My thing is, I know kids cuss, they do their thing, but I tell my kids, ‘Don’t do it in earshot of any adults, or you’re in trouble.’  

Ice Cube

It seems children are growing up faster than in past years. Children using curse words is a dilemma faced by many parents. Recent studies are even showing it’s a good thing, what the f@%#%$^?  

Humans learn language at an early age and swearing is a part of language. The main point of this is that even if parents do not swear in the home or in front of their children, kids will still learn the words. But honestly, I drop the occasional f-bomb here and there and I don’t see a problem with it.   Swearing is one way to express strong emotions and feelings. It helps the person feel that the message is important and getting across. But as parents, our job is to convince the child of a better way to get the feelings across.

One of the most googled parenting blog queries last year was “ways to get kids to stop cussing”.  So it’s a real dilemma facing parents right now.  

It is also important to understand that learning taboo words is a normal thing. Learning what is culturally taboo is part of a person’s developmental growth. Besides using swear words as a method to express strong emotions, kids swear for many other reasons.

Reasons Why Children Swear

There are a few reasons why children swear, including an attempt to be the class clown, acceptance of a particular group of friends, or to prove independence. Despite the other reasons, most kids swear out of frustration, anger, and annoyance. This is the same reason many grown-ups swear.

Very small children who swear are usually just repeating what they have heard from parents, relatives or even dialogue from a popular TV show. While most parents frown on their child using profanity, many still use profanity on a daily basis. The media can reinforce what kids know but it has to reverberate with what they already know.

It is not only the curse words that parents use but also the tone that conveys to the child the importance of the words. Children are natural imitators and will copy their role models.

Good Strategies to Help When A Child Swears

Try ignoring it. If the child is very young, the first option should be to ignore it. Children will often repeat behavior if it is reinforced by attention. Ignoring the swearing should also include not laughing.  I have ducked behind the sofa so the boys didn’t catch my giggles. Children using swear words is funny to many adults (myself included). There is an entire Youtube niche devoted to young children cursing.   Other times adults will laugh out of nervousness or embarrassment but this is a sure-fire way to get the child to repeat this behavior. Some children and teenagers as well find negative attention better than no attention at all. If the behavior is ignored many times, it will stop being an issue.

Ignoring this behavior also includes not panicking when it is first observed. By making a big scene and meting out some harsh punishment, a parent gives the words more power than they should have.

Parents should spend quality time with a child who is trying to incorporate swear words into their vocabulary. Happy, healthy, secure children with supportive parents don’t usually feel the need to swear to be cool. Talk with the child it is often surprising that children usually have no idea what the word means or implies, they are only mimicking someone.

Why is the Child Angry

Parents should explain their family values. This is different for each family unit. Some families tolerate words that others would find offensive. But a limit to what is tolerated and an explanation of how words can hurt others is a good conversation to have with a child.

It is also good practice to find out the source of a child’s anger. A child who is using swear words to vent a feeling of anger is crying out for help. Teaching anger management is always more productive than simply punishing the cursing.

A child who simply refuses to stop after interventions or who uses swear words constantly must be given some behavior interventions. An alternate word such as “fudge cake,” “flipping,” “flarn,” or some equally innocuous word could be provided to use when angry. A tried and true method is the old “swear jar,” where children put money in a jar if they say a curse word. The most important thing is to stay calm when dealing with a swearing child. Remember the example set by parents will be emulated.

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Children are sponges for language, learning up to 10 new words a day and can gain up to 40,000 words by adolescence. It is crucial that parents help them know how the words impact their interactions with others.

By using frank terms when talking to a child and explaining what the words mean, part of the mystique will be removed. Open conversations will provide the child with a comfortable atmosphere and lay the groundwork for conversations in the future. If a parent gets totally ballistic over a swear word, how will the child ever feel comfortable enough to discuss heavier topics with the parent? The important thing to remember is that everyone learns how to swear but not doing it is a lesson learned at home.

The photos of the boys and soap was just a cute way to visualize cursing, I have never intentionally fed the boys soap.  But Matt said his grandmother made him bite soap. We actually had a swear jar growing up and I remember talks of donating the proceeds to charity.  I have no idea if we ever followed through with it. I feel like the jar probably just got raided for treat money.  

how to get your children from cussing cursing using swear words - parenting blog 2020
Before you wash their mouth’s out with soap, try ignoring the behavior.

Related articles about kids cussing : 

Scary Mommy has a whole library of articles on kids who swear, start here

6 Ways to Keep Your Kids from Cursing from Today.

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