What could make a 6 year old mess their pants?

United States
February 16, 2009 1:04pm CST
I am so frustrated right now! For the past few days my 6 year old daughter has begun making messes in her pants again, as if she'd never been potty trained. I don't have the slightest idea why she's doing it. She has a different excuse each time, sometimes it's that she didn't feel like going to the bathroom, sometimes she says she didn't know she had to go, sometimes she says she had to go so bad she didn't realize. I'm potty training my toddler right now, and he's doing an excellent job. He's hardly had any accidents lately, and is even refusing to go in his diaper when we put that on him at night. I've heard children do have a tendancy to revert when there's a younger child in the home. Some toddlers have been known to revert to bottles from sippy cups when a younger baby is born. Others can also have accidents long after they've been potty trained because there's a new baby with a diaper. I'm wondering if maybe the toddler being potty trained has caused my daughter to revert? Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any good advice? I'm at wits end and can't even speak to her right now I'm so angry at this!!
7 people like this
24 responses
@Jae2619 (1484)
• United States
16 Feb 09
My 6 year old did this when he was 5, but it was due to change in the household. His little sister was just born, we moved, he was heading to the first grade. Change effects children in different ways. He gave me the same excuses you are hearing from your little girl, i didnt feel the urge, i couldn't make it, I forgot to go. My thing was... how in the world did you forget to go and get mad at him, which only made it worse, he would do it again, only to get the attention, because when it come down to it, it was because he felt left out as his little sister come, with your I would say she's feeling that she's getting left out of the whole potty training with your younger child. We as mother's sometime over look things like that and don't gather our children are feeling left out, just try to priase her. Once we got back in the groove of things around here, getting settled in the new home, he got used to his sister, and he finally started first grade, and he got his mommay and daddy alone time, it went back to normal.
• United States
16 Feb 09
It is frustrating to deal with though, and she hasn't really been herself for some time now. She was acting out just before Christmas, and nothing had changed then. The only recent changes are the potty training with the toddler, and we are talking of moving, but haven't done so yet. But her accidents didn't start until the potty training started with the toddler, so I'm guessing they are in fact connected. Hopefully the phase will pass soon!
1 person likes this
@Jae2619 (1484)
• United States
16 Feb 09
I can totally feel your distress. I come unglued many times on him for doing that. The time that pushed me over my limits was, we had went to sign him up for baseball, and he went to play on the play ground and just boom went and still continued to play. I was so irked. That was when I'd had enough, because it had been going on for 6 months, so we put a towel down in the car, drove straight to the store and bought him some of those over night diapers deals and went home and made him wear it for a while, until he seen that he didn't like being a baby anymore. Some of my styles of parenting is harsh, but they work for my son. After we got back in the groove of things around here and him having to wear the diaper deal again, it stopped, like over night. Because he knew he would have to wear that to school, and he wasn't about to do that.
1 person likes this
@deanna2 (159)
• United States
16 Feb 09
hi well maybe she has a infection or something going on that she can't hold it or she may be upset that a lot of your attenion is going to the other child perhaps you could give her something to do so she really knows she's helping you and getting some attenion to please don't be angry with her she's only 6
@sunshine4 (8707)
• United States
16 Feb 09
My guess is that she wants to be babied like her sibling. She sees the positive attention he/she is getting by being trained and your 6 yr old wants that same attention. It does happen. I would get out the stickers and make a chart with her. Reward and praise her for staying clean and dry. It seems silly because you know she can go, but sometimes they just need this reinforcement.
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 09
Don't hate me for being honest... but at the moment I'm far too angry to think about praising her for anything!! This has been going on for a few days now, and it's not just wetting, it's #2 as well, and it's just mind boggling that she would do this, even if it is just for attention! Yes I want it to stop, but at the moment I'm not capable of showing her positive attention for anything because of how stressed out I am over this situation. Although with the advice I've been getting, once I calm down, I will take a deeper look at what's going on, and hopefully take some positive steps to fix the issue. I really just need to calm down right now!
1 person likes this
@sunshine4 (8707)
• United States
16 Feb 09
Oh, I can totally understand. Maybe since you are so upset about this, you should go the other way. Take things away when she messes in her pants. Tell her that if she is going to act like a baby she can take naps like her baby sibling and not have the priveldges that she has. It can go either way.
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 09
Yesterday I threatened to put her back in diapers! But she did it again today. I'm doing laundry now and have seen stains on her clothing, so I told her that she won't be able to wear some of her favorite pants to school anymore because she's staining them, then I made her go to her room and find any of the messes she's made and clean them. That might help! If it happens again I may give her a punishment, similar to a time out, but she'll have to sit on the toilet the whole time.
