I have had several moms ask me lately how to handle potty talk and/or repeated belching that sometimes accompanies rough playing or just takes over any creative playing. This post is specifically addressed for both a child under 7 and a child over 7. So, without further ado, here are a few thoughts in no particular order. Please take what resonates with you and your family. These thoughts come from a Waldorf perspective, but would also fit in well with parents who are practicing gentle discipline.
1. Penis talk and potty talk belongs in the bathroom, so when it starts just calmly take the children by the hand and walk them to the bathroom and tell them this is the room where those words belong and to come out when they are done. The same really goes for the repeated belching that some children think is funny.
2. When penis and potty talk abounds, another tactic might be to just the change the scene – start singing a song, get out a book and start reading aloud, start building a block tower and they will run to join you. Then at bedtime, address this with your child who is over seven year that those actions belong in the bathroom and he is a model for his younger sibling. Don’t over-talk it, over-explain it, guilt your child. You can just say, “I know your mouth forgot what it was doing, but those words belong in the bathroom.”
3. If the belching and penis talk is just because the children are ramped up and running around with all kinds of energy, bring them their shoes and coats and tell them to go outside or take them from a walk. Also, I think it is easy to stay in more now that the weather is a bit colder and we forget these are the same children that are running around or swimming for five hours a day in the summer. That physical energy is still there! A mini-trampoline for inside can be a lifesaver as can building forts out of cushions and pillows.
4. Keep surrounding them with peaceful energy, but do address the behavior calmly and guide it.
5. The other thought is how does your husband feel this should be addressed? Does he address it if the children do it when he is around? It may mean more coming from him, an adult male, as well to talk about this and manners in front of other people, especially Mommies that we need to show respect for. Everyone in the family should be treated with respect and dignity.
I also would look to things and activities that would involve a strong, nice male authority if you can find that in your community.
6. This is kind of a technique from my pediatric physical therapy days, but sometimes just walking up to them in the height of this kind of talk or play and placing your hand on their shoulder seems to ground them and shift the energy.
8. Sometimes you can just say, “You may find something else to do.” Take the little one with you into the kitchen to peel something and before you know it, the energy has shifted and off they go to some kind of meaningful play.
9. My last thought was maybe they need you to go through their toys and re-arrange or rotate out toys and put ones out they have not seen in awhile. Sometimes that alone is enough to get them out of a rut where they do not know what to play and end up with penis talk, belching, etc.
10. If this is occurring around the holidays and you feel they are just really over-stimulated and having a hard time figuring out what to do without escalating out of control, really try to stick to some kind of rhythm and really involve them in your work while they recover.
11. Consider warmth – warming foods, candle light, soups and stews and teas with honey, warm baths, foot baths….warmth is so calming when you feel like spiraling out of control.
Part of living in a family means setting loving boundaries that everyone can live with and feel comfortable with.
Four and six years old can definitely be a height of bathroom humor, etc. If you have a younger child, is the younger child typically the one starting it? I guess if this was being started by the younger child, I would have some kind of rhythmical activity at the ready. “I need your help to card all this wool.” (Wind this ball of yarn, grate this carrot, sift this flour, knead this bread, whatever).
With repeated belching, imitation is also important so perhaps the first time the child belched I might say, “Oh, excuse you.” And if he did it repeatedly then I would just take him by the hand to the bathroom or I would get him involved in something right next to me. The good thing about a four year old is hopefully the child is distractible with fantasy and movement so even just saying to the child, “Wow, that was a big burp horsie” and involving him in a big story/play about being a horse from that point may move the child onto other things.
If this sort of play or talk is happening during the time the children are supposed to be free playing, I would take it as a sign they need help and guidance in finding something to do, and would either set up a play scene before they are to play, or work on setting one up the night before so they can find it when they wake up, or seriously go toward taking them outside.
Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.