She's terrified of automatic flushing toilets/hand dryers - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 08-22-2012, 12:10 PM - Thread Starter
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My daughter (2 yrs 10.5 months old) is fully potty trained.  She's advanced for her age and when her hunger for learning exceeded what I had the time/energy for at home I decided to enroll her in preschool.  She just started last week and really likes the school, the kids, the playground, etc.  (It's a Montessori and she's already taking pride in the independent activities of rolling out her own mat, choosing her own work and all of that good Montessori stuff.)


She's the youngest in her class but that's not my concern.  She is refusing to use their toilet.  The toilets flush automatically and the first time we were there meeting her teacher it caught her by surprise and she did NOT like that.  Then a toilet in the stall next to her flushed loudly and she got spooked.  She didn't know when the next loud sound was gonna come out of nowhere.  She was too shy to go pee in that moment and I figured it was no big deal and so she just pulled up her pants and we went to go wash hands.  She puts her hands in the sink and thought she was waiting for me to turn on the water but the water was automatic, too and again she was taken aback.  I talked up how cool it was and showed her the sensor and everything but she just furrowed her brow and looked very offended that the water just turned on by itself.


Okay so fast forward a week and a half - they've tried to offer her potty breaks a few times in her 3 hour school day but she won't go.  They showed her how you can lay a piece of toilet paper over the sensor in order to prevent it from flushing, but she's still too scared.  She'll sit on it with her bottom barely touching but will not plant herself there and certainly will not relax to pee.  Today when I was waiting in the car pickup line, they asked me to come in to get her because she was crying.  I rushed in but by that time they'd coaxed her into the bathroom just in time for her to pee in her pants.  She was really holding it and had to go THAT bad.  She's never had an accident before.  Not one accident since we potty trained.  Not even at nighttime!  So it's not a potty-training's a school bathroom issue.


She doesn't get that if she can't use their potty and if accidents become regular that she can't go to this special school any longer (because you have to be potty trained and pull-ups aren't allowed which I wouldn't want to do anyway).  How do I ease her fear of the loud and unpredictable public restroom?  At least they don't have one of those auto hand dryers that sound like an airplane is landing.  Those are terrible for timid toddlers!! I can't imagine taking her out of this fun school just because of the toilets.


P.S.  I would go in each morning and help her get used to it and also take my time picking her up to try once more before leaving but I have a 1 yr old who is ALL OVER THE PLACE and even today when I picked her up, the baby was pretty difficult to manage on the dirty bathroom floor while I changed dd into dry clothes. 


What should I do?

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#2 of 15 Old 08-22-2012, 07:28 PM
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I don't have anything to add but commenting to get replies. I've got a 2.5 year old terrified of public rest rooms so i imagine we will have this problem soon too....

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#3 of 15 Old 08-22-2012, 07:31 PM
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My DD is 2.5 and asks every time we use a public bathroom, "Is it gonna scare me mama?" She screams and cries if Im not right there holding her when she gets off the toilet if its an automatic flush.


She loves hairdryers now that I let her blowdry my hair too.

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#4 of 15 Old 08-22-2012, 11:00 PM
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DS is 2 years, 9 months old, and he just in the past month got over his fear of hand dryers.  I don't have any wisdom on how to get over a fear like this, because it was all him.  He decided he wanted to be brave and give it a try right after he went through the 2.5 year developmental leap.


I'm waiting to see if his fear of the bathroom at his preschool is still in effect when classes start up again in a few weeks.  On the first day of school last year, I accidentally turned the water on full blast when I meant to turn it off, it sprayed him, and he was afraid of the bathroom for the rest of the year.  He wouldn't even go in to wash his hands before class.  We ended up having to go back to pull ups after awhile when his sleep schedule changed and he started needing to go half way through his class.  Now that he's been fully potty trained for a couple months, I'm hoping he'll have forgotten he doesn't like the bathroom (unlikely) or at least decide to be brave.


Anyway, I empathize, even if I don't have any good advice!  DS feels much more secure on automatic toilets if I lightly hold him under his arms while he goes.  His potty seat fell into a public toilet once when he was on it, so he's a little fearful of that happening again, but he just asks me to hold him if he's not sure of a particular toilet.


