At the last workshop, a mom asked about what to do when her kids delighted in potty talk. She and her husband had decided which words were appropriate and inappropriate, and asked their young children to use the potty words only in the bathroom. But, she was asking me… where are the limits? Were they doing the right thing?
Certainly young kids go through a phase when they are fascinated by private parts and what comes out of them! The more tense we are about private parts and potty talk, the more they’ll want to explore the parameters of that tension, and the more they’ll try to engage us in the fun, laughing off that tension.
If you do feel uncomfortable with the potty talk, setting the limit that it only happens in private, like in the bathroom is a fine strategy. Chances are, if it makes you uncomfortable, it would make others uncomfortable too. If your child questions that limit, you can say that’s just the rule. If you want to go deeper, you can say it’s like refraining from using your Outside Voice in the house – these are things we do to be considerate of other people.
Let’s be clear though about what counts as potty talk. Saying words like “penis”, “vagina”, “vulva”, and “butt” don’t count as potty talk in my mind. I don’t want to convey shame around those words, that these are things we don’t or can’t talk about.
The conversation continued, into what to do with kids who self-stimulate (masturbate), play doctor, and more. These workshops are really fun, especially when the wine is flowing!
If these are issues you’re facing, topics that interest you, check out the Childhood Sexuality video series. It contains the webinar version of that workshop, plus expert interviews on what’s normal childhood sexuality, how to answer kids’ questions, what’s age-appropriate, how to react to potty talk, self-stimulation, doctor play, etc. You’ll get a ton of useful info, plus scripts of exactly what to say.
Enjoy this phase of childhood! It passes, and the cooler we can be about it, the easier it will go.
In support of you,