Over the years I have been asked by many parents (okay, really just the Moms) about their boys and toilet issues, or more accurately the absence of proximity to the toilet. Chief among these are the number of boys that will need to go #2 and rather than go into the bathroom they will find a corner out of the way and go in their pants. Then they may try to change clothes ignore it or tell a parent. This is most common for boys 3 - 4 years old and seems to impact about 10% of boys.
Then there is the issue of going #1. It might start at about 3 years old, but often this does not hit until they are 4 or even 5 years old when they go where the urge hits them. Things to remember:
1. Children of this age do no see the world as we do. They think: "Water in, water out." "Therefore it is okay for me to go water that plant." They see a hole in the floor for the heating system and think, "Why go into the bathroom if I can just aim it down there. It will disappear." They will think: "It will just evaporate."
2. Children do not understand the consequences of their actions. In much of their life if there was a problem cased by something they did, then their parent has taken care of it and so "if I have not been told not to do something then it must be okay or if not then Mom will fix it."
Look at your child's initial reaction when caught or confronted. You are most likely to see one of two responses. Confusion about what the problem is or embarrassment about being caught. Confusion means they didn't know. Embarrassment meant that they kind-of knew but didn't think it through.
Can you put an end to it or do you just have to live through it? Yes you can change the behavior by providing the information that children lack and making sure that they know the reasons as well as the consequences. Children are concrete learners so they need to do something physically to make things right. Just telling them not to do something is not enough. They need to make restitution in some way. Of course they can't do everything but they can do a significant amount so that they think twice about it.
How to handle this: This comes best from both parents. "Billy, you went to the bathroom in the flower vase. I am concerned because your pee is not the same as water and it will kill the flower (plant). When you need to go to the bathroom where do you need to go? Why do you need to go there to go to the bathroom? How can I help you to remember the right place to go to the bathroom? Where else is not a place that you should go to the bathroom? Why?
What you are doing is laying the groundwork for future discussions and looking for situations where the child might lack information or have wrong information. When you find those then you know what you need to do.
Sometimes parents think that children act out in this way because they want attention, are seeking to show power or they are angry. While this is possible it is least likely. In the vast majority of cases it is because that is the way young boys sometimes process information.