Remember how, in the early days, you were thrilled every time your child used a new word? As your child grows their vocabulary constantly increases thanks to the books they read, TV programs they watch, the company they keep and sometimes, by overhearing others talking. Sometimes, the new words they hear are bad words, curses or swears and when they use such words, parents tend to get embarrassed, upset and confused as to how best to respond.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if/when your child experiments with his/her newly acquired curse words:
- Do not overreact or laugh. It is important to remember that if you give this behaviour any attention, your child is likely to try it over and over again. So, when you hear it pretend as if you did not hear or that it doesn’t upset you very much.
- Do not confront an angry child about swearing. Did your child use the bad word when upset? Then wait till your child calms down before you address it. If you talk to your child when he/she is really angry, you might find that your talk will only encourage your child to use more choice words.
- Mind your language. Could your child be learning this language from you or your spouse? All the adults in your family should check their language, especially in the company of your observant little one.
- Mind your child’s age. A young child might use bad words in complete innocence to copy a grown-up or older child. He/she might be unaware of why it is bad. In some cases, if you give it no attention at all, your child will soon forget. Other children will benefit from a small explanation as to why it is bad. When they understand, they will quickly stop.
- Give consequences. Once your child is able to understand that curse words and swear words are not okay, but still persists in using them, discuss an appropriate consequence with your spouse. Let your child know that every time they repeat these words, he/she will have to pay the consequence. Be consistent in your consequences and your child will soon drop the habit.
It is important to remember that even good children occasionally use bad words. It is quite a normal developmental event. We might feel that we did not know these many bad words growing up, but our children now are surrounded by many different sources from which to learn such language. Remind your child that we can never use bad language to hurt or humiliate another person. Have firm consequences if your child gets into such a habit. Eventually, your child will learn to discriminate between good words and bad words and will choose the good over the bad.