@reoko10 (578)
• United States
16 Feb 09
I know why she doing it my daughter is 3 now just made three and when she was 2 1/2 she know how to go to the bathroom all by her self and then out of know where she started going to the bathroom on her self and I did know why at the time I had just had a new baby and I was holding her a lot and always kissing her. I found out that my older daughter was mad at me because I was spending so much time with the new baby and not spending enough time with her so she start to go to the bathroom on her self so that I would spend more time with her. Now that my younger daughter is 1 they can play with each other and guess what my daughter stop going to the bathroom on her self and has not gone to the bathroom on her self for some time now. So I have to say you daughter is jealous of the fact the you are spending so my time with her brother try and show her just a little more time and see what happens.
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 09
Yeah, it makes sense, except she's a middle child of 5, and a twin. She was never used to an extreme amount of individual attention, and the fact that I'm potty training her brother hasn't changed the amount of attention I give each child. At least not from my stand point it hasn't.
1 person likes this
@kezabelle (2984)
16 Feb 09
Go back to basics with her in regards to potty training! give her chance to discuss with you if there is anything wrong at 6 she is old enough to tell you but if she wont tell you just go back to potty training and see how she goes young children mess for all sorts of reasons upset attention angry the list goes on maybe speak with her teacher too when you can see if there4 is anything happening at school but mostly just tell her its ok that she should do it in the toilet but that you ARENT angry being angry will only make things worse xxx
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 09
Well I am angry with her, that's part of the problem. This is a frustrating situation.
@Pitgull (1523)
• United States
16 Feb 09
I am not a mother, but an eldest sibling who has spent much time with little ones. Maybe she is jealous of the attention you are paying your toddler..and realized what drew you to start paying attention to him... If she reverts...she will need you to focus on her so you can teach her what to do, not him....jealousy....sometimes it is hard for us older ones to deal with a younger one who gets more attention, when originally it was ours.... :) Good luck, I am sure it is just a phase. My little sister had stopped sucking her thumb, until she started spending time with the younger kids at daycare and picked it up again....babies get more attention....
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 09
That thought had crossed my mind, and if that is the case, the best thing to do is ignore it so she doesn't get attention for the behavior, which is basically what I'm doing because I'm far too angry to address it right now.
• United States
1 Jun 09
I'm a little late into this discussion but wanted to add my thoughts on this. I only found this site by googling this topic. No I do not have any children...I had this same problem that your daughter is experiencing. Mine continued up until the age of ten years olds. I have a lot of anger against my mom so much that is has caused many problems for me. My brother is just one year younger than me so he wasn't a baby but he did and STILL gets my mother's complete attention over me. I can't pinpoint one thing what caused me to do this but I think it's a combination of things but mainly I wanted my mom to let me know that I was special too. She has always, lectured me, put me down, yelled at me and made me feel not good enough. I am a grown, above average looking adult. If you knew me you would not even know that this was a problem for me. I have very LOW self esteem. Being treated like I was a horrible person made me feel like a horrible person. I can't make friends so easily. It's hard for me to trust someone. I don't even try to make friends because I think there is nothing at all remotely interesting about myself. I'm not saying that messing on myself as a child has caused this but I think acting that out when I was little was a little rebellion. I gave same excuses that your daughter is giving. I could not stop it. I didn't want to do it but I didn't know how to stop either. I wanted to stop. I got attention from it alright. NEGATIVE attention. My mom would ALWAYS make me strip down naked and whip me hard non stop for 10-20 minutes. I was crying so hard that I could barely talk let alone breathe. When she yelled at me "WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?" I couldn't answer because I was so upset and tired and I would stutter and she would get even more "frustrated" (as you call it) and scream "ANSWER ME!!!" and the whipping would begin again. I can't break everything down in one post but if you still read these please DO NOT punish your child for this. Your child already knows better there is something much MORE deeper going on and you need to address it. I always felt there was something wrong with me and still do. I have problems everyday with my self esteem that I struggle with. My husband can't understand why I feel like I do and we get into so many arguments and we just got married. You will SCAR your child if you treat her in a negative way. AND definately DON'T ignore because it will continue and get worse. I suggest taking her to a therapist to find out what is really going on.
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Feb 09
I would agree that is probably more of an issue of having a sibling younger then her. It's possible that she sees him getting praised for learning to potty, and wants that too. I don't agree with making her clean up her own messes. She's only 6, and accidents occur. I would start praising her when she uses the toliet on her own, and not focus on the messes. I'm a believer of positive reinforcement. I also agree that if something is wrong such as a urinary tract infection or such you should get it taken care of. I'm sure your children's doctor will be willing to come up with some ideas for you.
