For a while now, our kids have been obsessed with potty words. It began 3 years ago when we were visiting some friends in North Carolina. The entire weekend our oldest (then not quite 3) and their oldest (then not quite 4) giggled over the phrase “poop on the camera.” Since then, our kids have giggled whenever they heard potty words. But in the last 6-8 months, their focus on potty words has reached a whole new level. They think it’s hilarious to say potty words constantly to each other, to themselves, to their friends, to us, to complete strangers. It’s long past the point of annoying, and can sometimes be pretty embarrassing – to us anyway. They just think it’s funny.
It’s not that we think potty words are bad per se. Just that there’s a time and place for them. In fact, we’ve intentionally taught our kids the proper names of all of their body parts, and both use and encourage them to use those scientific words appropriately (e.g. please wipe your vagina; boys have penises). And they do. But they don’t stop there.
We’ve tried different ways to stop the potty mouths. We repeated ad nauseam the phrase: potty words for potty time, and banned the use of potty words outside of the bathroom. That didn’t work. We’ve tried the stick: loss of privileges (e.g. playing with a beloved toy) for using potty words after being asked to stop. That didn’t work either. We’ve tried the carrot: offered privileges (e.g. the chance to “help drive the car out of the garage”) for not saying potty words. No dice. The potty word explosion continued.
Then last month, one of the kids’ preschool teachers suggested a potty word minute approach. A minute where the kids can say all the potty words they want, get them out of their system, then no more for the rest of the day. We tried it and were thrilled to find it works pretty well. It’s not perfect, but when the kids veer back into potty language, all we have to do is remind them it’s not potty word minute and they generally stop. In fact, they’ve taken to requesting a potty word minute when they feel particularly potty-word prone.
We were feeling pretty good about having finally gotten a handle on the excessive use of potty words, until their preschool director beckoned D into her office recently. She handed him this potty word-filled piece of paper our 5yo wrote:
Our immediate reaction: “She’s sounding out words and writing them down? Without prompting? Because she just feels like doing it? That’s fantastic!”
Potty words understandably aren’t allowed at school, so her teachers weren’t thrilled with her choice of topic. But we told the school that as long as she’s abiding by their rules of not saying potty words out loud, we would encourage her choice to write any words she wants to, and we hoped that they would, too. We also told our daughter that she needs to obey the school rules about saying potty words, but that we’re happy for her to write down any words she wants.
On a bigger scale, this experience reminded us that making anything taboo is probably not optimal. Today it’s potty words, but tomorrow (hopefully a very distant tomorrow) it’s drinking alcohol, having sex… you know, the big stuff. Finding a way to make even the “taboo” stuff safe enough to talk about is something we’re going to need to keep figuring out how to do as our kids get older.
But for now, we’re just happy that our kid is writing. Even if it is potty words.
Have potty words taken over your home? How do you deal?
Couldn’t quite decipher the words in the photo? Translation: vagina penis butt poo poo pee pee poopy diaper underwear poopy diaper toilet private part