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01/03/2018 13:16 EST | Updated 01/03/2018 13:16 EST

Poop, Booger Jokes Make Doctor Visits Less Scary For Kids, Says Pediatrician

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If being a parent teaches us anything, it's that children can be vulgar.

And, according to one Washington, D.C.-based doctor, potty mouth can actually be good for your child's health. As a pediatrician, Dr. Horward Bennett says he's come to understand that there's nothing like a good poop or fart joke to make children feel comfortable when they're at the doctor's.

In a recent interview with NPR, Dr. Bennett explains how he came to realize that telling vulgar jokes to children helped put them at ease.

"Adults are typically scared about what's wrong with them. Children are scared about what you're gonna do to them," Dr. Bennett told NPR in late December, "but in both cases, patients need to know that you're interested in why they're there, interested in them as people, that you care about them. There's lots of different ways to do that. You don't have to talk about pee and poop. You can talk about the weather, politics, and you can be kind and very serious and still get it across.

"It just so happens that part of me never grew up, so pee and poop and that kind of stuff, my patients' parents see that their kids like this, and so they let me go with it because they realize it makes the kids feel more comfortable."

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Given that children are rather complex beings, finding common ground can be difficult. "Not all of us are 'My Little Pony' experts, and chatting about Minecraft can feel like discussing a complicated story plot in some strange language," Scary Mommy explains. Rather than keep up with rapidly changing kids' trends, Dr. Bennett says he learned what worked best through his experience.

"Dr. Bennett tries to reach for the lowest kid denominator — body humour. And just like how my son started to read more because of [TV show] 'Captain Underpants,' according to Dr. Bennett, he has found that kids are more likely to trust him and take his advice if he begins his meetings with a fart joke," wrote Scary Mommy contributor Clint Edwards.

As parents know all too well, children being fearful of going to the doctor's office is not uncommon. Popsugar contributor Patricia-Anne Tom wrote in 2012, "My 19-month-old literally screams from the moment the doctor walks into the room until he walks out. He does not even like sitting or standing on the scale so the nurse can get his weight!"

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Indeed, if you've visited the doctor's recently (blergh, cold and flu season!), you've probably seen at least one child squirm and cry when it's their turn to see the doc. And if the kidlets are uncomfortable in the presence of their doctor, they could shut down and not respond, making the visit more difficult than it needs to be. This is a struggle Dr. Bennett is all too familiar with.

"Dr. Howard Bennett creates elaborate Lego sculptures, juggles squishy balls during office visits and transforms exam gloves into water balloons, but it's his booger and fart jokes that crack up even his grumpiest pediatric patients," noted NPR. Part of the reason for why kids are attracted to gross jokes is plain old curiosity.

"'Kids of any age are curious about their bodies," the doctor writes in his latest book, The Fantastic Body: What Makes You Tick & How You Get Sick, "especially if what they're learning about is gross! That's why kids laugh hysterically if someone tells a booger joke or lets out a big, juicy fart in class."
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But sometimes, these jokes can backfire. "At one visit, I was ranting about potty humour, and the mom said, 'Dr. Bennett, we don't use potty humour in our house.' For the next 20 years, I never used potty jokes with them. Another mom wrote me a letter explaining that my humour is inappropriate and offered to take me out to lunch to teach me how to interact with children. I declined," Dr. Bennett told NPR.

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Even though not all parents like his humour, Dr. Bennett has had great success in using his comedy to treat sick children.

"One time when I was in the ER, this child was very scared, and somebody called me over to see if I could do something 'cause I guess I had a little bit of a reputation for being childlike, if not childish," he recounted to NPR. "He was in his bed wearing Ernie pyjamas and Ernie slippers, and I pulled out my Ernie puppet. I swear I could have put a tube in the child's throat, and he would have said 'Thank you.' He was mesmerized."

For Dr. Bennett, ensuring his patient's comfort is the bottom line, and sometimes, that happens with a poop joke.

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