• United States
17 Feb 09
I've been teaching my children since day 1 to clean up their own messes. I have a total of 5 children and so it's quite important that they clean up after themselves once they're old enough to, and my daughter is old enough to.
• United States
17 Feb 09
I have 6 children so I understand. However, I think you misunderstood me. I wasn't referring to picking up their toys or what not. I'm speaking of cleaning up after she has an accident (soils herself). That to me is humiliating the child and will prove more damaging to their psyche. Of course, parenting styles do differ. I also didn't want to be an alarmist yesterday, but sometimes children who are being abused or sexually abused will regress and begin to soil themselves. I'm sure that's not going on by anyone she is around, but it is a possibility. I hope it is just the sibling rivalry, and with a bit of added attention from you she'll probably outgrow it. You may want to try giving her a date time. Taking her out when it is just you and her so she can have your undivided attention. Sometimes just that one day a week can prove the best medicine. Good luck-Anora
• United States
17 Feb 09
The abuse was also my first thought, I'm rather neurotic that way. I did ask her if anyone has touched her there and she said no, I asked a couple times and she continued to say no, so for now I'm not concerned with that. I'm most certain it's just the attention problem, so it will pass in time.
• United States
16 Feb 09
I had a problem with my oldest having accidents and finally had one of those bright idea moments as a parent. She's a very serious child and really as a general rule behaves in a manner that is much more mature than her actual age. I couldn't figure out why she was havinb acciedents--her dad was so ticked over it, which didn't help, but that's a different story. I decided there was something just not right about her wetting, so I took her to the doctor and he had her pee in a cup. Turns out she had a urinary tract infection. Poor kiddo. My middle child took forever to train because her baby sister is only a year behind her so she was slower doing a lot of things because she wanted to be the baby too. Sometimes we don't realize we are doing it but older kids feel like we don't love them as much as we used to because we are taking more time with younger sibblings. They don't understand that it takes longer with younger sibblings to get even easy things done. I noticed that with my middle child and now we try to take time with each one of them and do something alone with them, like play a game or read a book, watch their favorite show, polish nails. Even if it only takes five minutes it makes them feel special. It's hard to tell what the problem is because kids will tell you crazy things sometimes especially if they think you're mad and they might be in trouble.
• United States
16 Feb 09
I haven't taken her to the doctor yet, and I doubt there's a serious problem there. If there were I think she'd still at least be attempting to go on the toilet, but she's not even trying. I do believe it's the attention problem, and of course little kids don't realize that frustrating mommy doesn't help them to get more attention. Hopefully this phase will pass quickly, because she too is normally a very well behaved child.
1 person likes this
• United States
16 Feb 09
My child wasn't trying to go, one time she was standing in the kitchen talking to me and just peed. I asked her did she know she needed to go, she said no, I said why'd you do that, she said I don't know. It was weird. The doctor said she should have been hurting and it should burn when she peed, but she said it didn't. She has a high tolerence for pain though, so it's hard to say. With our middle daughter it didn't do any good to get upset, because then she just did it worse. She was tough. Getting to take dance class was the potty training reward we used because she wanted to take dance so badly because her big sister did. Good luck, potty training with other small children in the house is always tough.
• United States
16 Feb 09
Yes, each child is different, and parents know their children pretty well. I'm pretty certain my daughter doesn't have a medical problem, if I thought she did we'd go to the doctor. I'm fairly certain this is an attention thing, that will pass in time as most other attention seeking gimicks do.
@makingpots (11920)
• United States
17 Feb 09
I'll bet you are on to something with the potty training attention your little one is getting. Or it could just be that she has too many other things going on to be bothered with thinking about going to the potty. Could it be possible to let her 'help you' teach her sibling about potting? Just an idea. Don't let her realize your frustration. There is a big difference in disappointment and frustration and kids are pretty keen to the sublties of this. I feel for you. I imagine you ARE at your wits end. Good luck.
@makingpots (11920)
• United States
17 Feb 09
I should add...... disappointment with a HUGE dose of empathy!!
• United States
17 Feb 09
At this point the toddler is pretty much 100% trained, he's only wearing a diaper at night and that's just until we move out of this house and no longer in a 2 story home, so he can make his own way to the bathroom and not depend on us at night or first thing in the morning. As for my daughter, so far today has been okay, she hasn't had any accidents yet. I think showing her the stains she left in her good pants really got through to her.
