Eighty-six percent of parents agree that children ages 2 to 12 are cursing more today than when they themselves were children, according to a national survey commissioned by Care.com. Fifty-four percent of parents say that their child has cursed in front of them, though 20 percent don’t think the child understood the meaning of the word.
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At its best, swearing is an ineloquent way to express emotions. At its worst, it actually stunts one’s ability to describe emotional experiences. So whether a child hears these bombs from you, at school or on TV, it’s important to stop the language before it continues.
Here are some tips to help you respond if your child swears:
No matter what age your child is, address it immediately and calmly. For kids age 6 and under, start simple: “No swearing ever.” For older kids, who can think more abstractly, you should explain why swearing is not okay. Your goal is to make sure to help kids express their feelings, to talk and present themselves in the best way.
Nip it in the bud
Some parents believe that calling attention to a child’s inappropriate words will only encourage the behavior, so they choose to ignore these transgressions. But how will your child learn that cursing is not okay if you don’t teach him?
Ask your child first whether he or she understands the word. If the answer is “no,” explain that the word is offensive, that it affects how others receive you, and that it is not acceptable. If your child does understand the word, give him a similar speech, but know that this might need to become part of a larger conversation.
Don’t be tempted by YouTube fame
Sure, a video of your cursing toddler might launch your child into his fifteen minutes at a young age, but curb the desire to pull out your videophone the next time he swears. Doing so only sends a double message of "I don’t want you to swear, but swearing will make my friends laugh hysterically, so could you do it again?"
When you reprimand your child, he or she might retort, “But I heard you/Daddy say it.” Resist the urge to deny or justify your own swearing. Admit that you also struggle to control what you say. By doing so you won’t create a double standard -- and you’ll get the added bonus of making your child feel like he is facing an adult problem.
Find new words
Sit down with your child and brainstorm new, non-offensive words or phrases to say when she feels frustrated, upset, or angry. More often than not, children say these words when name-calling. Use this incident to discuss your child’s feelings toward an acquaintance or sibling. Encourage her to use other, different words to describe how the person makes her feel. This can expand her vocabulary and help turn a bad moment into a bonding one.
If none of the above work, or if your child has already made a habit of swearing, you need stronger measures to show him that this behavior is not appropriate. Tell him that every time he swears at home, you will take fifty cents from his allowance or assign him new household chore.
And now, Mom and Dad, these are for you:
Bring on the Swear Jar
If the whole family needs to work on their language, the jar can be a fun and an effective way to eliminate cursing. Put the money towards a family activity, like an evening at the movies.
Correct guests (even Grandma!)
Maybe you don’t swear, but what if a frequent guest, like your own mother, does? Let the guest know that, while you may be comfortable hearing these words in other settings, that you do not want them in the home. If the guest persists in swearing in your home, or if she is a less regular guest, don’t call attention to it in front of your child. Try to separate her from the party discreetly -- ask for help in the kitchen or offer to show them the new print hanging in your bedroom -- and repeat your request. If your children are being watched by a babysitter, talk to her about appropriate language in your household as well.
Beware of TV and movies
Think Johnny’s coloring -- and too young to understand what’s on the small screen? Think again. Swear words often get laughs and kids’ ears perk up just in time to catch them.
Find new words
Can’t help dropping the "s"-word every time your favorite team loses? The "f"-word when you stub your toe? Try finding new, less offensive — maybe even funny and incongruous words, like “mango” — to use in these situations. Hey, it may sound strange, but at least it’s not rude.
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