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5 year old purposely soiling self

My 5 year old son is soiling himself on purpose and I don't know how to deal with it. It started off about 6 weeks before I gave birth to my third child and he was doing it in his pants and pjs at first. My baby was born 2 weeks ago and my 5 year old has now started pooing on the floor in his bedroom. He will occasionally take himself to the toilet during the day for a poo but it isn't regular anymore. We've tried star charts, punishing the soiling, rewarding pooing on the toilet, taking away toys/electronics but nothing seems to work. We know he's 100% doing it on purpose because when he was doing it in his pjs, we sat in his bedroom while he fell asleep and he didn't do it. My husband has also caught him squatting and pooing on his floor after he's been put to bed this week. He's been to the GP who fobbed us off and said he was constipated so he's had 10 days of laxitives but they made no difference.

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I’m just doing some amateur psychology here, but what strikes me about your post is that you’ve just had a baby, so clearly and probably unavoidably your 5 year old is not currently getting the same level of attention he’s used to - his whole world and place in the family has changed for him.

It may therefore be that this poo protest is to get your attention, as no doubt for many weeks before the birth, and now, you’ve been focussed on having the new baby. Interestingly, his protest is working, as you are very focussed on getting this behaviour to stop, so in this way he is getting attention from you, even if it is negative attention. He doesn’t want to have toys taken away and so on, but it means he’s getting to interact with you, even if it’s just to get told off! I’m not saying that you aren’t interacting with him in a positive way the rest of the time, as I’m sure you’re great parents and are trying to include him at this very busy and tiring time, but I’m wondering if he’s seeing it differently?

Are you able to do, in a no doubt bleary and exhausted way, some really good quality time with him one on one, while baby is asleep? Plus not actually mention the soiling? If it happens, just clear it up, give him no extra attention because of it, not tell him off, don’t talk about it, and just move on? That way he doesn’t get the attention from you at that time. Then at a completely separate time have a lovely 20 minutes snuggled up reading a book just the two of you, with your full attention? It may be that that is all it will take to get him back on track. As I say, just amateur psychology on my part but I have an 11 and 13 year old so have been doing this parenting thing a while!

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Thanks for your reply, I really appreciate it. I totally agree - I think it is a reaction to the new baby. I should've put in my main post that he did the same thing just after my second child was born when he was 3.

He gets loads of time just us, he stays up for at least 30 mins every night after his brother has gone to bed and on a Saturday night, we have a family games night - me, him and his dad.

He adores his brothers and is constantly asking to hold the baby or to help change his nappy so it's not even like he dislikes his new brother.

I'll try not reacting at all to the pooing and seeing if that helps but I just feel like he needs some sort of specialist help now and my husband and I feel totally out of our depth with it all.

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That’s interesting - so when this happened when you had your middle child, what did you do then? How did it resolve? I love what you are doing with the staying up later and the games night - I think we should do a games night with our two! Great idea! I’m also going to throw into the mix of stuff that’s going on your little guy is the fact that he is now probably in Recepton, given his age (?) and maybe there is something going on at school? Is he maybe needing the toilet there and there is something offputting about the facilities? Not enough time? Different diet due to school lunches? No idea, but I think the key thing you’ve said is that it’s happened before - maybe whatever you did then to deal with it just needs to be adapted for his current stage.

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Also just to say, yes, you probably do need some specialist help and not my amateur attempts - do you have a trusted HV? Or can you phone the ERIC helpline? Good luck if you do as I have tried them several times about our own issue and have never managed to get through, nor have I had a call back though they say to leave your number, which I have, several times, but you may have more luck, and I am very aware they are an amazing charity and are overwhelmed with calls!

Do you have some kind of Children’s Centre locally? Not sure what is available these days. A psychologist specialising in children would also be good, but it’s so hard to find the right person who could deal with this particular problem.

I’d say chin up - you’ve coped with this before and got it right - go with your ‘gut’ instinct (sorry)! Your baby is only two weeks old and it is such early days for all of you. I admire you so much for having the time to even post on here, and for all you are doing to help your son when you are so busy with your new arrival.

As I write, the other thing I’d say is that let’s not overlook the influence of your middle child, who I’m assuming to be aged 2 or 3. Could it be that there is something going on here too - is your middle one getting lots of attention at the moment due to being potty-trained, or for some other reason?

Ive just also thought - your 5 year old sees your baby getting loads of attention at nappy-changing time - after all, we all make a fuss of the baby to make it fun, don’t we! Perhaps he envies this but can’t process the fact that he needs to receive the attention in a different way and at a different time at his older age. After all, children don’t traditionally reach the ‘age of reason’ until around 7, as I understand it.

I’ve waffled on enough - I hope you get some more useful replies, but do keep seeking help. However, keep relaxed with your son. Stress will only make it worse. Good luck!

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I have a 6 year old who started soiling himself right about the same time his brother was born, 2 years ago. At first, we thought he was trying to get our attention and cleaned the mess without much fuss. Later on we got mad, and he started hiding the dirty underwear. GP said all this is due to the new baby in our home and to just give it some time. Fast forward a few months, we figured out it was constipation/withholding. Never quite figured out what happened, but it's still an issue 2 years later. He is on Movicol and senokot daily and enemas. I wish we treated this from the beginning as constipation and not as a behavioural issue.

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