- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

My 3-year-old son constantly uses what I call “potty talk.” He uses the words “poop,” “poo-poo” and “poopy” all the time and thinks it is just hilarious. I’m amazed at the variety of ways he uses some form of the word, even working it into inane, senseless rants.

I have tried ignoring it, and it did go away for a while, but it’s back with a vengeance. I have tried punishing and definitely do not allow it at the dinner table (he gets sent to his room), but I am unsure just how stern to get.

I have been told by mothers with older boys that it’s just a “boy” thing, but it drives me crazy. I feel that the more I ask him to stop, the more he does it. Any suggestions?

A: Well, of course the more you harp on him to stop, the more he does it. He can see it upsets you, and he’s loving the reaction he’s getting. Besides, you said it yourself, you “ask” him to stop. Hello? “Plead” with him is probably more like it.

Step outside your body for a moment and watch yourself begging your 3-year-old to stop taunting you with “potty talk.” Do you really think this constitutes an effective demonstration of your authority? Do you really think you’re giving him a good reason to stop?

Yes, yes, every once in a while you punish him, but the most “severe” thing you have done is send him to his room, where he probably sits and laughs himself silly thinking up new variations on “poop.” He even has me laughing. Your son is hilarious — he has made my day.

But seriously — in this case, that requires great effort — this is no big deal. It’s what boys do … for the rest of their lives.

If you stop making a big deal of it, it gradually will take up residence in the background. Or, if you want to have some fun with it, stop acting shocked and upset and begin laughing along with him. Laugh uproariously and fall on the floor laughing. Act as if “poop” and its many offspring are the funniest things you have ever heard in your life.

I guarantee, the more you laugh, and the harder, the quicker he will find something else that will pull your chain — but I do not guarantee that the next thing will be more to your liking.

Q: Several other moms have given me unsolicited advice that I will need to make sure my son — who is turning 6 in a few weeks and going into public kindergarten this fall — is properly challenged. I don’t know how I would ensure that, given that I won’t be there with him.

He will be one of the older children in the class because of when his birthday falls. Furthermore, he already is reading at a second-grade level and is fairly well behaved, so I am told. Do you have any thoughts concerning the advice I’ve been given?

A: Before I give you some advice, I need to vent some spleen. Challenged in kindergarten? Oh, come on — what are they going to think of next? When the day comes that kindergarten is or should be “challenging,” it will be an inauspicious day indeed.

Now, having gotten that out of my system, a bit of advice: Relax. The other moms who are giving you this advice undoubtedly are neurotic about their children’s achievement in school and want you to share in their consumptive neurosis. Misery does, after all, love company. If your son needs more challenge than kindergarten provides, he will let you know, and you can give him appropriate supplemental activities, such as trips to the library and local museums.

My grandson, Connor the Barbarian, otherwise known as Doctor Science, was reading at a second-grade level last year when he was in kindergarten. Nonetheless, he seemed to enjoy himself immensely. I doubt that last year was “challenging,” but is there something wrong with a year of not being “challenged” when you are 5 years old?

Connor’s parents don’t “challenge” him at home, either. They just support whatever imaginative projects he comes up with, and he seems none the worse for their relaxed approach to parenting.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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