Poopy Pants and Tantrums | Teaching Self-Government

Poopy Pants and Tantrums


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Tantrum Face


I went to your seminar a while back in Herriman and have had great success implementing things with my kids.  I have one problem I have not figured out how to resolve though.  My ds (6) is a great kid, but there is one thing that sets him off every time to the point that he hits, kicks, screams, says unkind things, and basically acts like the whole world is against him so why try.  This happens every time without fail when he is caught with poopy pants.  And that happens almost every day.  We have tried pre teaching before we ask him to go change, verbal SODAS with him since he can't read and write well yet and they get him thinking straight after the fact and he always decides he doesn't like being this way and won't do it again.  We have tried giving him extra chores for every disrespectful thing he does, we have tried just plain giving him chores when he has the accident in the first place.  He is always willing to do the extra chores, but as soon as we approach the subject of changing the poop, it's a battle again.

Can you suggest a way to maybe approach this the right way from the start?  I don't know why, but he always catches me off guard and I feel haphazard about how I handle this.  I need a solid protocol so he knows exactly what to expect every time..  It usually goes, "DS, can you please go take care of yourself- you smell really unpleasant."  This is followed by "I don't have a stink on!" and the argument and physical bullying by him ensues.  Sometimes hours later, after he has accumulated room time for a while, extra chores, and many days of "no screen time" privileges, he finally gets to the point of admission and then will lay in the bathroom and dawdle more time away until it is finally bed time and he is threatened with the end all in our house, which is sleeping in the tub.  This usually gets him moving.   Last night it took 6 hours to get to this point, and he went to bed at 10:30 (in the tub).  I know I am obviously missing an important step.  Please help!!!


The bullied mommy

Bullied Mommy,

It sounds like you are doing a good job on being consistent with what you say.  That is a good thing.  I really sense your frustration.  I also sense his frustration in what you tell me.  I am going to tell you my impressions.  I don't know the complete relationship or situation, so please keep that in mind. 

You are definitely being bullied.  If he ever has control over you, then you have to change the interaction.  You should give instructions and if they aren't followed then start with the rule of three.  It is OK to take him to loosing all of his privileges for 24 hours.  He needs to experience what he has earned.  Since your system has been sleeping in the bath tub it is right that he slept there; even though I am sure it was hard on you. :( 

It sounds like he has a negative association with pooping in the toilet.  It also sounds like you are caught in a power struggle.  To win this power struggle you can't engage in the struggle.  Instead you have to fall back on your system of government in the home. 

I need to ask you a few questions. 

Why does he poop his pants? 

This is important, because I know there are medical conditions and diet issues that cause problems such as these.  If he has a medical or dietary issue, it needs to be handled differently.  

Are all of your teaching moments about negative things?  Make sure you are mostly positive when you talk to the children. 

Do you ever praise him when he goes to the bathroom?  Sometimes it is more effective to think of a positive consequence for learning a skill or choosing a correct behavior.  You could have a special heart to heart talk with him about a reward for two days in a row with no poopy pants or for him looking at the time and planning to go the bathroom at certain times during the day and following through. 

 Does he know how to follow instructions? 

You should go over this one if not.  At certain times during the day you might say, "Son, I need you to take a potty break.  OK?"  He has to follow the instruction.  Or if you find out he has had a problem, you might say, "Son, I need you to go change your underwear and wash the dirty ones out.  OK?"  He needs to be able to say OK or ask to disagree appropriately.  

Do you know how to effectively calm him down when he has a problem? 

When he is kicking etc he is out of instructional control.  You should do the rule of three and forget about the pants for a little while.  Go back to it when he is in control.  He will never learn to control himself until he is in control and can calmly talk about the situation with his loving parent.  

Is there a reason you use the bath tub consequence? 

Is it because he is really gooey etc?

 That consequence seems like it could distance the relationship between you and your son.  The tub gives a message of you not having concern for his basic need of a bed.  I would recommend using loss of privileges for 24 hours as your big one if there isn't a big mess involved.  

Do you pre-teach him about how to follow instructions before you give him one to change his pants?

 Do you pre-teach him how to accept a consequence before you tell him what he has earned? 

Is there something he may be insecure about?  Sometimes potty problems are a result of feeling unsafe.  Good calm communication at home could give him great comfort.  

In your question you called his bad behavior an accident.  It seems like you are really frustrated with the issue and might not be treating it as an accident.  I feel your pain, I have been there.  I have found that showing no emotion when something goes wrong is best.  

Does he get overwhelmed about cleaning himself up?  Does he really feel capable to do the job?  If not that could create anxiety.  That anxiety could be why he doesn't want to follow the instruction. 

 If you lovingly offered to help him what would happen?  When my children have an accident, I simply say, "Oh, we better go clean you up."  Then I help clean them up with almost no words.  I don't want them to get lots of attention from me because of the bathroom problem, but I also don't want them to think I am mad about it and get anxiety.  In the home there is a spirit of helping.  Be the example of this by helping him even when you don't like it (if he allows that at his age, of course). 

 As far as a system goes, I would:

 Make sure he knows how to take care of accidents and doesn't need help.

 Be sure you have the spirit on acceptance.  Poop doesn't kill you.  You might need to pray to love him even more than you feel you do now, to have the patience to handle this problem.  He won't necessarily remember pooping his pants, but he will remember the feeling of not being accepted by you. 

 Arrange "Set Potty Times" during the day---and then praise and reward for keeping track of those times.

 If there is a problem: 

Pre-teach that you are going to give and instruction

 Give instruction using the words "I need you to..." instead of "Will you please..."  (This is a question not an instruction)

 If he doesn't follow the instruction, do an intensive teaching or the rule of three and follow through with what he earns.  Make sure it is done in the spirit of love.  Don't teach unless you feel that calm spirit. 

 Bullied Mommy, I hope this helps. Remember, this problem is only for a short time.  He won't always do this.  He will grow and you will smile when you think of how frustrated you got.  It will seem silly then.  Let yourself smile at your daily struggles.  You are not drowning; you are just at a time when you have to change your stroke to keep moving forward. 


Nicholeen Peck

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