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Wash That Mouth Out! — Dealing with Toilet Humor as a Parent

mouthWe’re drowning in a flood of Poo! All of it streaming from the toddler’s mouth.

Some sample statements:

  • “Stop being naughty, Mr. McPoo Daddy.”
  • “I don’t want to eat this poopy dinner! It tastes like poo.”
  • Sung to the tune of Do Re Me: “Poo, a Poo, a Female Poo.”
  • And later, “I’ve got the poo-oo-ooo-oos like Jagger.”

We’re officially in the anal phase over here, people, a stage some of us never outgrow. Because obviously his potty mouth comes from somewhere, right? I’ll admit to dropping a few choice words here and there in the course of any given day, and also cop to a laugh or two when he talks poo. This is probably one of the hardest parts about being a parent, really. Pretending to be stern when you feel silly. Acting like you’re invested in something when you really don’t care all that much. Playing the adult when you consider yourself a child at heart.

I faced the same challenge as a teacher. Once I had to accompany a class of eighth grade boys on a trip to learn about the birds and the bees from trained professionals. While the boys sat wide eyed and attentive to this very serious talk, I had trouble stifling giggles. I also realized I had no idea what half the things were on the diagram of the male reproductive system. Seminal vesicles? That’s what she said!

You see the problem here?

So when the tot talks turds, as much as I try to bury my smirk when telling him to stop, I’m sure he picks up on my amusement. Dad thinks this stuff is funny. Honestly, Mom does too, to some extent. Thing is, in typical toddler fashion, our son’s gone too far with it. He’s testing boundaries, trying to figure out when is it funny to potty talk, when is it annoying, and when does it really bother us?

We’ve found that the more we’ve let it annoy or anger us, the worse he brings it on. Take my new nickname, “Mr. McPoo Daddy” (sometimes Daddy McPoo). He started calling me this a couple of weeks ago, especially when frustrated about some rule I’m enforcing putting on his gloves before going outside, say.

At first I fell for it. “Stop calling me that,” I demanded. Then he went on time out, or lost privileges. This only empowered the words, and he used them with increased defiance. So my wife and I changed tactics. We tell him, clearly and without emotion: “Don’t say that, it’s inappropriate,” or “That’s not a nice thing to say.” And then we ignore it. Better still, I’ve found, is to tell him to stop, and then tell him that name is silly. In doing so, I demonstrate that he’s not pushing my buttons, in fact, he’s having the opposite effect he’s being amusing, and I’m laughing rather than getting bent out of shape.

Will this strategy yield results? We’ve yet to see, as we’re still in the thick of poo. But I’m hopeful. He knows the difference between potty talk at play, which is sometimes acceptable and goofy; potty talk at the table, which we frown on; and potty talk out at a restaurant, which is in no way allowed. All it takes is the warning that we’ll leave the restaurant, and he shapes up fast. This seems right to me. It’s not that I want him to be serious and buttoned-up all the time, but he needs to know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. Something I need to keep in mind as well, when parenting.

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