Bathroom words: talking to kids about sex, slang, and shit

September 14 2015 | Guest post by Sexplainer
Bathroom sign by Etsy seller WallDecalswithLove.
Bathroom sign by Etsy seller WallDecalswithLove.

Pee, poo, bum, urine, stool, penis, piss, shit. It's like the kid version of The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television by George Carlin.

"Mommy, I'm going to tell you all the bathroom words, okay?" my 6-year-old said one day.

"Okay," I said.

"But not the inappropriate ones," he clarified.

"Okay," I said.

"Pee, poo, bum, urine, stool, penis," he offered.

"And what are the inappropriate words?" I inquired.

"Piss and shit," he declared.

There they are. The bathroom words. I've never used the language "bathroom words" or even "inappropriate" to describe language, but I have heard my kids reference "bathroom words" over the years, and I hadn't challenged it. It was time to challenge.

Sexual body parts, slang words, and references to elimination aren't going away, and they aren't "bad." It's usually the meaning and intention behind them that can sting or hurt. "You are poo!" isn't a nice thing to say to a person, and I've explained that to my kid with varying levels of success. But if my kid wants to tell me something about his "dick," I'm okay with that.

After all, I want him to be able to talk about his body without shame. It is critically important that he's knowledgeable and comfortable with the real-world and scientific words for his genitals. Because I've always used penis, testicles, scrotum, etc. when talking about those parts of his body, it is overwhelmingly the language of choice in our home. Having the right language actually helps keep people safe and healthy.

When we call body parts, body functions, or those words associated with sex "bathroom words," it's a kind of shaming shorthand.

We had a good conversation about using words at the right time and in the right place. We talked about how different people have different rules about that sort of thing, and we talked about the rules in our family.

I explained to my kid that while those are words that might come up in the bathroom since he uses his penis and bum to pee and poo and what's left behind is urine and stool. However, they are not exclusively bathroom words, and they aren't bad words or inappropriate words or words never to be spoken. In fact, they are good and important words.

For example, with "penis" specifically, we talked about how the penis is part of the body, not a bathroom word. If someone visiting the aquarium asked one of the marine biologists how whales make babies, it would be appropriate for the biologist to explain that the male whale delivers sperm through its penis to the female whale.

To which my son said, "Penis is an aquarium word."

And I had to agree.

  1. I was pretty annoyed when my son came home from Kindergarten last year and mentioned his (privates). In a whisper.

    He also told me girls' "up here" (breasts) are privates. Because "they are bigger?" See how ridiculous that is when a kid says it? He can't think of a good reason because there isn't one.

    I told him correct words, and that he could use them at home because they aren't bad words. And everyone's whole body is private, you don't touch without permission and people shouldn't touch you without permission.

  2. I agree about the shaming stuff, but this summer we had to implement a ban on "toilet talk" because all my two sons (ages 6 and 3) wanted to talk/joke/commiserate/goof around about EVER was penises, butts, poop, pee, farts etc. It's the height of humor if you're 6 or under, but seriously annoying when you're trying to have a polite dinner conversation. I felt like I was living in an episode of beavis and butthead. So, I tried to not make it a shameful hide your body thing, and more of a "these are not polite words at this particular time and place". I want to be as open and non-body shaming as possible, but for us, we needed to draw a line somewhere.

  3. "Penis is an aquarium word."

    I love this! My daughter is still too young to really have a meaningful conversation about the right place and time to talk about body parts, but she is always happy to make sure I know that she knows where her "vuhva" is.

  4. How appropriate! My almost 4 year old today came home from 'school' and said, "I have a new friend. His name is Sergio. But he uses potty words."

    And I was like, "oh, hmm, what are potty words?"

    He just said, "you know, potty words."

    Do you use potty words? I responded and he said,

    "Nope."

    And that was that. We are comfortable already talking about penises, etc (which makes his grandparents uncomfortable!). But he didn't seem to a) know what these potty words are (or didn't want to repeat them) and b) seemed adamant that he didn't use them, so we didn't talk about it further. I like this article and will reference it in the future!

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