Featured in School-aged


For parents it can be quite a shock to hear your child swear. You might wonder where your child learned the bad language. You also might wonder whether your child actually understands what he or she is saying when swearing. Often children swear as they are exploring language, to vent negative feelings, or to fit in socially with their peer group.

Methods of Discipline

Parents might be tempted to lash out at a child who is swearing but consideration should be given as to how to handle it. Your reaction to the swearing now will in fact influence your child’s swearing behavior in the future.

1. Don’t ignore swearing behavior but instead address it. While your school-age child might not fully understand the swear word’s meaning, a school-aged child should understand that words can offend and hurt others. Tell him or her that the word is offending to others and that word should not be used.

2. Pay attention to your reaction to your child swearing. How you react will affect whether your child swears in the future. Stay calm when dealing with your child and swearing. Clearly and calmly explain why the word your child used is not acceptable.

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3. Consider explaining to your child what the word means, depending on your child and the situation. It is quite possible that the child honestly did not know the word was a swear word and won’t use it again once he or she knows what the word means. If you choose to explain the word to your child, use general terms to explain why it is inappropriate to use the word. For instance, you could tell your child “That word is used for a private body part. In our family we don’t use that word”. Keep your explanation simple.

4. For a child who has been swearing to vent emotions, praise your child for using appropriate language when venting frustration or anger. You may suggest other words that they can use to express their feelings. If your child tells you that a friends used swear words but your child didn’t, praise him or her.

5. Be prepared for the situation when you are out in public with your child and someone is swearing. When someone else says unacceptable words, explain to your child that some people in different families have different rules, but that in your family, those swear words are no acceptable.

Helping Your Child Cope

Discuss with your partner what words are acceptable language and what is not. It is important that the adults in the household are in agreement on swear words so that there is consistency. Make family rules about appropriate language and include your children when making the rules. It might also be a good time to discuss potential consequences of swearing to your children.

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In order to set a good example for your children, as a parent, you must not use swear words. You have to model behavior you would like your child to exhibit. This may be the most difficult part when dealing with swearing but it is paramount. Adults often swear when they are frustrated or angry, which are times when it can be difficult to control your language. When you feel anger or frustration mounting, say something like “I am feeling really frustrated right now”. While it won’t be the same as swearing, it may offer a reminder not to use bad language.

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