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phoenyx's avatar

My son keeps smearing his poop all over his room and it is driving us crazy. What can we do?

Asked by phoenyx (7348 points ) September 1st, 2009

When my two-year-old son wakes up in the morning or wakes up from a nap, and he has feces in his diaper, he’ll proceed to wipe it on the walls, to push it into the carpet, and to cover his toys and clothes. It has become almost a daily occurrence. We’ve tried explaining things to him, rewarding him, punishing him, etc. and nothing seems to have any effect. He is a smart kid and reasonably (for a two-year-old) obedient in every other aspect. We are baffled.

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55 Answers

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dpworkin's avatar

Fecal smearing is no fun for mom and dad, but it is fundamentally normative behavior (Freud even thought that Fine Art was an extension of fecal smearing!)

How about back to a onesie for a while, so he can’t get his hands in there? The fascination tends to pass rather quickly.

Darbio16's avatar

Throw him in a cold bath when he does it. After freezing his ass off a few times he will cut it out.

casheroo's avatar

I think the onesie idea is a good one, but I’m pretty sure my two year old could get himself out.
Is the issue that your son is waking up with a poopy diaper, and you guys don’t go in right away? I think you better try to catch him before it happens.
Other than that, I don’t know..because I don’t know if he’d understand being punished for it.

dpworkin's avatar

@Darbio16 That borders upon child abuse, and could get one arrested in many jurisdictions. I hope you were joking. If not, I hope you are not a parent.

syz's avatar

Just another reason to not have children.

phoenyx's avatar

@bumwithablackberry
He likes to paint, draw, and color and does so regularly. Although, I wonder if play dough would be a good substitute.

@casheroo, @pdworkin
I’m tempted to just duct tape his diapers to him. I don’t think we have onesies his size. I’m going to think about how to make his feces less accessible, that’s a good idea.

@casheroo
We put the baby monitor back in his room for that very reason.

casheroo's avatar

@phoenyx My son is over 35in and 30lbs, and we have found onesies his size. They aren’t at BRU or anything, I think Carter’s carries them.

tinyfaery's avatar

Agrees with @syz. At least my cats cover their shit up.

And how is this normal. Of all the people I have known who have had children, they never had this problem. (Do not listen to Freud.) I recommend counseling.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I think 2 years is old enough to understand discipline in simple forms. Especially since you said your child is relatively smart for his age. Whatever works on your son, whether it is taking something away, time out, a swat on the rear, etc. Different things work on different children. Try not to get frustrated with him and don’t get onto him while you’re angry (although I’m sure your patience is wearing thin!).

Likeradar's avatar

I agree with the people who suggested cutting off his access to his poopy diapers. What about a onesie with pants over it to make it harder for him to get his hands in there?

Have you talked to your pediatrician about this? How does he (and how do you) react to poop during regular diaper changes?

Please ignore the people who suggested abusive and tactics.

augustlan's avatar

I like the idea of putting pants over a onesie. You could also try putting the onesie (or a full sleeper that snaps up the front) on backward.

noodle_poodle's avatar

who knew kids this kinda stuff? now i am glad i never intend to have any

Likeradar's avatar

too late to edit: Don’t ignore people who suggest abusive and tactics. Just abusive tactics. I hate when I don’t delete the right words.

Also, I would suggest NOT punishing him at all when he does this. You don’t want him to have poop issues. Expressing disappointment and even disgust in his behavior is fine, but not actual punishment. Just reward him a bit when he refrains from playing with his poop, along with other tactics.

Of course, check with his dr before listening to any of us. :)

Sarcasm's avatar

I think you’re supposed to rub his nose in it.

YARNLADY's avatar

When my youngest grandson tried that a couple of times, we made him help clean it up, and put coveralls/onesies on him at night.

He had so much fun with the sponge and spray bottle (water) that I told him he could play with it any time he wants, but not with poop. It’s never happened again, and he sprays water all over the place.

MissAusten's avatar

First, have him help clean up the mess in any way possible. He’s already got the stuff all over his hands, so it’s not like you’d need to worry about him getting messy. As he helps you clean up, explain that his poop has potty germs in it that can make him and his family sick, it makes his room stinky, and ruins his things. If he gets the poop on any toys or stuffed animals, don’t clean them up and give them right back. Keep them for a while. When you go to clean him up, don’t make it fun. No tub toys when you’re covered in poo because the tub toys might get poo on them. He’ll respond to the discipline best if it fits the crime. If the clean-up is too much fun, it will reinforce the behavior. If you have a shower with a hand-held sprayer, use that to clean him up instead of the tub (but please don’t make the water cold, haha). There’s less to play with and some little kids find it less pleasant than a bath.

