10 Ways to Stop a Child from Swearing

  1. Be Prepared – Whether there’s a relative or family friend with a notoriously rough tongue, or colorful invective is picked up from television and other entertainment, most small children will let at least one or two choice words fly at some point during their early years. It’s important to make the best possible effort not to be overtly shocked, and to avoid beating yourself up for your inability to shield your child from words he shouldn’t hear.
  2. Stay Calm – Regardless of how shocked you may be when your child swears, it’s important that you try to remain calm and avoid panicking. Little ones and older children alike will see that using strong language gets a strong reaction from you, and may continue to do so as a result.
  3. Nip Swearing in the Bud – While some parenting philosophies recommend that foul language be ignored altogether in hopes that kids will lose interest and to avoid inadvertently rewarding the behavior by showing a reaction, it may not be the best choice for your family. In many cases, it’s better to approach the problem head-on by quickly but calmly letting a child know that his bad language will not be tolerated.
  4. Don’t Reward the Behavior – Hearing your barely-verbal toddler curse out loud can be such a surprising incongruity that your knee-jerk reaction is simply to laugh, even if you’re aghast at his choice of expression. Keep in mind, however, that laughing at a toddler’s behavior is a surefire way to get him to continue it, and avoid rewarding his bad language with what he sees as a positive response. At such a young age, he may not even realize that certain words are taboo; he may just continue to repeat them because you nervously chuckled the first time you heard him use them.
  5. Explain the Concept of “Bad Words” to Small Children – When little ones hear new words, their inquisitive nature and desire to explore often leads them to use them, and they may not even understand that there are certain words they shouldn’t say. Explaining that there are “bad words,” and that they shouldn’t be used, can help him to understand that certain words are against the rules.
  6. Institute a Penalty Policy – Should colorful language become a habit, instituting a penalty policy may be the most effective anti-cursing measure you can take. Whether it’s a swear jar or loss of privileges with each vulgar word, being forced to comply with the policy by losing something can be one of the only ways to stop foul language once it’s taken root.
  7. Keep an Eye on Entertainment – If you never swear and you’re reasonably certain your child hasn’t picked up the habit of profanity from a friend or family member, take the time to review his favorite songs and television shows. Cartoons can be a notorious source of questionable language, as many of the offerings that come on later at night on dedicated networks are actually geared towards adults.
  8. Find the Root – If your older child is cursing fluently and refuses to stop, it’s wise to examine the root of this behavior in order to determine the best way to eliminate it. Whether it’s an attempt to fit in with their peers or a means of dealing with a larger issue, figuring out why your tween or teen is using profane language is the best way to bring it to an end.
  9. Make Sure Discipline is Age-Appropriate – Swear jars may not be effective for younger kids that don’t get an allowance or understand the concept of money, while a time-out will only bring a sneer to an unruly teen’s face. Make sure that your approach to disciplining a kid who’s favoring foul language is tailored to his personality and his age.
  10. Practice What You Preach – While you certainly can explain to small children that foul language can be used by adults in moments of provocation but isn’t appropriate for youngsters, the double standard isn’t likely to fly with any age group. Small children are great mimics, and teens are more likely to accuse you of hypocrisy if you curse to get your point across. Instead, make every effort to curb any foul-mouthed tendencies you may have, and model profanity-free behavior.

Once established, the habit of cursing to get a point across can be a difficult one for a child or teen to break. It’s often hard work, and can require vigilant attention for a time. It’s important for you to remember that this propensity for vulgar language isn’t necessarily a reflection of your parenting skills, so you should avoid blaming yourself for the problem.