Potty Talk and Dirty Mouths

I don't like the word "potty", let alone a "potty mouth", and our kids know that we don't say "bad words". But... regardless of our children's ages, they are hearing and maybe saying words that we don't approve of.

So what can we do to stop the "poopoo heads" and four letter words. Here is some advice to help beautify those mouths.
  • When the potty talk, or bad words come out, Don't overreact. That is what your child wants you to do. If we get upset and draw extra attention to the words, our kids will use them again to get more attention. Stay calm. The potty talk will usually take care of itself. 
  • When children are small, teach them the correct names for body parts. They will be normal "no big deal words" to your kids and they won't get any satisfaction or excitement out of using them. So true for little kids who like to use "poop and pee" talk.
  • Children need lots of attention and validation. Whether the attention comes from positive or negative actions, they are still getting attention. So, make sure that your kids are getting lots of positive attention. 
  • Give your children choice. When children get to choose, they feel like they have some control in their lives. They won't feel like they need to gain control by using bad language. 
  • Watch our language. If we are using inappropriate language, so will our children. This happened to us today. My husband said "these kids were screwing around at school" in front of our 3 year old (I know that is not a four letter word, but...we don't want our three year old saying it). Our three year old spent the rest of the day saying "screwing around". Hearing it once was all it took. My husband learned quick, to watch every word.
  • Do not respond to bad language or potty talk. Our children are looking for attention, responding will give them that attention. Just like when our children get demanding or backtalk, we need to make it clear that we won't respond unless they speak using appropriate words. Walk away if you need to. 
  • Be cautious with media. Is the music your teenager is listening to filled with bad language? Are your young children watching t.v. filled with "potty talk?" Turn them off. Make it clear that those shows and songs are not acceptable in your house. Shows affect the tones our children use when they speak also. (If your child has ever watched Caillou you probably know what I mean).
  • Be careful with friends. Are your children around other kids who use language you don't approve of? Our daughter learned "poop head" from the neighbor next door. I made the mistake of letting them play again. The next time she came home saying "pee pee face". Our daughter doesn't play with that little girl any more. She said, "but Jane says poop head, why can't I?" I had to make it clear that just because Jane says that word, doesn't mean it is okay in our family. Our son no longer rides his bike with the boy up the street who started saying "four letter words." (Really bad "four letter words"). 
  • Set the ground rules early. Make it clear what words your kids (and yourself) can and can not say.
  • Teach kids how to manage and deal with their anger. Older kids usually swear because they are angry or trying to fit in and be popular. If they learn young how to manage their anger, they will be less likely to swear when they are mad. Teach self-mastery. Help build your child's self esteem so that they don't feel the need to act out, to "fit in" and be popular. Make sure they know how popular they are in your eyes so they aren't overly seeking that attention in other places. 
  • Words have power. We need to teach our children that words have power. Especially our older children. Using them inappropriately can be degrading, mocking and scornful. Help our children examine the effects that harsh words have on others, and on ourselves.
  • Evaluate. Why the "foul talk?" Are they doing it for attention, are they rebelling, out of anger, for popularity? Look for the root of the problem. Address it. 
  • Set clear consequences. There needs to be consequences for swearing. Make sure your children understand those consequences and that you enforce them. 
Here are four of the most popular consequences.
1. Have your child wear a rubber band on their wrist. Every time they say a swear word they have to snap themselves with the rubber band. Probably better for older, teenage children.

2. When your child says an inappropriate word, they have to go to the dictionary and find a more appropriate word to use instead. Then they have to use that word in a sentence and teach it to the rest of the family. You could even have them write a story using the new word. For little children, help them look up the word and then have them draw a picture of the new word in use. 

3. Make a "swearing jar" and a "non-swearing jar". Every time someone says a swear word, or there is "potty talk", the offender has to put money in the "swearing jar". Make this a family affair. It goes for adults also. You hope this jar stays very empty. If it does stay empty, or doesn't exceed a certain amount, then the parents make a contribution to the "non swearing jar". The contribution could be made daily or weekly. When this jar gets full (or reaches a certain amount), the family uses it to go out for ice cream, or to go bowling, or for another fun family activity. Praise everyone as they use good language and the "non-swearing jar" fills up.

4. Loss of privileges. "Potty talk and "swearing" means they miss out on some of their favorite things.

It is very normal for young children and teenagers to go through "dirty mouth" phases. We can't stop the words from coming out of their mouths, but we can do a few things that shorten the "phase" and keep things on track. 



  1. Great ideas! We do use potty but I hate how it sounds. I am trying to remember to say restroom and occasionally I upgrade to lavatory. :-)

  2. Usually don't use potty. We say bathroom.
    My 3 yr old has started saying dumb dumb poopoo head. A lot. So great timing of this post, although I'll have to modify some suggestions. (like looking up words in the dictionary).
    We used to get soap in our mouths. I can't bring myself to do that to my kids. But so far no swear words. Just calling each other names, and I make them say 2 nice things for every one mean. Usually works.

  3. My siblings and I have a running joke of "I meant the letter P!" from when we were kids so that we wouldn't get in trouble for saying "pee." We were NOT allowed to use those kinds of words. In my own family we do say potty. I don't know why, we just do. But my kids aren't allowed to say stupid/dumb/etc. and we stay far, far away from shows on Cartoon Network.

  4. Referring to your advice “Be careful with friends,” might I suggest a powerful lesson you can teach your children. When someone doesn’t have the same values as we do, it can be our opportunity to share them. You or your daughter can tell that little neighbor girl that “we don’t use potty words,” and maybe suggest replacement words, like “silly goose,” or what not. If she can’t do this, then I can see why you wouldn’t let your daughter play with her. But there’s a good chance that she might respect your family’s value and maybe there are other values she can learn too. I don’t know this girl, and maybe you have other reasons for banning your daughter from playing with her. But just based on what I read, I felt sorry for her. I thought maybe she should deserve a chance, not be judged so quickly and so easily discarded.

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