Unless he’s extremely large for a two year old, there will be onesies that fit him. Like @augustlan suggested, you could also try a one-piece sleeper with the feet cut off, put on backwards so he can’t unzip it.

I’d also suggest trying to get to him as soon as he wakes up, before he has time to get creative with the contents of his diaper. If you don’t still have a baby monitor, pick up an inexpensive one so you can hear him start to stir and go into his room right away. Give him extra hugs and attention for having a clean room.

Finally, since he’s so regular with his bowel movements you might want to consider having him sit on the potty as soon as he wakes up. Even if the first few times he goes poop on the potty it’s pure luck, you’ll be reinforcing the idea that poop belongs in the toilet.

Giving him play-dough is an excellent idea. You can even look up “recipes” online for making your own play-dough or other messy, tactile things that toddlers love to play around with.

I have three kids, and while none of them ever played with their poop in this way, I have heard of quite a few who did. I worked with infants and toddlers for several years, and one thing I learned is that almost anything a little kid does falls into the range of “normal.” I wouldn’t worry about it unless the behavior continues in spite of everything you try to stop it, if it keeps happening after he’s been potty-trained, and/or other behavioral issues are present. Most likely he’s just bored and gets a sense of power over creating such a big response from Mommy and Daddy.

edited to say: I missed the comment above where you said you put the baby monitor back in his room. Sorry!

casheroo's avatar

@tinyfaery It’s actually pretty common. Thank god my kid is grossed out by poop. He tried to eat it when he was learning to walk and being nakey after a shower, and now he won’t even touch the stuff. Kids do learn their lesson sometimes.

give_seek's avatar

What ever happend to good, old-fashioned discipline? The first time your child did this, you should have given him a good spanking. You would have never been bothered with this behavior again.

Note—I said “spanking” not beating. There is a difference. A two-year-old’s primary purpose is to get the answer to 1 question: “Who’s the boss around here?” Two-year-olds are perfectly capable of understanding discipline and need very much to know from their parents when they are doing wrong. If you don’t discipline at this age then “The Twos” are indeed terrible, because the children are out of control and running all over the parents.

PS. I’ve never, ever, heard of a child doing this. Maybe that’s because I’m friends with people who actually disipline their children and would not tolerate this behavior.

give_seek's avatar

@Likeradar “You don’t want him to have poop issues.”

He already has poop issues.

dpworkin's avatar

Spanking only teaches children that it is ok to hit people. They identify with the aggressor, and go on to become people who hit instead of talk. There is a lot of questionable child-rearing advice on here. I hope you ignore it. What’s the point of punishing a child who has no idea he has done anything wrong? Especially when early childhood development texts all report this as normal, transient behavior.

I hope you will have the good sense to handle this in a relaxed, non-punitive way. I have raised a boy and a girl to majority, and a set of twins to the age of 12, all perfectly behaved, charming companions, none was ever struck by a parent, even once

YARNLADY's avatar

I agree with @syz no one should have children unless they really want them I don’t even think it’s very funny to talk about “kids for sale” as Phoenix has done above. I was one of the people who worked for the current free drop off points for unwanted babies. I used to be an emergency foster parent and in our area we organized a free infant drop-off long before it became a public issue.

casheroo's avatar

@give_seek Whoa. I think you are completely out of line. His child is not doing this maliciously. Now, my cousin has a child that is almost 4, and still in diapers and he recently did this…now he definitely knows better, a two year old may understand a lot of concepts but some are harder than others and obviously this child has not grasped that he should not play with his poop. It does not mean something is wrong with him, but he does need to know that it should not be down, and is frowned upon. You can achieve this without hitting a child, especially a two year old. A child that age will just see that he is being hit, and think that it’s normal behavior…exactly what you don’t want for a child to do.
Are you even a parent?!

MissAusten's avatar

I hope this discussion can stick to the topic at hand, and not turn into a spanking debate. That probably wouldn’t be very helpful to @phoenyx.

