Danielle Marino, LCSW

Child Therapy in Chicago


Parent Training for Stool Withholding

“My child won’t poop!” “My child is holding in their poop intentionally!” “My child is refusing to poop in the toilet!”

These are all common statements I’ll hear from parents when their child is withholding stool. Stool withholding, or Encopresis, is when children are intentionally avoiding or refusing to poop out of fear, anxiety, control, and/or defiance.

While constipation may be a part of the issue, with stool withholding, children are either afraid to poop or refusing to poop even when it is clear their body is ready. Stool withholding can be a result of having a painful bowel movement. It can be a result of fearing the noise of the toilet. It can be mixed with wanting to have control over one of the few things children can control.

Stool withholding is not caused by parents. Stool withholding or its official name, Encopresis, is extremely frustrating and scary for parents. To see their child suffer in pain when the solution seems so easy is incredibly worrisome. Many parents fear there is something gastrointestinal (GI) related. The vast majority of the cases the cause is purely behavioral or a choice by the child.

The great news is that every family I’ve worked with has returned to normal pooping within just a few weeks or--in rarer cases--months!  

Key strategies:

-Keeping parental emotions low surrounding pooping and detached to outcomes; parents acting neutral

-Model confidence; “We are going to get through this. There’s no rush. ”

-When your child has an accident, parents keep talking to a minimum and have a neutral response;

- once your child poops, use phrases and language that demonstrate why pooping is a benefit to them “You must feel good to have poop out of your body.”

         If your child is having trouble pooping or withholding stool and you are in the Chicagoland area, email or call me to set up an appointment!