Child is Afraid of Toilets/Flushing
Berkeley Parents Network >
The Potty >
Child is Afraid of Toilets/Flushing
This seems very silly, but my 5 y/o is TERRIFIED of the automatic
toilet flush - anyone else's child feel the same??! When did
they ''outgrow'' this fear? Did you teach them, and if so - how? I
thought it was 'much ado about nothing' until the day we went
shopping on Bay St. and it became apparent to me just how big a
deal it is. I felt terrible for trying to make her use the toilet
with auto-flush. In the past we've waited until she got home. We
ended up averting an accident just-in-time when a kind store
employee re-directed us to the bookstore, for non auto-flush
toilets (her child is also fearful). My daughter has since
confided that ''even when she is a grown-up, she might still be
afraid of it.'' I'm having a hard time rationalizing this one ...
it's not just the loud noise, she says, it's also the water
splashing on her bottom. I just learned her new school and
soon-to-be K class has newly installed auto-flush toilets. When I
told her we were going to have to practice using them, she went
white and changed her mind about Kindergarten! I'm crossing my
fingers that she'll forget about it by Fall, but she's not one to
easily forget. (It took 2 years to go to the dentist!)
My son was terrified of auto-flush toilets for many years. He did
eventually outgrow it (he's 11 now), and also his fear of the
dentist, but it took a while. Just be patient.
You are not alone! My 4-year old daughter is also very afraid
of autoflush toilets (she is otherwise not at all skittish by
nature). It is the first thing she asks about when we go to
any public bathroom and it takes a lot of persuasion to get her
to go if one is present. I'm not sure I have a solution that
would work for you in your day-care situation, but my
daughter's new practice (which seems to be working) is to enter
the stall with her hands over her ears, keep them there while I
help her with her clothes and wipe, and not let go until she
leaves the stall. She's even become adept at opening stall
doors using her elbows (which is not too bad from a germ
My daughter used to be deathly afraid of the autoflush (or magic
potty, as we call it) and is still a little wary at 4 and 1/2.
For a while, the only way I could get her to sit on these toilets
was if I went first, which definitely reassured her. She usually
uses the magic potties on her own now, but if we're in a new
store, she sometimes needs me to still go first. You'll need to
address the autoflush issue before kindergarten. She won't forget
about it, and she won't go potty at school. Maybe ask the
school/teacher if you can bring her by to check out the potties
in private with you before school begins in the fall. Have her
spend some time in there. Show her that the potties are okay.
This may all sound silly, but my daughter has MAJOR potty issues
with strange toilets. She didn't go potty at her preschool for
the first four months! I wouldn't wish that situation on anyone!
I can relate - my son was TERRIFIED of automatic flushing
toilets, and has JUST grown out of it at 61/2! It all started
the first time we used an automatic flushing toilet when he was
in the early stages of potty training. Every time he sat down
to pee (hadn't learned to stand up and pee yet), it would set
off the flush and he'd scream and then pee straight up in the
air! We do a lot of traveling (it seems like every airport has
automatic toilets) so to overcome his fear I always went into
the cubicle with him and hold my hand over the red sensor so it
won't flush until he's ready. It worked until he got over his
My child was also terrified of auto-flush, and now is less so, but it
started about 2
years ago (he will also go to kindergarten in the fall). If you carry a
pack of post-it
notes with you you can stick those over the sensor and make it turn off.
also cover it with your hand or a piece of toilet paper. It took a while
for my son to
understand that I really was not going to let the toilet flush until he
was out of the
stall, but once he knew this he felt a lot better. BTW, I know a
teacher at a school
where auto-flushers were installed. So many K students were afraid of it
teachers put tape over the sensor so that it wouldn't go off
taught kids how to push the button to flush instead. I don't think this
is an unusual
fear at all.
teach her to drape a few sheets of TP over the sensor so it
can't ''see'' her do her business. remove when done and voila!
no flush while in midstream!
hate them too
My 5-1/2 year old daughter has the same fear. In public
toilets, I have found that if I put my hand behind her to cover
the ''sensor'' it won't flush while she's on it - it won't flush
until I move my hand. Not ideal but it works for us for now.
another mother of a child afraid of the ''magic toilets''
My daughter went through this too. Not to bum you out, but it
took her a long time to get over it. About 2 or more years. She's
not even a fearful kid in other regards, but auto-flush toilets
scared the crap out of her (oops, unintended pun).
