Many parents experience the horror of hearing their child suddenly start using questionable language (Potty Mouth).
There’s no rule when this happens or indeed even if it will – some children go through their lives without ever using undesirable words and expressions. However, it’s not unusual to hear it for the first time somewhere between 3-5 years.
The first use of such terms is very often linked to toilet and bodily waste functions. This has led to this syndrome being described by some as “Potty Mouth”.
What is it?
Most children constantly seek to find new ways to attract attention from their parents or care providers. By around 3-4, they will already have learned that sometimes saying new things is one way to achieve that.
This is the fundamental origin of potty mouth (PM). It often manifests itself for the first time when a child says something like:
- “he smells like poo”, “he has fart breath” or “she is a pee-pee pants”.
We’re sure that’s enough examples!
They may think it is funny-naughty, clever, entertaining or just ‘different’. Many kids really don’t understand what they’re saying and are just trying to be amusing.
Where does it come from?
You can spiral down into a bottomless pit trying to analyse this one because the chances are, you’ll never know.
Avoid blaming their friends by default. That may be a source but it’s equally possible they’ve picked it up from the TV, video or even a cartoon.
What can I do about it?
The first piece of advice is – don’t panic! Your child is not on the road to foul language and this is a very commonplace, perhaps even normal stage many kids go through.
So, avoid overreacting.
Here are some top tips for how to deal with this one:
- your child sees their latest trick isn’t getting a reaction, they usually drop it quickly and move onto other more acceptable approaches to get you to engage with them;
- tell them it’s bad. If your child persists in using Potty Mouth language, you need to quietly explain to them that using such words “isn’t nice”;
- explain to them why. This follows on from the above point but try talking to them about why bodily waste isn’t something people normally talk about and describe in normal daily life;
- take it seriously and avoid laughing. If kids see their parent finds what they’ve said funny, then you can be sure they’ll reproduce it at every opportunity;
- use empathy. Ask your child how they would feel if someone used such terms to describe them. In truth, as some kids are less empathetic than others, this doesn’t always work but it’s worth a try;
- consider a sanction – if all else fails. Some specialists recommend taking the child to the bathroom and leaving them there to use PM, saying that’s where such language is used and that they should only come out when they’ve finished using it.
Of course, keep in mind that even young children can spot inconsistencies in parental positions.
So, if you use a more adult variant of PM around the house yourself, you’ll need to stop doing so if you expect your child to not pick up your habits.
We have vast experience with children and have seen and heard all possible variations of Potty Mouth!
We don’t get flustered. If we hear a child starting to experiment with PM, we will take some of the above steps to distract the child and explain that this is not a nice way to speak. We also discuss the matter with the parents so that we can work in partnership to overcome this typically little hiccup!