Just Flush Please
May 28, 2008 2:15 PM   Subscribe

why do kids not flush the toilet?

I've got two pre-teens and they NEVER flush the toilet despite my and my wife's prodding day in and day out. Sure, we've had plumbing backups that could cause them to want to avoid an unpleasant situation, but that hasn't happened in more than a year. They leave their business behind and then walk away. Any explanations? Any suggestions?
posted by terrier319 to Human Relations (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sometimes they flush the toilet, but you only notice when they don't.
posted by box at 2:18 PM on May 28, 2008

Perhaps because kids are focused on the now? Right now, it's potty time. Pooping's done, TIME TO GO PLAY WHEE!

Seriously, I think that's it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:18 PM on May 28, 2008

They lack discipline.
posted by Dreamcast at 2:24 PM on May 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Because they are concerned with wasting water.
posted by inigo2 at 2:24 PM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Better question - why would they flush the toilet? It requires some pretty mature thinking to be able to connect one's current behavior with its future impact on others. Flushing the toilet, and being considerate of other in general, is non-obvious behavior to kids, and they have to be taught to think this way.
posted by mai at 2:25 PM on May 28, 2008

Leaving shit in the toilet calls for more than 'prodding,' especially if these people are older than three or four. Like outright orders with consequences for noncompliance. But you knew that, right?
posted by frobozz at 2:25 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's not just your kids. I can't tell you how many times I've walked into perfectly working public restrooms to find poo in the toilets. Even at my university! It's kind of ridiculous and is completely baffling to me.
posted by phunniemee at 2:26 PM on May 28, 2008

They haven't entered enough bathrooms with remains in the toilet. I suggest you and your wife stop flushing as well.
posted by null terminated at 2:28 PM on May 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

They're lazy and oblivious to their surroundings. This is also known as adolescence.
posted by sexymofo at 2:29 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

It could be a passive agressive/control thing, but more likely it's because their frontal lobes, which control executive functions, are not yet fully developed. When they are 22, they will flush the toilet.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:30 PM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Are they young enough to be scared of the flushing sound?
posted by whoaali at 2:36 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

take a picture of it and threaten to email it to all their friends.
posted by thinkingwoman at 2:38 PM on May 28, 2008 [10 favorites]

It really depends on the situation.

For example, if it's late at night or someone is sleeping, they could be following the "If it's yellow let it mellow if it's brown flush it down" rule (the fact that healthy urine is more clear not withstanding). That would show a sign of maturity in that they are thinking about others, albeit in a way you don't find particularly pleasing.

If they read on the toilet and really get into the book, they might just forget that they used the bathroom. This is even more prevalent if they go into the bathroom to read when they don't have to use the toilet. And yes, this happens.

There's also the parenting issue that they weren't taught to flush the toilet well enough. Or that they didn't need to flush the toilet because someone would come along after and do it for them.

They might not realize how serious this is. Think about it, all the toilet is is a collection place for bodily waste. It makes sense that you wouldn't need to empty it every time you put something in it. You don't empty the trash can just because you throw away a candy wrapper, do you?
posted by theichibun at 2:41 PM on May 28, 2008

It's the world they grew up in. And for those of us who didn't grow up in that world, it's one we're learning to accept.

With the exception of the home toilet, 95% (or more!) of the potties we encounter flush themselves. It's easy to walk off and forget when the toilet usually takes care of it for you.

To editorialize a bit, I *hate* this phenomenon. I think it's making lazy flushers out of a populace that already has the tendency to take the easiest way out at any given opportunity. Be responsible and considerate, dammit!

I'd like to rail that it's something everyone learns by kindergarten. But unfortunately, with the automatic this and the automatic that, I don't think that's true anymore.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:49 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

inigo2, mai, and theicibun,

It's possible they're being little environmentalists, sure, and more power to them if they follow that judiciously. The acid test will be whether they can remember to close the seat when they're leaving business in there unflushed. If they can remember to do that, mystery solved. But color me dubious.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:49 PM on May 28, 2008

It's loud, esp. late at night.
posted by limeonaire at 2:51 PM on May 28, 2008

Pre-teens can be a fairly disgusting and un-self conscious lot. They usually learn to conceal the more disgusting habits as most of us do when we get older.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:58 PM on May 28, 2008

Make them start cleaning the toilet. It's possible they might forge the connection between how long it sits there and quantity of scum they need to scrub off.
posted by reebear at 3:03 PM on May 28, 2008

I think dirtynumbangelboy has it. Once the business is done LET'S RIDE BIKES.
posted by rokusan at 3:13 PM on May 28, 2008

Attention deficit? Not in the diagnosis sense, but in the sense that if they get distracted by something else like washing hands before they exit, they might walk out forgetting to do it. Since every other (read: institutional) facility they encounter either a) auto-flushes or b) requires that they flush before they leave the stall and wash their hands. So for most of the toilets they use, they are 1. Do business; 2. Flush; 3. Wash hands. But at home it's more like 1. Do business; 2. Wash hands/use hand lotion/stare in mirror/hop in shower/pick at zits/apply makeup with trowel/practice sexy faces/take mirrorpics for myspace; 3. Flush.

