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Constipation (con-sti-PA-shun) in children can cause concern for parents. Sometimes children have poor bowel habits because they are not encouraged to be on a regular schedule. Sometimes, they are just "too busy" to spend enough time on the toilet to empty their bowels.
Constipation is a change in the child's bowel habits. The child may have constipation if his or her stools are too hard, too infrequent, too painful, too large, too wide or if he cannot push it all out. Other signs include:
Do not give enemas, suppositories or laxatives unless your doctor or nurse practitioner tells you to do so!
Never punish your child when he cannot have a bowel movement or if he soils his pants. Children do not have problems with bowel movements on purpose, and punishment only keeps them from developing good bowel habits.
Every child likes to see how well he is doing on a project. Everyone likes to be rewarded for success. Every time your child sits on the toilet long enough to have a bowel movement, give him a reward whether he has a bowel movement or not. You can select a simple reward (such as favorite TV show or a sticker). Use a calendar or daily record to keep track of the extra fluids he drinks and when he sits on the toilet (Picture 2).
After a few weeks, agree on a greater reward for sitting on the toilet. If you use the reward system every day, in time your child will develop his own schedule for good bowel habits.
Call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you have any questions, please contact the GI Services Department at (614) 722-3450.
HH-I-15 11/84, Revised 3/06 Copyright 1984-2006, Nationwide Children's Hospital