Here is what I had to do: I would go in the stall with her and
cover the electric eye with my hand. The problem with little kids
is that their bodies aren't big enough to block the sensor on the
back of the toilet, and the sensor gets confused and flushes
before it should. When I covered it with my hand, I would wait
until she was through, her pants were up, and she had her hand on
the lock ready to go. I'd uncover it and then it would flush.
Ironically, this solution helped her get over her fear. She
realized it was a mechanical thing and not just some random thing
that was going to freak her out. Now that she is physically
bigger, it doesn't happen to her and she uses autoflush toilets
on her own.
This is not a silly question!! This is a big deal for my almost
4-year-old son too.
The first thing he asks as we approach any toilet not in our home is
whether or not
it ''goes by itself''. I never insist that he use an auto-flush toilet,
but remind him
that he may go in his pants if he doesn't. Then I cover his ears while
he is on the
toilet (which otherwise he would do himself) and certainly if he
finishes before it
flushes I get him out of the stall ASAP, regardless of whether his pants
are up! I feel
quite sure that this fear will pass with time, as long as I don't make a
big deal out of
it, and as long as on occasion he has to deal with these toilets, with
supporting him, so that he can gain a sense of mastery over them.
My daughter also was afraid of auto-flush toilets. I tried not to make
too big a deal of
it and she did grow out of it. Here's how I helped her learn to use
these toilets: I would
straddle the toilet behind her to block the sensor so that she could
finish and get up
off the toilet before it began to flush. After she saw that it was just
a different kind of
flush, she relaxed about it and soon didn't even think about it anymore.
Your daughter is not alone! My now-8-year-old was the same way, and all
3 of my
kids are still wary of these toilets and HATE it when they flush
years ago when I found out Disneyland has auto-flush toilets I feared
we'd have to
cancel our trip!
The trick we use is to rip off a strip of toilet paper and drape it
over the back sensor
so the toilet doesn't know when you're sitting or standing. You're
covering up the
little camera that tells it when to flush. When you're done, just pull
the tissue strip
off and the toilet will flush (or you can push the little button if it
I would also talk to the teachers at her school and let them know about
daughter's fear. I bet she won't be the only one who may avoid the
school because of fear of the toilet flushing too early. If I were the
teacher I'd take
the kids into the bathroom the first day of school and show them the
trick with the
strip of TP. Best of luck!
My five-year-old also has autoflushphobia, which started a year ago and
this day. One tip for you is to manually flush the toilet (there's
usually a button
somewhere) right before you sit your child on the toilet. That gives
them about a 30
second headstart. But that hasn't really worked for us. I've just
resigned myself to it.
Now I even know every gas station with regular toilets all the way to
Tahoe and back.
May the flush be with you
Hi -- well, your daughter is not the only 5 year old out there
with this fear of the auto flush! My daughter started at a brand
spanking new kindergarten when she was 5, and yep, everything in
the bathroom was automatic! They ended up changing out the
potties for regular old fashioned flush ones b/c too many of the
Kindergarteners were refusing to go near the potties and having
accidents as a result!!I have to admit, they can be startling,
especially when little bums are on there and the sensor cannot
decide if it should flush or not and they get soaked from the
very splashy flush ...Can you blame her for deeming it unpleasant
and scary? There is nothing about it that you can anticipate. I
wouldn't worry, nor would I feed into the fear much. Meanwhile,
when she has to go and it is an auto flush, I would go in with
her and watch that little light so that when it starts to blink,
I would give her a heads up that the flush was coming so that she
had some control over the situation and could at least ANTICIPATE
getting soaked, or jump off if she was through! Good luck ~
sign me MRS. SOGGY BOTTOM!
My six year old also fears the auto flush. I think the
unpredictability of WHEN it will flush is the biggest reason.
Often, it flushes when she's on it or getting toilet paper.
