Potty Training Fear- Automatic Flushing Public Toilets

Hi! My daughter is 3 years going to be 4 years old in September. Okay , here's my problem...

She was doing just fine potty training at home got to the point where she would go to the potty all by herself, now thing was when she was almost 2 years old so she has been potty trained for a while and we made the biggest mistake of all and brought her out to other potty's like Wal-Mart for example. and I did not give it any thought that this toilet would flush by itself. Well the toilet went off and she just screamed and was traumatically damaged by this whole thing. she WILL NOT go potty in a public restroom, and she will hold it till she starts hurting. This has been a couple of years and she refuses to go and when I bring her in the restroom and show her mommy can do it and nothing happens she will scream bloody murder.

What should I do???

Mommy in distress

Dear Mommy in distress,

From reading your email, I would not classify this as a potty training issue, but rather as irrational fear.  I have done some research on the topic of irrational fear in children and based on my understanding, irrational fear can develop in us at various points in our lives.  It sounds like your daughter developed this fear of public restrooms when the toilet flushed by itself.

So, to address this issue, you have to address the fear and you have to remember that it is called irrational fear for a reason.  Intellectually, as your daughter gets older, she knows that this does not make sense.  It is like adults who are afraid of the dark or flying etc - intellectually we know that this is silly, but our brain will not let us go there - because there is this FEAR.

When we see that our children are afraid of something that they should not be, we respond by trying to talk them out of their fear.  All this does is crank up their imagination and it actually gets worse instead of better.  So, instead of trying to talk her out of this fear, help her find ways to conquer her fear through play.  You can work with her to imagine and create stories via play where she overcomes her fear.  You may start by asking her to draw how she feels - get it started with some stories and then use her imagination to figure out how she is going to tackle her fear. 

Another suggestion I have is to carry a travel potty chair with you.  We carry this portable and foldable travel potty chair that is good to 70 lbs, so it will last a few years and have it in your car, so your daughter can use it when you are out instead of holding it. 

Also, I would recommend purchasing the disposable potty liners , as these ones have an absorbable pad, so you can discard the liner like a diaper after use.; very easy and convenient and not big messes to clean up.

Your job as her parent is to teach your child to recognize the fears that are getting in their way, to acknowledge the fear and to face them and find a way to get over them.  The courage that she will learn from this will give her strength for many a challenge in life to come.

I hope this helps.  Do let us know how she does. 

Narmin Parpia

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