Which brings the question why not flush before wash hands? Well, all I can come up with is that when you are in a home environment, flushing signals to anyone waiting (ie: older sis whining that she needs the mirror, younger bro hollering that they have to go pee now!) that they are done and soon to be exiting. So if they flush it might cause a false hope for someone lingering about waiting to use the facilities. And at that age you don't get a lot of personal time - you're crammed on buses and in classrooms and bathrooms and locker rooms at school with a thousand other kids, you're at home having to share all your space with family and dreaded siblings - the couch/leg room under the dining table/kitchen/yard and maybe even bedroom (horrors). So the bathroom is really the only alone time you get.

I suggest you put a sign on the inside of the door that says "FLUSH" in capital rainbow comic sans letters and let them squirm with the idea of having their friends see it. They will remember.
posted by SassHat at 3:18 PM on May 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Have you asked them as opposed to just telling them? As in, asking them the question you're asking us. Seriously, we can't answer this question.

Also, stop flushing the toilet yourself and see if they notice.

then lock them in a closet and make them smoke the entire pack!
posted by GuyZero at 3:51 PM on May 28, 2008

if they get distracted by something else like washing hands before they exit

Pre-teens? Washing their hands? Yeah, right.
posted by grouse at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2008

When I was young I went through a phase where I was afraid to flush. I don't remember my exact mindset at that age, but I think it had something to to with the loud flush alerting nearby monsters to my presence.

Still, I DID flush. I would wash my hands, tip-toe back to the toilet, and then RUN out of the bathroom.

But you say they're "preteens" which makes me think they're 11-12ish? That's a bit old for the monster-phobia, it may be a simple case of "kids these days." A lot of kids nowadays are used to having everything done for them and don't have an instilled sense of "doing their part." I teach at a high school and if we don't constantly hound the kids in the cafeteria, they won't even get up to throw their trash away, it just gets left on the table. I've even heard them say "that's what the janitor gets paid for."

So, whip those kids into shape man, the rest of the world will thank you.

(I'm not trying to disparage your parenting abilities or make assumptions about how you're raising them, just commenting on a general trend I've seen in kids these days. I have my first baby on the way so I have no business judging a parent until I've tried it myself).
posted by Alabaster at 4:12 PM on May 28, 2008

I suspect the OP has asked them and has been given non-answers that don't illuminate the matter, leading to this question. And that they would not notice, or not notice in any effective way, if all in the house were to behave likewise. But this is just based on my own experience.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:13 PM on May 28, 2008

Could they be doing this on purpose to gross people out?

This even have a slang term "Phantom poop", I've known people in their 20s who do it for shock effect.
posted by sixcolors at 4:17 PM on May 28, 2008

Seems like there's plenty of info here, but I can still make a, hopefully, useful suggestion.

My kids are preteen and had this habit for a while. I just mentioned it to each of them in kinda whispery confidence that it's really gross. It seems like kids of that age respond much better to little quiet tips. Just like their friends might mention quietly, "Dude, you have a HUGE booger!"
posted by snsranch at 4:24 PM on May 28, 2008

I don't know where you live, mudpuppie, but I live in the US and I'd say maybe 10% or less of toilets in public places I go to flush themselves. The airport, some movie theatres, a few nicer restaurants seem to be it here.

Teenagers are notoriously forgetful. It doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that they just forget. Put a note above the toilet or in front of it where they will see it. Or on the mirror or the door, whatever it takes to remind them.
posted by fructose at 4:26 PM on May 28, 2008

I don't know where you live, mudpuppie, but I live in the US and I'd say maybe 10% or less of toilets in public places I go to flush themselves.

Apparently, I live in the auto-flush capital of the US, then, because that's the exact opposite of my experience.

