Photo Credit: Mieke Dalle/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Here is my son singing along to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face: "Can’t see my/Can’t see my/No, he can’t see my poopy face!/P-p-p-poopy face, p-p-poopy face!!" And so it goes all day long. Potty talk has escalated to alarming heights in our household. My sons scream with laughter over calling each other Mr. Poopman and Mr. Peepeeman and some days it’s all I can do not to scream at them to stop the *@$#% potty talk.
And therein lies my problem, says Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and author of Toddler 411. "They do it because it attracts attention," she says. "The first time they say it, the parent reacts, which is what entices the child to say the naughty word again." To be honest, I tried not to make a big deal of it the first time it happened. I calmly told them that I didn’t like that talk and if they needed to say those things, they should do it in their room.
But one day, when they were on my every last plucked nerve, I barked at them to "cool it with the poop talk!" which sent them over the edge and resulted in two toddlers belly laughing so hard on the floor that I couldn’t help myself but laugh with them, thereby reinforcing their negative behavior. But I couldn’t help it. Sometimes, bathroom humor is funny. Just ask the Farrelly Brothers (of Dumb and Dumber movie fame), or the producers of The Hangover movies. They are laughing all the way to the bathroom at the bank.
Why is it potty talk so endlessly funny to toddlers anyway? "It’s about as dirty as they can think of -- and taboo because it’s something they do privately -- so it has some cache," says Brown. But just because it’s kind of funny doesn’t mean you want your kids to say, "Grandma, please pass the poopy peas" at Thanksgiving dinner.
Brown insists that ignoring this behavior is the best way to squelch it. "The child is doing it to get attention. When it doesn’t get attention, the behavior is no longer entertaining and it stops." My main problem now is convincing my 3-year-old son not to laugh when my 4-year-old son starts trash talking. This may be an uphill battle. But if I do get them to cool it on the potty talk, Brown assures me I’ll get another wave of it in middle school when real swear words get a road test. So I better master the art of ignoring the harmless words now, so when the big guns come out in eight years, I won’t blink an eye. Wish me luck.