When kids say bad words and swear: What you should do next

August 16, 2019
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    Your child just blurted out the F-word. When kids swear, discourage the behaviour by explaining why he shouldn’t be using such rude language. Here are our top 10 tips.

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  • Keep things in perspective
    2 / 11 Keep things in perspective

    It’s almost inevitable your preschooler is exposed to foul language at some point, whether he overhears an adult utter the F-word when something goes wrong, or is in earshot when his older sister exclaims “I don’t give a sh**” because she’s told she can’t do something. So, don’t panic.

    Related: What not to do when your child says “I hate you” or uses swear words

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  • Accept that this is normal
    3 / 11 Accept that this is normal

    No matter how hard you try to protect Junior from such influences, he will almost certainly ask you one day what these words mean or possibly even use such words in front of you.

    Related: What to do when your child swears or uses bad language

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    In that sense, this is normal behaviour for a child this age – it doesn’t mean you are facing a terrible problem. Understand his lack of inhibition Your four-year-old is engrossed in everything he sees and hears, and asks questions without fear.

    That’s why he isn’t embarrassed to ask you what swear words mean, nor is he self-conscious about using them himself. He’s interested in bad language because he heard it somewhere else.

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  • Recognise his fascination
    5 / 11 Recognise his fascination

    He thinks that by using what he perceives as a grown-up mannerism, he’ll become more mature himself. He is probably intrigued by swearing precisely because he knows these words are used by older children or adults.

    He thinks that by using what he perceives as a grown-up mannerism, he’ll become more mature himself. Most children like to imitate their elders.

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  • Give gentle, but firm disapproval
    6 / 11 Give gentle, but firm disapproval

    He already knows that foul language has a strong effect on other people and that, most times, it provokes a very powerful reaction.

    In his eyes, swearing may be seen as something that is both exciting and desirable.

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  • Give a measured response
    7 / 11 Give a measured response

    When you hear him swear or when he asks you what these words mean, you’ll probably be caught off guard, and may be shocked or embarrassed by this unexpected display of foul language.

    However, stay calm. Remember that he doesn’t use those words in the way an adult does.

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  • Realise that his understanding is limited
    8 / 11 Realise that his understanding is limited

    He is genuinely unaware of the true meaning of the words he just uttered, and he could become frightened by an extremely negative response from you.

    So sit him down, and tell him clearly that you are unhappy with his use of these words and that you want him to stop saying them.

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  • Give an explanation
    9 / 11 Give an explanation

    Since he already has a reasonable idea of the distinction between good and bad, and between right and wrong, he’ll understand when you explain the distinction between a “good” word and a “bad” word.

    Tell him that neither kids nor adults should use those “bad” words, whether at home, in the playground or on the street.

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  • Outline the consequences
    10 / 11 Outline the consequences

    Explain that you’ll be very unhappy with him, his friends’ parents might not want them to play with him, and he may not get invited to children’s parties if they think he is going to use this sort of language.

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  • Consider your language
    11 / 11 Consider your language

    You can’t prevent your kid from ever hearing others swear, yet setting a good example yourself at home will be a good help.

    You’ll have an easier time presenting a convincing case against swearing when your own home is a cuss-free environment. So reduce – or eliminate – your use of bad language in front of him.

    Related: Raise a well behaved toddler? Be a role model

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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