What to do when your toddler starts swearing

By Drum Digital
11 May 2014

It’s probably the most embarrassing of situations ? you’re with a bunch of strangers and suddenly your little one blurts out the vilest language. Chances are your toddler has no idea what the word means. So how do you handle the situation?

You’re with a group of strangers and suddenly your toddler drops the F-bomb. He probably doesn’t even know what the word means, but that doesn’t make the situation any less embarrassing. How should you handle it?

According to educational psychologist Melanie Hartgill, most children swear at one time or another; younger children will often repeat what they’ve heard.

Toddlers don’t understand what swear words are. They just pick up those words from their environment and accept them as a way of speaking.

“It’s hard to manage [swearing] with younger children as they are often mimicking what they have heard. The best thing to do with your younger children is calmly correct them and try to teach them that what they’ve said is a bad word,” Hartgill says.

Here are some tips for dealing with this tricky situation:

  • Find out where it is your child is picking up the swearwords. If there’s someone in the house who swears a lot, that person needs to stop and let the child know that those swearwords aren’t appropriate words to use. Your child could have picked up the swearwords from TV or even from songs on the radio too. Try to not expose them to those things.
  • Set the rules in the house for the use of swearwords. If someone swears there needs to be consequences. Your toddler needs to understand that if they swear they’ll get into trouble because swearing is wrong.
  • Don’t laugh just after your child has cursed. This will make them think swearing makes you laugh and will repeat it. But don’t be angry; just explain swearing isn’t OK. Use words such as “no” and “bad”’ to drive home your point.
  • Discipline your toddler by putting them in time-out if they don’t stop using the swearwords. Or take away their favourite toy to show them that if they use the swearword, they’ll get into trouble.
  • Watch what you say around your toddler. Your child will repeat what you say.
  • “Explain that people don’t like hearing that word so they shouldn’t say it. If you use it yourself and your child chooses to point this out to you then tell them they can remind you not to say it too. If they remind you, apologise and use a different word,” Hartgill says.

-Katlego Mkhwanazi

Extra sources: bounty.com, babycenter.com

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