Yvette J. Brown | CWK Network
"Most of the time, they are looking for a reaction from a parent and that's why they do it."
- Dr. Laura Mee, psychologist -
It has become 4-year-old Brooke's favorite word.
"Poopie," her mother, Mary Ostaszewski, reveals with slight embarrassment. "Poopie-head, poopie-butt, pretty much poopie-anything."
Brooke's cousins Sydney and Stephen have used the "poopie" word too, along with other unpleasant words.
"The first word that we heard our child repeat was a word that I often said, which was 'damn it'", recalls Michelle Salle, mother of Sydney, 7, and her 4-year-old brother Stephen.
Like learning to walk, learning to talk is all part of a child's development. Just before age 2, experts say, kids begin to mimic.
"And so if they happen to be around people who are using foul language or swearing, then they will pick up on those words just as much as they pick up on other things that people are saying," explains psychologist Dr. Laura Mee.
Between 2 and 6, experts say it's typical for children to become fascinated with 'potty' words.
"And this is normal," says Dr. Mee. "They almost all do it, and they all find it sort of funny so they reinforce each other and laugh together about it."
Foul- and potty-language can be very upsetting and embarrassing for parents. The advice from the experts: ignore the words.
"And that means not only to not scold, but also not to laugh, not to have any reaction at all. Most of the time, they are looking for a reaction from a parent, and that's why they do it. If they start getting reactions, they may do it more."
The key, says Dr. Mee, is for parents to be consistent and mindful of their own words.
Eventually, experts say, kids will grow out of this stage and learn to make better use of language.