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How To Stop Children From Swearing

When children are small they are sponges, constantly absorbing new information and new words. It’s miraculous how fast they can learn but what do you do when they appear to be learning new words which you would rather they refrained from repeating in public?

Lots of us with children have suffered the shock and the embarrassment of a young child throwing a curse into conversation out of the blue. My eldest decided his first swearword should be tested out on granny (my husband’s mother no less) much to my horror and her delight. She probably still believes deep down that I put him up to it!


Why do young children use swear words?

  • When very young children swear they are usually just repeating a word they may have overheard:
    • In the beginning, children don’t really know what many of the words they use actually mean and this is, of course, the case with swear words.
    • They are not trying to shock you; they are merely developing their verbal skills.
  • Slightly older children can swear for a number of reasons:
    • If it’s a word they don’t hear very often they probably won’t realise that it is offensive.
    • Often when adults curse they emphasise the word to make a point. A child copying any overheard bad language may find the word more appealing simply for that reason.
    • If you show a reaction to a swear word, the child may repeat the word again in order to gain your attention. Obviously, when your child takes you by surprise it’s rather difficult not to react in some way but it is definitely best to try not to.


What should you do if your child uses swear words?

  1. Pay attention to your own language and ask those around you to also be careful. Whether we like to admit it or not, our children pick up most of their language skills at home. If you use swear words, either accidentally or frequently as part of your own vocabulary, your child is likely to think it’s acceptable to do so themselves.
  2. Try not to overreact the first time you hear them swear because this will just give your child the opportunity to realise that swearing is a great way to get your attention fast.
  3. Whatever you do, do not laugh if this situation occurs. If your child thinks he has made you laugh he will continue to use this method because he will connect your laughter with him making you happy or amused.
  4. Don’t confront your child about their use of swear words if you are angry or upset. Wait until you are calm and collected and you have his full attention. Children are great at learning which buttons to push to gain a reaction. Therefore, making a big fuss the moment they utter a bad word will give them the opportunity to link swearing with lighting your fuse.
  5. Children who are just learning to talk are unlikely to realise that swear words are bad so scolding them will serve little purpose. In most instances, if you just ignore the word they unlikely to say it again.
  6. If your child is slightly older and has developed their language skills more you could try a simple explanation of why they shouldn’t swear. If you tell them that a word is not a pleasant word to use there is a chance that they will stop.
  7. Older children who deliberately use swear-words may need to be disciplined. Depending on their age, using a system of time out or temporary removal of a particular privilege may be enough to deter the behaviour.
  8. Take the time to note the context of the swear-word when it is used, For example, your child cursing when they fall over is naughty (and typical copycat behaviour so perhaps reflect back on No. 1 above) but not as bad as calling another child a rude name deliberately. If you inflict a punishment always make sure that it is appropriate to the crime committed!
  9. If you accidentally slip up and use a swear word you should acknowledge your mistake and apologise. This is a perfect way to set a good example for your child.
  10. Why not provide more acceptable alternatives to swearing – many of us use jokey terms in place of curses. You could encourage your child to make up his own nonsense expressions to use too.


As with most negative behaviours in childhood, consistent reprimands rather than over-reaction are far more likely to gain good results.

August 3, 2018

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