Insider’s Guide to Potty Mouths!

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The first time you hear your young child cuss will blow your mind — but you can nip it in the bud fast!

When a little one calls someone a “Doo-Doo Butt” or a “Pee-Pee Pants” she usually gets one of two reactions: anger or laughter. Both are forms of attention that keep the potty talk coming fast and furious. And when it comes to swearing, your reaction takes on a whole new level.

At about the age of 4 is when your child might say his first swear word. “They enjoy using four-letter words, and they love to watch your expression when they say them,” reports the American Academy of Pediatrics. “They use these words more to get a response out of you than for any other reason, so don’t overreact to them.”

When he does start to say swear words, be ready to curb the fascination with them. The solution, says Christye M. of Mt. Juliet, is to ignore it completely. “I’d act like I never heard a thing,” she says. “My kids would repeat themselves a few times because they got big reactions from their friends or from the teacher. But if I refused to look at them or acknowledge them in any way at all, the potty talk would die down within a week or two. And really, they hated being ignored more than any punishment I could hand down. Lack of attention is even worse than negative attention. It works!”

Be Consistent with Punishment

“Potty talk belongs in the bathroom,” declares Paula N. of Franklin and mother of two. That’s why she instituted a Toilet Time Out with her twins. “You can say all the potty words you like … if you’re in the bathroom with the door closed. And if you say them anywhere else, you’ll spend a few minutes of silent time in the bathroom by yourself. A commode makes a wonderful time out chair.” It’s not all negative. Having a designated place to get all those words out of their systems where no one is laughing is a great way to make the words boring and less attractive. Try your best to stay consistent with whatever punishment you set, too.

Watch What You Say, Of Course

“I hate to admit it, but my kids learned the word ‘butt’ from me,” confesses James S. of Murfreesboro. “It didn’t sound so funny coming out of their little mouths, though.” To cure himself and his kids of their problem, James came up with the Take Five bad word penalty system. For every dirty word the kids said, they’d lose five minutes from their freetime before bed. “That one worked fast because they’d miss the ends of their TV shows or wind up going to bed half an hour early!” he says. If James slipped up, he’d have to add five minutes (about half a mile) to his morning run. James says, “I tell you what, I got into good shape and cleaned up my vocabulary at the same time!”

It’s Been Around & Not Going Anywhere

Bathroom humor has been around forever. It’s in Shakespeare’s plays, on Saturday Night Live and, of course, in every joke book ever written. But most importantly, it’s popping up in your child’s favorite YouTube videos. Most videos geared toward kids are free of swear words, but some are known to accidentally slip one or two in. Why? Because it’s funny.

If your little man has a great sense of humor and is looking for a big reaction, try helping him swap the potty talk for other hilarious phrases that are less offensive. He’ll get the same guffaw from friends and family, but won’t get the evil eye from teachers and parents. Jennifer L. of Nolensville and mother of 4, says, “We’ve been down this road four times. If I had a dime for every time I heard one of my kids say ‘Poopy-Head’ I’d be a millionaire. We tell them that it’s a get-in-trouble-word but they are welcome to make up words like ‘Popsicle Face’ or ‘Banana Brain.’ Now they crack each other up by inventing ridiculous insults that are definitely weird … but not vulgar.”

Parent answers compiled by Deborah Bohn.

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