Children are like sponges – they soak up everything.  Even the words that parents do not like to hear! Parents need to decide on what words are acceptable and what words are not. Parents must keep in mind that some words that may be acceptable in the home are not acceptable in a school setting.  As parents, what can we do if our children start to use swear words?

Swearing is using words that tend to be rude or offensive.  This may be used as a form of abuse directed at others, or an outburst of anger or frustration.  We must understand that it is unrealistic to expect our children to never swear.  Many children will experiment with the words as they hear others using them.  Swearing is likely to continue if children receive a reaction from the words.  This could be in the form of laughter or long winded discussions on why not to swear.

When children are with their friends, they may be more likely to use swear words.  This can be a form of showing how “tough” a child is, or to bully another child.  When children use swear words to get what they want, and are successful, swearing is likely to continue.

As parents or caregivers, we need to set a good example for our children.  We cannot expect our children to not swear when we ourselves use swear words on a regular basis. Instead of using swear words, use words that are acceptable to express frustration or anger such as “Ahh Butter Knuckles! My toast burnt!”

If you catch your child swearing, try to use planned ignoring.  Do not look at or talk to them about that word that came out. If swearing does not get a reaction, it may stop all on its own. However, if swearing continues to occur and is becoming a problem try the following suggestion.

  • Plan Ahead
    • Parents or caregivers need to agree on what is acceptable language in the household and in public settings.
    • Make a list of good words that the whole family can use.
    • Do not allow your child to use unacceptable words.
  • Discuss this with your child
    • At a calm moment, talk with your child about using inappropriate language.
    • Describe the problem – “Angie, I do not like it when you use swear words.”
    • Provide your child a list of good words and bad words. “From now on these words are not allowed (list the bad words) – If you must use that sort of language, you may say _____________ (tell your child the acceptable words s/he can use).
    • Post a list of the acceptable words on a wall, fridge, and door so everyone can be reminded of what language is appropriate and what language is not appropriate.
  • Talk about consequences
    • Decide ahead of time exactly what you will do if your child swears.
    • Some ideas involve the loss of an activity or privilege or having quiet time/time outs.
    • Make sure your child understands the consequences if they swear.
    • Follow through with your consequence – be consistent!
  • Praise your child for using good language.
    • “Thank you for using acceptable words today.” You may also reward the good behavior with their favorite dessert after supper.


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