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"Accident" Problem with Neice

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Posted by Liza on October 06, 2003 at 14:46:24:

I’m writing to express a concern about my 10 year old niece. I think she has a genuine toileting problem rather than simply a behavioral problem which is how my sister and brother-in-law. She does frequently “make” in her pants, but I’m concerned that the situation is not what it appears to be.

The typical situation is that she’ll suddenly become very belligerent and insisting on getting her own way. Often times, it will be something very trivial and off the wall. Its as if she were simply looking for something to create a confrontation about. When she doesn’t get what she claims to want, she’ll threaten to “make” in her pants is she doesn’t get it. Then, suddenly she’ll announce that she’s done it. Naturally, this causes a scene – especially when it happens at a family get together, as it often does. My sister and brother-in-law are quite strict with her – not only making her clean up the mess herself, but also putting in time-out and denying her privilidges.

Now, I certainly can’t blame them for punishing her and I certainly concur that a 10 year old that intentionally goes to the bathroom in her pants should be punished. But instinctively, I just don’t believe that she’s doing this on purpose all the time. I suspect that she is having genuine control problems and that these messes are truly accidents. These temper tantrums of hers seemed very staged to me and I suspect she is doing it to cover up the fact that she has already gone in her pants and doesn’t want to admit that. My niece has a really sweet disposition and it seems just so out of character for her to suddenly go into these ridiculous temper tantrums for no reason at all.

One time that this did happen with me (when we were together at a shopping mall) , I strongly suspect that the mess was already in her pants when she suddenly demanded she wanted a new bathing suit (how convenient that we were passing by a bathing suit display at the time?) and “if I don’t get it, I’m going to make in my pants.” Rather than admit to the shame of having a messing accident, it seemed clear to me that she was creating an excuse to do it on purpose to save face. Apparently, she’d rather face punishment than admit she’s having a problem with her bowel movements. When I was helping her clean up that time in the mall, I kept trying to tell her that accidents were nothing to be ashamed of, but she kept insisting that this was not an accident. And then when we were done cleaning up and again walking through the mall, she made no further mention of that bathing suit she so desperately wanted – even when we passed by the display again.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always read that its extremely rare (even in the midst of a toilet training battle) for children to soil themselves on purpose. I’ve mentioned my concerns to my sister, but I haven’t really pushed the issue with her. I wondering if I should press the issue more with her or even if I should start pushing the issue directly with my niece.

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