Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, at some point our toddler is bound to hear us swearing. And if not us, then someone else. With their tendency to mimic the behaviour they see around them, it is almost inevitable that your toddler will try on a swear word and see what it feels like. Some toddlers may even continue to swear (depending on what they are seeing in their environment). Many parents have sat mortified (while stifling a giggle) as their 3 year old shouts F*$!k at the top of his lungs in public. Handling your toddler’s attempt at using swear words carefully will help stop its continued use in its tracks.
One this is for sure, toddlers love a reaction. If they feel their behaviour carries weight in terms of evoking an intense reaction in us, they are bound to repeat it. Swearing is the same. If their use of a nasty word provokes a reaction, be it a laugh, or an angry reprimand, they will want to get the same predictable reaction from you again and again. Lets have a look at a few ideas which will reduce the appeal of swear words in your child:
1. Redirect attention. The first line of defense against the use of swear words is to temper your reaction to them. Try not to make it enticing to try it again by giving a strong reprimand. Rather try to distract them from the word and provide some attention on behaviours you want to increase . Let’s face it – that is all the little one is after, your attention.
2. Words words words. Ask your child what she thinks the swear word means (you may have to stifle a giggle at the response). Explain to your child that it is a word that people use when they are really angry and can’t come up with a better word. But it is a rude word and hurts people’s feelings, just like calling someone a mean name. Let your child know that it is unkind to call people names, but you can help her come up with better words to express herself. Examples may be “I’m so angry!!” or “Fudgecake!!” or “chop sticks”. Have fun with your child coming up with words and start to use them yourself too.
Kids like to experiment and test their ability to shock us, gain attention and feel a sense of power. Swearing often provides all of these things at once! Here are a few more ideas to help your child lose interest in swear words.
1. Rhyming. When your toddler says “s*%#t” you could reply, “that’s not a great word, let’s rather say ‘plit’’ (and make a rhyming game). You could continue; “or even ‘flit’, or maybe ‘bit’”. Engage properly with your little one and he will soon be playing along suggesting his own words to rhyme and before he knows it the swear word is long forgotten and in the past.
2. Experiment. At a time when you are alone with your child (or comfortable with those around you) you can offer to have a “swearing match” with your child where he can say the word as many times as he likes infront of you and you will come up with nonsense words in response. Encourage your child to say the word in different voices, volumes, or with different facial expressions or actions. This gets you both giggling and can release tension around the word, and your child will likely think your nonsense words are more fun anyway. Then you can change the game to both of you coming up with nonsense words. Wind it down with a different activity together, but offer to play again another time when you are alone together.
3. Avoid the power struggle. Kids quickly pick up the strong reactions swearing elicits and the sense of power it can give them in a situation. Rather than trying to forbid your child from using these words and getting caught up in a power struggle with your child, you can allow your child to do this whilst putting some appropriate boundaries around their behaviour. After explaining to your child that swear words are rude and unkind, you can acknowledge that sometimes they will still want to say them. Tell your child that he can say swear words in private, such as when playing by himself in his room. He is in charge of where he chooses to use swear words, as long as it is not around other people.
The basic premise when dealing with swearing is to limit your reaction, re-direct your child’s attention to something else, and provide your child with your attention when they are engaging in more appropriate behaviours.
For more information, you can visit Child Psychology Brisbane