Could you take her in early and have her explore the toilets and sinks when she doesn't need to go and there's no pressure?  Somehow make a game of it?  I think I'll try that with me DS, now that I've thought of it.

Cloud, mommy to her happy little Nimbus, born 11/09!
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#5 of 15 Old 08-22-2012, 11:33 PM
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My little one was fully potty trained at 19 months old and when she hit 24months, a automatic toilet caught her off guard and now she won't sit on them in public.  I use this potty and set it on the floor in a public restroom and she happily uses it. At first she was afraid to be anywhere near the big toilet but she slowly got used to all the flushing. She was very very afraid of the public flush but now she can tolerate it a little better (she still runs to my legs and says, "no flush mommy. I'm scared").  I have even placed her travel potty on the seat in a public restroom to see if she is any closer to getting over her fear, and about 20% of the time she will use the big toilet after ensuring that the toilet won't flush until she gets off of it. 

Will they let you set up something similar for awhile until she gets used to the flushing noise?.  Perhaps they can set it up in the restroom but on the opposite side of the big toilet. It really is a no mess type potty that uses plastic dumping or cleaning a plastic receptacle.  Hopefully you find something that works for your little one.  It breaks my heart to hear that she holds her pee. 

Cloth diapering, Babywearing, Breastfeeding first time mama! Our bundle of joy was born June 15, 2010
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#6 of 15 Old 08-23-2012, 04:46 AM
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I have the same issues with my DD, and I always took her with me to use public restrooms. She was always scared When other toilets would flush, and eventually just decided to be brave, like a pp said. She still gets startled by the really loud flushes, but I find she recovers easily. She will not use a hand dryer, won't even let me turn one on. She is also afraid of my hair dryer, but is beginning to watch me dry my hair from a distance, so I am hoping this fear is one that will ease too. We went through the same thing with vacuum cleaners and the blender.

I think it will just be something she will have to get used to, are there public washrooms you could take her to to practice? Maybe if she sees that it's not just the ones at school that are like that she might see them as just another kind of toilet.
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#7 of 15 Old 08-26-2012, 09:32 AM
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My almost 3 year old son is also terrified of automatic flushing toilets and hand dryers... he'll still use public/unknown toilets but he flips when he hears the noise.  (It didn't bother him for the first 6-7 months after he potty trained.  Not sure what happened!  He doesn't mind the vaccuum cleaner etc, just loud bathroom noises really.)  


One thing that's been helpful to him is that when we're in one together (which we are most of the time-- different story when your kid is at school of course!), I alert him to the fact that there's going to be a noise and have him cover his ears.  Though I don't really think it's probably much quieter when his hands are over his ears, that seems to give him a sense of control over the situation and make it less scary for him.  Maybe this is something you could suggest to your daughter.


Good luck, I hope you find something that will work out for her!

Mother of two great little guys, G (9/28/09) and W (1/20/12)

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#8 of 15 Old 08-26-2012, 09:46 AM
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Put toilet paper over the auto flush sensor.  I still have to do that for my almost 4 year old.  Once she saw it wouldn't flush on her she was ok.

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#9 of 15 Old 08-27-2012, 12:01 PM
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I carry post it notes for public auto-flush toilets.  Right over the sensor, let kiddo take care of business, then open the door so he can walk out and I yank the note as we go and dispose of it in the trash.  This doesn't really help for the preschool/daycare situation, though.  :/

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#10 of 15 Old 08-27-2012, 01:46 PM
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OP this happened to my newly 3yo DD just a few months ago--same thing.  Great use of potty, no accidents but got scared by  new preschool's auto flush and stopped going there--she would hold her potty for up to 9 hours!  I had the teachers use post-its and we just talked about how the post it would stop it from flushing until it was ready.  She had a couple of accidents and then after a few weeks just started using it.  Now she's fine.  I did have to ignore it a bit with her--we talked about it being OK with painters tape or postits, but then she still wouldn't even though she knew it wouldn't flush.  So I just told her "when you are ready."  You might try taking her places outside of school with post its and auto flush toilets to practice.  Best wishes--hopefully it is short lived!

