Toilet Trouble: Constipation
Your kid can become constipated because he's choosing not to go, or it could be his diet or lack of fluids that's backing him up. Either way, it can turn into a vicious cycle: If he doesn't go for a while, pooping becomes even harder and more painful -- and that makes him not want to go. "It's important for a child to eat plenty of fiber and go when he gets the urge," says Dr. Hodges. But bathroom breaks aren't high on any child's priority list. He'd probably rather hold it in and keep on playing with his friends.
You can't force him to go to the bathroom, and you definitely don't want to turn the situation into a power struggle that you'll both lose. "The natural urge to poop is usually in the morning or after a meal. Make it a routine to get him to the bathroom then," suggests Dr. Hodges. Offer high-fiber foods like whole-wheat pasta, black beans, and apples. Talk to your doctor about whether giving your child a stool softener like Miralax would be helpful. If his constipation -- or any other potty trouble -- seems to be a chronic problem, your pediatrician may want to make sure there are no other underlying issues.
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Parents magazine.