Of course, California, water rationing, etc.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:31 PM on May 28, 2008

Let me guess - they are 10 and 12. I am finding that this age is far worse than the teen years. They are completely self-absorbed at this age, and they simply DO NOT CARE about how anything they do affects anyone else. Just now, I helped my 10 yr-old step daughter do a school project. When she was finished, she left all the craft supplies strewn about - and said she was going out to play. When I told her to put the supplies away FIRST, you would have thought I told her to paint the house. Oh, the drama!

This is the age when they have to be TAUGHT that their actions affect others, and that negative actions have negative CONSEQUENCES. Take away the video games everytime this happens - they'll get the point right quick.
posted by coollibrarian at 4:38 PM on May 28, 2008

I don't know, when I was a kid I flushed. I remember this especially because sometimes I wouldn't late at night, because the noise would scare me when the house was so quiet. I would then wake up early and go flush because I would be mortified if anyone was looking at my poop. And I grew up pretty well adjusted. I don't think it's that kids' brains aren't developed enough to handle this. I think kids have the social awareness, and some probably are just lazy.
posted by sweetkid at 5:04 PM on May 28, 2008

It's a conditioned behavior they haven't been conditioned to perform.
posted by thedanimal at 6:07 PM on May 28, 2008

We live with a 10-going-on-11-in-a-week year old boy, and I feel for you. My vote goes to dirtynumbangelboy's answer. Seriously. From what I've experienced with my own son and his friends and friends of friends (yes, anecdata), some kids just have attention spans like goldfish. I don't think it's a matter of how you've raised them, or that they're trying to annoy you, or that they're scared to, or that they're environmentally conscious, but it's just how some kids are wired. They'll hopefully grow out of it, and in the meantime, I think you and your wife will just have to keep asking them to please flush the toilet. Flush the toilet. Flush the toilet. And try not to do it for them, make them do it themselves if you can catch them before they go shooting out the door for their bikes.

I also think that if you and your wife follow through with some people's suggestions above to not flush the toilet yourselves and see if your kids will notice, my guess (like Clyde Mnestra's above) is that THEY WON'T CARE.

If it's any consolation, at least now you know your kids aren't particularly unique in this regard...
posted by misozaki at 6:14 PM on May 28, 2008

In my experience with kids this age (aunt-like family friend), yeah, they're distracted easily and just don't care.

I agree with misozaki. Just keep telling them to flush the toilet, flush the toilet, did you flush the toilet? Flush the toilet. Want me to stop saying flush the toilet? Then flush the toilet. They'll get through this phase eventually.
posted by desuetude at 8:24 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

They don't flush because it annoys you.
posted by 26.2 at 10:54 PM on May 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I was really young, I was terrified of the flush. The noise, the vortex, the Mysteries of The Underworld. I think I still had a bit of that until I was 8 or 9 years old, but by that time it was more a pleasant, welcome frisson than a real fear.

But I think I always flushed, even when I was 4 or 5 -- I just hit that handle and RAN LIKE FUCK.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:43 AM on May 29, 2008

Don't you guys remember being a kid? It was already so annoying to have to stop in the middle of doing something fun in order to go pee, let alone wasting time afterwards flushing and washing up! As kids we knew very well how to have fun, and we knew flushing the toilet was not it. I, for one, was in a hurry to get back to that game of calvinball or to beat a new level on that video game I just rented.
posted by kurtiss at 1:16 AM on May 29, 2008

It is easy to forget to do something that makes such a horrible noise, while at the same time, being unaware that you find the noise horrible. It is possible that the lack of awareness of this feeling relates to the routine levels of noise in which we live in these times, and have no control over at all.

Studies have shown that we are very sensitive to smell. It is speculated that this is because it is so totally primal. It is my personal speculation that sound is very similar in its affects on our minds, yet we are, perhaps, usually less aware of these effects.
posted by Goofyy at 1:17 AM on May 29, 2008

Every time they don't flush, make them clean the cat box and see how they like staring at someone else's poop. If each claims it was the other that forgot, make them both do it.

They'll soon learn to flush, and even start policing each other for you.

I also like the idea of emailing a picture around, though that could really get you in trouble if you had to actually go through with it.
posted by GardenGal at 7:21 AM on May 29, 2008

Not all kids.

Back when I taught preschool, there was this little girl (three-years old) who would pee, tear off a piece of toilet paper, throw it in the toilet, and then flush. She got it all right except for the "using the toilet paper" part. I'm not sure what she thought the point of toilet paper was. But after peeing, it was vitally important to her to flush some of it.
posted by grumblebee at 10:50 AM on May 29, 2008

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