I have three boys 6 and under, so I always feel like I’m drowning in poop. My youngest is still in diapers, and even my two older kids need a little assistance in the bathroom from time to time (unless I want to live on the wild side, which I usually don’t). I imagine all parents of little kids understand this feeling: with the strange mustard-colored stools of newborns, the nightmare-inducing blowouts of the toddler years and the disgusting gauntlet that is potty training, dealing with your kid’s poop is how you spend the majority of your life for the first several years of parenthood.
It was a huge relief to get my middle son potty trained — I officially had more kids using the bathroom than wearing diapers. I only had to buy one bulk-size box of diapers every month. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our diaper days were numbered, and I was spending less and less time smelling stinky bottoms and asking, “Who pooped?!”
But then that same middle kid turned 4, and now I’m drowning in an entirely different sea of excrement: the nonstop potty talk.
To be clear, I’m not talking about the appropriate use of words for body parts like “penis” and “vagina.” Child experts are largely in agreement that children should be taught and encouraged to use those terms. They aren’t dirty words, and we don’t treat them that way in our house.
No, when I say potty talk, I’m referring to “poop.”
In case you’re not acquainted with this phase yet, let me fill you in. My son’s baby brother is a “poopy-headed poop-face.” He wants “poop” on his hot dog at dinner. “Poop” is the punchline to Every. Single. Joke. He nonsensically adds “poop” onto the end of sentences, substitutes it for other words in song lyrics and shouts it out our windows at the poor souls walking their dogs in front of our house every morning.
While this fascination with poop is a developmentally normal phase for kids, it can get old fast — especially if, like me, you have more than one child in your house slinging the word “poop” around like a troop of monkeys who… well, who sling actual poop around. Neither my oldest nor my youngest sons showed much interest in using “poop” as common vernacular until it became my middle son’s word du jour. Now my kids’ collective obsession with potty talk has spread through my house faster than an outbreak of norovirus on a cruise ship.
To get some advice on curbing the 24/7 potty talk, I turned to an online community of moms on Facebook. Here are some of the best tips and tricks they shared with me.
Set some ground rules
“I’ve set the boundary that talking about body functions doesn’t belong at the dinner table or in public spaces where it might make people uncomfortable. Beyond that, it’s fair game.” — Jody A.
“I honestly don’t mind the potty talk, but we did make a few rules about not when we’re in public and not when we’re eating, and that seemed to help.” — Emily P.
Explain what the words are really for
“We’ve basically made it a rule that it’s okay to talk about pee and poop when you’re actually talking about peeing and pooping — i.e. in the bathroom.” — Kate C.
“Potty talk belongs in the potty. In the classroom… we gave them an appropriate place to use the words, and I use the same rule at home. They will run to the bathroom, say poop 15 times, giggle hysterically, and then move along.” — Robin B., parent and former teacher
Embrace it (if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em)
“I used body part words and poop words when my kids were little sometimes because it made them laugh, and sometimes because that’s what they’re interested in. I feel like they talk about it less when it’s just part of their lives.” — Kimberley M.
“I find that being playfully ‘annoyed’ about the potty talk is a way to get the words out of your child’s system. In the short term your child will say it more, as part of a fun game, but with lots of fun and laughter the charge is lost, and the novelty wears off.” — Kate O., Hand in Hand parenting instructor
Just ignore it
“It lasted about 1.5 years. Very little adult reaction does the trick. The more you nag, the more it persists.” — Magda R.
“I just generally ignore my three-year-old when he starts making jokes or songs about poop or whatever. My lack of attention is more effective than anything. I figure there are worse things.” — Sarah N.
Personally, after trying out a few of these tips, I found the “explain what the words are really for” tactic to be most useful. Since so much of the potty talk was originating with my 4-year-old, I focused primarily on teaching him that potty talk is reserved for the potty. When he started repeating the word “poop” over and over, I reminded him that those were bathroom words and asked if he needed to use the bathroom (he usually declined).
It’s now been a couple of weeks, and not only has his potty talk decreased dramatically, but my other sons are following suit too. So take heart, parents of potty-talkers. This too shall pass. However you decide to handle it, your kid won’t still be talking about poop at the dinner table when he’s an adult. (Probably.)