Combat Fear of Bathrooms with a Toilet Tour

helping toddler's fear of bathrooms by showing them around the bathroom

Since most of our memories don’t take us back to the toddler years, imagine for a moment being a 2-year-old. You’ve been getting along just fine with diapers, and then someone goes and takes them away from you, turning your whole world upside down! For a toddler, recognizing the physical cues that tell you when it is time to go is difficult enough. It gets even more complicated when you manage to recognize that you have to go and are then met by a porcelain monster that makes scary noises and is so big it can stare you in the eye. Fear not, little one. A fun little toilet tour can quash any fears of the bathroom before it has time to develop, making toilet training easier. (You can go back to being an adult now.)

A Toilet Tour? I Don’t Have Time for That

Oh yes, you do. You don’t have time not to. Once a kid has a bad experience with a toilet, they aren’t in any rush to put themselves through it again, making toilet training harder. That’s why it is so important to prevent fear of the bathroom to begin with. That’s where a toilet tour comes in handy. It’s simple, really. Every time you go somewhere new, say, “Hey! Let’s go on a quick toilet tour!” Your toddler might look up at you like you’re crazy, but that’s okay. Then, excitedly, take them to the bathroom and explain that you just want to look at the toilet so you know what to expect, in case you have to go later. It may help to pretend that you’re the one who you’re doing it all for, not them. You may find that they end up eager to switch roles, showing you what the bathroom is all about. Eliminate bathroom fear by asking your tour guide to show you where everything is: the toilet, the sink, the soap, the towels and the hand dryer. Go flush a toilet to see what it sounds like, or ask them to flush it. Then say, “See you later, bathroom,” and go about with the rest of your visit, shopping trip or meal — whatever it might be.

Bathroom Fear is Real

I remember one specific trip to the zoo when my daughter had to use the bathroom. We had just hit the stage where I started to feel comfortable taking her out in public without the fear of accidents. We stopped in the restroom and were met with a blood-curdling scream by a little girl her age. She was so afraid of the toilet that there was nothing her mother could do to calm her down. There was no way the girl was going to be able to relax enough to sit on the toilet, much less pee in it.  My daughter asked me why the girl was crying, and I told her, “I think she’s afraid of the toilet.” She just looked at me and nodded her head in an, “Well, of course she is. That thing is scary,” sort of way. While the little girl may have been comfortable with her potty at home, she wasn’t ready to commit to a foreign toilet by any means. Here are a few reasons why toddlers (and even bigger kids) fear public bathrooms:

  • It is too big, or it looks funny.
  • It is loud in the bathroom, and there are a lot of strangers.
  • It makes a different noise than what they’re used to.
  • It has an automatic sensor that flushes too soon.
  • It has a hand dryer that is loud and hot.

Being impatient when your child expresses his or her fear of the bathroom during toilet training will only make things worse. Be patient. Show that you understand, and give them the tools they need to fight that bathroom fear. By the time they’re familiar with the ins and outs of the bathroom, they’ll be so relaxed, knowing the only thing they have to concentrate on is the deed at hand.

Additional Potty Training Resources:

Potty Training Tips and Fears

Moms Share How to Ease Toddler’s Fears of Using Public Restrooms 

Angie Long

Angie is an experienced freelance writer and mother of two. She has extensive experience working in professional training, including the development and evaluation of training and exam material. She has a background in elementary education. Angie has a 4-year-old who still struggles with potty training, yet her 8-year-old nailed it by two years of age.

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