How To Stop Your Young Child From Swearing

Suggestions for dealing with a child who is swearing.

Many of us think of childhood as a time of innocence. Especially after we bring our sweet tiny baby home from the hospital. What a shock it is then, when two to four years later, a foul word escapes your little angel's lips.

Unfortunately profanity has become commonplace in the media and in many of our daily lives. Profanity is heard more often than in the past in public places, even day care centers. Many children between the ages of two and four will utter their first swear word. Often they will have no understanding of the literal meaning of that word.

Traditionally the punishment for foul language was to wash a child's mouth out. This is far too cruel a punishment for a two-year-old and probably not a constructive approach to take with any child. A child of two does not even understand the concept of profanity. And children under the age of two cannot yet make the connection between their behavior and any consequences you might impose. Therefor they cannot understand disciplinary tactics such as washing the mouth out with soap or "time out".

Two-year-olds struggle constantly to assert control over their environment in any little way they can. They also yearn for attention. Therefor if you react in a strong or intense fashion you risk drawing a great deal of attention to the once meaningless phrase and you give the phrase power.

If your child is only two years old prevention is vital because your child is too young to respond to disciplinary tactics or to understand explanations.

To prevent your child from swearing or reduce the swearing of a young child you need to establish clear family rules for the other members of your family. Explain to the family that swearing is not permitted under any circumstances.

Children imitate everything they hear so your entire family needs to be good role models. If you have not treated each other with respect in the past you need to try to change behavior patterns in the family and wipe out any name-calling or swearing.

It is possible that an older child may have told their sibling to say the word to try and get the younger one in trouble, but do not blame your older children unfairly. Your two-year-old may have heard the word on television, from the neighbor, or even from your own unconscious slip up. If you think television is a culprit you need to try and put more limits on her access

If your child is an older preschooler you can explain to her that bad language and name-calling are not acceptable in you family. If you are consistent she will eventually realize that swearing is not part of the culture of the family she identifies with.



If your two-year-old is already using profanity your options are limited by his or her limited cognitive ability. Try not to over react to the swearing by becoming angry or laughing.

Give him an alternative funny word to say such as "dagnabit" when he is angry or "shivers" if he is surprised. Choose the sort of funny sounding words that children like. Praise your two-year-old when she or he uses an alternative swear word and praise his or her language efforts in other areas as well.

All children love attention and if your two year old is not getting enough attention in other areas, and he finds swearing gets a reaction, he will do it often. Read to your child daily and play with him and his toys. If he is getting enough attention in other areas he will be less likely to swear.

When toilet training is introduced children may start to use "potty talk" in inappropriate ways as a method for coming to terms with this new experience and it's terminology. You should be able to explain to an older preschooler that you understand he wants to experiment with this word, but that he should do so in private, as people don't really like to hear those words unless he needs help going to the toilet. Your child may find immense humor in potty talk and you may have to ask him a great many times not to do this. As your child may get positive attention for this from siblings and peers it may be very hard to eradicate altogether.

Older preschoolers are fascinated by the power of language. It is part of a four-year-old's job to play with language. They love to tell jokes, make up funny words, and experiment with words, so swearing fits right in with this stage of life and is quite common.

Being four years old is a somewhat scary time, as your child is learning that she is not the center of the universe and that there are many things that she does not know. When she finds that swearing gives her some power over others it is natural that she will experiment with this new form of power.

A four-year-old is also moving away from the physical expression of feelings such as hitting and biting to verbal expressions. While you want to teach your child that name-calling is wrong it is still preferable to hitting and you do want to encourage her to express herself verbally. A four-year-old can be taught to express herself with phrases such as "I'm furious!" and "I am very angry that you won't buy me that doll!"

Once children start playing together they begin to develop their own ways of speech among themselves and this invariably includes some kind of potty language and name calling. A four year old may be using the language that his young friends use and if this is the case it may be very hard to get him to stop, because your child is learning how to socialize and wants to be liked by his peers. You just have to keep emphasizing that this is not a word you use in your family.

Your four-year-old will be confused that this language makes his friends laugh while it makes your elderly neighbor upset. He may not understand what the word means but he wants to find out and running it by several people is one way of doing that. You need to ask him what he thinks a word means and then give him, as much information about the word as is appropriate. For example "That is a very bad word to call a lady. That word hurts people and can make them not like you. That is why our neighbor Mrs. Butcher was upset when she heard you say it."

It is important to emphasize to your child that bad language and name-calling hurts people's feelings and that the use of bad words can make people not like him. He needs to know that while Sally may find that word funny her mother will not and might not let him play with her any more if he uses words like that.

We all want our children to treat us and other people with respect. If you make a mistake and swear yourself apologize to your child and say that you will work with him at changing your language to make it more polite. Treating your child with respect will help him treat others with respect. Remember to give him lots of praise for good behavior. Read and play with him and give him lots of positive attention. When dealing with a preschooler apply negative consequences for swearing only as a last resort.

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