Our son is now 6. He is "going potty" entirely on his own at home and escorted but directly unsupervised in public.

Our problem is that he will almost never remember to flush. This is something we routinely tell him. Even after going we will ask him, "Did you flush?" Sometimes he'll answer falsely; eventually he'll say, "Whoops" and then run back to flush.

It's not like he doesn't understand the concept of flushing. It isn't like he's doing this maliciously. He just simply isn't connecting the concept of "Potty then flush" in his head. As soon as he's done he's gone. (And yes... the problem is indeed: Potty, Flush, Wash)

I would prefer not to make it a punishment because all the "Touchy-feely" books are rather direct about not turning the bathroom process into a trauma experience. (note: I like the softer parenting using discussion, logic and examples; but am not afraid to be stern, strong, or loud when the situation calls)

So, I'm looking for two things: 1) Is this normal/phase/takes care of itself and 2) What can I do to improve the situation.

My obvious motivation for this is working from home today in my office, going to the restroom and finding yet another unflushed toilet that has been sitting since the little one left for school at 7am. Ugh.

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    Just for those curious; he's 10 now.. He never forgets. Thank you all! Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 14:38

6 Answers 6


In addition to @Balanced Mama's answer, you can also start a conversation:

"I notice you often forget to flush the toilet. It really bugs me because it's gross when I have to use the bathroom. So this is not working for me. What would help you remember?"

Have him brainstorm. Maybe he wants to make a 'remember to flush' sign for example.

FYI, "the softer parenting using discussion, logic and examples; but am not afraid to be stern, strong, or loud when the situation calls" is Positive Discipline to me and you may want to check it out.

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    Absolutely! let the child brainstorm to be a part of the solution. Great point! I'll +1 as soon as I can vote again. Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 22:05
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    @Christine Gordon: I love the idea of making the child solve the problem. He loves puzzles and problem solving so I will assuredly try this. Also: Is 'Positive Discipline" a book? +1 (+ more if I could) Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 13:56
  • @andrei freeman, yes it's a parenting book. There's one for almost every kind of parent but 'positive discipline' is the original and most general. There's also ones for teachers. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 18:12

Yes, this is normal and yes, in large part it will take care of itself (but you might even revisit it again when he is between ten and 13 during the pre-adolescent stage too.

To improve the situation, keep doing what you are doing. Also, NEVER flush for him (unless he is going to be gone for a few more hours). If you go in to use the bathroom yourself and he is in the middle of something cool at home and his cool stuff is interrupted by, "Ewww! Someone forgot to flush" (just don't make it a tone that is harsh and it will feel like a reminder rather than a punishment) And he has to come flush the toilet, then wash his hands again (he did touch the toilet again) before he can get back to his activity, it won't take too many times for him to realize it is just more efficient to take care of it right away.

  • +1 for having him fix "the problem" himself whenever possible. Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 21:00
  • @balanced mama: We definitely try to make him realise what he's done. And when he realises we've called him on not doing it, he trots off and does it. However, the interruption tends not to be something that motivates him to learn it. +1 anyway for good stuff. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 13:57
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    I'm actually having a similar problem with mine at the moment in regard to picking up trash and the like after herself. She just isn't remembering though she used to, so I totally know the frustration. Commented Nov 18, 2012 at 3:10

For our youngest we also used a reward system, as when she was 5 she would do exactly this. She was just in too much of a hurry to go and play with her siblings.

So we draw a chart with her; think it ended up being a princess castle with 20 steps - and it went up on the door. Every time she remembered to flush and wash without being reminded, she would get to colour in another step, and once she got to the top she got to colour in the entire castle.

We just needed to give her a reward that was slightly better than the immediate reward of going to play.

After 22 days (I think she missed 2) it was automatic. And she was delighted to colour in the picture.


I think the biggest thing is just to not do it for him. Even if you are standing right there and he is three rooms away and it would be easier and faster to just do it yourself, call him and make him do it. No need for punishment or lecturing, just "Billy, you forgot to flush the toilet. Please come flush it."


I struggled with this for a while. I was then at my coworking space and noticed their sign above the toilet 'Our pipes are sensitive, please only flush pee-pee and poo-poo in the toilet'. It was clever, caught my attention.

Would that work for my kids at home?

I sat down with my kids and we created our own bathroom signs. So far we're turd free at our house.

  • We had good success with a reminder notice too. It is also a good place to remind about hand washing. Three words: "Flush. Wash. Dry" in big print on separate lines. +1 for getting the kids to draw the signs too. Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 14:10

It's simple. We have a 4 and 7 year old boys whom both neglected to flush and wash their hands with soap and water after a number one or worse a number two.

Big bug bear!!!! But I made a little rhyme for them to remember and IT WORKS 😊😊😊

"Wee, poo, flush the loo and wash your hands right after"

The youngest then taught his elder brother and now they both do so 98% of the time and it took just a few days.

I should point out that the other 2% is when they've woken in the night and gone toilet half asleep.

  • Great strategy. For Americans, one similar rhyme that comes from "Daniel Tiger" (a cartoon popular with the 2 to 4 year old crowd) is, "Flush, wash, and be on your way".
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 14:48

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