Right now, I accompany her to the bathroom and try to stay in
the ''sight'' of the sensor (which is at the back of the
toilet).If I stand there in front of her, it seems to delay the
flush. This seems to help with the early flush fear. Don't
dismay, I am sure they will grow out of the fear with time and
repeated ''exposure.'' I am curious to see if others have advice.
well i don't have any advice but my 3 year old is terrified of
autoflush toilets. it started when the thing just up and
flushed for no reason (as they are want to do). big, startling
scary noise with water sucking down and flying everywhere.
what i've done when there's no other option is stand in front
of the sensor, straddling the back of the toilet, then hope he
doesnt' pee all over my jeans. i know, i know. but it works
My 4-year old was scared of the auto-flush. So much so that she
would pee on herself before using one.
Here is a trick that worked for us: Tell him that you can turn it
off. All you have to do is cover the sensor and the toilet won't
flush until he is done. Once my daughter realized it wouldn't
flush while she was on it, she was fine.
My daughter had a morbid fear of these things too. She's also
five, and it's now evolved to strong distaste for the flushers.
When you are with her, you can hold your hand over the little
blinking light when she's on the toilet. It won't flush till you
remove your hand, and your daughter will see that you are
respecting her fear rather than dismissing it (frankly, I find
those things unnerving too, because they ALWAYS flush at the
wrong time, and the splashing water is an annoying and disgusting
surprise side-effect). Also, if she hates the noise, you can tell
her to cover her ears when it's time to flush. (I think kids have
sensitive ears, and toilets sound like low-flying jet planes to
them.) You can also travel with post-it notes, and put the
post-it notes over the light till she's done. You might also try
this route with the preschool, especially if she's good about
flushing. She can take a sticky-note to the toilet, cover up the
blinker, then uncover it and throw the sticky-note away (or leave
it on the wall for the next terrified kid). If you allow her to
face her fear and deal with it by not having to experience it,
she'll become less terrified by it eventually. Plus you'll
empower her to recognize & respect her own fears, which she needs
to do. Doesn't matter if you think it's a dumb fear. The fear is
real, and only by seeing that she can address it (and won't be
harmed by it) will she get beyond it in a healthy way.
(Guaranteed, when she's older, some despicable person will
encourage her to ignore her fears against her will over some
other small or more serious thing, and you will want to know that
you helped her learn to respect and take care of herself and her
fears--not that I'm suggesting that stopping auto-flush toilets
will prevent all future problems! Just that one of my quirks is
insisting that kids need to calibrate their fears in many small
ways to face the world as functional grown-ups. Don't jump all
over me, BPN!).
Oh no, do not tell me they're putting auto-flush toilets in
elementary schools. My now 4 1/2 year old daughter will
reluctantly use public toilets if I promise to keep it from
flushing until she leaves the stall. For a long time she'd go
12 hours without peeing rather than use a public toilet, no
matter what our cajoling. I think loud flushing of public
toilets spooks her, but having happen under her bare bottom
really freaked her out. One helpful suggestion I've seen is to
have post-it notes to cover up the sensor until the kid's
finished. I usually just cover it with my hand until she's
I have two words for you: Sticky Notes! Buy a pack of sticky
notes and carry it with you. Place a sticky over the toilet
flush sensor and it will not flush until after you remove it.
I have not used this method myself (I heard of it's success
from a friend) so I am not sure if the toilet will flush as
soon as the note is removed or a bit later or if you have to
push the flush button on the toilet. In any event, this is a
portable solution and your daughter can take the sticky notes
to kindergarten with her if she needs too.
My daughter's kindergarten had auto-flush toilets and she was
scared of them for most of kindergarten to the point where she
preferred to hold it (and wet herself once) rather than use the
toilet. After a month or so of reasoning and cajoling, we finally
gave up and my husband gave her a few small Post-Its that she
could put over the sensor on the toilet before she used it, then
remove when she was done and was ready for the toilet to flush.
She thought that was great! Apparently, she was not the only
scared one either: she gave those Post-Its out to her friends on
a regular basis. By the time she got to 1st grade, she was over
her fear of the auto-flush. Good luck!
My daughter was 2 when she started being afraid of the auto-flush
toilet. It seems to be a very common fear. I don't know if this
will help you, especially if they are putting them in at your
daughter's school, but I will ''fix'' the flush mechanism by
draping toilet paper over the sensor. Then it will not flush
while she is on the toilet. If you are willing to carry them
around, you can also use removable stickers to cover the sensor.
