Stories about: Potty training;

Toilet Troubles

It seems like an unlikely trigger, but four years ago an automatic toilet turned Sarah Teres’s life upside down. At the time, her daughter, Molly, was maturing quickly: At 3 years old she was already walking, talking and fully potty trained. But the trip to a public restroom with a self-flushing toilet scared Molly right back into diapers.

“Something about the automatic flushing terrified her,” Sarah says. “After that she refused to go to the bathroom. Trying to get her to use the toilet was exhausting.”

Sarah and Molly’s problem was stressful, but not uncommon. Almost 25 percent of all children have some degree of difficulty learning to use a toilet after the suggested age of 36 months. And, as demonstrated by Molly, problems with pottying can occur at any point in the process, even after the child has begun using the toilet.

Struggling parents are often offered copious advice, both welcomed and unwelcomed, about the “best way” to get through the ordeal. From rigid, multi-step programs to free-spirited, diaperless trial and error, there’s no shortage of suggested methods. But what’s a parent to do when nothing seems to work?

“We went through so many pottying techniques, from pleading and bribing to outright begging,” Sarah says. “There was an unbelievable amount of mental anguish. You get so frustrated. It feels like nothing is going to work.”

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