Poop Psychology: My Nephew Plays With His Poop
My nephew will be three in February. My brother and his wife, along with the rest of us, have been trying to potty train him. But I have a concern about when he doesn't make it to the potty and we have to change him: he stiffens up and cries. Then, when he is playing in his room, he'll take off his clothes and his dirty diaper and play with it.
He doesn't really talk a lot, so we can't really ask him why he does it. I know that most children will talk or do other things when they are ready. But I am worried about him. I don't know if he has... I think it's called a fisher... or what has happened. But the only place that he plays with his poop is in his room when he's by himself for a few seconds.
I'm not a doctor of any form, but could there be a reason why he stiffens up and cries when we have to change him in that area? And why he only does it in his room?
Your nephew doesn't have to talk in order to understand that his behavior can't continue. It is normal for a child this age to be curious about just what goes on down there; kids that age are all little scientists. Unfortunately, it isn't okay or safe for him to continue to play in his own feces. Explain to him in simple (and not too graphic) terms that poop only belongs in one place, and when it is in other places, it can make him sick. In addition, the next time he engages in this behavior, try less rewarding consequences. Rather than a warm bubble bath with duckies and making a big fuss, try a quick, cool, fuss-free bath to clean him up. Ideally, he will associate this unpleasantness with poop play.
Also, whoever 'discovers' him in the act should avoid reacting to his situation, outside of cleaning him up. Seeing that he is able to get Mom or Aunt or Uncle all riled up is sometimes reason enough for a little guy to repeat a negative behavior!
It could also be an issue of the NUMBER of people trying to potty train him. If a shy little boy has Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle, and Grandma all telling him different things, he might get a little confused or frustrated. Make sure everyone is on the same page as far as the potty training goes, and is being patient with him in all respects. Everyone needs to be consistent.
In addition, at two-and-a-half years old, he shouldn't be without supervision for long enough to get into that much trouble. In the time it takes for him to take his diaper off, he could be getting into something much more dangerous than his poop.
Naturally, you should discuss all of this with your pediatrician. If he is failing to meet developmental milestones (you mentioned he isn't talking much), this behavior could potentially be an indication of an underlying developmental disability.
Crapper John McIntyre is studying psychology at Indiana University. Got a poop psychology question for her? Ask it here.