What to do when your older child has a foul mouth

By Drum Digital
17 May 2014

They might be trying to act cool or fit in, but when older children swear, parents are no less embarrassed than when they’re unwitting toddlers. Our expert gives some sound advice for dealing with this tricky situation.

Children pick up on language as they grow up and some words can be very offensive. Unlike toddlers, older children generally know using swearwords is offensive to others. Older kids tend to use swearwords as a supposed sign of maturity and to try and fit in with the cool crowd and cool lingo. Educational psychologist Melanie Hartgill advises parents to keep calm and not to overact when dealing with a child who swears.

“The bigger the deal you make it out to be, the more likely the child will repeat the behaviour or word for attention,” says Hartgill.

So how do you help your child to get rid of filthy words in their vocabulary?

  • If you swear a lot when you’re angry, try to find other words to use. Use words that are less offensive to express your frustration when you’re in the presence of your child.
  • Encourage your child to also use other words to express their frustration instead of swearing.
  • Your child could have picked up on the swearing from watching TV or even listening to certain songs. You need to sit down with your child and explain to them that it’s not okay to use offensive words. Hartgill suggests that as a parent you should explain you don’t like to hear swearwords as they can hurt people’s feelings.

“If the swearing continues then let your child know there will be a punishment if they continue.”

  • Set rules in your home. Tell your child swearing won’t be tolerated in the house. It’s a “no-swearing” zone.

“There is also a difference between swearing in general or swearing at another person and using the swearword to hurt someone. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for verbal abuse in the home ? no one should be allowed to name-call or verbally abuse anyone else,” Hartgill says.

  • Instead of outrightly punishing your child for swearing, have a “swear jar” so each time your child swears they must put a rand into the “swear jar”. This way your child will be more aware and mindful of what comes out of their mouths.
  • Writer Judy Gruen says as the parent you should redefine being cool for your child. Swearing is seen as being cool among teenagers. “Your job is to show them how uncool it really is [to swear].” Explain to your child they offend other people by swearing and that swearing paints a bad image of them.
  • Kids also swear to get attention. They think that by swearing they’ll immediately get your attention and show you how upset or frustrated they are. According to Hartgill older children test boundaries and look for their parents’ reaction by swearing. Don’t overreact and lose your cool. Speak to your child calmly.
  • “Don’t confront your child when he or she is angry or upset; wait until they are calmer and have a rational discussion,” Hartgill says.

-Katlego Mkhwanazi

Extra source: judygruen.com

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