We know that children either repeat the words they hear or produce new words. According to Mohr M. (2013), children learn to swear in younger ages compared with the past. Many 2-year-olds know at least one swear word, and many 4-year-olds are almost ﬂuent in swearing.
Well, what should we do to keep our children away from this bad habit? In this article, we will find solutions to prevent children’s swearing habits.
Before starting, we can use the meaning of the word “swearing” as described in the dictionary for a better understanding. Basically, swearing refers to several uses of offensive speech. Technically speaking, cursing someone means that you wish harm on a person.
Why Do Children Swear?
There can be many reasons for children to swear. By swearing, children may aim to attract the attention of other people or to throw out their anger and resentment. Also, they try to repeat the swear words they hear in order to imitate other people or their family members. However, it might just to have fun.
Considering the definition and the possible reasons for swearing in childhood, I will give you some important tips to stop your child from swearing. Here are the 10 tips to deal with the situation efficiently:
1) Ignore the First Swearing
Children like to repeat the words they hear from their environments whether they know the meaning of them or not. When you first hear your child swear, the most important thing is to stay calm and not to give extreme reactions.
According to Twain M. (1894), over-reaction to a swearing child is likely to be counterproductive. It is because when your child says the word, he/she wants to see your reaction. Children like using counter-force so if you get very angry, your child will feel stronger.
Also, do not react too much and beware of the behavior that your child expects from you when he/she swears. You should pay attention to the words you use at the moments of resentment so that your child does not take the control of you.
2) Give Your Child Feedback
You can tell your child that the words he/she uttered were not appropriate and advise him/her using other words instead.
For example, instead of saying “don’t say it again, it is a bad word and you are also a bad boy!” you can say that “we don’t say words like that because it may hurt people”.
Moreover, you can inform your child about using acceptable words instead of inappropriate words. You can also support your child to speak in polite words and appreciate him/her when he/she speaks thus.
In addition, you can set up sentences for your swearing child: “I don’t understand what you’re saying. What does that mean?”
After that, being silent for a while will help your child to understand that his/her behavior is not good.
3) Be a Good Role Model
Children carefully examine their parents’ behavior and speeches. That is why every word you say is within the sphere of their attention. The words you say without being aware of are perceived by children.
Quite naturally, if parents swear, their children will too, even if they get punished for swearing.
Although he/she doesn’t like listening to you, it is possible to hear the words that you have spoken elsewhere and at some other time from your child’s mouth. Even when you are chatting with friends, your child can pick up and use the word you have said.
Moreover, he/she may think that their mother or father could have said this swear word, so they can. Therefore, you should pay attention to every word that comes out of your mouth. Your children are like mobile cameras standing by you.
4) Be Careful with Your Reactions
Swearing may come either from the emotional reactions or just the will to have fun. When your child swears, he/she may think that the word he/she says is funny and that he/she can make the other people laugh. When your child swears, you should be careful about your behavior.
Obviously, the solution is not to laugh, to mock or shout at your child when they swear. Even if the way your child is swearing is funny, try not to laugh. You can teach him/her positive attitudes by telling him/her that it’s wrong. Also, never beat your child when he/she swears. It will not decrease your child’s inappropriate behavior but will trigger it.
5) Be Supportive of Your Child Against Emotional Aggression
When children are angry or feel heart-broken, they want to express their feelings and swearing may serve for this end.
It is necessary to enable them to explain their anger and to help them to get rid of it. Thus, you need to teach your child how to throw away their frustration and anger.
You can apply relaxation techniques to help them with their anger. For example, you can teach them to count down to 10, to breathe deep, to move away from the environment which makes them angry or to sit down still for a while.
Also, you can make speeches by choosing careful words to your child in which you explain why it is wrong to swear, and what other words can be used instead of swearing.
Moreover, with respect to Dan Gartrell (2007), there are many situations where swearing is not acceptable, and your child needs to know what the expectations are from him/her in
6) Be Aware of the Reasons
In order to eliminate and avoid the use of profane language in a child, the primary reason for it should be found. Instead of focusing on behavior, you can focus on the reasoning behind it.
As a parent, you can observe your child’s behavior and investigate the causes of them. The underlying causes of swearing worth paying attention to control it and to help in defeat. Your responsibility is to be aware of them.
