Let’s talk potty talk. One of my regular coaching clients called me up because her son was “having issues” at preschool because he was saying “poopy” and she needed help figuring out how to deal with it.

She shared this with me. Then we stopped and stared at each other in disbelief. It was one of those surreal moments where you think, “Is she paying me for this?” 


It spoke to the ridiculousness of our cultural situation around Everything Fundamentally Human. We can’t talk sensibly about poop, death, sex or anything else even a little messy. Really? A preschool teacher who was uncomfortable dealing with the word “poop”?  

So, here’s Potty Talk 101 for Parents, in four easy steps.

1) To help your child a) fully enjoy the glory of potty talk, and b) not get booted out of preschool, put sensible limits around potty talk. Limits can be place-related: “Oops! Potty talk goes in the bathroom!” or time-related, for example, implementing a Potty Talk time during which the whole family sings to the glory of poop or whatever other word your child is enjoying the sound of. Limits can also be person-related: “No potty talk around grandma.” It’s a good idea to work in a limit about not directing the potty talk AT anyone (ie “poop on you” – not ok).

2) Gently enforce the limits. If the limit isn’t adhered to, direct the child to the bathroom or somewhere Away From People and invite them to do their potty talk as much as they want. This is not a punishment. To gently enforce any limit, do it in the same decisive and kind way you would remove your child from the middle of the road. Without fanfare. If your child isn’t impressed, you can say something like, “I know. It’s hard to remember all these rules. Potty talk is for Away From People/in the bathroom/potty talk time.”

3) Laugh, on the inside, when your child drops the F-bomb in the grocery store. This will be a great story to tell at your child’s wedding. Relish the moment fully, imagining your 28-year-old’s face as you tell the story in front of her mortified new mother-in-law. Wink at the store clerk, or anyone else who looks at you in horror, and otherwise ignore it completely. Children play with these words because they have power, and they only have power because we give them power. Take away the power and let it go.

4) Enjoy potty talk yourself, within limits. Don’t chastise your child for saying something you would say. Just remind him or her of the limits, and point out that you wouldn’t say that at grandma’s house either. And for heaven’s sake, don’t say it at grandma’s!

This post hasn’t begun to touch on the bigger picture of why kids love potty talk and how to address it developmentally – that juicy conversation is for my class, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex, Drugs, and Rock’n’Roll”. Check out the Full Circle Parenting calendar to see what classes are coming up next, or contact me to chat about whether coaching might be a fit for you. I’d love to get to know you and your family!

Best potty talk stories? Share them below!