What to do when kids swear
For younger children:
Before you take issue with your child’s language, make sure that both you and your partner are quite clear about what is acceptable in your home and what isn’t. Once you’ve decided what words are unacceptable coming out of your child’s mouth, try to follow the same guidelines yourself.
- If your child picks up a swear word from outside the home, try to feign disinterest. Tell him very calmly that you don’t like that word and you don’t want to hear it again. If he experiments with the off-limits word again, try to ignore it and avoid responding. Once he sees that the word is having no effect on you, he’ll be less likely to use it again.
- If your child swears when he’s angry or upset, it will only fuel the fire if you reprimand him for his language at that exact moment. Try to encourage him to express how he’s feeling and why (which will probably take you to the source of the problem) and then later, if you feel it’s appropriate, tell him calmly that it upset you when he swore and that there are better – and more effective - ways of expressing himself.
- Perhaps suggest some other words that will just as effectively communicate how he’s feeling – ‘mad, frustrated, cross’ are all good strong words that won’t offend anyone.
- If you think that your child is using swear words for effect but doesn’t understand what he’s actually saying, explain to him that it is offensive to many people and can hurt their feelings.
- If you’re asked, don’t shy away from explaining what sexual swear words mean. Make the explanation brief (small children really don’t want or need too much information) but to the point. Most children are happy with a simple explanation.
- Talk about what words are OK to use to express feelings and which ones are not OK.
Older children swearing:
- If your older child swears, when he clearly understands that he shouldn’t, you need to treat this behaviour in the same manner as you would treat any other type of misbehaviour.
- Swearing is a powerful tool that older children are sometimes tempted to use when they’re upset or unhappy. They know they can’t hit or bite, so they use forceful words instead.
- Some children swear to impress friends – usually they learn to do this beyond your range of hearing!
- Your child may swear without realising it. He may pick up words that he hears at school and not realise what they mean until you explain that they’re offensive.
- If your child persists in swearing, and talking to him about it doesn’t help, try disciplinary tactics and suggest that there will be consequences to his use of bad language (perhaps some time-out or loss of privileges). Follow through with the consequences when he next swears but make sure that the punishment is short and swift.
- Don't let swearing get results. If your child is swearing because he isn’t getting what he wants, make sure that you stand your ground firmly and not give in to his anger.
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