This really helps my daughter not be afraid of them so much -
maybe that can be a first step for you?
in control of the flush
My 2y9m old daughter has been pottytrained for probably going
on 6 months now. In the last few weeks, she has developed a
horrible fear of certain unfamiliar, typically public,
toilets. When we're out she will tell me she has to go, but
once we get in the bathroom she says the toilet is scary and
that she wants to hold it, all the while holding herself and
doing the ''potty dance.'' This is for both pee and poop. I'm
usually only out and about with her on the weekends and our
nanny says she's fine with the particular toilet they use next
to the park they go to during the week. I've tried going first
to show her it's not scary and various ways of holding her over
the toilet, but neither has had much effect. Last weekend we
were in a store and she had to go so badly but refused and I
finally convinced her to let me hold her over the sink (totally
gross, I know, but I was desperate and I washed it out really
well w/ soap and water after). We certainly don't want to make
a habit of that, especially since my husband found her sitting
on the sink at home the next day. I've been able to figure out
that automatic flushing, aka ''magic potties,'' as well as ones
with seats that are split in the front are definite deal
breakers, but sometimes ones that look just like home are no
good too. I'm sure this is just a phase that will pass, but in
the meantime I would love some advice from any of you who have
been through this.
Do you have one of those potty-toppers? The little seats that make the hole
smaller? There are folding ones that have Sesame Street characters on them. Maybe
a special trip to the store (Babies R us has them and Target doesn't) and then using
it on the potty at home would help. I have also heard of parents bringing post its to
put over the sensor of the automatic flush toilets so they don't go off right away.
My 3.5 year old boy has been potty trained for almost 3 months
now. It took a long time for him to get over being afraid of
the potty chair and the potty at his pre-school, but he finally
did. Unfortunately, he is afraid of any other potty, or even
walking into a bathroom (restaurants, stores, relatives' homes,
etc.) He becomes extremely frightened and screams when we've
tried to take him into a ''foreign'' bathroom. Recently, we went
on an all-day outing, and he held his pee for over 12 hours! (he
was extemely miserable and uncomfortable). We even put a diaper
on him towards the end of the day, and he refused to go pee in
it. We've tried talking to him calmly and explaining things,
etc. to no avail. We have several trips planned for this
summer, and I'm getting anxious since things are not improving
(I have 2 other kids, so we don't want to cancel our trip). Has
anyone had problems like this with their kids? Any advice would
This doesn't solve the entire problem, but my nephew who has a
really hard time with the noise that commercial toliets make
when they flush, loves to pee standing up outside (how great to
be a guy). Obviously, this is not appropriate every where...but
for long road trips or any outdoor excursions it might be do-
able for him; dare I say even fun?
Our three-year old daughter (potty trained for six months)
doesn't like strange toilets either (she doesn't like using the
toilet period...but that's another story). When we're out and
about and I can tell she has to go, I just tell her that Mommy
has to go to the potty. She watches me go, ''helps'' me by getting
me some toilet paper, and then flushes the toilet for me. Then I
just tell her it's her turn and help her on the potty. I try to
treat it more like a game then a trip to the potty. This game
didn't work the first few times I tried it (and still sometimes
doesn't work), but if she says she doesn't need a turn, I just
say okay and don't mention the potty again. And, yes, sometimes
she will hold it for hours on end. Though I worry for her
comfort, I've discovered that continuing to coax her into using
the potty just doesn't work for her. She's determined to go when
she wants, so I just let her be and stay as close as I can to a
restroom so we don't have to run very far when she tells me she's
ready. You might also try bringing along one of those little
portable potty seats that fits right on top of the toilet. That
was a life-saver for us on a recent road trip. We tried the seat
out first at home before using it in a public restroom so it
seemed to her like we were bringing her own seat with us. Good luck!
