How to Get Your Kids to Stop Swearing
July 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Here’s a real situation from a real email subscriber
along with my advice on how to fix the problem
Children are very impressionable. As parents, we must not let this fact fact slip our minds – no matter what the situation at home.
Take for example a little cry for help I got from one of my email subscribers who we’ll call “Jane” to preserve her anonymity.
Email from Jane:
I found your website whilst I was browsing for info on how to handle children swearing and using bad language. My situation is pretty challenging as I am a mom of 3 toddlers aged 4, 3 and 2. I also work full-time from Mon-Fri. So I guess the best word to describe me is “exhausted”.
I feel guilty about the fact that my kids have developed these bad communicating manners from myself and my husband. We had a pretty troubled relationship and the truth is that we had difficulty communicating our needs effectively to each other or controlling how we handle set-backs when disappointed by unmet expectations of each other. As a result, we are guilty of displaying some really bad behavior towards each other in front of our kids, yet at the same time trying to enforce good conduct within them.
I have still not been able to eradicate the “bad language” from my kid’s vocabulary and am afraid that it appears to have become a habit for them to curse or swear when they are angry. And they feel pretty justified in doing so. They recognize that it’s not an acceptable way of expressing themselves; however they do it out of defiance and are not remorseful. Do you have any tips or suggestion?
Like all couples, arguments can happen. Exhaustion from work combined with never-ending household chores and other responsibilities do not leave enough room for one to keep a good lid over those cuss words in his or her vocabulary.
So, Jane ended up with three toddlers who managed to add some pretty exciting new words to their developing vocabulary—and who would intentionally use them out of defiance.
I was actually glad Jane had asked me for advice regarding this surprisingly common problem of parents. It gave me the opportunity to share a pair of simple but effective methods to put a lid on those cuss words. If swearing children is not your problem, you can use these tips for any situation where multiple children share the same bad habit.
Tip #1: Apologize
There are no two ways about it. You made the mistake of using bad language and you need to own up to it, take responsibility and apologize to your kids. Even though you are “just”dealing with kids, you must remember that this is the time they are developing their sense of right and wrong. Showing them that daddy and mommy are sorry after they committed mistakes is setting a good example for the kids.
Tip #2: Recruit the Help of the Oldest Child
This is a smart tactical move.
To do this you must approach the oldest child and explain that you need his help. You repeat your apology and explain that it’s not OK to use bad language. You ask him if he’ll help you to show his younger brothers or sisters how to behave better.
Having your eldest child take ownership of this task is putting him on your side. In his mind you are now a team, working to “fix” the problem in the younger toddlers. When the oldest isn’t using cuss words anymore, the younger ones will surely follow by example.
I then left Jane with this bonus tip: Pick a NEW word to replace the old swear words. Make it a funny word that will do no harm, and make sure your kids understand that using these words is OK when they want to vent frustration instead of insulting somebody else. Insulting others is never OK, but there is nothing wrong with having a few “pet” words to use when you spill your milk. In fact, you can have a family meeting where the kids help you invent these new words. Write them down and put them on the fridge.
It’s kinda funny, and it works!
Oh – I almost forgot. The statistics on divorce are pretty scary. My personal belief is that many relationship problems stem from one simple concept. That is – people in relationships have a nasty habit of holding their own partner to much higher standards than their best friends. They expect their partners to be mind readers, to never forget, and to understand all feelings even before they are communicated. If you need help with your relationship I highly recommend The Us Factor, by Dr. Joseph Melnick.
From Chris Thompson
Author of “Talking to Toddlers” Audio Course for Parents