Almost every young child goes through a phase where they instinctively know that calling other people potty words (words related to bodily functions) is insulting.
These are just a few of the many creative terms children come up with to call their peers (and sometimes adults!).
The most common advice I’ve heard given to parents with regards to the embarrassing phenomenon of their children using potty words is to just ignore them and they’ll stop. Once they realize they aren’t getting attention for it, they won’t use them anymore.
This is only partially true. Unfortunately, just because adults can ignore the potty words doesn’t mean that the other children at who they are being directed will succeed in ignoring them. That is rarely the case. Thus the offending child still gets the grossed out and insulted reaction they were craving to begin with.
But there is a deeper rooted problem in ignoring children’s use of potty words: It tells them that it’s okay for them to continue to use them.
Ignoring misbehavior until it goes away is an easy way to avoid having to deal with the problem, but it doesn’t train children how to behave correctly. You may think you need to pick your battles, and I know it gets exhausting picking up every fight with a strong-willed child. However, this is an opportunity for you to show your child how to treat other people with kindness and respect. Letting it go tells them it is acceptable to treat other people in a rude and disrespectful manner.
So now you have the rationale behind dealing with the problem of potty words and not simply ignoring their usage. But what is the alternative?
You could go with a straightforward approach, such as instituting a time-out or spanking whenever the offending words are used. I would like to suggest a more creative approach that I saw used effectively by one of the other teachers at the daycare where I worked.
She explained to the children that potty words are only to be used in reference to the potty, not towards teachers or other children because that was rude and disrespectful. They were allowed to “purge the urge” (so to speak) by saying as many potty words as they wanted while they were using the bathroom by themselves. If they used these words outside of the bathroom, she would first ask if they needed to go to the bathroom. If they said no, she would remind them that those words are only to be used while in the bathroom. If they continued to use them, she would take them to the bathroom and ask them to sit on the toilet.
Some children while potty training love to sit on the toilet, but once they get the hang of it, no child that I know of enjoys having to sit on the toilet when they don’t actually need to use it – especially not while their friends continue to play right outside the door. They quickly learned that the only appropriate time for them to use potty words was when they were alone in the bathroom, and that they should not direct them at other people.
If you child has a problem with using potty words, I would suggest giving this method a try. Whatever you choose to do, think about the message you are sending to your child and how it will affect them long term. Choose to raise children who are kind and respectful. They need your guidance early in life to know how they are supposed to treat other people. Always remember that, as a parent, you are the person your children look up to the most. If they see you treating people carelessly, they will take their cues from you and learn that people can be treated however they want to treat them. But if you care for others, your children will learn that other people are to be treasured and respected.
Have your children ever had a problem with using potty words? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!