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Mom's Swear By This

Kids today learn quickly about the power of a word, which like their oft repeated “awesome” – is pretty awesome. They realize early on that words can get them what they want, and make people laugh or cry. Insults are one kind of hurtful speech that kids do learn early -“baldy”, “old maid”, “fatty”, “skinny”, “stupid head” – the list goes on and on. But then, there are the other words – the 7 words made famous by George Carlin - words that are unacceptable because they represent dirty and sexual things, or are disgusting and crude. Kids may not always know what they mean – but they know what they are – and how they can be used to get a rise out of their parents – The Swear Words.

What Parents Can do about Swearing?

Swearing has become such a part of daily life as we stumble through missed traffic lights, lost car keys, getting stuff stolen, and toe stubbing. Often these things are followed by a line that could make a sailor blush! Most of the time we don’t use the more proper and genteel curses like “balderdash”, or “zounds. And kids, who are learning sponges, pick up on the strong stuff. So what is a “gosh-darned” parent to do?

Kindergarteners and Preschoolers:

To very young children—words have beautiful power—they grab attention better than “ughhahhh”, they point out their own observations, and needs. “Again, again” little Lanie yelps, and mommy moves! You might think that with the precocious imaginations of these tykes, you’d hear funny made up words, but instead parents hear their little darlings uttering a “naughty” word, a “dirty” word, or a swear. For the little ones, this can be big potatoes. Swearing can have a big effect on people. And the little ones usually have no idea what the word means. But the words can be magical, fascinating – just look at the reaction on mommy’s and daddy’s faces when I say “****”.

Here are some parenting tips to help reduce swearing in kids:

  • If you don't want them to repeat the dirty word or swear, don’t laugh at how cute it is.
  • Making a loud negative commotion when a word is said also reaffirms the power of that word.
  • In fact, many experts recommend that an utterance be ignored, no credence given to it.
  • A better way is to get down to their level, look the child in the eye and say “that’s a word we don’t use in our family.
  • Some moms have been successful with this method to deal with swearing children: The children are given a roll of quarters at the beginning of the month. A special “swearing jar” is chosen. Whenever the child swears or uses an unacceptable word, he or she must put one of the quarters into the jar. At the end of the month, any quarters still in the roll are the child’s to keep.

School-age children:

Most of the time when school kids swear it’s because something painful, upsetting or frustrating happened and it’s a venting kind of thing. Many moms have been successful with plugging into the funny bone of silly words to use as a substitute in those venting situations. Kids also come up with some outrageous creations. TVs Battlestar Galactica got away with putting “swear words” past the censors for years whenever their main characters shouted in frustration “Oh Frak!” or accused someone of being full of “Felkacarb” It was funny and OK because it was presumably cursing in some alien language, but we all knew what they were saying!

Child specialists recommend if your children say a swear word when they are angry or distressed:

  • Don’t make a fuss over the word, rather show them how to say what they really mean, e.g. "I can see you feel really upset or angry..."
  • Talk through steps to deal with the frustrating problem.
  • Teach your child alternative ways to deal with anger and frustration such as counting to 10, taking deep breaths, thinking calm thoughts.

Other Reasons Kids May Swear

  • They worry about their social group acceptance. Even at a young age children want to be part of the group, and by being funny or especially by saying something shocking can often work well with likeability by peers. Many moms have been successful to talk about other ways to gain acceptance from friends—sharing snacks, trading toys, and using alternative ‘cool’ expressions found in places other than the latest rap hits.
  • Like toddlers, even school age children might be swearing without knowing what that word means. But they do now have the capacity to understand and often an easy explanation can do the trick here. “It really means WHAT! Ewww... that is so gross I’ll never say that again” -was Sally’s reaction when she was told what she said really meant.

Parents need to agree on what is acceptable language in your family, and what is not. ‘Oh bummer, or, my god’ may be innocent and fine in one family, but unacceptable in another. When you talk about what your family rules are with your child, experts recommend some simple directives such as, ‘Please speak politely to everyone otherwise and keep other things to yourself’, or ‘In our home, there are some words we don’t like and don’t use’. Also, just like outside and inside voices, some words may be okay at home but not acceptable other places or at school. Praise always goes a long way to teach positively. If you see that your child does deal with anger or frustration in a positive way, or your child tells you he heard someone saying swear words and walked away – count your blessings, and watch your curses the next time you hit your toe on the edge of bookcase!