Another reason behind the profanity in child’s language is the group of friends and the effort to prove him/herself to them. He/she can start speaking like that to accommodate him/herself to the swearing friends. He/she might feel concerned about acceptance or being popular among friends.
You should explain to the child that the words he/she uses are inappropriate and bad. Also, you should assure him/her that his/her friends believe in it without pressure.
Televisions are one of the reasons for your child to swear. The programs children watch on TV influences the language they speak. There are lots of television series in which swearing words are uttered continuously.
For that, the programs the child watches on television should not contain violence and profanity. Similarly, the films to be watched with the family should be selected carefully and should be appropriate to the age and the level of development of the child.
7) Change Your Child’s Interests
As I have mentioned above, your child might be learning abusive words from his/her social sphere. For this reason, you can expand the areas your child is interested in and offer him different social and cultural environments.
You can do various activities with your child such as going to the theater, ballet, and opera. Also, you can encourage him/her to have new hobbies such as enrolling them to the classes of painting or dance.
According to Gilliam E.J, Stough L., and Fad K, these positive interactions, combined with a reduction of an antisocial behavior (e.g. swearing), should make students feel more positive about themselves, their relationships with people, and their attitudes toward school.
These activities can strengthen your communication with your child as well as allowing him/her to enrich his/her social environment and improve himself/herself. As a result, these activities can prevent your child from bad habits and give him/her different perspectives in different areas.
8) Set Rules to Stop Swearing
You can talk about abusive words with your child and tell him/her which words are better to use in a communication. He/she can take note of the words that you don’t want him/her to use so that you can remind him/her of them when needed.
Furthermore, you can describe him/her the reasons why these words should not be used. While reminding your child of the words he/she should not say, be careful about not shouting and yelling at him/her besides maintaining a calm language.
If your child insists on doing so, small penalties can be applied. For example, you can forbid watching television for one hour, or not going out for one hour. However, don’t forget that these penalties must be a deterrent and the child should be aware of his mistake.
9) Talk to a Child Psychologist Who is Specialized in Abusive Behavior
You can get help to prevent your child from swearing. You can share your concerns about his/her swearing habit with your child’s teacher or school psychologist. You can also identify why your child swears and how you can take precautions together with them.
In this way, it will be possible for your child to benefit more quickly and effectively from the process. Lectures, seminars and informative speeches would demonstrate the messages that should be given to the children without hurting them.
10) Praise Your Child for Not Swearing
You can encourage your child not to speak abusively by drawing attention to his/her success at it. You can increase the child’s motivation by speaking highly of him/her when he/she doesn’t speak abusively.
However, you shouldn’t give them material awards for that. For example, giving your child money is wrong if your child doesn’t swear. Instead, you can say words of praise to him.
Also, whenyou praise him/her when he/she uses more appropriate language instead of profane one, he/she realizes that you care about him/her. Your observation will help him/her improve.
Remember that such behavior can occur in the language development process of every child. It is important to focus on the behavior of your child and to try to solve the problem by identifying its source.
You should let your child express him/herself by listening to and talking to him/her. As your reactions are very important for the child, you can teach him/her not do it through calmness. You should not give too much reaction or talk too much about it, but tell him/her precisely that swearing is wrong.
Always keep in mind that you should be a good model for your child. In your angry moments, you can try different ways to calm down rather than talking abusively, so that your child does not witness your bad behavior.
Dan Gartrell. (2007). Swearing and Words That Hurt. YC Young Children, (6), 72. Retrieved from http://0-search.ebscohost.com.library.metu.edu.tr/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.42730201&site=eds-live&authtype=ip,uid
Jay, T.(2000). Why we curse: A neuro-psycho-social theory of speech. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamin.
J. G., L. S., & K. F. (1978). Intervention for swearing. Interventions for Achievements and Behavior Problems, the University of Texas at Austin. Doi: 10.1163/1570-6699_eall_eall_dum_0177
Mohr M. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing. Oxford: OUP, 2013
Twain. M. (1894). Swearing. Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Doi:10.1111/jpc.12478
Your kids: 6 – 8 years; swear words. Today’s Parent, 08239258, Vol. 28, Issue 7