Stop the kids from swearing!

lead image

'Oh no! My little 4-year-old dropped the F-bomb on me!' As more parents deal with kids who curse and swear, we bring you a 10-step approach to nip this problem in the bud.

A recent survey commissioned by Care.com found that 86% of parents agree that children ages two to 12 are cursing more today than when they themselves were children. Nearly 54% of parents say that their child has cursed in front of them though 20% don’t think the child understood the meaning of the bad word.

Swearing is best known as a way for people (yes, even kids who have learnt it!) to express strong emotions. While it is often used when angry or frustrated, there are also a variety of other reasons why we swear. Researchers believe that it helps to relieve stress and is a form of cathartic outlet similar to crying.

However, profanities often stunt one’s ability to emotionally express oneself. So how can we stop ourselves, more importantly, the young ones from cultivating this bad habit? 

We bring you a 10-step approach on how to stop kids from swearing.

1. I heard it here, Mum.

You are horror-stricken when you hear your angelic little four-year-old suddenly mutters ‘Sh**’ or ‘F***’.  Where did they learn it from?  Well keep calm and ask them. While they may or may not be able to give an answer, chances are they had possibly heard it from five main sources – television, internet, friends, family members and yes even yourself! Children are highly impressionable and the young ones are especially more prone to mimicry.

Once you’ve figured out the exact source or group of sources, regulate their time spent with it.  For instance, limit the number of hours they have on the television or the Internet. You can also add a parental control system on both your computer and the TV as an added precaution.

2. Yes I do it too.

Don’t be a hypocrite and lie to yourself or the children. Most adults, whether consciously or not, would spout profanity at one point of time or another.

Be honest to your child and tell him that ‘yes mummy and daddy have said this before but we’re going to stop, so you have to stop too’. You are your children’s role models, so make sure you don’t swear in front of them.

If you desist, they will too.

3. You swear you lose

stop kids from swearing

Teach the kids cause and effect. Therefore, every action has its consequences. Declare a ‘No Swear’ rule. Tell them that if anyone is caught swearing, he will be punished.

For the younger children, make them see that cursing will get them a time-out session at their naughty corner or take away their privileges such as treats or play-dates. 

Punish the older ones by giving out extra chores and take away their time spent on entertainment or communication devices.

If your kids receive allowances, you can also set up a ‘Swear Jar’ for the whole family to use. Every time someone swears or says a bad word, the culprit has to put in 20cents into the jar. And eventually the money will go to charity.

4. The cane must go

Your kid is already either angry or has pent-up emotions. By using the cane or any other corporal punishments, you are simply bound to make it worse. If you find yourself tempted to spank or hit your child because of his foul language, stop yourself and calm down. The best way to nip the problem in the bud is by talking to him.

We do not want to instil fear and inculcate hidden frustrations, instead we want them to fully understand why swearing is unacceptable.

5. Do you even know what it means

It’s time the kids and you have ‘the talk’. No, we’re not talking about the birds and the bees but sit them down and ask them if they know exactly what the words they have used mean. 

The younger kids are probably clueless as they merely repeated the words because ‘everyone seems to use it’. On the older hand, the older ones would probably have an idea of what each word stand for. Essentially, you need to figure out how much do they know so that you know where to start from in educating them about vulgarities.

6. Swear-pedia

Why should these kids learn that profanities are bad from sources other than yourself. You ARE their book of knowledge. This is the time for you to educate them. 

Explain to them that the words are offensive and how it affects the people they say it to. For instance, make it clear that saying someone’s a ‘b**ch’ is the same as calling them stupid or dumb which makes them sad or even angry. Also, inculcate the principles of ‘do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you’. Make them aware that they would not want to have someone else calling them all these names as well.

7. Scare tactics

Parents from one generation to another have used scare tactics to get their children to do certain things like going to the dentist or even taking a shower! The reason for it is because it works!

We’re not telling you to horrify your child but give him the worst case scenario if he continues to use profanities.  Explain to him that regular use of vulgarities will give him a bad image and make him an unpleasant person to be around with.

Eventually, someone who is not well liked will not have friends and be all alone. Children often have an innate fear of being friendless, so this will probably work like a charm.

8. In my house, you play by my rules

You are not the only adult around your children. Make sure everyone who spends time around your kids know that they should not swear.  Even Granny says the occasional ‘sh**’ sometimes.

So let them know that they are your support system and they need to get on board with your plans to stop the problem.

9. Use this instead

stop kids from swearing

We all need to start off slow and figure out a way to express our emotions without these unseemly words. Alternative words would be one of the best solutions that you could use and teach the kids to use. Make up funny rhyming words that the children would find amusing and be more encouraged to use. 

For instance, use ‘shake’ and ‘poopie’ when you accidentally stub your toe. Or mutter ‘brownie’ and ‘balls’ when that annoying driver cuts in front of you at a traffic jam. A young mother of two whom theAsianparent spoke to, swears by her own form of curse word – ‘chicken backside fungus’ – which her children found amusing whenever she says it.

At the very least, with these alternatives, even when the little ones repeat them, it is not as offensive.

10. Follow through or risk falling through

Most importantly, you have to learn to follow through.  Like any other parenting measures taken, both you and your spouse need to make sure that these steps are seen to the end of the problem. 

Swearing is a habitual thing so the only way to curb it is to make it a habit of not doing it.  You can also rally other families, especially those whom you often arrange play-dates with to carry out the same steps.  Update each other on the development of the children so that further necessary actions can be taken to help stop the problem.

It is not impossible to create a somewhat swear free environment.  All you need to do is try.