For the parents and this child, it is a touchy subject.  When you mention his mother changed his pants . . .  well, that is a usage of words probably from his childhood and I wouldn't picture him actually changing his pants, but rather that she is helping him when this happens in a way a mother does when they feel badly for their child.  Families do get into habits of feeling empathy for their child and trying to minimize a problem which is perhaps what his mother is doing and perhaps his father as well.  

I would talk to his father.  Not in a judgemental way or any of this talk of parents enabling.  That is offputing.  Rather, talk about your great concern for this boy who will certainly at some point face social consequences due to this behavior.  What can the two of you do to help him work through this??  That type of conversation rather than any of the other talk.

And when you talk to this child, think in terms of his emotions.  You can tell him that we have certain rules and one is that everyone takes bathroom breaks on schedule.  ????  Or whatever.  Don't make him feel like he is a freak or something.  If you've 'heard' that he goes around 7 ish, then around 7 ish, remind him that it is his bathroom break time.  Heck, put some books or something in the bathroom that he can look at.  If he does soil himself, then you simply say, please go change and put your underwear in the trash.  Then he has to do a job to earn money for a new pair.  No embarressment or shaming.  But matter of fact.  Natural consequence for what has happened.  If you are out somewhere and he soils, he changes there and again, throws the underwear out and does a job to earn money to pay.  

These are just some suggestions but really first, you and his father have to get on the same page.  good luck
Very well put.
Don't think the person asking for help, got it, as they continue to push that they are the ones who "needs" to do this and that.
Avatar universal

Thanks. In fact, you're exactly right about his dad. In anticipation of Jack's arrival, we're going to sit down tomorrow to have a long talk about our logistics and so on. The soiling is going to be a big part of the conversation, because as far as I can see, Mike (my finance, Jack's dad) is willing to let it slide. Since we're approaching this together for the first time, as a team, I think I can mold a different approach, lay out a strategy. (And no, I'm not a person who tries to "change" people.)

"Change" is an important word at this point, isn't it? Regarding Jack's dirty pants, I strongly suspect that his mom in fact changes him, i.e., does the wiping and handles the dirty underpants. And, I'm afraid, so does his dad: the night of the Memorial day concert during which Jack pooped, we got home very late; Jack went to his bedroom (not the bathroom), Mike followed, and about 20 minutes later joined me in our bed. I swear there was a faint odor of poop on his hand.

So, I need to find out about these things. Stay tuned.

Suggestions are always welcome.
Ugh. Yeah, that not kids fault if dad hand smelt. Really? Good luck.
973741 tn?1342346373
Well, a big suggestion is for your fiance to was his hands.  No reason anyone whether they've recently dealt with helping to clean their child up should have a lingering odor of feces afterwards.  That is unsanitary and odd on his father's part.  

Again, I would take out any judgement as to how things are handled then and now but rather just come up with some ideas to help the boy along.  You'll get a lot farther.

good luck with the conversation.  I would say if your fiance is unwilling to help you help his child, I'd see that as a reason to end the relationship.  You aren't on the same page regarding something you view as important and the troubles will grow from there.  good luck and hope this will work out for you all.
Avatar universal
Hi, I just needed to say that he did wash his hands; as you know, the smell can linger. He's very good about his personal cleanliness, sanitation and housekeeping. What he hadn't done was use latex gloves (I guess that's what he'd use) because Jack's mom hadn't packed any with his underwear and wipes.

Thanks for your response.
973741 tn?1342346373
Okay, but ya know, I don't think the smell of changing a poopy something is going to linger.  I've changed a lot of poopy somethings in my day and did not have a lingering odor nor did I use latex gloves.  Have you changed a diaper or a person before?  You don't put your hands right into the feces, right?  

Something is not making sense to me in your story, I'm sorry to say.  but good luck
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