How to Get Kids to Stop Swearing

Learn tips on how to get kids to stop swearing and find out what you should do when your kids swear and how exactly you can get them to stop.

Cherylyn Feierabend,
July 17, 2010
Episode #164

How to Get Kids to Stop Swearing

A while back I did a show about boredom. I mentioned that I don’t like my family members to use the words “I’m bored” or “This is boring.” Though I know these aren’t considered curse words, I still like to avoid them. Other words we don’t allow around my house are “stupid”, “dumb”, “hate,” and any type of insulting phrase that might start with “you are [fill in the blank].” I find myself actively denying my children’s rights to use these words more so than the actual swear words we all know and love..

How to Get Kids to Stop Swearing

My daughter went through a phase when she was about four-years-old where she had a swear word she used a few times. If she was playing and something didn’t go her way, or she’d drop something she’d say… well, she’d say D-A-M-M-I-T.  I’m spelling the word just in case you are listening in the car with toddlers. When a child swears once to test the waters, or accidentally lets a curse word slip out but is aware he’s doing something wrong, I think the best thing you can do is ignore it. The more you make a spectacle out of it, the more exciting it’s going to be for the child. Most kids don’t even know what they are saying. Toddlers may be simply repeating a word they’ve heard an adult say. Older kids are more likely to have heard it at school, from friends, or in a movie. The older kids may just be trying to get a reaction out of you. If you don’t react, they may become disinterested in the activity and move on to something else.

What Can You Do to Get Kids to Stop Swearing?

Instead of being angry at your child’s behavior, find out why your child feels the need to swear.

In cases where the swearing becomes so extreme that you can’t ignore it, then it’s time to take action. Instead of being angry at your child’s behavior, find out why your child feels the need to swear. If your child is angry about something, suggest another method to vent anger. I tend to wash dishes when I’m angry, but kids may not want to do that. You could suggest that your child draw an abstract picture to express his anger, or have him listen to some music and dance it out. Sometimes just talking about their anger will help kids feel better. Toddlers probably don’t know what they are saying, but they are mad and are mimicking behavior they’ve seen from older kids and adults. In cases like these, you can think up some silly words together to replace the words the child is using. Saying something fun when you are angry can help release tension and may even encourage some giggles. I’d like to suggest a funny cookie name to help get you started. Next time you are angry just say, “Oh snickerdoodles!” It’s just fun to say!

Dealing With Why Kids Are Swearing

If your child is swearing to appear cool to his friends, then it’s probably happening more around them than around you. There isn’t anything immediate you can do about something you aren’t seeing. The problem is when the swearing becomes a habit and your child is swearing in front of people who may be offended or swearing in extremely inappropriate locations. I suggest you let your child know that it’s unacceptable and explain why.

Swear words are just words. Some people are offended by these words and some people are not. Because you don’t always know how different people will react or feel about these words, instead of advising your child to avoid using these words altogether, ask him to use his best judgment when choosing his words. Treating him as an adult may trigger a more positive response. You may also want to tell him that when people use obscenities to express themselves, other people may view them as rude or ignorant. He may decide that the more adult thing to do is to use a more intelligent word to express himself.

One more thing that may cause a child to stop using certain swear-words is to simply tell them what the word means. Many kids don’t realize what they are saying and the simple act of telling them what the word means can sometimes cause enough discomfort to make them stop using it.

Be a Good Role Model

Finally, and probably most importantly, be sure you are modeling the behavior and speech you’d like to see from your children. Pay attention to what your children are watching on TV and in movies. If you have friends or relatives who frequently use inappropriate language around your children, ask them to refrain during their visits. If they refuse to comply, you may want to limit their contact with your kids.

Everyone has differing opinions on the topic of swearing. Opinions range from it not being an issue at all to swearing being absolutely unacceptable. Remember, these are just words and though we certainly don’t want to encourage our children to use them it’s important that we don’t overreact and make the issue seem more important than it really is.

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening.

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Swearing Child image from Shutterstock