Dads, it may not be easy for you to hold your tongue and avoid shooting off a string of expletives as you step on that stray Lego brick hiding in plain sight.
Even if you avoid using abusive language and gestures at home, in the presence of your children, it’s likely they will pick up some offensive language as they grow older. They are influenced by many different sources as they go to school, interact with other children, watch other adults and consume popular media.
While every family follows their own rules and social norms, and the “bad words” themselves range from cutesy to colorful four-letter words, it is best to lay the groundwork as early as possible and have some guidelines in place.
1. The first step is to understand why your child is swearing. Remember that they are not always swearing with the intent to hurt. Sometimes they are just parroting what they’ve heard, are trying to get attention, expressing their emotions or trying to fit in.
2. Speak with them and find out where they heard the words and why they are using it.
3. Avoid reacting in anger or lashing out immediately. This may reinforce the behavior when they want to aggravate you or get your attention.
4. Calmly explain to them why certain words are inappropriate and can be used to hurt others, with examples.
5. Help them understand that there are consequences to their actions. If they repeatedly use foul language or gestures, use time-outs and temporarily remove privileges like TV time.
6. Understand that sometimes they are just trying to express themselves. Be empathetic to their feelings and create a safe space for them to express their emotions. Gently guide them in the right direction.
7. If you do happen to swear in front of them, acknowledge it, apologize immediately and explain why it was inappropriate. This will help reinforce that the rules are important, and they apply to you as well.
8. Teach them how to express themselves using appropriate language as an alternative to cussing when they do slip up.
Remember, no matter what you do, children are influenced by their peers and will act differently outside the home. Swearing is sometimes a rite of passage as they are growing up. Focusing less on the words themselves, help your children develop positive intent and use their language to make others happy.
Our guide outlines the facts based on research from several online and offline resources. If you are in doubt or worried about your child for any reason, consult with a qualified and certified mental health professional or medical doctor.
Reviewed by: Jason Eric Ross, PhD, LMHC
Date reviewed: 29th December, 2018