Child psychologist and parenting coach Dr Maryhan Baker is on hand to answer your reader questions in our new weekly feature. If you have a question you’d like answered, please email us at info@mybaba.com.

My two-year-old daughter stripped off in her cot during nap time at the childminder’s, pulled off a poo-filled nappy and smeared its contents all over the cot and the walls. This is so out of character for her and quite alarming behaviour, what IS going on?!

Dr Maryhan says…

First of all it’s important to note that children smearing poo is quite a common behaviour; so you are most definitely not alone in your daughter doing this.

The most common reasons can be sensory stimulation, medical issues, or behavioural patterns. Whilst my area of expertise is behavioural, I will touch on the other two reasons briefly.

Sensory

Some children’s actions are heavily influenced by their sensory input; these children often respond markedly to labels within clothing, the tightness or looseness of clothing, and can be hyper sensitive to noise. Some children when they feel under-stimulated, actively seek out ways to engage with their environment. Smearing poo might therefore be the result of pull-ups, nappies, or pants which feel uncomfortable against their skin, or a need for stimulating engagement with their environment.

Medical

Alternatively, a medical condition could be the cause. Your child may feel unwell and simply wants to get rid of their poo as quickly as they can and this can only be determined by taking your child to the doctor. The final, and most common reason, is behavioural and how you react to it will be critical, if you want to avoid it becoming a pattern.

Behavioural

Children don’t choose their actions in isolation; they are often in direct response to something which has happened to them earlier. So it’s important to think through what happened immediately before your child smeared the poo. Did you say ’no’ to something, had you been busy with something immediately before and your child was seeking attention? Your response to their actions becomes important if you then want to avoid it happening again, and needs to be appropriate to the reason why it happened in the first place. If it’s attention, then don’t give it by getting angry, instead use as few words as possible to express this isn’t the way to behave, clean things up quickly and quietly and move onto another activity. It’s important you don’t reinforce the pattern of behaviour by giving any attention’ as far as your child is concerned, bad attention is better than no attention.

For more in-depth help and advice, contact Dr Maryhan via her website or join Dr Maryhan’s Raising Confident Kids Facebook group for more tips and advice on child behaviour. 

The How Not to Screw Up Your Kids membership is all about striving to be the best parent we can be. It’s a community of like-minded parents who are being honest about their parenting journey. It’s about practical advice to manage those day-to-day ups and downs as well as guidance on how best to tackle up and coming changes. So, you feel in control, rather than on the back foot.
How Not to Screw Up Your Kids Membership is for you if:

  • You have a child who is struggling with low confidence and / or anxiety
  • You are prepared to talk openly and honestly about the difficulties your family are facing
  • You understand there is no ‘quick fix’. You want to see lasting changes and you know this may take time.
  • You are prepared to do the work, and recognise it won’t always be easy
  • You want to be part of a community which supports each other through the highs and the lows
  • You want to feel part of a community of like-minded people
  • You are open to trying things which might push you out of your comfort zone

If you’d like to learn the practical tools and strategies that will work for your unique family set-up, whatever stage your children are at, you can use this link.

READ NEXT

We Had to Discuss Erections with My Two Year Old Son Last Night

My Two Minute Rant About Parent and Child Parking

For competitions and offers from our favourite brands, click here.