How To Keep Those Little Mouths Quiet
Life with children is never boring. You can always count on your kids to keep things exciting in a variety of fun and entertaining ways -- like calling your boss "Mr. Poopyhead" or announcing to everyone in the checkout line, "My mom doesn’t have a wiener."
As much fun as this childhood rite of passage is, you may be ready to leave it behind long before your child is. In fact, some kids keep up the crass talk until "right around the beginning of high school," says Alan Greene, M.D., pediatrician and author a half-dozen books, most recently, Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care (Jossey-Bass 2007).
"There's an early fascination with potty talk in the early elementary years, and a different fascination in the middle school years when kids are excited by the racier aspects," he says.
Fortunately, there are ways to encourage your child to finish this stage sooner, rather than later.
1. Watch your own mouth.
A lot of parents use the very language they want kids to give up without realizing it, says Jodi Stoner, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and co-author of Good Manners are Contagious (Spinner Press 2009). "Parents can actually be introducing silly words -- like "stinkypants," "poopyface," or "wiener boy" -- because they think it's cute," she says. Stop using the language you want to curtail, and your chances of success will skyrocket.
2. Watch your kid's friends.
"Potty talk does tend to spread through groups of kids," says Dr. Greene. So if your child has some friends who aren't sharing his fascination, invite those kids over. "Encourage those relationships," he says. "Friends have a really profound influence on children."
3. Keep your reactions in check.
Kids know how to push our buttons. Every time you laugh -- or yell -- you reinforce the behavior you're trying to end. "Set firm limits: 'That's not a word you may use in our house or around other people,'" says Dr. Stoner. When your child starts with the potty talk, "walk away or talk over him and begin a new conversation with someone else in the room. As long as he is using inappropriate language, act disengaged in his conversation. As soon as he starts speaking appropriately again, join in his conversation," she says.
4. Expand your comfort zone.
We all use the potty, but some people are more comfortable discussing their bodies than others. The more comfortable you are talking about bodily functions, the sooner your child will give up his own potty talk, says Dr. Greene. "They feel powerful using this language because it gets shocked looks from people and feels forbidden." Take away that reaction, and the language loses its power.
5. Lay down the law when necessary.
If your child persists in using potty talk despite your new attitude, "stay calm, but do respond immediately and be consistent with a time-out or withholding a privilege," says Dr. Stoner. "Time out is the most effective discipline method for potty talk," agrees Dr. Greene. "The less intervention, the better."
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