Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reacting to Child's Swear Words

I will never forget the first time my pre-schooler said, “Damn it.” When I recovered from the shock, I almost started to giggle because it was kind of cute. However, this wasn’t something I wanted to hear her repeat, so I figured it was time to nip-it. What’s a parent to do?

First, remain calm. Don’t reward this talk with any kind of reaction – good or bad. Next, explain to your child that the word is not appropriate and that we don’t talk that way - in language he or she can understand. Recognize the reason why your child uses that word or words and teach him a better way to express himself. You might even want to come up with an alternative word he can use. Some parents use the word “sugar, “rats,” or “golly gee.” We made up a silly word that my girls were allowed to say instead. Make it something that sounds like fun for them to say.

Establish reasonable consequences, such as playing alone for ten minutes, a quarter in the “Bad Talk Jar,” or time out for a few minutes. Remember, giving them too much attention when they are “bad” may only encourage more of the same behavior. Some parents even find that the words stop when they don’t respond at all. You know your child best.

Teach your child more acceptable ways to express his or her emotions and that words can hurt or offend. Involve older children in making a list of acceptable behaviors and in setting the rules and consequences. Four-letter words provide a teachable moment for parents.

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