MissAusten's avatar

Oh, and anyone who thinks this isn’t normal toddler behavior should google “toddler smearing poop.” 245,000 results, with the first page full of questions from other parents who’ve dealt with the same thing. It is normal and it can be handled without resorting to hitting a small child.

give_seek's avatar

The folks who say spanking teaches a child to hit tend to be parents who don’t discipline their children. If you read the research and talk to child psychologists, you’d find data, peer-reviewed studies, and results that differ from your opinion.

Anyway . . . I simply offered one suggestion as others have here. The author of the question is free to take my advice or toss it out with the feces.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@pdworkin was spanked as a child once I was old enough, and I never interpreted it as being okay to hit people. I understood that my parents were to be respected and it was their job to discipline me and steer me in the right direction. Never did I think that it meant I could hit people too. It all has to do with the approach… if a parent strikes their kid while they’re angry, that may teach what you claim. But there are “correct” ways to go about it as a learning experience that works.

Darwin's avatar

When my son was two he used to do this, too. Unfortunately he still does it at 14, almost 15. He has major issues with both poop and pee, and has other mental difficulties, however. Part of his problem is that he doesn’t want to let go of his poop. He hates going to the bathroom and flushing it away. Instead he holds it until he has an accident, then he messes with it. The counselor that we are seeing right now has dealt with this a lot in people with my son’s diagnoses.

I would agree, however, that this sort of behavior is not uncommon in two-year-olds, and that setting him on the pot first thing in the morning and then rewarding him for producing could be an excellent way to wean him off this behavior.

Dog's avatar

Our Twin girls did this.
In college I took microbiology which made this habit especially disturbing.

I introduced them to finger painting and it gradually stopped.

Both are 7 now and both are extremely artistic.

So my advice is to realize you have a brilliant young artist and bear it till he outgrows it.

Likeradar's avatar

Hurm, just thought of something.
Is he having fun with his poop painting, or does he seem icked out by it? Is he showing any signs of being ready for potty training?

Here’s why I ask: When one of my nanny charges was just under 3, we would find poop in her closet after nap time. Sometimes it was the whole diaper, sometimes she’d empty the contents out the side of the diaper and leave them in the closet. Her parents and I were first quite concerned- omg! She’s hoarding her POOP! But then I got her a little trash can for her room, and told her to put the diaper in there. She did, and we never found a closet poop collection again. She was just ready to be getting out of diapers and hated the feeling of a poopy diaper, and it didn’t get changed promptly at nap time.

Just a thought.

casheroo's avatar

@Likeradar You were lucky. When I was a nanny, the kid was three and would tell me he was going to poop, refuse to use the potty, and then laugh when I had to change his diaper. I was not happy about it at all.

Likeradar's avatar

@casheroo I have great little munchkins who know that if they ever laughed at me for having to clean their booties, they would instantly be in charge of cleaning their own damn booty. :)

MissAusten's avatar

@Likeradar My little brother used to do that! I completely forgot about it until I read your answer. He’d take his diaper off, poop in the closet, close the closet door, and put his diaper back on. Or, he’d take the diaper off, sit on the trash can in his room to poop, and then dress himself again. He was scared of the toilet, but didn’t like to have a messy diaper. I don’t know how my mom got him to stop—all the times she’s told that story,and I never once asked!

tinyfaery's avatar

Common among whom? As I said, “Of all the people I have known who have had children, they never had this problem.” No one.

MissAusten's avatar

@tinyfaery There are probably plenty of things that are normal but have never happened to someone you know, especially if you’re talking about children. “Normal” doesn’t necessarily mean “common.” It’s not common for babies to start walking when they are 9 months old, but it’s normal. It’s not common for babies to start walking when they are 16 months old, but it’s still normal. Playing with poop is one of those things that does happen from time to time. Maybe it isn’t common, but the fact that quite a few people here do have experience with it in one way or another demonstrates that it isn’t completely unheard of. Maybe not what you’d consider “common,” but it is a normal thing for a very young child to do.

Likeradar's avatar

@MissAusten Mad lurve for that answer. It’s exactly what I was thinking, but couldn’t formulate the words. Excellent answer.