@makingpots (11920)
• United States
17 Feb 09
I just read in a prior comment that she was having trouble at school... You might explore that a little more. Ohhhh, I'm sorry for her with all this. Kids just don't always have the words to let us know what is going on. This one might need very delicate handling. Be sure she feels you are on her side with this one. You are disappointed in her nice pants getting stained, but not disappointed in HER. Think of a time when something similar happened to you (stretch it a little if need be) and tell her about it. Make her feel you can work through it together. Your are a good mommy. I like that you turn to us here for suggestions.
@cher8558 (425)
• Canada
17 Feb 09
Hi katsmeow, Tell me something, is your daughter usually good with hygiene, as good as a six year old would be? Is she proud of what she dresses in. Do clothes mean a lot to her? Does she do this at school or just at home? Would she be embarrassed if anyone other than you knew what was going on? Just wondering. Cheryl
• United States
17 Feb 09
She's fairly good with her hygiene, it changes on a day to day basis. She's been known to be proud of her clothes, but some days she doesn't really care. She's doing this mostly at home, but she's had at least 1 accident in school. She's obviously not embarassed by it, and sometimes when it happens she just leaves it there, she doesn't go change or anything.
1 person likes this
• United States
17 Feb 09
i have never heard of a six year old doing that because of a younger child but have heard of it. dont mean thats not the reason tho. there can be many reasons. she could have lost control of her bowels and had not felt like she had to go. Im not a doctor or anything so im not sure. Dont be angry i know it is hard not to be cause i get so upset when my 2 year old does it. we are tring but i guess not hard enough to get it down pat. anyhow. just talk to her and be calm and ask her what the real deal is. if you are angry about it i can bet she will be less wanting to talk to you about it. Dont embarrass her about it it can make things worse. i dont have good advise i know. i hope you get this worked out soon cause i know you have to be wanting to pull your hair out! good luck with this.....
• United States
17 Feb 09
This only just started within the past week, shortly after I started potty training the toddler, so I'm pretty certain it's a related issue.
@Foxxee (3653)
• United States
16 Feb 09
I had the same problem with my 6 year old... I was really confused & frustrated at the same time. I also have a 3 year old. But my 6 year old was saying the same lines as your 6 year old. She even had accidents at school... This lasted several months... I was even thinking of seeing a doctor to be honest. Anyway, my daughter was being bullied at school... the minute we took care of the problem... things have gotten better... no accidents for several months now. I feel it had something to do with some kind of stress she was having at school... I guess I'm saying, it could be something at school, or it may be something else... maybe ask her & see if anything is bothering her... Good luck... & I'm sure she will pass this soon..
• United States
17 Feb 09
My daughter was having trouble with her school work before Christmas, so the teacher and I had many conversations about what could be going on in school, and we never found a solution, but after Christmas break she suddenly stopped having the problems in school. Now it's a whole new set of problems!
@4ofmyown (1119)
• United States
16 Feb 09
I can imagine this is very frustrating. The first thing I thought of was that you have been training the other on the potty. She probably has seen you praise him and make a big deal when he goes on the potty...she probably wants the same thing. I would talk to her and let her know that when she was little like her brother you did the same thing with her and you were just as proud of her for learning, just like you are proud of her for being a big girl and always going on the potty. Maybe a little extra hug here and there...even if you already do it a million times a day. Or maybe you can let her help be involved in helping train the baby, she could her she is your "special helper" since she already does such a good job at going on the potty.I remember a few years ago I babysat a newborn for almost a year. My daughter was 6 at the time and all of a sudden she started sucking her thumb..which she had never done before or used a pacifier. I started having her help me more when the baby was at our house, even just handing me a diaper and telling her how helpful she was and the thumb sucking stopped almost immediately. I know the last thing you need to be doing is cleaning up a 6 year old but I think with some patience you figure this out and she will stop. Hope this helps.
• United States
16 Feb 09
Yep, she probably is just wanting the attention her brother is getting for going on the potty. So odd, isn't it? To me it's just frustrating because I went through heck to get her and her other 2 brother's trained, and my toddler is being such an easy trainer (knock on wood) yet I have to go through all this with her again. You have no idea the fight she and her twin put up when I was trying to potty train them!! So right now I'm pretty much just feeling like "OMG I should not have to go through this again!!! What did I do to deserve this!!" You know? I'm sure it will pass quickly, at least I hope it does.
