If your kids are under two, you probably haven’t heard your sweet little darling utter expletives…yet. Even if you don’t swear in your home, your child is likely to hear swear words from other adults, TV, at school, or at the store. Swear words are especially appealing to little kids because they are usually uttered with strong emphasis.
If your little one has already started swearing, or you want to know what to do when your child starts swearing, read on to learn how to nip this bad habit in the bud.
The best way to prevent your child from using swearwords is to avoid saying them yourself. Train yourself to use swearword alternatives, like fudge or shucks instead of the bad words. When you are angry or frustrated, saying how you feel can help your child learn emotional language to explain how he is feeling.
When young children swear
When you hear your child swear for the first time, this is the best time to stop it. Your reaction will either cement the word into your child’s arsenal of words that get a reaction or not. Do your best to not laugh or get angry. At the age of two or three, kids are interested in getting attention from you, good or bad. If you laugh your child will hold onto the swearword as a way to make adults laugh. If you get angry, it will solidify the word as a way to get a big reaction out of you. Keep in mind, your child probably does not even know what the word means, he is just repeating what he heard.
If your child is just repeating you after you stubbed your toe, saying nothing at all might be the best approach. If your child starts saying the word continually without any signs of slowing or stopping, your reaction should depend on your child’s age. If you hear your under 8 year old child swear, offer another interesting word to say, like “I know another fun word, how about balderdash?”
According to this article on Slate about kids swearing you should approach young children with understanding. ““Say, ‘Hey, that’s an interesting word—where did you hear that? Do you know what it means?’ ” Jay suggests. Then, proceed in one of two ways. You can tell him it’s not a word he should use at home. But that approach can backfire, because what you’ve just done is given your kid a weapon that he can fire at you when he’s upset or wants your attention. A potentially better approach, Klein says, is to allow your child to use the swear word within limits. “Tell her, ‘Some people don't like that word, but in your room you can say it anytime,’ ” Klein says.”
If you notice that your child mainly swears when she is frustrated or angry, she may not be able to express what she is feeling. In this situation, teaching more emotionally descriptive words can be helpful, like, “You seem really disappointed, angry, sad, confused, etc.”
When older children swear
When kids are older, they start getting a better grasp on putting themselves in other people’s shoes. If you hear your child swearing at this age, try to get them to understand how that word might offend someone or hurt their feelings. At this point, kids still may not know exactly what swearwords mean. If you find your kid using words you don’t like, asking if she knows what that particular word means and filling her in may curb that habit. If you swear in front of your child at this age, apologizing for the slip may help with curbing bad words.
Letting kids swear
What is considered swearing varies greatly by family, community, religion, country, etc. You may not care if your child says the more common swear words, but not want her to use words that hurt or belittle other people. So d-mn may be okay, but stupid and hate are blackballed in your home. Some parents take swearing by circumstance. If your child calls his brother a dummy it would have higher consequences than if he swears when he steps on one of those infernal Legos.
You may also allow your kids to swear in their rooms or outside, but not in public areas of the house, or only when she is outside of the house. Experts say that having a potty mouth is not necessarily harmful to kids, unless there is a larger pattern of aggressive behavior and other behavior problems. Swearing among friends is a normal part of growing up, it makes teens feel like adults.
We know one mom who told her kids they could swear after their vocabulary had reached over 20,000 words. She doesn’t want swearing to become an excuse for lazy vocabulary.
When Kids Swear
Most kids will not make it through childhood without uttering at least a single profanity, learn how to avoid and stop this bad habit.