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#11 of 15 Old 08-27-2012, 04:01 PM
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DD developed a similar dislike at 3 although she had been using a public restroom for over a year. We use the car potty more than in the past.


Most we talked a lot about it. This is a "loud" potty this is a "medium" potty oh that wasn't too bad "silly potty I am not done." Repeat. A lot. It has gotten a lot better over time.


I just hate those things.

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#12 of 15 Old 09-02-2012, 01:39 PM - Thread Starter
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The situation has gotten a LOT better!  I have been taking her to the potty in the mornings and using a post it note over the sensor.  The first morning she would barely sit and was crying but then pee started coming out and she smiled!  Phew!  It was her FIRST potty at preschool!  And she was pretty delighted that it didn't surprise her with a flush.  She didn't want me to remove the post it note until she was out of the stall and safely over by the sink.  I'm still taking her in every morning for this and I still have to force her to sit as she procrastinates and whines.  But most mornings once she's safely by the sink she'll hear the flush and say, "See mommy?  That wasn't so bad."  *laughs*


HOWEVER!  The damn thing flushed WHILE she was sitting and even though there was a post it note on the sensor!!!  She was SHAKING and pleading, "Mommy will you hold me?"  Now she's lost all trust.  And, I guess I have, too.  I don't know why it did that!  Her bottom was on the seat, we were the first ones in the building to use the potty, the post it note was there as usual.  Gah!  That was Friday and we will see what happens on Monday.  Maybe it's a good thing that it's a 3 day weekend and she might forget? 

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#13 of 15 Old 09-07-2012, 08:34 PM
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My dd hates those also.  Little bodies seem to set those off every time they sit down.  My 3 yo would scream when she saw them and would say she didn't have to go.  I put my hand over the sensor, but what really helped was to address the reason for her dislike which is the inevitable horror of getting sucked in and flushed down the toilet!  Totally possible!  At least in the mind of a 2 to 4 year old. 


I realize that not everyone, or quite likely, hardly anyone may want to do this, but after so many years of cloth diapering and using my toilet as the 1st wash cycle, it doesn't really bother me to retrieve things from a clean bowl at all.  (Being a mother has made me gross, I guess.)  It's toilet demonstration time!  Show her that a baby doll will not flush.  "This baby doll is much smaller than you are.  What do you think will happen if she falls in the toilet?  Let's see, shall we?"  Drop... flush... we still have a doll.  My dd was totally down with this, but she's a mean mommy.  We used a bald rubber baby that she plays with in the bath tub.  She still prefers a normal flusher to the auto-flush, but at least now, she doesn't flat refuse to go in one.    

I am not afraid to stick my hand in a toilet, for I am Mom.
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#14 of 15 Old 09-20-2012, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Huh.  We have a Dora doll in the bathtub...I just might try this.

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#15 of 15 Old 09-24-2012, 05:08 PM
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My daughter also hates the auto flushers and hand dryers.  She recently turned 3 and she's been MUCH better about those things. She doesn't encounter the auto-flushers at her Montessori school (arg!  why did they put those in at your school?), but she doesn't run so far now, and even dried her hands with an auto-dryer the other day and was proud!  Whew!  That was a first.  She has matured in so many ways over the past couple of months, and I would guess your daughter might go through similar changes soon.  Good for you for helping her through this tough transition. Sounds like you're on the right track.  And maybe you can figure out which toilet seems the best and try to stick with that one. Is there no way to turn those things off other than a post-it note?  Maybe something bigger, like a thick cloth where no light can penetrate? I confess I don't know exactly how those flushers work. Maybe the shadow moving triggered it? Or maybe they're just crazy contraptions, as we've all had them go off before we were ready... :P


Good luck!


PS. I still remember my daughter frantically leaping off a toilet into my arms as it flushed mid-pee.  She was pretty alarmed, but it was actually funny to me ;)  It's hard to laugh and comfort at the same time, particularly with a wet-bottomed child trying to climb up your torso. I think we decided the toilet was 'naughty' and that seemed to help.

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