Piper_Brianmind's avatar

…...............................................WUT

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@casheroo That made me laugh!

noodle_poodle's avatar

so humans arnt naturally grossed out by poop? i thought it was like a survival instinct thing

casheroo's avatar

@noodle_poodle I don’t think children are grossed out by anything until they reach a certain age. They will eat practically anything unless it’s babyfood you prepared and are fascinated with everything…poop being one of them.

Likeradar's avatar

@noodle_poodle In my experience, being grossed out by poop is a learned behavior. Usually it’s learned quickly and easily, but not always.

MissAusten's avatar

I read somewhere that many smells that bother adults and older kids don’t bother young children. Bathroom odors, in particular, seem to go unnoticed by kids until they are potty-trained. I wish I remember more details of the article or where I read it, but just that one fact stuck with me. Maybe that’s one reason why little kids don’t seem as bothered by feces as older kids and adults?

@casheroo I knew a little girl who would eat lint and hair. Ugh!

Supacase's avatar

Just to make you feel a little better, my daughter did this just around her 3rd birthday. My husband and I were on the couch and I kept asking if he smelled something, he kept saying no. Finally, I heard this tiny little “Mommy” and I headed to her room. The closer I got the more I realized something was very wrong. I turned on her light and it was everywhere. All over the wall, the carpet, the CD player.

My husband also did it when he was a child – still in his crib, but I’m not sure what exact age. Probably around 2.

So, it isn’t abnormal. The extent to which your son is taking it would send me straight to the pediatrician, though. The backward pajamas are a good idea if simply breaking him of the habit is all that needs to be done. I would just be more curious about why.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

From a child’s perspective, the fact that the poop came out of their body makes it interesting. Perhaps reading “Everyone Poops” and “Where’s the Poop?” in preparation for potty training would be helpful. Mine was fascinated by watching the toilet flush, watching the poop go down. We reinforced “poop goes in the toilet, not on the walls.”

The idea of introducing finger paints is good, too. Some of the fascination is the tactile sensation. Providing a acceptable replacement is always a good idea.

Judi's avatar

Ah, the old “poop and smear routine.”
my son went through this as well. He was such a happy kid that he didn’t bother to let us know he was awake either. I was miserable and never really came up with an answer. He finally quit on his own, and at 25 I have great blackmail material for his girlfriends. (I have more great potty stories foe this kid!) The artistic stories may be true because he’s now a musician.
Both of my daughters sons tried this trick and the onsie worked great to stop it. I think they put pajama bottoms on them too.
God luck. Savor even these moments. They slip away all to quickly.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

It’s the reincarnation of the Marquis De Sade, quick, get him a book deal

Dog's avatar

@Judi We got pictures too- going to show them at the weddings… * evil grin *

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@Dog, you can have them made into a book at Walmart…

CMaz's avatar

Feed him food coloring.

phoenyx's avatar

Thankfully, he is over this phase. Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

Dog's avatar

Awesome update @phoenyx !

MissTSS's avatar

tinyfaery and syz – if you don’t want kids that’s your absolute right, but then why are you reading posts related to issues with children? Keep your negative comments and reasoning out of a forum where parents are discussing their children and find a better way to put in your two cents.

For my suggestion, however, I agree that having the child assist in clean-up can be a helpful tool, but it depends on the child. It could also be viewed as “fun” depending on his reason for doing it and if that is the case, he will obviously keep doing it if he likes it. The key is to try to find something related that will change his behavior (preferably that does not include him doing it because he is fearful of you or something else). If he has toys he would NOT want to have poop on them, put those in his room or where he is and not ones that seem to be attractive for him to put poop on. Also, if he does put poop on toys, then take the toys away and/or throw them away to demonstrate that it is not acceptable.
Lastly, attempt to catch him immediately before he wakes up – if he usually wakes up at 7am and begins doing this, then wake him at 6:30 and change him immediately – he may just be looking for the attention or be bored or feel “yucky” and that’s how he is expressing it. Same for naps, if he sleeps for an hour, wake him up after 50 minutes.

grammyofsix's avatar

I found a fantastic website that sells back zipping pajamas. They work fantastic. The little one can’t reach in and can’t undo them.

And the good news is, by the time they grow out of the pajamas, the problem is solved. it really doesn’t take long.

I found this website and thought not only does the cold water idea horrify me, I sincerely doubt the child would connect the punishment to the problem.

Here is a link to the pajama site for anyone interested:

http://littlekeepersleeper.com/store/Default.asp

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