So, I just had to have a VERY uncomfortable conversation with DD (10) in which I had to tell her that it is not ok to poop her pants. Seriously. I didn't reprimand her or shame her at all, and tried to ask all the right questions, i.e. Do you have trouble or pain going to the bathroom (i.e. constipated)? Do you not know when you need to go to the bathroom? Do you not know when this is happening? Is there some way we can fix this together? Etc. She just kept shrugging her shoulders and repeating that she "didn't know" why it was happening, but that sometimes she just "doesn't feel like" getting up to go to the bathroom. So she just....goes in her pants?
I first noticed this a few months ago, but thought that it was an isolated incident as I only saw it once or twice since then, and not severe (I thought it might have been a wiping issue. I planned to ask her about it but then didn't see it happen again for a long time). Today I was doing a big load of laundry and noticed about 10 pairs of underwear were soiled. After I saw this, I went into her room to see if there were any other clothes that needed to be washed and found more soiled underwear.
This latest episode comes with a long string of other hygiene related battles -- She will not brush her teeth. She will not brush her hair. She will not take a shower (she whines, yells, and basically throws a temper tantrum when I tell her it's time to wash her hair/shower). She leaves dirty clothes on the floor, despite an empty hamper not 2 feet away. Dirty dishes in her room (we've had to set a "no food in your room" rule due to this). Today during breakfast she dropped a bit of cereal on her sweater and it was like pulling teeth getting her to actually get up and wash it off before we left for school. She was apparently just planning on walking around all day with milk and cereal down the front of her shirt. Unbelievable.
I am willing to look past some of the "normal" behavior for this age (I can deal with a messy room, for example, as long as it's not breaking any health codes), but I cannot let my child walk around in soiled underwear and (seemingly) not care about it.
I KNOW she cares about how she looks sometimes. For example, a month or two ago we went to a dinner party at a friend's house who has an 11-year old boy. As soon as she heard we were going over there, she immediately jumped in the shower, washed her hair, put on nice clothes, brushed her hair and teeth, and afterwards asked me if her breath smelled nice. So apparently she cares what BOYS think she looks like.
Sorry this was long, but I'm just not sure what I should be doing. I feel like I've failed as a parent. DH (her step dad) does not share my view that sensitivity is the right approach; I think if this was left up to him he would resort to shaming her and embarrassing her about this, which I KNOW is the wrong way to do it, but I am at my wit's end. She won't listen or respond to me when I try to talk to her about it, and I have to listen to DH tell me how HE wants to handle it, that she is "just lazy" and blaming me for not being strict enough with her.
Anyone have any input? Really need some advice, here.
As far as other hygiene things go, I've just worked them into a routine, but it did take a while for her to get used to it. "Ok, go do your homework, and then take a shower, and then practice piano" or whatever. At first she'd whine, for a while, but now it's what she's used to and she just does it.
We had the same issue. Not the pooping in her pants but she did pee all the time. That was laziness. I would see her running around stop then pee and keep going. Showering and brushing teeth... baaaaaah! We started by telling her that she needed to bathe because she was a girl. She has girl parts that need to be taken care of properly. Washing would help to combat unpleasant things... She wanted to just spray herself with perfume and be done with it. Or take a swig of mouth wash. We didn't hound her but we gave her information as to why she needed to do those things. If she still chose not to do them we would then set aside a time that all those things needed to be done as a family. Look we're all brushing our teeth. We're waiting in line for our shower. We're all putting our clothes in the hamper.
Not perfect over here but better. Less complaining and very little fighting.
Could it be encopresis?
Is she constipated? What kind of foods is she eating?
You could try a toilet schedule. Stop what she's doing every 60 minutes to use the bathroom.
Thanks for the input everyone. journeymom, I did a bit of research before I talked to her about this (which prompted some of the questions I asked her, i.e. Do you have problems "holding it", or Does it hurt when you go to the bathroom), and I don't believe it's encopresis -- at least not technically in that she is not constipated (she has regular bathroom habits at home)...
I had another short conversation with her about it last night after she'd had a while to get over the embarassment of the first conversation, and here is my best guess as to what I think may be happening: I determined that this is almost always happening at school. She goes to a Montessori school that has a very small class who all shares a single bathroom in the middle of the classroom. I believe that she may, for whatever reason, be embarassed about using the bathroom around her classmates (since the bathroom is literally RIGHT THERE in the middle of the room, and everyone knows when someone is in there, how long they're in there, etc). I think she may be trying to "hold it" so she doesn't need to face the anxiety of using the bathroom in front of her whole class. She did not come out and say that this was the issue, but I was able to put 2 and 2 together and this is my most educated guess at this point.
As far as how we are moving forward, I approached this from a health standpoint -- if this ever happens again, you must immediately change clothes and take a shower; otherwise you or others around you could get very sick. This seemed to make sense to her, and she agreed to allow me to send a change of clothes with her to school to keep in her locker for emergencies. She has her own bathroom at home, and plenty of privacy here -- she is, and has always been, a very sensitive and private person, so I wonder if someone in her class once made a joke or comment to her about her bathroom usage that embarassed her...I wasn't able to get anything out of her about it, so I decided to step back for now and see how things progress.
Glad you were able to make progress... as someone who can not use a public restroom for number 2. I GET IT! I have driven home 1/2 hour both ways before. I've held it to the point of pain because I just can't use the restroom at work for that.
Good job! That sounds like a really successful conversation.
Both my kids refused to use the bathrooms at school, but that's because it's a public school with perpetually nasty bathrooms. They'd come bursting through the door in the afternoon and run to the bathrooms.
Your daughter might be able to 'train' her body to have a bowel movement (love that term ) every day at the same time, like in the morning before school. Can't say as that would cure the problem but it might make her more comfortable and able to hold it through out the school day.
Edited to add, your poor daughter! That bathroom location just sounds odd. I can't blame her for feeling self conscious.
And another thought, is there a separate bathroom for the staff that might be in a different part of the building? Could you ask permission for her to use it? That would necessitate her asking a teacher to use it, but that's something maybe she could be talked through. Maybe a private conversation with a teacher, dd and you to reassure her that she'll have all the privacy she needs, and that the teacher will be very discreet, so no one else will know she's using the restroom.
Is it possible that there is some abuse going on? Sometimes kids try to make themselves as unhygenic as possible to ward off an abuser. I am sure this is a very unlikely thing (and I only mention it because of my past issues), but with all of the hygeine issues taken together in a child that old it may be something to look into.
I used to have problems with my daughter. Not as severe as with yours but she would be lazy about the teeth, hair brushing and bathing.
So now the rule is: first thing in the morning, take care of yourself and do your chores. Can't play games or watch TV or anything until these tasks are complete.
Used to be she had a hard time "remembering".
She no longer has a hard time remembering. ;) :)
My daughter is now clean most of the time without me telling her.