“Mason, what are you going to be for Halloween?”
“Doo doo face,” says Mason, and both children laugh.
Young children think it’s funny to say such words as “doody,” “pee pee,” “boobies,” and “butt.” The words are not quite “bad,” but to children they have their power. They use bathroom language when they feel silly or need a quick way to be funny and make their friends laugh. The words also provide a way of releasing tension and getting attention.
A child might use bathroom words more than usual when there’s a new baby in her family, when she’s unhappy in day care or school, or when she wants the attention of a friend who’s playing with someone else. Using these words often does bring a child instant attention from adults and friends.
Different parents have different reactions to bathroom language. Some just shrug their shoulders and ignore the words. Others are annoyed or embarrassed and wonder where their child learned such language. They worry that she’ll be reprimanded by a teacher or caregiver, and wonder if her use of bathroom language is a reflection of their parenting.
You should feel reassured to know that all children use bathroom words, which they hear and repeat at school and at home. It’s almost impossible to delete the words from your child’s vocabulary. Of course, it’s not as upsetting when a three-year-old uses bathroom language as it is when a five-year-old uses these words. The best you can do is ignore it or set limits. “I don’t want you to talk that way,” or simply, “We don’t use those words in our house.”
If you think your child’s using bathroom language for attention, she probably needs more time with you. Play with her more, read to her more, and spend more time nurturing her interests. But don’t dwell on the fact that she’s using bathroom language. This is just normal preschool silliness.