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My 3.5yo girl is afraid of a toilet flushing, is this normal?

3 answers
My 3.5yo girl has been potty trained a little after turning 3, using the toddler potty and big toilet alternately which started about 4mo ago, never leaving her side when she uses the big toilet. She has always covered her ears with certain loud noises but flushing the toilet has never ever bothered her before. When she started covering her ears upon entering the bathroom, I didn't think anything of it, but in the last 2 months her behavior changed from just covering her ears, to telling me (her dad, my mom - 2 other households) upon entering the bathroom not to flush, to crying and anxious. This is especially tough when we are out using public restrooms. I have a portable potty in the car which I make every attempt to use when we are out and about but when we are too far from the car, I intentionally pick to use the biggest stall so that (after the crying and pleading and finally peeing) she can be at one end of the stall while i flush the toilet, which use to work but not anymore. I do a lot of reassuring, encouraging, holder her tightly before, during, and after the whole thing. When we come out of the bathroom, we are both emotionally overwhelmed and tired. I keep a calm composure while I continue to reassure and help calm her down while deep inside I want to cry along with her 'cause I feel so guilty for what I just put her thru and frustrated for not knowing what to do to make all these better for her. I have talked to her dad and my mom and I've tried to talk to my daughter, still I cant figure out what started this fear/anxiety/change in behavior. I feel stuck and I have no idea what to do. I am desperate for any insights, input, suggestions, and I appreciate any stories or experiences anyone might want to share so that I don't feel so alone. Thanks a lot!

answers (3)

I don't know a whole lot about this, but I am an educational psychologist and do remember studying this in grad school. I remember being told that some kids get this way about flushing because they see a part of themselves (feces, urine) being flushed away, and there is something traumatic about this to them, which also makes them think *they* could fall in and be flushed down. They are too young to understand the size differential--that they are too big to be flushed down the toilet--so to them it is a legitimate fear, but they can't express it. My daughter was never this way about the toilet, but she was like this about the tub drain at the same age. I had to take her out of the tub and let her leave the bathroom before pulling the stopper out of the drain. She thought she could slide down it!Lori
My mom always told me growing up that I would scream and cry because I was afraid of the flushing sound.  If you think about it, it is pretty loud and then just having everything disappear would be pretty scary to a child.According to my mother, she put a few different drops of food coloring in the toilet and then flushed it for me to see the colors mix.  She then let me pick the next colors to put in and let me flush the toilet to see what colors came from swirling.  She said it took at least a week of us doing this before I wasn't afraid anymore. Good luck :)
Love the colored-water idea. One of my twins was a little scared, too. So we started the "potty,potty,potty,potty - flush it!" dance, all 3 of us crammed in the stall or bathroom singing and laughing and it became more of a fun thing. And then the taking turns to flush, putting a sticker on the handle, etc.

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