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John Rosemond is America's most widely-read parenting authority! He is a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, and family psychologist.

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Potty talk; Challenge in Kindergarten?

Q: My 3-year-old son constantly uses what I call "potty talk.” He uses the words "poop" and "poo-poo" and “poopey” all the time and just thinks it is 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 actually go away for awhile, 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've been told by mothers with older boys that it's just a "boy" thing, but it drives me crazy. I feel like 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 that 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 any good reason to stop? Yes, yes, every once in a while you punish him, but the most “severe” thing you’ve done is sent him to his room, where he probably sits and laughs himself silly thinking up new variations on “poop.” He’s even got me laughing. Your son’s hilarious! He’s made my day!

But seriously (in this case, it 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 will gradually 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. But laugh uproariously! Fall on the floor laughing! Act like “poop” and its many offspring are the funniest things you’ve ever heard in your life. I guarantee, the more you laugh, and the harder, the quicker he will find something else to pull your chain with. 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 that my son—who is turning six in a few weeks and going into public kindergarten this fall—is properly challenged. I don’t know how I would insure that, given that I won’t be there with him. He will be one of the older children in the class because of where his birthday falls. Furthermore, he is already reading at second grade level and 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.

And now, having gotten that out of my system, a bit of advice: Relax. The other moms who are giving you this advice are undoubtedly 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’ll let you know, and you can provide him with 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 five 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.

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