Yes, Everybody Needs a Courtesy Flush (Especially Your Kids)

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As a parent we are called upon to teach our kids many lessons that they will take forward into adulthood: being polite, following through on your promises, or standing behind your beliefs. One lesson I never expected I would be teaching is the Courtesy Flush.

Please note if you haven’t figured it out yet, the courtesy flush is a lesson taught in the bathroom… so you may not want to read this while eating.

Everybody Needs a Courtesy Flush

Yes, Everybody Needs a Courtesy Flush

When my oldest was born I remember being obsessed with her bowel moments. She was born prematurely, and her time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) — where everything is documented — may have contributed to this. (But, honestly, I think all new parents go through a rather gross learning curve around baby poop.)

As our children move from infant to toddler and solids become part of their food intake, our obsession changes from color or viscosity to frequency. Every parent has probably lived through the stress of a constipated child, some to the point of hospital visits. No one wants to go through that more than once – parent or child.

Along comes, our child’s independence and the bathroom focus moves toward potty training and self-care. Hey, we all had to learn how to use toilet paper somewhere.

For a while, we get a reprieve from bathroom duty having set our children on the proper path. Then comes the day when we walk into the bathroom after our child and we are almost knocked over by a pungent aroma that hangs in the air like a toxic cloud. How can such a little person create such a foul smell?

It’s time for the Courtesy Flush talk.

What Is a Courtesy Flush?

A courtesy flush means flushing the toilet while you’re still sitting on it, in order to reduce the smell. The idea is simple: the longer the, um, output sits there unflushed, the more it’s going to smell up the bathroom — for you, and for others.

Of course, the assumption by most people is that you flush the toilet when you have completely finished your bathroom business. Everything is whisked away like a distant memory.  Yet some memories tend to hang around and sometimes your bathroom business takes you a little longer to complete. Instead of waiting to the end, a Courtesy Flush removes your ‘work in progress’ and takes with it some of the accumulating aroma.

The courtesy flush doesn’t 100 percent eliminate the smell, but it can help dramatically reduce it. (Of course, you should still flush again at the end!)

Sure this system will require two flushes, the Courtesy Flush, and your finishing flush, thereby using more water. But, in my opinion, reducing the unpleasant smell far outweighs the extra water usage. Plus the Courtesy Flush isn’t something you’re going to use for all bathroom visits, just the “heavy hitters.”

We also recommend these great liquid air fresheners to further reduce bathroom smells:

Yes, Everybody Needs a Courtesy Flush
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As grown adults, most of us use courtesy flushes if we’re in a public bathroom and don’t want to annoy stall neighbors, or if we find ourselves sitting on the throne while a guest at someone’s home. But I believe the courtesy flush is also a good thing to use at home… especially for young kids.

How To Teach Your Kids to Courtesy Flush

It may sound like a silly and awkward lesson to teach your kids to “courtesy flush” but it will be one they will benefit from — believe me. (So will their future roommates, party hosts, and significant others.) I’m not saying it will reduce all unpleasant odors either but it will cut down on their overpowering nature. No one likes to have comments made about him or her after they’ve left the bathroom, feeling self-conscious knowing someone will enter the room after them.

So the lesson for kids is simple: be courteous in the bathroom, use the Courtesy Flush.

And there are two ways you can teach your child that lesson:

  1. While you’re potty training them in the first place, or
  2. After they’ve already started using the bathroom on their own

Of these two, the first one is way easier because it makes the courtesy flush an automatic part of the “number two” experience; they’ll do it without even thinking about it. But either way can work.

#1 Teaching the courtesy flush during potty-training:

  • Once your child has graduated to sitting on the real toilet, teach the courtesy flush as one of the basic steps of “going” — just like putting the seat down before sitting, or flushing at the end.
  • Make a simple “two flush rule” — this is easy for any child to follow.
  • You may not even have to explain the reason for the courtesy flush. Your child is learning a lot, so focus on their confidence in using the toilet, and leave the “smell” explanations for later.
  • Obviously, your child only needs to use the courtesy flush for a number two. But if they do it when they pee as well, that’s fine for now.

#2 Teaching the courtesy flush later on:

  • To teach the courtesy flush, later on, you will need to need to explain the reason for it. It’s okay to talk about how everybody can be a little smelly in the bathroom.
  • Frame the courtesy flush as something you do to be kind to other people, or because you love the other people in your family. Younger children especially will often care more about this than the “functional” part about creating less smell.
  • If your child is older and learning to read (or has already learned), hang up a cute reminder sign where they will see it. The ideal sign is at child-eye-level, posted opposite the toilet. (No one will notice a sign above the toilet when they are sitting down!)

It’s good to use a lot of positive reinforcement with older children since you’re basically “retraining” them. Ask them if they did the extra flush, and if so, tell them how considerate they are and how much you appreciate it.

How do you deal with bathroom smells in your home?

How do you cut down on bathroom aromas? Is the term Courtesy Flush new to you? Have you ever had to teach an awkward parenting lesson in your family?

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1 thought on “Yes, Everybody Needs a Courtesy Flush (Especially Your Kids)”

  1. A courtesy flush could also be flushing halfway through a big load, so as not to clog it and leave it all for the next person to have to dismantle.


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