Get a potty chair that you keep in the car. Use a plastic bag
fo a liner. Soon enough he'll relax about the strange toilets
I am afraid I don't have any real tips except the basics: go over what everything is,
what the sounds are, offer to let him and step outside while you flush for him so the
sound doesn't scare him, and such things as that. BUT I should warn you not to take
him out on an ''all-day outing'' until this problem is solved. Holding himself for 12
hours is very bad for his health, mentally and physically, besides being extremely
painful! This is very important
Public restrooms are scary! My boy is almost 3 and short for
his age so he can't reach the regular potty and wouldn't even if
he could. Our solution-we let him go pee outside if we are out
and about. Of course we make sure it's a hidden area.
At first I had problems with this approach but then I talked
with a couple friends of mine who had boys and they did the same
thing. It depends on your comfort level if you want to try it and
of course on his. Good luck-
I think this is not uncommon, with my son, also recently potty
trained (more or less), I had a potty in the car for a while
and I also carried around a large purse with one of those cushy
toilet seats you get for little ones in a plastic bag and
whenever he needed to go voila it was like being at home (I
just washed it (almost) each evening). This helped a lot and
now we don't even need to take it along... also we still let
him pee in the street off the side walk or against a tree he
has fun seeing which direction his peepee will travel or aiming
at stuff, very sweet. Best of luck I hope this will help you.
If you do get one of those seats though be sure to get one with
a ring all around the bottom for stability
Maybe your child is afraid of those automatic toilets that make a very
loud (and scary) sound.
I am taking care of a little girl who is going through potty training. She is
scared of other toilets. Her parents think that some of those newer flush
models and automatic toilets scare her.
Talk to your son and listen to him.
My son was afraid of the loud flush until he was 5. So, he would ask me
to flush the toilet after he was done, while he waited outside the door.
He has gradually overcome the fear himself, but I do remember that fear!
My 3.5 year old is now fully potty trained, and as we will be
taking a lot of road trips this summer I found for a portable
toilet. I really like the On the Go Potty by Pottette. I
bought mine at an out of town store, but I found a link on the
We keep one in the car, and one in the stroller for long
outings. That way, if we are not near an actual toilet or a
tree, he can still keep his pants dry. He has no qualms about
peeing in public, and even once sat on the toilet, to no
avail. What I like about this product, is that it is very
small, has absorbent liners (with the mini bjorn potty you
would have to figure out where to dump the pee), and is not too
expensive. If your son liked it, you could even take it into a
restroom and use it there. We have only used it a couple of
times, but it has been very convenient. SOmeone told me that
extra liners can be made with plastic grocery bags and cheap
1 kid down, 1 to go
I think you should go on your vacations. Our daughter didn't
use the toilet in public places. We always had to go home so
she could go there. But when we went out of town recently, she
obviously had no choice but to use public toilets. So she did.
It might work for you, too
My daughter will be 3 years old this month. She is almost
completely potty trained except for one thing: she is terrified
of the adult-sized toilet. She will only go in her little potty
at home. When we are out, she refuses to use public toilets. I
tell her that she doesn't have to sit on the big potty if it
frightens her, but she does have to put on a pull-up just in
case. Then, she refuses to put on a pull-up! I either end up
forcing the pullup on her (not fun), or just hoping she can hold
it till we get home. This puts a strain on any kind of outing.
Does anyone have any ideas on how I can ease her into using the
adult-sized toilet? I should also mention that she has a 5 yr
old sister who she idolizes (I have tried the ''don't you want to
be big like your sister'' thing and it doesnt work) and that she
is a very strong-willed child.
Have you tried the potty inserts that make the opening smaller?
Your child could pick out the character she likes as an incentive to use
it (Toys-r-us, Target, Wal-Mart). They also make travel ones (though
not as nice). She could also pick out her step-stool to help her reach
the much taller toilet at home. Maybe formally introduce her to the
toilet, let her watch what happens when it is flushed, hold on to her
while she flushes it, maybe let her take her ''pee'' from the little
potty and dispose of it in the big potty, and also be sure to ask her
why she is so afraid of it so you can address her concerns. I also had
to hold on to both of my children until they got good at holding on
themselves.. One thing that I didn't anticipate when my son finally sat
on the big potty was that automatic public toilets can flush when the
child is still on it and it scares the begeezers out of them. Be sure
to cover the sensor and let her know that you are doing it so that there
is no possibility it will flush while she is on it and you can flush on
Mom of a 3yo afraid of the auto-flush
this page was last updated: Dec 21, 2008
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network