Poop is funny when you’re five. OK, I know, people of all ages might enjoy a good fart joke. But occasionally, it is possible to grow tired of your kid’s potty jokes—particularly at the dinner table—and if you react strongly against it, you’re probably only egging them on. They are trying to get a rise out of you; it’s a power trip.
The New York Times explains:
“First, children learn that words have meaning, and then they learn that certain words have special power,” said Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of the book “Playful Parenting.” Bodily functions, he said, have a special intensity, which extends to the words that describe them. There’s the strong sensory experience of using the bathroom, combined with “the hush-hush privacy and secrecy” that children see as adults react to the words.
“Children are always experimenting with power, and getting adults to laugh or be awkward, that’s a very powerful thing to a child,” he said.
There are other explanations why the potty humour strikes their fancy around the 3- to 6-year-old age range: They may actually have anxiety around bathroom accidents, and they can release some of that anxiety through jokes. They’re also at a development stage during which the absurd is funny and there is nothing more absurd to a preschooler than bodily functions.
If you agree that the poops and the pees are totally hilarious, then by all means, let ‘er rip right along with them. If you’re trying to dial it back, though, clinical psychologist Maya Coleman has a suggestion that she shares with the Times: Implement a daily “Butt Talk Time.”
It works like this: For five minutes every day, anything is game. Kids are encouraged to say anything, no matter how dirty or gross, and parents should support it with laughter and play. If the joke is funny, laugh. If your kid calls you a poopy face, you might feign shock and say, “What? I thought I was a delicate flower.” The effect is to reduce the emotional charge of the words.
This also works, Coleman says, to help redirect kids when the potty humour starts flowing at inappropriate times (the dinner table, say, or church). She simply tells them, “Oops, we need to save that for ‘Butt Talk Time.’”