Potty talk with 'Softy the Poop'
“Softy the Poop,” read my 8-year-old aloud as he looked over my shoulder.
Usually, he’s not terribly interested in what I’m writing about, but before I could turn around, he had reached an arm over me, snagged the book and was walking towards the couch with his little brother bouncing along next to him, saying “Poop? What poop?” Clearly, this book is going to be a hit with a certain demographic.
It’s also going to be a hit with parents of potty-training aged children. Softy the Poop is a new children’s picture book, a companion to The Ins and Outs of Poop: A Guide to Treating Childhood Constipation by clinical child psychologist Dr. Thomas R. DuHamel. His guide was released two years ago, and we spoke recently about his mission and the motivation for his foray into children’s literature.
“Despite poop being an action that everyone does, very few people want to talk about [it],” he said. The question, Dr. DuHamel has pondered over the years, was how to get parents and doctors talking about it, so that fewer kids would develop chronic constipation, or encopresis. In an “A-ha!” sort of moment, he realized that the people who like to talk about poop the most are kids. Instead of depending on the parents to educate kids, he could present information to kids that they could share with their parents. “Education from the bottom up,” he said with a laugh. Pun intended.
The next challenge was to create a character friendly enough to appeal to kids, yet not too gross for parents. After some focus work at Dr. DuHamel’s family reunion, Softy was born. Using the Bristol Stool Chart, Softy leads kids through the different types of stool and compares them to objects and animals that are relatable for this 2-to-6-year-old age group. Softy displays expressions and emotions that help kids understand what they can do to help themselves and Softy stay healthy and happy.
The most common reason kids withhold is that they don’t want to stop what they are doing. Let’s face it: going to the bathroom is boring. Dr. DuHamel’s hope is that Softy the Poop will make it more fun. By giving kids new language to describe what’s happening to them, they can involve their parents and take more responsibility for taking care of their bodies, which in turn will prevent constipation. Dr. Duhamel is on a mission. Perhaps Superhero Softy could be a sequel. I know my boys would read it.