“What did you just say?!” When kids start swearing

“What did you just say?!” When kids start swearing

What do you do when your cherubic 5-year-old daughter comes home swearing like a sailor? Check out these useful tips to clean your child’s mouth out without reaching for the Palmolive…

1. Clean your own mouth out with soap
Yes, it’s the old ‘modeling good behaviour’ chestnut. Perhaps it’s time to start a swear jar or find a decent substitute word that conveys the sentiment without being offensive. I’ve trained myself to say:  “scone, jam and butter it” just like my Welsh nana used to. It makes me sound like a complete dork, but for some reason it comes out as regularly as “f**kit!” used to before. And it sounds funny when the kids say it.

2. Keep a poker face - it's all an experiment

Despite the hilarity of a small child using a swearword completely inappropriately and out of context, you have to try and exercise a little restraint (before remembering to write it down) – otherwise they’ll learn the power these words have. Psychologists say that swearing is actually a thoughtful experiment on your child's part, because what they’re actually thinking is: “I’ve heard this word used angrily or to make people laugh. Let's see what happens when I say it.” Making adults laugh — or get angry or upset — is an enormous power to possess when you're small and want to get your way.

3. Set limits

Do this calmly otherwise you’ll be reinforcing how powerful swearing can be. You don’t have to explain what the words mean or why they’re unacceptable if your child isn't old enough to understand (try explaining the meaning of a derogatory term for a promiscuous female when your child's knowledge stops at 'special cuddles'). Just make it clear in a matter-of-fact and disinterested voice, which words are off-limits: "That's not a word we use in this house."

4. Don't let swearing get results

Even if they’re swearing loudly in the confectionary aisle with disapproving onlookers and you just want to make it stop. Never give in: explain through gritted teeth that there is no way they’re going to get any treats now, and then hang your head in shame until you reach the safety of your car.

5. Teach respect

It starts from when kids are very young, and it doesn’t have to be just swearwords. Children need to know that name-calling and insults, even childish ones like ‘poo-face’ (my boys’ particular favourite), are unacceptable and can hurt people’s feelings.

Have your kids come out with any pearlers? What did you do? Let us know in the comments section below.



Claire Baird on 18 April 2014 15:26
when my kids come out with a swear word i tell them it's a grown up word that only grown ups can use. seems to do the trick - and then it doens't matter if other adults swear around them. and you don't get the embarrasment of your kid telling other adults they are using naughty words either :)

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