Thumbnail image of: Behavior Diary: Illustration

Fecal Smearing

A child in diapers smears pieces of bowel movement in places such as the bed, walls, or bathroom. Rather than being deliberate to offend the parents, this behavior usually arises from a chance discovery. A bored child, perhaps one who is left in bed too long, discovers bowel movement in his diaper and decides to paint with it. Unlike parents, a child is not usually repulsed by the act of touching bowel movements.

The Rule

Tell your child the rule: “Don’t get any poo-poo on your bed or the walls. Poo-poo is messy. Poo-poo goes in the toilet.”

Discipline Technique

Without yelling or showing anger make it clear to your child that you do not approve of what he has done. Clean up your child without any entertainment or conversation. Then clean the room, with your child’s help if possible.

Avoid any physical punishment. If you overrespond the first few times your child does this, you may start a power struggle. Your child may persistently smear bowel movements to prove he has some power.

If you are toilet training your child, pressure him less about his toilet performance.


  • Supervise your child more closely. Don’t leave him alone for more than 10 minutes at a time.
  • When your child awakens from his nap, lift him out of bed promptly. Leave toys in the bed to play with if he awakens early.
  • Put your child’s diapers on tightly so he can’t easily get his hands inside.

Praise Your Child

Praise your child for telling you when his pants are full and he needs to be changed.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-23
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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