Handling Bathroom Humor

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Just how does bathroom language begin, anyway? For starters, it may help to realize that this is a central theme in child development for toddlers and preschoolers as they struggle to comprehend how their growing bodies work.

"Bathroom talk is really a way of understanding body parts, body products, and body functions, which are the things children this age are coming to grips with in their everyday life," says Timothy Jay, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and the author of What To Do When Your Kids Talk Dirty.Not surprisingly, potty talk follows closely on the heels of potty training. What may be more surprising is that, without realizing it, many of us start our children on the road to potty talk when we teach them the basics of toileting.

"Think about the signals you send your 2-year-old when you say the word poop," says Dr. Jay. "If you wrinkle your nose, make a face, whisper, or giggle, your child will pick up on your subtle reactions."

All of this also coincides with a time when children are taking greater delight in experimenting with the use of words. Preschoolers enjoy mastering new language skills -- only now the words are linked to toileting and sexuality.

"Whatever words adults use for encouraging children to use the potty are words they'll start to use in doll play and peer play, not to mention in public," notes Peter Montminy, Ph.D., a child clinical psychologist and director of the Midstep Child Development Center in State College, PA.

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