Okay, I’ll say it – the expression four, five, and six-year-olds love to say, giggle hysterically over and, as my mom used to say, “get their mother’s goat” with – that magic phrase – “Poopy Head”.
Granted our children unfortunately are overhearing and sometimes repeating much stronger language than that in today’s world, but “Poopy Head” still reigns just as powerful a word to throw around.
And once children learn its power, there is no stopping them!
How does that happen? Well, picture this … sending a little sister wailing to mom after being called “Poopy Head” – having both mom and dad beg, threaten, and bribe their children to please refrain from using the PH word at Grandma’s, or in front of the new neighbors with their seemingly very polite children, or screaming it out in fury at the supermarket.
But then, just when all seems to be under control, Grandma asks your 5-year-0ld what kind of ice cream he wants, and he answers boldly “poopy head ice cream”.
I remember one mom in particular who had two young boys close in age who tormented her with their overuse of poopy head word variations. She spent so much time trying to impress on those two silly billies that saying poopy head was not polite, that they would have to leave the park immediately, that they would have to go right to their rooms.
But the attention that was paid to these two funny fellows, chanting potty talk words throughout the day, actually encouraged them to say them more often – to seek the negative but constant attention they got from their new vocabulary – their new-found power.
So what’s a parent to do?
As parents, it is so easy to be affected by our children’s behavior and believe our reputation as a good (or perfect) parent is on the line. But recognizing that this is a normal stage of development for most children to pass through can help parents put this phase into perspective and give it less attention. Parents usually notice it more extensively when there is at least one other sibling close in age. (perhaps I need to add an extra session to my To Pee or Not to Pee toilet learning workshop – The Next Phase – Potty Talk 101!
Offering your children positive attention in little ways during this stage can be helpful. Notice more, acknowledge, listen, engage so they do not have to resort to getting your attention in this negative way.
And try ignoring the potty words as much as possible. As we know, giving them too much attention gives using these silly words a big dose of power. Some parents respond to being called a “poopy head” by saying “and you’re a purple popsicle” or some other nonsensical remark that makes your child laugh, surprises her, and reaffirms that you get his exploration of language and humor and there’s no more to it than that.
For this is the age your child is discovering his/her budding sense of humor. For the child, what could be funnier and more relevant than joking about their new fascination with their bodies and the pretty recent phase and tensions of toilet learning. The key, I think, is to ignore as much as possible, try a little humor if that can be your style, and create some boundaries on the use of this new game.
Some parents agree and decide to let their children have a “special time” every day to let loose and be totally outrageously silly with potty talk. And then, that’s it – over and done. Potty talk not allowed any other time. Children who know they can explore the fun of saying these words during this silly time may be less apt to use them in anger, to get even and to get negative attention in inappropriate situations.
And then there’s the mom I read about who says she uses the magic of Potty words with her four young children whenever she tries to get the four of them to cooperate and smile for the Holiday photo. Her trick …instead of telling them to all say “cheese”, she surprises them and says “now everyone all say” Pee pee!”. Works like a charm, she says. People always wonder how she manages to get all four children to look so darn full of glee!
It’s her little secret!
Also, just so you know, the two little silly boys who frustrated their mom so are now in high school and middle school and are polite, well-behaved and well-adjusted young boys who would probably die of embarrassment to be reminded of their childhood antics.
It is a stage. Keep that in mind when you think this post does not apply to your child and suddenly you hear your child in the backseat with his two best friends believing they are the first ones to ever think of such funny words to say.
All we can do is put it in perspective. Give me a call if you’d like some help in planning your response.