Holy Poop! Potty Talk Might Actually Be Good for Kids, Says Science

Here’s an NSFW confession. I’m in search of something precious that’s all but disappeared this year: The ability to have a conversation with my brilliant, beautiful kindergarten-age kid that does not include the words poop, butt, tushie, diarrhea or weenus. But here’s what I’ve found: There’s actually no need close the lid on toilet talk. In fact, this verbal, um, exuberance is not only age-appropriate, it’s a sign of healthy cognitive development. So the next time I’m called a tushie-face, I’m just going to congratulate myself for raising a genius. Here, more on the positives of potty talk.

6 Secrets of Moms with Polite Kids

little girl laughing on the couch

Humor Is Linked To Intellect

Children begin to develop a sense humor as they are “stretching their cognitive abilities,” writes one expert. Their fascination with toilet talk may begin around the time they are potty trained or when they discover the genius that is Captain Underpants. Either way, a rapidly expanding understanding of language, social interactions and imagination are at play. All amazing attributes, I s%#t you not.

siblings laughing together

It Negates Shame

Potty training and the years that follow are loaded ones for little kids. Potential stress around the fear of accidents should not be underestimated. “Children need this kind of play outlet for their feelings about, embarrassment about and their interest in their bodies and how they work,” writes one educator. “Their laughter helps them offload the tensions they have—or the ones they notice in us—around bodily functions.”

mom and son roughhousing on the couch

It’s A Bonding Opportunity

One exert we spoke with suggests telling kids, “There’s a time and a place for everything.” Make it clear where the toilet talk safety zone begins and ends. Bathroom humor at home? Thumbs up. Mooning Dad’s boss? Not so much. It may also help to distinguish between potty words and private parts, depending on your tolerance level. Another expert suggests leaning in to the child’s humor, responding with delight, plenty of hugs and kisses, and definitely not by getting angry or ignoring them out of a well-intentioned desire not to reinforce the behavior. By injecting the moment with joy, kids “get to laugh. But the game turns to one of ‘Catch me if you can!’ which is great for kids’ confidence. They get to say the ‘word,’ while you get to protest and ‘get them back,’ but with affection; not with sternness or emotional distance. When you play this for 10 or 20 minutes a day, it helps take the pressure off this kind of play for the rest of the time…It’s an ‘I see you have some tension around this and I’ll help you so you don’t have to carry that tension from day to day’ relationship... Your child is much more likely to manage to be polite when it’s called for if you are able to hop in and enthusiastically join him in this kind of play, at least [for a few minutes]. His self-control will increase because he feels understood, cared for, and close to you.” In short, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em—at least for a pit stop before moving on.