@Sillychick (3279)
• United States
16 Feb 09
This kind of thing is pretty common. She is probably reacting to her younger brother getting so much attention. I would try not to make a big deal out of it. Don't give her much attention when she has an accident- even negative attention. Just have her clean herself up and get changed, then go about your normal routine. This will show her that having accidents is not the way to get attention. Instead, give her extra attention when she does good things. Try to pick out even the smallest things and give her lots of attention for doing well, especially if she goes in the toilet. Tell her how proud you are. Also, point out that she gets to do special things because she is older. For example, she may be able to stay up a little later, play with things her younger brother can't. Let her see how being the older child is special. Try setting aside some time to spend one-on-one with her. Let her know that she's still your little girl, and give her some extra attention once in a while- when she does something good or even for no reason at all. Remember, as little attention as possible when she has an accident. Don't even let her see you get angry. Just clean up and move on, and give her at least some of the responsibility for cleaning herself up. She'll get past it.
• United States
16 Feb 09
I have certainly given her all the responsiblity of cleaning up her own messes, most of them are in her room. Cleaning their rooms is the one thing I will not do in this house. They're responsible for whatever mess they create in their room. I am trying not to give her any sort of attention for this, not even negative attention, but that can be difficult when it's so frustrating. Hopefully now she's starting to see that this is creating a huge problem for her. She's stained some of her school pants, and will no longer be able to wear them, and I've pointed that out to her. I've also threatened her with diapers. She's also realizing that by messing herself, she ends up with rashes, which are painful. Hopefully this will help her get past this phase quickly!
@glords (2614)
• United States
25 Jun 09
never heard of this, but you may try rewarding your daughter with the same encouragements you are using on the toddler. Perhaps she is feeling neglected and left out. If you give her a treat every time the toddler goes to the bathroom she will get more involved in motivating her brother instead of trying to steal the lime light. I don't know if this will work... I only have one child, but I've heard other parents talking about it.
@jayrene (2712)
• Philippines
25 Jun 09
i had the same thing happened to my 2nd child last year, but i dont think it was jealousy over his little brother. i dont really understand it, and it happened many times, and he did it at school too which was really embarrassing. i think its a stomach problem or something. but there was this time i noticed that there was nothing wrong in his stomach, and so i gave him a warning, if he did it again he'll wash his pants all by himself. the warning worked but there were times that he would run so fast to the bathroom, and his briefs are stained already. he's 8 now and he's asking for milk in a feeding bottle, i did gave in to that, so i have two kids now on feeding bottles. at home only.
• Canada
25 Jun 09
I am soo glad that you posted this. My daughter is going to be 6 in a few months and has been doing the exact same thing. I feel like she has never used the potty before and like yours gives me a different excuse each time. I have made a doctors apt. for her b/c of my concern. I see you posted this 5 months ago, how is your daughter doing now? Also, she is an only child and doesn't have younger siblings. She does have two homes as her father and I do not live together any longer but it has been that way since she was 16months old so she doesn't know any different. Her father's girlfriend has three children who are older 15 13 and 9 years of age. They have been together since she was 2 yrs old and my boyfriend and I the same. So even though she has two homes they are both full of love and her father and I are very amicable with each other. I just don't understand. I am soo frustrated as she knows better. I would love a response from you just to hear what is going on with your daughter and if it was just a phase. Thank you, Ingrid
• Canada
1 Jun 09
I'm sure it must have been a stresser that caused it. In order to figure out what stressor caused her to start doing this, go back to the day she started doing it, and write down anything new that was happening to her or around her, or any new activites or persons in her life. But it does sound like the toddler you are potty training could be making her jealous of the attention they are getting and wants some more from you. Sibling rivalry, you know.
• Philippines
18 Feb 09
hello katsmeow. i only have one kid, so I haven't really experience that. But I read in a magazine before that it really happens. Maybe the girl is seeking attention from you. keep your patience. Tell her that she needs to be a good example to her younger brother. That the young one will look up to her. And try to make her assist you in teaching your younger one. take care
@deedeehall (1144)
• United States
17 Feb 09
hi-i just wanted to say that i have triplets that started grade k this year. one. of them started this when he went to school i did not have the heart to be mean to him and was told by the doctor that that is the wrong way to handle it.i spoke to him and told him it does not smell to good at school if you do this and you have so many friends at school your age that is really scared of school but they do not go potty in thier pants.i ask him if he really wanted his friends to see him do that?i said what can mom do to help you ?do you want me to come to school and help you when you have to go potty?he did this for one week until he got use to things and then he told me mom i dont need you to come to my school i can do this by myself.my friend has a little girl that had started grad k this year and she started weting her pants to and from school.she finally told her mom and the teacher she is scared of the bus.i would really handle this with care and understanding you do not want this to scare her.good luck!