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Foul Play: How to Deal with Children and Profanity

When a four-letter word falls out of your child’s mouth, figuring out how to stop the behavior before it becomes a habit is likely to be your first priority. And while you may not want to admit that day will ever come, unless your home happens to be a particularly sheltered one, chances are very good that the situation will one day arise.

Small children often experiment with new words without realizing the social implications, while older kids can choose to assert their independence and rebellion against parental authority with profanity.

These 10 tips can help you get a handle on swearing before foul language becomes a permanent part of your child’s vernacular.

  1. Be Prepared – Whether there’s a relative or family friend with a notoriously rough tongue, or colorful invective is picked up from television and other entertainment, most small children will let at least one or two choice words fly at some point during their early years. It’s important to make the best possible effort not to be overtly shocked, and to avoid beating yourself up for your inability to shield your child from words he shouldn’t hear.
  2. Stay Calm – Regardless of how shocked you may be when your child swears, it’s important that you try to remain calm and avoid panicking. Little ones and older children alike will see that using strong language gets a strong reaction from you, and may continue to do so as a result.
  3. Nip Swearing in the Bud – While some parenting philosophies recommend that foul language be ignored altogether in hopes that kids will lose interest and to avoid inadvertently rewarding the behavior by showing a reaction, it may not be the best choice for your family. In many cases, it’s better to approach the problem head-on by quickly but calmly letting a child know that his bad language will not be tolerated.
  4. Don’t Reward the Behavior – Hearing your barely-verbal toddler curse out loud can be such a surprising incongruity that your knee-jerk reaction is simply to laugh, even if you’re aghast at his choice of expression. Keep in mind, however, that laughing at a toddler’s behavior is a surefire way to get him to continue it, and avoid rewarding his bad language with what he sees as a positive response. At such a young age, he may not even realize that certain words are taboo; he may just continue to repeat…

Read more: 4 Nannies

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