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Help! My Toddler Is Swearing!

You may be stunned to hear your little angel say a swear word! Many parents experience these shocks at some point so do not fret! This often happens as children begin to explore language. It happens because they have heard someone else say it in frustration and they want to express the same emotion or they do it because they know it achieves a reaction and therefore think that it is funny.

The best action to take straight away is to NOT REACT. Ignore the swearing completely by saying nothing and making no eye contact. Certainly do not laugh or smile. If the swearing took place for attention seeking this will halt the behaviour in its tracks. If your child continues to swear then remain calm and say something like, “We do not use words like that as they can upset people”. You do not need to explain what the word means just calmly say, “That is not a nice word so we do not say it”.

With an older child you may find that he pushes for an explanation so ask him what he thinks the word means. Keep things simple and short. If he is referring to a part of the body say something like, “that is a word for bottom but it is not a nice word and we do not use it as it can upset people”.

As a family, discuss with the other adults what you all think is acceptable language and what is not. Agree to use substitute words like “crumbs!” or “crackers!” in times of frustration. Or say “I feel really annoyed” instead of swearing. When your child emulates you by saying that he feels angry rather than saying a swear word, praise him and ask him why he feels the way he does. If he tells you that his friend said a bad word tell him he is a good boy for walking away and not using bad words himself. It is a good idea that you and the other adults in your family monitor what your child is exposed on the radio, television and computer.

With older children regular swearing needs to be dealt with by a form of punishment or taking away of a special privilege. As a parent you need to make it clear to your child what the consequences are of swearing and then following through with the chosen punishment. This has to be consistent as idle threats will not work in the long run.

Even if you are a fairly lenient parent when it comes to swearing you should really make your child aware that much of the outside world will not look favourably on the use of bad language by children or adults. Peoples’ perception of bad language can mean that your child will be considered disrespectful and of a limited vocabulary. People may think that your child cannot express himself in an intelligent way and is lazy with his speech. Emphasise to your child that in some situations swearing is totally unacceptable.

By Eirian Hallinan

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