Your sweet toddler goes from babbling to talking and suddenly emerges as a noisy, raucous preschooler with a mouth like a sailor. Yikes! Potty talk, the bane of parents everywhere, is an almost universal phenomenon. It spikes between the ages of 4 and 7. At this age, kids recognize that potty talk is funny, but they haven't learned the social expectations around its use. By age 8, most kids still think it's funny, but they've learned the social rules for using it and won't likely embarrass you in public.
One of the reasons kids use potty talk is because the subject is so taboo among adults. Around age 4, kids notice that they have certain body parts, while others have different parts. They're naturally curious about these differences but may have picked up on your discomfort in discussing them. Humor and silliness offer a safe way to discuss the topic. If you take away the mystique, though, the need to use potty language decreases. Try to take a more open attitude toward the body. Teach the correct names for body parts and refer to private parts as casually as you would your elbow or toes.
If there's one thing kids adore, it's a reaction from Mom and Dad. The bigger the reaction, the better. Kids lack the embarrassment adults feel about body parts and functions. They intuitively understand that burping, farting and pooping are natural parts of life. They recognize that dad's overblown reactions to potty language are absurdly unnecessary. To curb potty language, avoid giving kids the audience they seek. Instead, shrug, roll your eyes and walk away.
You have to admit -- potty humor is sometimes funny. Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller have built careers, in part, on its carefully timed use. Even kids' movies, such as "Shrek," get a laugh through potty humor. Patty Wipfler, parenting expert at Hand in Hand, a parenting consulting firm, recommends setting aside certain times when potty talk is allowed. Laughing along with your kids from time to time minimizes the feeling that potty language is an elicit activity.
Potty humor is funny, but it's not appropriate in every situation. If you try to curb potty language entirely, you'll probably increase its use, but you can set limits. Potty language is never okay in public places, such as restaurants, stores, church or school. Teach your kids that if you ask them to stop, they need to comply immediately. Take away privileges or remove them from a situation if they don't. Potty talk is different from profanity in both its goal and use. Potty talk involves words like "pee pee," "poop" and "fart." Potty talk is an innocent, silly exploration, while profanity is used to offend, express anger or impress peers. Set a good example for kids by not using profanity yourself. If you hear your kids using profanity, discuss with them why using profanity is offensive. Set limits and enforce consequences for using profanity.